The historic town of Ilfracombe is tucked between the rugged cliffs of North Devon's Atlantic coast and has been a popular seaside destination since Victorian times. It was developed in 1874 after the single-track railway to Ilfracombe was built, tackling one of the steepest gradients in railroad history on the journey from Mortehoe to Ilfracombe. The railway line closed in 1970 and now serves a new purpose as part of the Tarka Trail cycleway.
Things to Do in Ilfracombe
The elegant architecture and colourful flower beds make a bright display along Ilfracombe's busy High Street. Narrow streets lead down to the promenade, past the futuristic Landmark Theatre to the harbour where local fishing boats bob between trips. Climb up Lantern Hill near the pier and checkout Ilfracombe's oldest building, St Nicholas Church, which was once used as a lighthouse back in 1522. Alternatively, take a day trip by boat to Marisco Castle on Lundy Island. Enjoy exploring this historic island in the Bristol Channel, now home to many species of migrating seabirds including puffins.
Longer walks from Ilfracombe include the stunning scenery along the National Trust owned cliff at Torrs Walk, or amble along the South West Coast Path towards Lee and pay the small fee to use the private lido and amenities at the Tunnels Beaches, reached, as you may have guessed, through tunnels blasted in the rocky headland.
Ilfracombe Museum makes an interesting place to visit and Chambercombe Manor, just out of town on the Barnstaple Road is an interesting collection of 16th century buildings. Dating back to the Domesday Book records, the property was once owned by the father of Lady Jane Grey, the short-lived Queen of England after the death of Edward VI. Take a guided tour to learn about the discovery of a secret room – complete with skeleton lying on the bed and linger for afternoon tea in the delightful old manor house.
The Delights of Combe Martin
When you have exhausted Ilfracombe's attractions, follow the coast road past the Ilfracombe Golf Club and the lovely Watermouth Castle to Combe Martin, five miles away.
This pretty village straggles along the scenic valley for two miles, lined with small gift shops, delightful thatched cottages and the famous black and white Pack O'Cards Inn, built in 1626 in the style of a house of cards, reputedly from the winnings at a poker game!
The public footpaths from the village lead to a Neolithic stone circle and to several disused silver mines which once provided silver for the Crown Jewels in their heyday. The small sandy beach is a haven for families to fish in the rock pools, dam the stream, dig in the sand and enjoy the safe shallow waters.
If you visit on the Spring Bank Holiday you can join the traditional hobby horse chase through the village, known as the Hunting of the Earl of Rone.