Separated from the rest of the county by an expanse of rolling countryside and shouldered by the sprawling Exmoor National Park, North Devon has its own, local atmosphere and way of life. Locals are proud of their home, their surfing heritage, beaches and historical towns and villages, and they’re delighted to share their south-west haven with visitors from far and near.
North Devon is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered, both in terms of places to visit, eateries and drinking spots, not to mention some of the best surf breaks in the South West. What are you waiting for - come and join us for your next North Devon holiday!
Eat like a North Devon local
Boasting some of the best places to eat in Devon, the region offers gastronomic delights from Exmoor right through to Hartland! Some of these North Devon restaurants and cafes are off the beaten track, but well worth the effort to treat your taste buds to a mouth-watering experience. The fully-licensed tearoom of Tea by the Taw sells the most delectable cakes and home-made lunches, all served with a flourish of vintage charm (think pinnies and tea cosies). From warming soups and chunky sandwiches to hearty cooked breakfasts and hot meals, the only difficulty you’ll have is deciding how best to fill your tum!
A hidden gem if ever there was one, the understated little inn of Appledore Inn located in a narrow Bideford street, will surprise you with its delicious Thai cuisine. Using authentic Thai herbs and fresh local produce, they cook up a wonderful selection of reasonably priced dishes, served in a welcoming, homely atmosphere, perfect for an evening meal.
Dine alongside original artworks by Damien Hirst while enjoying views over Ilfracombe harbour at The Quay Restaurant in Ilfracombe. This unique restaurant specialises in preparing classic British and European dishes from fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including a variety of seafood. Enjoy a drink or relaxed meal in The Bar on the ground floor, or head upstairs to the Harbourside Room or Atlantic Room for the best views over the harbour and Hirst’s statue of Verity. Booking is strongly advised as it’s very popular.
If it’s hearty pub food you’re after, look no further than The New Inn at Goodleigh. It hasn’t earned the top spot on Trip Advisor for nothing; with a menu that changes seasonally to include local fish, meats and vegetables, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes. Enjoy the cosy welcoming atmosphere, and don’t forget to leave room for dessert!
Well known by locals as one of the best restaurants in Barnstaple, The Glass House is the upstairs part of Claytons Lounge Bar, with its own menu of quality British and European cuisine. Perfect for a special occasion or romantic dinner for two, the atmosphere under the glass roof of its namesake is undeniably luxurious.
A family run restaurant on the banks of the River Caen, The Riverside offers a varied menu of good, honest food, much of it using ingredients grown on the Charlesworth family farm. Great for dining out with children, all are made to feel welcome. If you’re looking for a taste of the exotic, the Everest Gurkha Chef could be your answer. Inside it’s not much to look at, but what it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in delicious authentic dishes.
Locals love treating themselves to a visit to Morans, so be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment. It’s no surprise that it’s always full – serving mouth-watering Thai food in a relaxing environment, there’s nothing not to like. Linger after your meal for coffee or cocktails, for which they are also well-renowned.
Sustainability is the order of the day at Pattard Kitchen, providing, in their own words, ‘a contemporary outlook on an ever-changing food scene’. Their menu is exciting and different, even ‘ordinary’ dishes have an unexpected twist. For a beautifully presented meal to remember, competition is slim.
Drink like a North Devon local
Whether your favourite beverage is tea or tequila, there’s a North Devon drinking establishment for you! Ideal for a daytime drink and a slice of cake, Fremington Quay is set on a picturesque stretch of the Tarka Trail. Combine a visit with a walk or a cycle to stretch your legs, then top up your energy supplies with a hot chocolate and locally baked cake!
One of the best North Devon pubs for families, The Seagate is good for coffee or a daytime pint, as well as evening drinks in the pretty surroundings of Appledore. With comfortable seating and a laid-back atmosphere, it’s easy to while away the hours here.
If you’re looking to enjoy a drink in a striking location, The Pier House ticks both boxes. The expansive glass windows of the restaurant look directly out over Bideford Bay, while the well-stocked bar offers a cosy environment for both daytime and night-time drinking.
Combine a stroll along the pretty Instow beach with a visit to the Instow Arms for a pint or a glass of wine. If you’re lucky, you may even get a window seat from which you can enjoy the estuary views over to Appledore while sipping your chosen refreshment.
Skilfully mixed cocktails in a vibrant atmosphere, Bar 62 oozes contemporary sophistication. Relax and enjoy a cocktail at your leisure, or take a pre-booked cocktail masterclass to kick off your evening in style. Besides the enticing menu of hickory-smoked burgers, steaks and lighter bites, the Beachside Grill is a popular spot for a drink. Enjoy a coffee over-looking the beach by day, or soak up the lively atmosphere in the evening, while the sun sinks below the horizon.
This SQ Bar in the heart of Braunton is a popular hotspot for an evening drink. With regular entertainment from live musicians of all genres, and even open mic nights, there’s plenty to watch while you’re sipping your favourite tipple. We mentioned The Glass House Restaurant earlier in the article, but downstairs, Claytons not only serves its own menu of delicious food, but is also a hub for evening drinkers in its premium lounge bar. With cocktails, ‘gin experiences’, beers, ales and spirits on offer, the night is sure to be a fun one!
Surf like a North Devon local
If you’ve eaten and had a tipple or two like a North Devon local, then you’ll be wanting something active to work up an appetite for more! Surfing in North Devon is one of the best experiences on offer in the county; whether you’re an all-weather surfer or a budding beginner, our North Devon beaches are sure to have you ‘stoked’. There are also some great North Devon surf schools on offer if you want to learn from the best.
Come to Croyde - this reliable beach break can be surfed at all stages of the tide, but it’s at its best an hour or so before low tide when it’s spring tides, at low tide, or when it’s pushing in on a neap tide. Surfers of all levels should be aware that there are strong rips at low tide, so beginners would do well to take lessons from one of the local surf schools. Try Surf South West, the brilliantly-named Walking On Waves and Croyde Surf Academy.
At over three miles long, Saunton can accommodate surfers even on the busiest of days! The waves are generally slow and you can catch a long ride when the conditions are right. Longboarders will love it, as will beginners, and there are several schools where you’ll find great tuition - head to Surf Saunton or The Surfing Sumo.
The southern part of Woolacombe beach is known as Putsborough. It’s privately owned and can only be accessed by parking in the private car park. The rewards are great though, as the surf works at all stages of the tide. The waves are fairly slow and it is somewhat protected from south/south-westerly winds by the headland.
The main beach at Woolacombe is suitable for everyone. At three miles long it stretches down to Putsborough and plays host to surf competitions throughout the year. Lifeguards patrol in the summer months, and again, there are plenty of surf schools to choose from. If you want to try out the waves for yourself, take some lessons at Woolacombe Surf Centre and Hunter Surf School & Hire.
See the sights like a North Devon local
North Devon is home to some vibrant market towns, including Barnstaple, South Molton, Bideford and Torrington where you can not only learn about the hundreds of years of history under their belt, but also take the opportunity to visit excellent farmer's markets, vintage stores and independent boutiques.
Apart from the amazing beaches which are great for both family days out and surfing weekends with friends, there is some fabulous walking to be done across the nearby National Park of Exmoor. Do it by foot, by bike or even by horse - whatever way you wish to travel, the scenery is simply outstanding.
Those who want something a bit buzzier (or who have children to entertain) would do well to visit the Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park whose Dino Express Train Ride, indoor play zone and animal experiences will thrill little ones. Ditto, The Big Sheep and Exmoor Zoo, both great days out.
You can't leave North Devon without taking a boat trip on the MS Oldenburgh across to the granite outcrop of Lundy Island. Set sail from Ilfracombe for the two-hour journey which if you are lucky, will be upgraded by the playful pod of dolphins who often join the boat. On this tranquil, unspoilt island, which is run by The Landmark Trust, you can explore to your heart's content for a good few hours until it is time to take the boat back home again.
Live like a North Devon local
The Big Domain offers a big collection of properties in Devon – whether you’re getting away with family or planning a surf trip with friends, you’ll find the perfect large house in Devon for you. Our portfolio in North Devon is particularly inspiring - have a look at our properties in the charming village of Appledore - from Appledore - The Grange, a lovingly renovated Victorian property that could be straight out of a period drama, Odun Villa with its bubbling hot tub and marvellous views or even the contemporary space of Appledore - Sea Escape, a light-filled beach house with cool tones and awe-inspiring ocean views.
Just a few miles away along the coast, the hugely popular Westward Ho! takes you right into the heart of the action. On the doorstep of a huge expanse of sandy beach, a delightful green to sit and devour ice-creams and one of the best traditional sweet shops in the area, our properties will inspire you to have the holiday of a lifetime. The Big Beach Hut does just that - its open-plan space and glass-fronted balcony invites you to kick back with a sundowner as you watch the town come to life for the evening. Or pack your bags and head to The Machrie - a dog-friendly reverse-level house with log burner and hot tub which gives you that beachy feeling the moment you step inside.
It's not all about the sea - inland Devon is one of the most gorgeous areas to visit on holiday. Thornewidger Barn near Buckland Brewer is a five-star barn conversion which sleeps 12 and is set within 9 acres of beautiful grounds. Gather round with friends and family in the flower-filled garden or challenge fellow guests to a game of table tennis, pool or darts in the games room.
The spacious barn conversion of Barton Court is another country delight - set on a 175-acre working family farm, 10 miles to the south of Barnstaple, it gives families with children a great opportunity to experience lambing season if visited in early spring. Don't forget the surfing capitals of Saunton, Croyde and Woolacombe where waterside properties will allow instant access to all the activity you could ever hope for.
For all the great places to stay we have in Devon, head to our complete collection of large houses in Devon.