Combe Martin, Ilfracombe, Devon
Combe Martin is often overlooked in favour of the popular surfing beaches on the North Devon coast, but it shouldn’t be because it’s such a gem. Picture if you can a quiet village with a backdrop of staggeringly beautiful countryside; Combe Martin is within the North Devon AONB and to the east is Exmoor National Park. Lush green pastures roll gently down to the sea, to the small harbour and the beach backed with family run shops, little tea rooms and bunting strung streets. That coastal air, the rural charm and the echoes of yesteryear, it’s all quite magical, like Enid Blyton holidays. All about fish and chips on the beach and watching glorious sunsets – the simple pleasures in life.
The beach isn’t very big but it’s great for building sandcastles and it’s excellent rock pooling territory; the waters are generally calm, so it’s safe for bathing. The more adventurous can hire kayaks and paddle boards from the Outdoor Shop and Kayak Centre or go exploring the secluded coves. Stretch your legs with a hike along the South West Coast Path to Great Hangman, the tallest sea cliff in Britain, or just a mile away, count your way down the 230 steps to Golden Cove.
What else to do here? There’s a museum you can pokey round if you’re interested in heritage and history (Combe Martin was once a silver mining centre), and the church is worth a peek; go for a pub lunch at Ye Olde George and Dragon or the quirky Pack o’ Cards, built in 1626 to resemble a pack of cards in a heap. Just up the hill is Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, a few miles away is Watermouth Castle.
If you’re in Combe Martin over the May Bank Holiday the chances are you’ll get caught up in the bizarre Hunting of the Earl of Rone Festival, which lasts four days and takes place all over the village. You won’t see this anywhere else on earth because it’s unique to Combe Martin; the Earl of Tyrone was shipwrecked near the village in the early 17th century but various Pagan festivities are very much a part of proceedings with dancers, drummers, musicians and even a hobby horse. Only in Combe Martin…
All information correct at the time of writing