It’s no doubt that people flock to Ilfracombe because of its seaside location, bustling harbour and close proximity to the best surfing beaches in North Devon, however, there is much more to Ilfracombe than meets the eye. Steeped in fascinating Victorian history, with tales of shipwrecks and shark sightings, the town is home to delicious eateries, access to the South West Coast Path, and has a handful of thriving galleries and independent boutiques. There are plenty of child-friendly attractions nearby and many beaches welcoming dogs so the whole family can enjoy days out together throughout your stay.
Get whisked away on the water and explore the spectacular coves and headlands of the north Devon coastline. From sunset cruises, to fishing trips, stop by the harbour and see which trip takes your fancy.
Ilfracombe Sea Safari have a fleet of two ribs, and a catamaran on which they can take you on a range of exciting tours. Whether it’s a sunset cruise to see seals, a waterfall tour, or a trip to see smugglers’ caves and lighthouses, choose your journey and head out with experienced guides who know their way around the coast like no other. A range of fishing trips are available too and include reef fishing and deep-sea fishing so you can show off your catch of the day. Ilfracombe Sea Safari also offer trips to Lundy Island where you can book on a seal swimming tour and make some new friends!
The Ilfracombe Princess is instantly recognisable in all her yellow glory. Gawp at spectacular seascapes from the viewing deck as you embark on an adventure past waterfalls, seals, lighthouses and caves. Choose from a variety of Princess trips or book a tour on one of the adventure ribs where you will get whisked away by the skipper who knows exactly where the last dolphin sightings have been. The adrenaline junkies amongst you can book on an adventure rib tour to take you as fast as possible!
The Princess welcomes four-legged guests on the lower deck, so nobody has to get left at home.
You simply can’t miss Damien Hirst’s ‘Verity’, a stainless steel and bronze sculpture who stands tall, at 66 feet high, on the pier. Verity was erected in October 2012 and will call Ilfracombe her home for 20 years. The statues depicts a pregnant woman standing atop a pile of law books with the scales of justice in one had and a sword in the other. Half of the statue shows Verity’s internal organs, and her foetus is clearly visible. It is thought that Verity was designed to show truth and justice for her unborn child.
You can’t miss the iconic Landmark Theatre, its unusual double-conical shape stands amidst pretty gardens and is backed by Capstone Hill. The Landmark is a hub of activity in Ilfracombe and hosts a variety of different performances and artists including comedians, plays, professional dance companies, and local shows.
Ilfracombe's fantastic coastal location, not to mention its close proximity to Exmoor National Park, means there are a plethora of well-trodden trails to hop on. The South West Coast Path follows the coastline past coves and cliffs, and the Tarka Trail takes you on an adventure around the coast and countryside.
The South West Coast Path covers 630 miles of brilliant coast from Minehead to Poole, luckily for you, some of the most picturesque spots lie close to Ilfracombe. For a 4.5-mile stomp to Watermouth Cove, head onto the path and walk east out of the town. As you climb the first hill, take a moment to peer back down at Ilfracombe as you get a great vantage of the town from high above. Follow the twists and turns and marvel at the crashing waves beneath you as you make your way past Hele Bay and towards your destination where you can refuel with a bite to eat at the waterside café.
If you head west out of the town you will end up at Lee Bay, a fantastic, secluded cove with dramatic surroundings and a fascinating smuggling history. Refuel at The Grampus, or continue on past Sandy Cove towards Bull Point lighthouse at Mortehoe. If you make it past the lighthouse to Morte Point, keep your eyes peeled for seals who can often be spotted (or heard!) lazing on the rocks below.
If you don’t want to venture far out of Ilfracombe but fancy a brisk walk, make your way to Capstone Hill. Take the path which wraps around the hill or, for a more strenuous walk, climb up to the summit. Both paths have glorious, far-reaching views towards Wales, which you can see clearly on a sunny day. The lower path has several points where you can descend steps down to the sea and take a moment to relax. If you climb to the top of Capstone you will spy an interesting statue. The statue commemorates the life of a 14-year-old Russian girl who was studying at a local school, one foggy day she was out wandering the nearby Hillsborough Downs when she tragically fell and lost her life.
A short but fairly challenging walk will take you up to the Torrs. Its steep zig-zagging paths were carved out by the Victorians and offer stunning sea views. The area is now owned by the National Trust and consequently has a car park in case you are not arriving on foot. Keep your eyes peeled for you may spy dolphins, porpoises, or seals.