A beautiful seaside town set against a stunning backdrop of coast and countryside, Ilfracombe is one of the most popular holiday spots in North Devon. The town itself is well-equipped to meet tourists' needs, boasting plenty of accommodation options – from campsites and holiday parks to upscale boutique hotels – along with dining options for every budget and no end of things to see and do for all ages. The picturesque North Devon town is the perfect base for walking holidays in the stunning surrounding area and there are abundant opportunities for adventure sports activity in and around the town. Ilfracombe's enviable location makes it a firm favourite for nature lovers and sporty types, lying between the Exmoor National Park and mile upon mile of surf-friendly beaches.
Ilfracombe has a history stretching back hundreds of years and is rich in culture and tradition and there are attractions here to keep all ages happy, with plenty of rainy-day options should the weather take a turn for the worst. The good surf to be found here makes Ilfracombe popular with a young, fashionable crowd too, particularly during the summer months.
Ilfracombe's rural North Devon location means that public transport links to the town are somewhat limited and many people arriving in Ilfracombe choose to do so by car. For those reliant on public transport, a National Express coach service runs between Ilfracombe and London and Birmingham. The train station at nearby Barnstaple provides links, via changes at Exeter and Bristol, from the international airports at London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton and London Stansted. There are local bus and train services running in and around Ilfracombe, but for greater indepence and convenience, it's advisable to have access to a car.
Things to See and Do
There's no chance of boredom setting in during a visit to Ilfracombe. When the sun shines, the beaches and their crashing waves are perfect for swimming, surfing, fishing or even diving and the rock pools are great for kids to explore. Horseriding, clay pidgeon shooting, nature walks and long cycle rides are all further popular outdoor activities in Ilfracombe.
The town is surrounded by stunning beaches – from hidden spits of sand nestled among mysterious coves to long beaches perfect for surfing and other watersports, Ilfracombe is a prime destination for anyone who likes to spend time by the water. 'The Tunnels' beach in Ilfracombe boasts a 'Blue Flag' award for clean waters, while to the east of the town, Hele Bay boasts good sunbathing and rock pooling.
Events and festivals are held throughout the year in Ilfracombe, often celebrating local tradition and custom through song and dance and always providing a great excuse for a party. The town is home to handsome mansion houses and attractive architecture that spans the centuries and Ilfracombe's heritage harbour and quay are impressive. The nearby Exmoor National Park is ripe for exploring on foot, bicycle or horse back and it's also possible to take a day trip from Ilfracombe to Lundy Island – a rugged and wonderfully unspoiled spot home to deer, seals, wild ponies and even dolphins. The town's museums, amusement parks and other tourist attractions mean that there's something to do even on rainy days.
Drinking and Dining
Ilfracombe is a hit with foodie types, thanks to excellent farmers' markets and first-class restaurants such as the Michelin-starred 11 The Quay. Many restaurants have an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. There are plenty of budget options too, from burger and pizza joints to fish and chip shops. Nightlife in the town is quite lively thanks to the youthful crowds that flock here for the surf, while there are plenty of old-fashioned pubs for those looking for something a little more laid back.
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