When you think of North Devon what do you see? A typical image may be of bustling Woolacombe beach, speckled with windbreakers in the height of summer. Or perhaps sipping a local cider on the terrace at the Instow Arms whilst watching the sun glistening off the tide? Whilst summer is a stunningly nostalgic experience here on England’s Adventure Coast, winter is as comparably beautiful.
Traverse the South West Coast path as you gaze upon perfectly frosted, winter landscape. Collapse into a cosy armchair at one of our many vibrant, welcoming pubs and enjoy our local Wicked Wolf Gin and tonic. Winter in North Devon certainly paints a pretty picture, in fact we’ve written another blog about Winter Adventures in North Devon and a fantastically festive Christmas Guide too! So read on to discover some of our favourite delightfully Devonshire things to do during this magical season.
1. Visit the Exmoor Beast at Exmoor Zoo
(source: Exmoor Zoo)
Perhaps one of the most controversial myths in Devon folklore - the story of the Beast of Exmoor, and here’s your chance to experience this famous legend, first-hand. Fabelled to be a black leopard, Exmoor Zoo is the only zoo in the UK to home a pair of them - Zoysa and Ebony. Marvel at these majestic creatures as you enjoy the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of the zoo and if you or a family member fancy joining in then fantastic ‘Keeper for a day’ experiences are also available.
The zoo is open all year round, meaning that the fun doesn’t stop at summer. From maned wolves to cheetah, the zoo houses a range of unique animals that will have you in awe. As well as a plethora of pre-booked extras including various animal experiences, Exmoor Zoo is also as accessibility friendly as possible and offers delightful dining options, making it a perfect day out for the whole family.
So, pop it on your North Devon itinerary and make up your own mind, is the Exmoor Beast real?
2. Admire the gardens aglow at Rosemoor
(source: RHS Rosemoor Garden)
A stone's throw away from Great Torrington sits North Devon’s most enchanting gardens. Spanning 65 acres, RHS Rosemoor is a timeless family day out. While the seasons change, the gardens tranquil colouring shifts too making each visit truly unique and breathtaking. Visit the gardens on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday (except Boxing Day) from 14th November up until the 4th January and you can experience the breathtaking Rosemoor Glow. An alluring illuminated trail through the gardens that is sure to captivate and inspire those of all ages.
Wrap up warm and be dazzled in the Cool Garden, where the lights dance and reflect in it’s gently rippling waters. Marvel at colour changing displays reflected elegantly in the lake. Once you’ve delighted in the charming displays then you can indulge in some late night shopping and refreshments in the restaurant.
3. Take on the Thatched Pub Trail
(source: The Malt Scoop)
If there’s a place that gets even better in winter, then it’s inside one of our cosy local pubs. Quintessentially Devon thatched pubs speckle the countryside, hidden gems just waiting to be explored, packed with exceptional local food and drink, just waiting to be tasted.
But where to start? Fortunately the Thatched Pub Trail is here to guide you. The trail takes you on a fantastic journey through the heart of rural Devon where tranquility, starry skies and breathtaking views reign supreme.
Sample our very own Wicked Wolf Gin at The New Inn, then head onto The Rams Head Inn to taste a succulent steak from the local butchers. You may even find yourself on a beautiful walk along the banks of the River Torridge, looking out for Tarka the Otter as you go. Meandering through the picturesque landscape, you’ll discover some of our most-loved, and well hidden pubs. After all, a trip to North Devon is not complete without a sip of Sam’s Cider!
4. Shop local at a winter Farmers' Market
If you’re after the best artisanal treats, or the tastiest local produce then our Farmers' Markets are for you. Taking place across the entirety of North Devon throughout the year, many of these bustling markets are housed within historic pannier markets, making them a wonderful experience.
Many of our local food and drink ‘heroes’ frequent the markets, making the diversity and quality of the produce extremely impressive. Pick up some local delicacies as a gift, or plan your next feast - all in the knowledge that you’re supporting the local area and reducing food miles.
Barnstaple Farmers' Market is listed as one of the UK’s largest indoor markets and boasts a wide range of stalls with everything from fresh produce, flowers and crafts to prints, fashion and more. Open every Tuesday and Friday, it’s absolutely worth a visit!
5. Fish & chips on Appledore Quay
(Source: Sylvester's Fish & Chip Shop)
Is any seaside holiday complete without fish and chips with a good view? That’s why we’ve listed Appledore Quay as one of our favourite places to enjoy a classic bit of battered fish. Most people who frequent North Devon have discovered Appledore, a quaint fishing village located over the estuary from Instow - it makes for a fantastic stop off and is packed with jaunty pubs, cosy cafes and interesting craft shops. Wrap up, head over to family-owned Slyvester's for a piece of local fish and freshly cut chips, find yourself a spot on the quay and admire the unparalleled sea views.
6. Experience Exmoor’s frosted landscape
(Source: Richard Kift Photography)
Exmoor during the winter months is truly a sight to behold. Frosted moorland, serene woodland and babbling streams are just waiting to be explored. So put your cosiest coat on, fill a Thermos and experience first-hand why we’ve listed Exmoor as one of our favourite winter adventures.
Discover the dramatic river gorge of Watersmeet. Experience the majesty of the Valley of the Rocks. See the inspiration behind RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone. Dotted with exceptional, country pubs like the Black Venus in Challacombe there are plenty of stop-offs for you to enjoy after a blustery walk, offering outstanding quality food and drink.
Inspirational walks, breathtaking views and captivating scenery await you so grab your camera and get going.
7. Indulge in honey tasting at Quince Honey Farm
(Source: Quince Honey Farm)
Quince Honey Farm should be a stop on everyone's North Devon experience. Now one of Britain’s leading honey farms, Quince was established back in 1949 with just two hives of bees. Family run and providing the tastiest local honey, it’s a fun-packed day out for the whole family.
We’d especially like to mention their honey tasting days where you can sample their many variations of lovingly crafted honey. Each honey perfectly encapsulates the season of its creation and the plants of its pollen - a true taste of North Devon!
8. Cream tea on Fremington Quay
Nestled at the end of a meandering, riverside road and located conveniently on the Tarka Trail sits Fremington Quay. As you turn the corner you’ll be greeted with panoramic views of the estuary.
Alongside the estuary quay is the Fremington Quay Cafe, a delightful eatery serving up everything from homemade cake to crab sandwiches and of course, a classic Devon staple - cream teas. Tuck into a clotted cream and jam sensation as you admire the picturesque scenery outside, is there anything better?
The Tarka Trail meanders on from Fremington to Instow and onward if you fancy a blustery winter cycle or a stroll to walk off that cream tea.
9. Stroll our beaches in their winter glory
Source: Westward Ho! Taken by kistography on Instagram)
As we mentioned above, when one pictures a North Devon beach an image captured at the height of summer would most commonly surface but our beaches in winter hold an entirely different kind of beauty. Take a stroll across the sands and you’re sure to experience a sensation of pure still serenity.
The hustle and bustle of the summer months has long faded but astounding beauty remains, that’s why we’ve listed our beaches as an absolute must in the cooler weather. Witness firsthand what makes North Devon beaches some of the best in the UK, without the crowds.
North Devon winter adventure are truly endless. Our beautiful part of the country is blessed with a plethora of exciting days out, astounding scenery, remarkable history and exceptional food and drink. If you have any favourite winter adventures in North Devon, we’d love to hear them!. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.