- Town and Villages
- North Devon Coastline
- The Tarka Trail
- Celebrations at Somers Hiscott
North Devon is blessed with an abundance of quaint towns and villages that are scattered along its coastline and within its beautiful inland countryside. Just a few miles from Somers Hiscott are North Devon's two largest towns. Sitting on the edge of the River Taw is Barnstaple. This pretty market town has a busy high street complete with historic Pannier Market and a full range of shops to suit all tastes. There is also a multi-screen cinema, a theatre and a good leisure centre. On the outskirts of the town are two large supermarkets, and both Sainsburys and Tesco are able to offer online shopping with delivery direct to Somers Hiscott. At the estuary of the River Torridge is Bideford, a quaint market town with quirky shops, art galleries and restaurants. During the summer months the MS Oldenburg sets sail from the town en-route to Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. It takes around two hours to reach the small island that is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Marine Conservation area, and once onshore there are plenty of walks, wildlife and history to explore. Only a short drive from Bideford are two of North Devon's prettiest seaside villages. Instow and Appledore are havens for art lovers. Sitting alongside the estuary of the River Torridge the two villages are peaceful destinations for admiring the coastline, enjoying local seafood served at some classic restaurants, including The Beaver Inn and the Instow Arms, as well as watching the local fishing boats come and go. To the east of Barnstaple is Ilfracombe, a traditional Victorian town with gorgeous harbour. Thanks to contemporary artist Damien Hirst the town has seen its popularity grow in recent years. Standing proud and overlooking the harbour is the artist's latest contribution to the town, a large bronze clad statue known as 'Verity'. Hirst also has a restaurant 'The Quay' on the harbour front. Other attractions in Ilfracombe include a popular aquarium and The Tunnels, a family friendly beach with tidal pool and indoor soft play centre. Fondly nicknamed 'Little Switzerland' Lynton and Lynmouth are two pretty villages on the edge of the Exmoor National Park. Linked via the water-powered cliff railway the two villages are ideal for a relaxing day eating a traditional Devonshire cream tea overlooking the sea. There are several good restaurants and tearooms in the villages, but one of the visitors favourites is Mother Meldrum’s situated within the Valley of the Rocks where a herd of feral goats roam and local teams play cricket in the summer months. For a day out at a traditional seaside village why not explore Clovelly? This beautiful village, which inspired author Charles Kingsley, has plenty to offer its visitors. The main cobbled street which runs through the village remains traffic free, although a Land Rover offers lifts to any visitors who don't fancy the walk up or down the hill. There are plenty of activities to keep all the family entertained, including craft workshops, boat trips, fishing and shopping. One of the most popular attractions, which is not to be missed, is a visit to the village donkey stables, which highlight the importance of the animals to Clovelly, as well as offer children rides in the summer.
North Devon's coastline is truly magnificent. From its rocky inlets to its miles of golden beaches there really is something for everyone. In the warm summer months there is nowhere better to enjoy a day out than at one of England's best beaches. The award winning Woolacombe is around a half hour’s drive from Somers Hiscott and is perfect for families, as well as friends. The three miles of golden sands are a haven for not only sun seekers but also water sport enthusiasts. After a day on the beach retreat to the village where there are clubs, bars and restaurants to discover. A little nearer to Somers Hiscott are Croyde and Saunton Sands. Backed by the Braunton Burrows these two beautiful beaches are relatively sheltered and are perfect for those wishing to learn a new water skill, including surfing and kite surfing. Saunton is also a dog friendly beach. In the nearby village of Georgeham are two of the best pubs in the local area, The Rock and The Kings Arms. At the southern end of the Northam Burrows near Bideford, and lying opposite Saunton Sands is Westward Ho!. This pretty beach village owes its unusual name to the author Charles Kingsley and features a sandy beach that is just over two miles long, as well as a pebble ridge. Westward Ho! offers its visitors plenty of activities, including fishing for crabs, go-karting, traditional beach huts and surfing. Complete your day in the village with refreshments from Tea on the Green, where all the cream teas are named after famous movie stars - so why not try a Hepburn, a Grant or a Taylor? For visitors who are looking to explore the coastline by foot then why not discover some of the beautiful spots that lie along the South West Coast Path? This well maintained footpath takes in some of the most stunning scenery, as well as giving walkers the chance to take magnificent photographs and spot some of the native wildlife. One of the most popular spots along the Coast Path is Heddon's Mouth, a pretty pebbled cove with a ruined limekiln situated in a lovely valley, and featuring a good pub called the Hunters Inn. Combe Martin is also perfect for walkers with the nearby Great Hangman hill providing excellent views from the top of Britain's tallest mainland cliffs. To discover more about the South West Coast Path please visit its official website.
The Tarka Trail is one of England's longest traffic free pathways suitable for both walkers and cyclists of all ages and abilities. The route, which is just over 30 miles long, begins in Braunton and finishes in Meeth. Most of the path uses the former railway line and has been tarmacked making it ideal for families with young children. The Tarka Trail provides some of the best views of the North Devon countryside as you travel alongside mud flats and salt marshes and through woodlands and meadows. There are also wonderful sculptures and shelters to dicover along the way. The trail starts in England's largest surfing village, Braunton, which is included in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that protects Braunton Burrows. From the village the route is very easy to follow with good signs marking the way. The trail travels along the River Taw to Barnstaple before heading to the River Torridge estuary where you can enjoy a meal at Instow or Bideford. A firm favourite with Tarka Trail visitors is the Puffing Billy on the edge of Torrington. This former railway station is now a relaxed pub set alongside the trail and features a goods brake van, a coal truck and a buffet carriage on a restored section of the railway line. After the Puffing Billy walkers and cyclists can either leave the line and finish in Great Torrington or continue on to Meeth.
North Devon has a wealth of excellent golf courses. The closest to Somers Hiscott are those located in Barnstaple, Chittlehamholt and Westward Ho!. Portmore in Barnstaple is situated just off the A361 and consists of 27 holes made up of the 9 hole Landkey course and the 18 hole Barum course. There is also a 23 bay golf range, which is undercover and has floodlights. There is no need to be a member at the golf course, with visitors welcome to pay and play on the day. Hire facilities are also available at the ground. To play on one of golf's oldest links courses head to the Royal North Devon in Westward Ho!. Founded in 1864 this stunning course has barely changed in over a century and enjoys spectacular views of the North Devon coastline and the Northam Burrows. The 18 hole golf course at the Royal North Devon was also recently placed in the top 100 courses in the world that a golfer must play. For something a little more relaxed, there is the 18 hole golf course at the Highbullen Hotel, Golf and Country Club situated in Chittlehamholt. The wonderful countryside course has gorgeous scenery, and after a round of golf, why not spend time enjoying some of the other onsite leisure facilities, including an indoor swimming pool, a sauna and a gym.
There are several excellent family friendly attractions within easy reach of Somers Hiscott. Just outside of Bideford is The Big Sheep, which was recently voted Devon's best large attraction. Open all year round the park offers a great day out, no matter what the weather. To keep the little ones entertained at The Big Sheep there is sheep racing, lamb feeding (season dependent), jumping pillows, an indoor play centre and a farm safari. Winner of North Devon's top day out with the kids award is The Milky Way. This large adventure park includes the Cosmic Typhoon roller coaster and North Devon's biggest indoor adventure play area complete with assault courses and slides suitable for both adults and children. There are also live shows to enjoy. Near Combe Martin are two further attractions guaranteed to entertain the children. Watermouth Castle is packed full of treasures inside and out. Overlooking Watermouth Cove the castle hosts a water and lights show that was originally designed for the 1951 Festival of Britain on the South Bank of the Thames. Outside there are stunning gardens with a maze and jumping fountains, an area packed with gnomes and several rides suitable for young children. The second attraction close to Combe Martin is the Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, which has been welcoming guests for more than 25 years. The independently-run park is home to lions, wolves, sea lions and exotic birds, as well as many more animals. There is also an impressive range of life sized animatronic dinosaurs. The Wildlife Park offers animal experiences to its visitors, including swimming with the sea lions and shadowing a keeper. Other nearby attractions well worth a visit and open throughout the year, include Arlington Court, a Regency house with large horse drawn carriage collection and beautiful gardens, Exmoor Zoo, home to the Exmoor beast and many other rare and endangered animals, and Dartington Crystal, where you can spend the day watching experts blow glass or give it a go yourself. For adrenaline seekers the nearby Southdown Adventure Park in Yarnscombe has a wide range of outdoor activities on offer ideal for groups, including quad biking, clay shooting, air rifles, zorb ball and archery. Please note that many of these activities need to be booked in advance. Also located in Yarnscombe is Survival Paintball, the largest of its kind in the South West. Whatever your age or fitness level, Survival Paintball has something to guarantee you a memorable visit.
If you would prefer to enjoy a more relaxed and colourful day out then visit one of the beautiful gardens that are hidden within North Devon's countryside. Just a short drive from Somers Hiscott is RHS Rosemoor, which were originally created by Lady Anne Berry and includes a gorgeous ornamental garden filled with roses and perennials. There is also a woodland garden, a fruit and vegetable patch, a good restaurant and a shop for buying locally produced plants and flowers. On the outskirts of Barnstaple is the Broomhill Sculpture Gardens, where art and flowers are beautifully combined to create a stunning display for visitors to explore. Finish your day at the award winning Terra Madre restaurant serving homemade Mediterranean inspired cuisine. Other nearby gardens include Castle Hill in Filleigh, where a 50 acre family friendly garden awaits, and Marwood Hill near Barnstaple, which covers 20 acres and features a combination of lakes and peaceful gardens set within a beautiful valley.
A visit to North Devon would not be complete without exploring the Exmoor National Park, which straddles the county's border with Somerset. This rugged landscape, which has been shaped over thousands of years, is made up of moorland, woodland, farmland and valleys, and covers more than 250 square miles. Throughout the park there are several excellent pubs and restaurants to discover, including the Royal Oak in Withypool, The Black Venus in Challacombe and Reeves in Dunster. For a memorable cream tea on Exmoor, stop at Tarr Steps, where a historic clapper bridge crosses the River Barle. Many outdoor activities that take advantage of the beautiful scenery can also be enjoyed across Exmoor, from walks across the moors amongst the colourful heather, to cycling, horse riding, fishing and star gazing. For more information on what to do when visiting Exmoor please visit the official National Park website.
Make your special occasion at Somers Hiscott more memorable by ordering a cake from Mrs Smudgers Kitchen based in Barnstaple. The family who run the cake studio is passionate about delicious cakes and will be more than happy to create cakes or cupcakes for birthdays and other celebrations. To find out more about Mrs Smudgers Kitchen please visit their website (mrssmudgerskitchen.co.uk) or call 07401 252 952.