North Devon holiday guide: things to do near Hartland, Devon
North Devon is a destination we love to return to again and again. Aside from having family in the area there’s something enchanting about the rugged Atlantic coastline with its beaches carved from the cliffs and windswept landscape. This summer we spent the first week of our holidays near Hartland not far from the North Cornwall border. Here’s our guide to holidaying in Hartland Devon should you need some inspiration for a similar trip to the area:
Hartland Devon holiday guide
Why visit Hartland in Devon?
Hartland is a rural escape from commercialised city life and big name UK destinations. Come off the M5 at Tiverton and in just over an hour you’ll be immersed in a very different pace of life. Unlike touristy South Devon, you’ll not find Hartland overrun with visitors. Yet there’s still plenty of excellent places to visit, stay and explore.
Things to do in Hartland, Devon
It’s easy to fill a seven day holiday with short executions from Hartland in North Devon. Here are some of our favourite things to do near Hartland:
Hartland Point and Hartland Lighthouse
This is a dramatic vantage point on the North Devon coast has borne witness to hundreds of ship wreaks on the contorted layers of rock below. One of the most recent was the Johanna which grounded at Hartland Point in 1982. It was carrying a cargo of wheat from Holland to South Wales when it came ashore in the shadow of Hartland Lighthouse. It’s still possible to make out the shape of the wreak on the rocks below.
Hartland Lighthouse opened in 1874 and was once staffed by four lighthouse keepers and their families. In 1984 it was automated. It’s not possible to get close to the lighthouse but you can get a great view of it from the heather covered cliffs.
During our visit to admire the view at Harland Point we spotted four seals bobbing around in the bay. If you fancy a walk you can pick up the South West Coast Path here. Be aware that the cliffs are very exposed and that you must keep a close eye on children and pets near the edge.
Parking at Hartland Point costs £3 in the summer months. You’ll also find a small hut selling snacks, cakes and drinks in the car park.
Hartland Quay, Devon
A visit to Hartland isn’t complete without seeing Hartland Quay. Regardless of the weather we wouldn’t miss driving down the winding cliff road to park outside the Hartland Quay Hotel for some exploring on the beach. The rock formations in the cliffs speak of the incredible power of nature to shape and move the landscape. Below on the beach there are pockets of sand to make castles and countless rock pools.
Sadly dogs aren’t allowed on the beach so we rarely spend long here but there’s always time to clamber over the rocks in search of mermaids and pirate treasure. The history of Hartland Quay is full of smugglers, ship wreaks and wreakers, as well as trade. Film buffs may even recognise this location from movies like Disney’s Treasure Island, Hercules, and most recently Guernsey. Of course, car fans will remember it from Top Gear’s DIY motorhome challenge.
To get a glimpse of Hartland Quay’s seafaring heritage visit the Hartland Quay Museum opposite the hotel. Expect to pay £3 for parking during the busy summer months.
Hartland Abbey is a historic family home that was originally built as a monastery in 1157. King Henry VIII dissolved the abbey and handed it over to William Abbott in 1539. Since then it has remained in the same family and is open to the public between March and September each year. The house is extraordinary as are the accomplishments of many of the Stucley family’s ancestors. You can find out more about them in exhibitions here as well as walking through the woodlands and estate.
I’ve written more about our visit to Hartland Abbey in another blog post.
This is another place we never tire of seeing during our trips to North Devon. Clovelly is a traditional fishing village that has been owned by the same family for generations. No cars are allowed on the cobbled and winding street down to the picturesque harbour and the pretty cottages that line the route are a photographer’s dream. Clovelly is also famous for its donkeys which were once used to pull goods and belongings up and down the steep slope. Today they are there for the tourists to meet and the odd ride around their stables at the top of the hill.
Walk the South West Coast Path
We’ve not yet attempted a walk of Hartland’s section of the South West Coast Path with the girls but Tin Box Dog would be raring to go. Before kids Mr Tin Box and I walked from Hartland Point to Hartland Quay and I remember it being quite challenging. I’d love to try this section from Clovelly to Hartland Quay but maybe when the girls are a bit bigger!
The Milky Way Adventure Park (AD)
This Devon theme park is a great family day out whatever the weather. Indoors there’s three football pitches of undercover activities ranging from sports like archery to crafts and fair ground rides. Kids will burn off loads of energy in the adventure play areas and sci-fi fans will love the model exhibition. Outdoors there’s a model railway, rollercoasters and the North Devon Falconry Centre.
We were invited to the Milky Way in exchange for coverage on the blog. You to find out more read about our visit to The Milky Way Adventure Park (AD) this summer to take a look at the highlights in this video:
Bude and Summerleaze Beach
Hartland is not far from the North Cornwall border where the first large town you come to is Bude – famous for its sandy beach and surfing. We took the girls there for an afternoon of building sand castles and paddling. The beach is in a large cove which seems to stretch out forever at low tide. This does get covered reasonably quickly when the tide comes in so there’s a life guard station to keep an eye on beach goers and bathers.
Aside from the beach, Bude has lots of shops selling crafts and curiosities, as well as surfing attire and fashion brands. We recommend trying the pasties from Pengenna Pasties and grabbing a hot chocolate or something more substantial from the Life’s A Beach cafe on Bude seafront. Dogs are allowed on Summerleaze beach all year round but must be kept on a lead between late May and the end of September.
More things to do in North Devon
If you want to go further afield I’ve written about even more things to do in North Devon.
Where to stay near Hartland in North Devon
During our most recent visit to Hartland, Devon, we were holidaying in our caravan at Welcombe X – a new North Devon campsite also offering glamping. This small site is easily accessible from the A39 and is in a great location for exploring the area. However, it does get some traffic noise during the day. Read my full review of Welcombe X near Hartland in North Devon.
We’ve also spent weekends at Hartland Caravan Holidays which is within a short walk of Hartland Village centre which has a post office and a few small shops plus pubs. As well as towing your own touring caravan here there are three mobile homes you can hire. You can read about our North Devon holiday here a few years ago.
A bit further out of Hartland we have stayed on the Caravan and Motorhome Club certified location at Fosfell Country House. You share the caravan field with a small herd of grass munching alpacas and have use of two shower huts (token operated). The country house has a bar and restaurant, and there are holiday cottages for hire too.
There are major supermarkets in Bude (North Cornwall) and Bideford. You can also find a supermarket and outlet shopping centre at Affinity Devon, formerly Atlantic Village, which is signposted from the A39 on the way to Bideford.
Holidays in Devon
If you are interested in other holidays in Devon you might like to read about these breaks in the county:
- A week in Seaton, East Devon
- A caravan holiday in Dawlish, South Devon
- A night in Exeter
- A weekend on Dartmoor
Have you visited North Devon? I’d love to hear your recommendations on things to do and places to stay near Hartland in Devon.
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