Makes Combe Martin Special?
- Sheltered, sandy beach
- Surrounded by idyllic countryside
- Walkway through maze of rockpools
- Independent shops and cafes
- Incredible wildlife park
- Spectacular clifftop walks
- Lively carnival and unique
- Rich silver mining heritage
- Gateway to Exmoor National Park
- Near sandy surf spots of
Woolacombe and Croyde
What Can We Do in Combe Martin?
- Sunbathe and swim at the beach.
- Enjoy breathtaking views from Hangman Cliffs.
- Hunt for crabs in rockpools at low tide.
- Meet wolves and lions at Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park.
- Spot deer and wild ponies in Exmoor National Park.
- Delve into centuries of silver mining at Combe Martin Museum.
- Hike on the Southwest Coast Path.
- Take the family for a day out at Watermouth Castle and Theme Park.
- Join the annual Hunting of the Earl of Rone.
- Shop for fresh produce at the Farmers’ Market.
- Enjoy a pint of local ale or cider at the Pack of Cards Inn.
- Book surfing lessons at neigbouring Woolacombe or Croyde.
Where Can We Stay in Combe Martin?
- Book a caravan at John Fowler Holiday Park.
- Stay in a room at one of the village’s hotels, such as Sandy Cove.
- Pick a cosy bed and breakfast in the heart of the village.
- Book a holiday cottage by the beach or above the wooded valley with views of the Atlantic.
All About Combe Martin
Its main street winds
through the valley towards the ocean for more than two miles and is said to be
the longest village street anywhere in the UK. Combe Martin has a rich history
of silver mining, fishing and lime-burning, and a variety of unique traditions
which are alive and well today. There’s loads to do in and around the village,
including swimming and sunbathing on the beach, hunting for crabs in the
rockpools at low tide, hiking on Exmoor and surfing at neigbouring Woolacombe
Take a wander through Combe
Martin and you will discover a variety of striking historic landmarks, such as
the red sandstone church, featuring a sanctuary ring which criminals are said
to have clutched to save themselves from arrest and imprisonment – as long as
they fled the country. Nearby, the Pack of Cards Inn is an unusual castle-like
building dating back to the 17th century. It was built with 52
windows – apparently one for every card in a deck to celebrate the owner’s
gambling winnings. The main street is home to a range of family-run businesses,
including a number of good cafes and groceries where you can pick up everything
you need for a day on the beach.
Combe Martin’s annual carnival is
legendary and concludes with a unique tradition known as the Hunting of the
Earl of Rone, during which a hobby horse is chased along the main street by a
variety of characters before being thrown into the ocean. The custom was banned
in 1837 due to drunken behaviour but was brought back in the Seventies and
remains a lively celebration which sees hundreds of revellers parading through
the village in weird and wonderful costumes.
Follow the main street through
the village and you will arrive at the beach, a sheltered cove framed by
dramatic cliffs. As the tide drops, a glorious expanse of golden sand is
revealed, as well as a walkway which meanders through a maze of rockpools,
where hunting for crabs is a popular activity. Combe Martin Beach is perfect
for sunbathing and building sandcastles and its calm waters are ideal for a
bracing swim in the Atlantic. There are a number of places to eat and drink
overlooking the beach, including the Dolphin Inn, where you can watch the sun
set on the horizon from a terrace above the sand.
Combe Martin is close to many of
North Devon’s best family attractions. Watermouth Castle is a couple of miles
to the village’s west, featuring Dungeon Labyrinths, Gnome Land, Water Show
Extravaganza and Adventure Land. Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park is not
to be missed, with wolves, lions and amazingly lifelike animatronic dinosaurs –
all set within beautiful gardens and woods.
Combe Martin lies on the eastern
border of Exmoor National Park, an enchanting expanse of windswept moors,
ancient woods and tranquil pastureland, where deer and wild ponies roam. The
park is crisscrossed with scenic footpaths and scattered with picturesque villages
such as Brendon and Simonsbath, where streams trickle past thatched cottages
and cosy pubs. Exmoor also has a spectacular coast, with towering cliffs, rocky
bays and remote fishing villages. Don’t miss the twin villages of Lynton and
Lynmouth, clinging to the sides of a steep valley overlooking a pretty harbour.
Combe Martin is a short drive
from the beaches of Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton, where vast stretches of
sand are backed by grassy dunes. All three are renowned surf spots and home to
surf shops and schools, if you fancy booking a lesson. Ilfracombe is six miles
to the west of Combe Martin, with a bustling harbour, art galleries,
independent shops and a striking sculpture by Damien Hirst.
Combe Martin History
There is evidence that Combe
Martin has been inhabited since the Iron Age, including the neigbouring
Newberry Castle fort. ‘Combe’ derives from the Old English ‘Cumb’, meaning
wooded valley, while ‘Martin’ comes from the name of the FitzMartin family,
feudal barons of Barnstaple from which the manor of Combe was held. The
FitzMartins held the barony when Nicholas FitzMartin married Maud de Tracy, who
was the heiress of the barony of Barnstaple, until the death of his grandson
William III FitzMartin in 1326, when his two sisters became co-heiresses.
Combe Martin has a rich silver
mining heritage. Silver from the village was used in the creation of a number
of items in the Crown Jewels, and a large portion of expenses for the wars of
Edward III and Henry V were paid for by selling Combe Martin silver. On the
eastern side of the valley, there is evidence of several disused silver mines,
including a series of tunnels and a wheelhouse which was once used to lift ore
from the mines. In 2008, archaeologists discovered a 12th century
industrial complex in Combe Martin. It is believed to be a Monastic Grange with
a Hemp Mill and Hemp Pool buried underneath three metres of waste. The
discovery has shed new light on the history of the area’s silver mining
Combe Martin’s fascinating
history of silver mining, lime burning, strawberry growing and fishing can be
further explored at the village’s excellent museum. Museum volunteers offer
beach safaris, providing visitors with an insight into how the coast has
changed over the centuries.
How Do You Get to Combe Martin?
Exeter is Combe Martin’s nearest
airport, with flights to cities across Europe. It is roughly 90 minutes away by
car, or by train from Exeter to Barnstaple and a local bus to Combe Martin.
Bristol Airport is roughly two hours from Combe Martin and has a greater range
of flights. Travellers from outside Europe will generally need to fly to London
and hire a car or use public transport to get to Combe Martin.
Travellers from western Europe
may want to consider taking the ferry, either on foot or with their car, from
northern France or Spain to Plymouth, which is approximately two hours from
Combe Martin can be easily
reached using public transport. Local buses run regularly between Combe Martin
and Barnstaple. Coaches from Bristol, London and Cornwall stop in Barnstaple,
which is also connected to Exeter by the Tarka Railway Line.
Combe Martin is on the Southwest
Coast Path. Approaching from the east, walkers will pass through Lynmouth
before embarking on the steep and dramatic approach to Combe Martin. From the
east, Ilfracombe, Hele Bay and Watermouth are passed on the way to Combe
Cycling is increasingly popular
in North Devon, and with a little planning, long-distance routes which avoid
busy roads can be planned. Nearby, the Tarka Trail follows disused railway
tracks through some of the region’s most picturesque countryside.