Devon is a pretty incredible area of England to explore. It’s one of those counties that’s sometimes bypassed in lieu of its big sister Cornwall, but definitely shouldn’t be. Honestly, there’s just so many amazing reasons to visit and some of the best things to do in North Devon definitely shouldn’t be missed.
In the past, we’d travelled down to the beautiful spots in Cornwall (even driving through Devon), visited the nearby Jurassic Coast but we’d never actually spent a few days exploring Devon itself. It was already familiar territory but (despite grand plans… and a whole lot of local recommendations), we hadn’t visited ‘properly’ and that’s why we chose to head over to North Devon on our Microgap around the county.
As Yaya mentioned (here), we both headed straight to university after secondary school and didn’t get one of those amazing gap year experiences. That’s not to say I regretted my lack of gap year, but I really do still crave those amazing experiences, even if I’ve gotten a little ‘longer in the tooth’. 😉
You see, the thing is, a ‘Microgap’ is all about finding those experiences that are not only seriously fun but really delves into the place itself. It’s all about totally gorgeous and authentic experiences that are part and parcel of the spot you’re visiting. After a little research into Devon, I just kinda knew this would be a perfect spot for our own Microgap.
This is one of the reasons I wanted to show you some of the best things to do in North Devon. Honestly, it’s one of those places that you just can’t miss when you visit England (or, indeed, if you already call England home and haven’t been yet).
1.) Become a beekeeper for a day
One of the best things to do in North Devon has to involve becoming a bee-keeper for the day. For me, this was something I was totally excited about, especially as I kinda guessed we’d get to properly guzzle on some of that honey!
After getting kitted up at Quince Honey Farm, you can actually go ahead and have a private (or group) beekeeping session that’s really fun. Thankfully, the gear stops you from getting stung, though the bees seemed really placid and totally calm if I’m honest.
Once you’re next to the hives, the gang at Quince Honey Farm tell you all about the bees, how they make honey and you’ll even get to search for the queen… which we found!
Afterwards, pop into their cafe and have one of their scones with a twist. They make the tastiest freshly-baked scones, clotted cream and instead of jam you can actually have the honey from the bees themselves. Honestly, I ate far too much but left totally satisfied.
2.) Explore Exmoor National Park
Designated a national park, way back in 1954, Exploring Exmoor is definitely up there as one of the best things to do in North Devon. Now, the thing that makes Exmoor so unique is its long history, deer and gorgeous landscapes.
Now, there’s ample opportunity to spot the deer in Exmoor by heading out on a guided landrover tour. We headed out with Andrew from Red Stag Safari (which you can see in our post, here) who explained everything about the deer that we saw, the history of the park and even the wild ponies we spotted.
Oh, and don’t forget to visit Tarr Steps. There’s been a history of humans living in Exmoor since Mesolithic times, with the steps (over the river) being over 3,000 years old!
3.) See the Valley of the Rocks
Perched around 1-2km from the village of Lynton, the Valley of the Rocks is a dramatic place to see in North Devon. Not only that, it has a pretty unique history that makes this one of the best things to do in North Devon during your trip.
You see, the Valley of the Rocks was formed many thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age. North Devon was at the very edge of and limit of the glaciers moving south from the northern hemisphere. This, along with the erosion from the frosty weather, led to these incredible formations that make this coastline totally unique.
Take a wander around late afternoon and watch the sunset over the valley and cliffs. Oh, and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the feral goats… they’re actually pretty cute!
4) Explore Dunster
Just across the border (in Somerset), about 20-miles away, is the gorgeous village of Dunster. Now, I know it’s not Devon, but it’s just so close that it’s well worth visiting during your trip to this region. And truth be told, you’ll be dipping in and out of Somerset quite a bit when exploring Exmoor National Park.
After driving over to Dunster, take a look around the historic Anglo-Saxon settlement, spot Dunster Castle and head over to Reeves Resturant that make some of the yummiest food in the region. Oh, and make sure to leave some room for their cocktails… they’re delicious!
5.) Sleep in your own dome
For a unique place to stay, and easily one of the best things to do in North Devon, make sure to check into Loveland Farm. They have the coolest cabins and domes to stay in which was totally amazing and unique(see in our post here).
Once you’ve checked in, said hi to the resident sheep, you’re whisked off to your very own pod, equipped with its own cabin, deck chairs and plenty of nooks to relax in. Better still, when you stay here you can arrange for Loveland to bring you over a proper British roast right to your dome… which we did immediately.
It’s so much fun and the pods are amazing to watch the stars twinkling above.
6.) Stroll around Ilfracombe
Nestled on the hilly North Devon coastline, Ilfracombe is a gorgeous seaside town to explore whilst in the area. Once you’re here, make sure to explore St Nicholas’s Chapel (on Lantern Hill), see the iconic Damien Hirst statue called ‘Verity’ (that towers over the harbour) and head out onto a guided coasteering adventure.
The whole town is actually really lovely and a great place to stop for a chilled afternoon. That being said, if you do decide on coasteering, you’ll be in for the biggest adrenaline rush!
Oh, and make sure to buy a stick of rock! You can’t go to the seaside in the UK without one!
7.) Ride the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway
I’m never quite sure Lynton and Lynmouth are a big village or a small town? whatever the case, it’s a place you should definitely stop off in during your visit to North Devon.
Now, you might be confused as to why there are two names for what seems to be the same place? Well, although they’re almost the same place, Lynmouth is actually perched at the mouth of the River Lyn. Whereas, Lynton has perched high above, across the cliffs overlooking the area.
Once you’re here, make sure to take the water-powered Cliff Railway that connects both places and has been running since 1890! We started off in Lynmouth and took the railway up to Lynton which was so nice. You can even see views across to Wales from here.
8.) Find Hartland Abbey
Exploring Hartland Abbey and Gardens is a gorgeous spot to visit and one of the best things to do in North Devon. Built all the way back in the 12th century, it’s a stunning estate that’s filled with some impressive gardens and rooms you can explore.
Still a family home to this day, it’s a really unique and totally gorgeous estate that’s well worth popping into during your drive across North Devon.
9.) Gorge on all the food
One thing you can’t forget when in North Devon is to gorge on all the delicious food in the region! Honestly, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Once you’re here, make sure to visit Nelly May’s Parlour (in Ilfracombe) for one of the cutest afternoon teas in Devon. If you fancy a Michelin Starred dining experience, pop over to Thomas Carr at The Olive Room which creates some of the tastiest dishes.
Oh, and don’t forget Barricane Beach Cafe too! It’s nothing fancy but a totally celebrated spot in North Devon and a great place to grab a curry supper whilst the sunsets. Just remember to take cash as they don’t accept cards.
10.) Hop on a boat to explore the coast
If you fancy a break from driving, hop on one of the small boats that head out of Ilfracombe and explore the coastline around Brandy Cove, Breakneck Point and Smuggler’s Cove.
Oh, and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for some of the locals! There are loads of seals, dolphins and porpoises that call this area home. If you’re really lucky, you might even see sunfish (though, these are very rare).
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