As autumn closes in, the Clovelly Herring Festival is a fun family day out to head for, held on the third Sunday in November. There can't be many villages like Clovelly and anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting will have noticed the history and uniqueness of this small harbour community.
If you have never visited Clovelly, you will probably have seen pictures of it without even realising it because this scenic fishing village in North Devon has been shown in countless adverts and TV programmes.
Clovelly ‐ Nowhere quite like it!
The village of Clovelly is built into the side of a cliff and consists of picture postcard white-washed cottages which all lead down the hill to the world-famous fishing port. It descends in shallow cobbled steps which are lined with thatched cottages, cafés, pubs, museums and shops.
Believe it or not, the village is privately owned and has been in the ownership of the same family since 1738. The owners have a policy in place that the village is kept in the style of the 19th century. The steep cobbled high street, which is always traffic free due to the many cobbled steps, certainly feels completely different to anything that you may be used to.
The silver darlings of the sea
In years gone by, Clovelly was considered to be a major player in the herring fishing industry. Herrings and shoals of pilchards were once far more plentiful around the North Devon coastline and 9,000 herring could be landed at one time. Known as “Silver Darlings” these nutritious fish were the livelihood and food for many poor families.
This age-old festival is held to celebrate and keep alive the harvesting of herring. “silver darlings” of the sea as herring are often referred to. The over-fishing of hundreds of herring boats that once sailed out of this port has led to a dramatic reduction in herring shoals. Clovelly now has just two herring fishermen who use drift nets and long lines to ensure the sustainability of the remaining herring fish stocks.
The proceeds from the Clovelly Herring Festival help to preserve traditional fishing methods and support these sustainable fishing methods. It certainly makes an informative fun day out for all ages.
What to expect at the Clovelly Herring Festival in November
The merriment starts around 10am and finishes at 4pm. The setting is unbeatable with shanty singers serenading you whilst you take it all in. Herring specialties are on offer along with the obligatory cider to wash it down.
Smoked herring are actually known as kippers and they make a tasty meal if you take some home, either for breakfast, lunch or supper! Part of the Clovelly Herring Festival is the Kipperland exhibition which not only tells the history of herring but is accompanied by tasty herring delicacies fresh from the smokehouse.
Other activities include net making, flax processing and cookery demonstrations featuring herrings. Lots of activities are always lined up as well as local craft stalls and demonstrations, live music and fish-themed activities for all the family.
Donkeys transport everything up the steep streets in Clovelly
Anyone visiting the Clovelly Herring Festival should be aware that the hills are very steep and donkeys are still used to carry things up and down the streets in sledges. However there is a Land Rover service which transports visitors up a back road, but you do miss all the attractions if you opt to pay for that route.
The uneven cobbled streets mean that flat sensible shoes are an absolute must. Be sure to take your camera with you as well because this is a day that you will certainly want to remember for a very long time.
Clovelly is often featured on television due to its uniqueness and beauty but do you know of any other places like this, which are featured in the same way? Are there any other privately owned villages you know of elsewhere in the UK?