NORTH DEVON WEEKENDER
Closer than Cornwall and as sunny as Salcombe, put North Devon on your getaway list with my guide to where, what and how
A few weekends ago I snuck off to Devon for some R&R to prepare mentally for the 5th annual Muddy Awards sucking the marrow from my bones (oh yeah, did I mention the Awards – they’re a-comin’ in about two weeks!).
My previous experiences of Devon (and Cornwall for that matter) have been glorious week-long trips, with about 24 hours of that time spent navigating traffic jams down the M5 and shrieking at my marauding children. In which case… North Devon – why didn’t I think of you before? There are still the beautiful beaches – Croyde, Ilfracombe, Woolacombe and the like. Still the fabulous cliff top walks, the gorgeous heritage sites like Clovelly – but boy does it feel less hassle to get there! From my home in mid Bucks it took 3 and a half hours to reach our cottage, a stunning Georgian property in the attractive ‘real’ (ie not touristy) village of Braunton, less than 5 miles from Croyde itself.
First off, I’d totally recommend this cottage as a holiday base – we absolutely loved it. Braunton Cottage has 5 large double or twin bedrooms over two floors (so two families sharing could naturally separate onto two floors, especially as there is also a small sitting area on the upper floor).
It’s a family home that acts mainly as a rental, so it’s the perfect combination of having to have the mod cons – modern kitchen, big fridge, decent telly, roll top baths, open sitting/dining area – without the sense of intruding on someone else’s life. Plus the kids loved the table football and various toys left for communal use.
Outside space is in short supply – there’s a small courtyard garden that’s useful for a bit of late afternoon drinking if you fancy it -but let’s face it, you’re holidaying in Devon so you’re probably on the beach.
Talking of which, here’s one I visited earlier.
And another one!
If you wanted to venture to South Devon from your base, it’s about an hour to Salcombe but given we were only in the area for the weekend, we stayed around the North. If you want a steer on the coolest bits of Devon there’s a certain Muddy Devon editor called Sharon who knows a bit more than me (!) but from my own meanderings I can absolutely recommend the lovely heritage village of Clovelly, so steep that everything is shipped around the village on sledge (or donkey in bygone days) and so cute it should have its own historical mini-series. Go down to the wharf and walk along the beach to a natural waterfall, or sit outside with a glass of wine overlooking the tiny harbour at The Old Red Lion pub.
For more of a clifftop blowout, there’s a fantastic National Trust walk around the cliffs at Croyde (and right over to Woolacombe if you’re feeling energetic) – just park in the NT car park at the wonderfully named Baggy Point and it’s a circular jaunt that’s a couple, a clutch or a whole load of miles depending on how much you have in the tank. Afterwards, we headed down to Croyde beach for an icecream and dippy-toe-in-water moment (f-f-f-freezing, but the kids didn’t care).
On our last day we took a small diversion and ended up at another lovely beach – less massively touristy than Woolacombe and Illfracombe called Instow.
The softest white sands, dunes for the kids to run up and down, and a decent pub/restaurant called The Instow Arms where we had a fantastic Sunday lunch. Nothing fancy, but just what we felt like before we started the journey home and really good value.
Other random suggestions if you’re going down that way – The Thatch in Croyde, a ye olde pub with great grub, The Tarka Trail, a 30m flat car-free bike trail through North Devon (you can just do the 6 miles from Braunton to Barnstaple if you prefer), The National Trust-owned Arlington Court near Barnstaple and not forgetting the charms of Lundy Island – head on over with your binoculars and see the puffins.
Braunton Cottage costs £1190 in low season going up to £2160 in high season. A big Muddy thumbs up from me if you’re planning a trip with friends or family to the area.
Braunton Holiday Cottage, 6 East Street, Braunton, EX33 2EA. Tel: 07831 174057. brauntonholidaycottage.co.uk