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Hidden Gems of Ilfracombe

Local Area

Category: Local Area

Sarah Twist

Written by: 14th September 2015

Estimated time to read: 4 minutes

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Explore North Devon from our outstanding Beach Cove Coastal Retreat, with four hidden gems for you to seek out on your travels

North Devon has countless hidden secrets in the beautiful surroundings. You can stay in our cute and quirky beach hut accommodation in Hele Bay when you explore this region. Beach Cove Coastal Retreat is hidden gem on the North Devon coastline all on it’s own, but just little further down the road the town of Ilfracombe has some fantastic secrets ready to be stumbled upon!


Ilfracombe Museum


The local museum is overflowing with curiosities and memorabilia, from shrunken heads to pickled bats (slightly morbid, but so fascinating!). The founder Mervyn Palmer was originally a collector for the Royal British Museum, and first opened Ilfracombe Museum’s doors in 1932 when his personal collection became too big for his home. When you visit you can learn all about how settlers arrived on the coast through model ships, and take a look at the ship to shore radio station, which is a huge hit with the kids. The museum also has a fabulous programme of demonstrations and events throughout the year to visit and learn from, so don’t miss out on this wonderful and weird window into the past.


Hele Corn Mill and Tea Room


The mill building itself dates back to 1525 and is a unique working watermill on the North Devon coast, with an absolutely fascinating history you can learn all about from the guided tours every weekend by the current owners, the Jones family. Kids can play games called ‘find the mice’ and ‘count the millstones’ while you hear the stories about the hilarious mishaps that have befallen the millers over the centuries in the Grade 2 listed building. Attend one of the demonstrations of the 100 year old Blackstone Mill, which still produces wholemeal flour for the Miller’s Wife Tea Room, where you can sit and enjoy an award winning afternoon with freshly baked cakes, a range of cream teas and tasty pasties from Paul the Pieman.


The Grampus Inn


This traditional village pub is a huge hit with locals and visitors alike, with parts of the building dating back to the 14th Century it is stunning inside and out. Offering ciders, largers, organic wine, as well as hosting a variety of guest ales all made locally to tickle your taste buds, The Grampus Inn supports local companies in the community. Boasting home cooked dishes made using locally sourced produce from around North Devon, as well as serving traditional Devon cream tea in the delightful tea room from Easter to October there is something for everyone. There is plenty going on at the pub for entertainment, with darts, pool, live music, quiz nights and even craft evenings for everyone to enjoy, or take a seat in one of the beautifully carved ‘storytelling’ chairs, carved by owner Bill Harvey himself, and curl up with a good book. A fabulous night out in the heart of Ilfracombe.


Tunnels Beaches


The Victorian hand carved tunnels, rock pool, tidal pool and beautiful beach couldn’t be missed off the list, even if they aren’t really hidden gems! The tunnels took 2 years to complete in the 1820’s, and the pick axe marks made by the Welshmen who carved them can still be seen today as you wander through the hillside. Scattered throughout the tunnels are hilarious guides to Victorian etiquette for boys, girls and gentlemen out boating with ladies, for example “Great care must be taken not to splash the ladies” and “Neither should anything be done to cause them freight”, scour the tunnels to find the charming and funny messages from the past. The beach through the tunnels is widely known as one of the safest and cleanest beaches in North Devon and was voted 3rd best rock pooling beach in the UK by BBC Wildlife. Grab a bite to eat at The Café Blue Bar, offering a range of food and drink where you can sit on the balcony and gaze out over the beach and out to the sea. An interesting fact to leave you with is that every year the large tidal pool is cleaned and drained by removing a large ‘plug’ at the bottom of the pool… (the image of that made me chuckle…)

So ladies and gents that’s the best hidden gems of Ilfracombe, if there is anything that I’ve missed off the list then drop me a comment and let me know!

Enjoy #hiddenbritain and happy adventuring folks!


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Photo Credit: Mike Johnson, Peter Gwenlan, Rob Farrow, Ellen Thompson, Joe Mabel.

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