We’ve come towards the end of another year in North Devon, and it’s safe to say that it’s been a good one. Whether you’re lucky enough to live locally, you’re a frequent visitor, or you explored our coast for the very first time in 2019, we’re sure you’d agree that there’s a lot to do, no matter who you are, or what time of year it is.
A whole lot of people have the unfortunate misconception that North Devon is more of a summer hotspot, only a destination to chance in the summertime and with little else to offer any other time of year. Well, we’re here to prove why you’re wrong - here’s a quick look at the typical 12 months in North Devon, where you can see what each month has to offer in terms of scenery, events, activities and much, much more.
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Post Christmas blues? Not a thing here in North Devon. Our year begins with, often, a New Year’s dip in the sea, before fantastic January sales provide bargain days out, or if you’re not local, cheap holidays down our neck of the woods - keep an eye out!
One notable annual event is the Something Old, Something New Wedding Fayre. Taking place at The Old Barn, a gorgeous DIY wedding venue on the grounds of The Milky Way, it’s a free event which gives access to some of the finest wedding professionals in the area - if you’re hoping to tie the knot on the North Devon coast sometime soon, don’t miss it.
Generally, it is a quieter time of year, but this provides an insight into the real North Devon. You can explore Clovelly Village in a different light, without the hoards of tourists, and imagine what it would be like to really live here, discovering the day-to-day lives of locals and the inner workings of the village.
The same applies to a lot of places in North Devon, which remain the same, only slightly quieter. Love our beaches? They’re just as beautiful in the winter, but without being so busy. Plus, in wintery weather, our dramatic coastal scenery becomes even more impressive and sublime and creates incredible photo opportunities.
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February is, of course, Valentine’s Day - and North Devon is one swell destination for a romantic break. With luxurious hotels or quintessential cottages at the edge of the coast or buried in countryside, there are plenty of places to get a break from the world with that special someone. Plus, we’ve got bars and restaurants, spas and the seaside, and incredible views that’ll leave you enamoured.
In February, the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway reopens for the season. It’s the UK’s only, and the world’s highest and steepest, fully water-powered railway, and is something everyone should experience. Connecting the two towns, it provides an easy way to explore England’s ‘Little Switzerland’ whilst offering some really spectacular views.
It’s also the month for Exmoor Food Fest, which will be back for 2020! Eat your way across Exmoor, as participating pubs and restaurants offer mouthwatering food and jaw-dropping deals that’ll cater for just about every taste. Meanwhile, for a little taste of what makes North Devon different, head to Clovelly on Shrove Tuesday for Lentsherd; a centuries-old tradition, this sees children run down the cobbles at dusk with clattering cans, hoping to chase away bad spirits and drive the devil into the sea.
Credit: Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park
As spring begins, we see flowers begin to bloom once again all over North Devon, creating more beautiful spaces to explore. In addition, many of the attractions which tend to close during the winter season start to open again.
This includes Marwood Hill Gardens, located within one of North Devon’s valleys, which is brimming with wildlife and gorgeous sights to see. They’ve got an award-winning tea room too, where you can get sweet or savoury snacks or a traditional cream tea.
If you’ve got little ones, make sure to take them down to the Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, which officially reopens in March following brief openings in the school holidays. The kids can let loose in the Dinosaurus Playzone, ride the Dino Express, experience the Tomb of the Pharaohs, and meet animals - or animatronic dinosaurs.
April usually sees the Easter holidays, which brings a lot more visitors towards North Devon - and this is great, because April is a big time of year for us! More and more natural beauty begins to bloom, and you can explore it while on the hunt for Easter eggs if you get involved with the National Trust’s Cadbury Easter Egg Trail.
There’s plenty more going on for Easter too, though - The Milky Way and The Big Sheep are both known for going all out, with egg hunts, character visits and more. If you visit Clovelly, you can hunt for Easter chicks in return for a prize, and plenty of other local attractions get involved with chocolatey rewards as well.
It’s not just about chocolate when it comes to Easter tastes though; the holiday usually sees the reopening of the Barricane Beach Cafe near Woolacombe. Barricane Beach is a picturesque cove best known for its exotic seashells - and Sri Lankan curry evenings, which take place whenever the weather permits between April and September. If curry isn’t to your tastes, they offer a range of different snacks, but we’d really, really recommend giving these beauties a try.
May is a wonderful month in North Devon, as the days get longer and the weather warmer - but it’s still slightly out of season, so if you’re hoping for a bit of tranquility, and peace on the beach, visit now. That said, there’s still plenty to do.
Pigstock Festival is the best way to kickstart your summer. Taking place at The Big Sheep, it’s North Devon’s friendliest festival and is hugely catered to families. It’s not just about music - though there’s always plenty of that, with some incredible artists both local and from afar - it also boasts kids entertainment, free entry to The Big Sheep, a food village brimming with flavours, and a packed-full bar. Plus for 2020, Dick and Dom will be making an appearance.
Festival season really takes off in May - after all, it’s also the Seaweed Festival in Clovelly! This is a whole day dedicated to celebrating the health and nutritional benefits carried by seaweed, so there’s always plenty of educational opportunities, alongside street entertainment and live music.
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With the start of summer comes the peak season in North Devon, and we might be biased, but we don’t think there’s anywhere better to spend this time of year. The month kicks off with Devon Day, where we all get together to celebrate the things we love about our county, and is followed by a whole host of North Devon’s biggest and most unique traditions.
If it’s music you’re after, June always sees GoldCoast OceanFest - a festival with a difference. Taking place on Croyde Beach, there’s always great food, sports and meditation to complement the range of stellar live performances. Meanwhile, Ilfracombe holds its unique Grand Victorian & Steampunk Festival, which sees steampunk fans from all over the country turn up in incredible dress with a myriad of unique opportunities and activities taking over the town. Saunton D-Day usually takes place in June too, and is an incredible living history event paying homage to the Second World War, typically with battle reenactments, aircraft displays and workshops.
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As summer continues, alongside the beaches and beauty, our attractions are busy concocting the perfect day out for you and your family. Typically, we see a lot of good weather this month - July 2019 was a scorcher - and it makes for great days unwinding on the sand, taking a dip in the sea, or trying new things on England’s Adventure Coast.
As the summer holidays start, most of our popular attractions will remain open all day, every day, meaning there’s more to do than ever at places like Quince Honey Farm, Ilfracombe Aquarium, Watermouth Castle and more.
In terms of what’s on, there’s usually the Woolsery Agricultural Show, which is great for a little look into life in North Devon, with farming activities, competitions, trade stalls and kids entertainment. It’s not all about the country life though, and July 2020 will see the challenging Croyde Ocean Triathlon take place!
Credit: The Torrington Cavaliers
As the crowds continue flooding into North Devon, and the weather remains - hopefully - beautiful, August in North Devon is almost like being abroad, making it perfect for a quick holiday or celebration. The month often kicks off with the North Devon Show, one of the biggest and best agricultural events in the South West. With livestock classes, trade stalls and much more on offer, it’s a wonderful day out.
August 2020 will be particularly exciting, as the Torrington Cavaliers finally burn the Mayflower replica they’ve been building. Their incredible bonfires take place every few years, and the creation they’ve devised - marking the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s setting sail from Plymouth - is bound to be a spectacular sight.
Credit: Sarah Hailstone
As summer comes to an end, so does the main tourist season - so if you’d prefer a quieter visit, at a time when the weather and temperature are still pretty forgiving, this is the one for you. In addition, this is the month wherein dog restrictions begin to lift over the county, and continue to do so over autumn. This season is a fantastic one for those with four legs.
Though school is back as normal, there’s still fun to be had - typically, September sees Barnstaple Fair and Carnival, which always attract impressive crowds. Towards the end of the month it’s Appledore Book Festival; this event always attracts huge literary names, with a great range of genres and ages.
Credit: Exmoor National Park
The big thing in October is of course Halloween - the usual North Devon family favourites are always prepared at this time of year. Head to places like Watermouth Castle, Quince Honey Farm, Exmoor Zoo and many more, including The Big Sheep’s famous Fun by Day, Scary By Night extravaganza (with an especially terrifying haunted house after dark) or The Milky Way’s annual Hocus Pocus Wizard School, where little ones can learn the tricks of the magic trade.
It’s tasty in Barnstaple for the North Devon FoodFest, which gets us in the mood for the season with autumnal flavours, while Day of the Dead Festival in Westward Ho! is something just a bit different.
The outdoor adventures don’t stop though - in fact, this season is one of the best for surfing, with better waves and a surprisingly warmer ocean following the heat from the summer months. It’s also usually the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival, which sees a huge amount of events take place, often including sky safaris, stargazing and more.
Credit: Tim Lamerton Photography
One of the more unique celebrations this time of year takes place in Shebbear - every November 5th, instead of watching fireworks, the villagers turn the devil’s stone to ward off bad luck for another year.
Credit: James Robinson
And that brings us to where we are now - the very end of the year! If you’re not local, or aren’t with us this time around, we definitely recommend booking a December break in the future.
Christmas lights are a big thing in our towns and villages, so there are plenty of switch-ons all around the area, including Clovelly’s annual switch-on, Combe Christmas in Ilfracombe, Bideford, Appledore and more. It’s not just the turn of a switch though; particularly in Ilfracombe, Clovelly and Bideford, these are full on events with appearances from Santa, stalls and live music. The North Devon Christmas Market takes place in Braunton and attracts some of the best traders the South West has to offer, meanwhile family attractions host a multitude of festive events for the kids.
The year always ends on a high in North Devon, and this year, we’re looking forward to fireworks, live music and street parties, particularly at Bideford Quay, where the New Year’s celebrations are renowned throughout the UK. We’ve still got a few weeks to go, but we’re sure 2019 will go out with a bang.
Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and let us know which part of the year is your favourite in North Devon - and if you’ve not visited yet, or have only experienced England’s Adventure Coast in the summer, we hope we’ll see you in 2020, whatever the month!