North Devon is one of the most romantic and inspiring places in the UK. Over the years it has provided the backdrop for epic novels like Lorna Doone and for a time, was a home from home for the great romantic poets of the time like Wordsworth and Shelley. You can find evidence of their time in the region all over, from the Tarka Trail to Kipling Tor, named for Rudyard Kipling, author of the Jungle Book.
If you’re a bibliophile looking for a literary break where you can soak up the atmosphere that inspired countless poems and stories or someone who is craving a writer’s retreat surrounded by beautiful scenery, here are some suggestions for a lovely, literary stay in North Devon and Exmoor. Who knows, you might be inspired to write a masterpiece of your own!
One spot bibliophiles should visit is Westward Ho! Not only is it the only place in England with a ! in the name, but the village got its name from a book! Local author Charles Kingsley lived in Bideford and wrote Westward Ho!, a novel about the experiences of privateers during the reign of Elizabeth I and was largely set in his home town of Bideford. The book’s name came from the traditional call of boat taxis on the River Thames, who would call Westward Ho! to indicate their direction of travel.
The village of Westward Ho! was created near Bideford and was named for the book, as was its first main hotel, which was opened by Kingsley himself. Over the years, the village has become one of the most popular seaside resorts in North Devon, especially among families and surfers thanks to its proximity to the beaches.
For B&B accommodation right on the beach, check out The Waterfront Inn with cosy rooms and amazing breakfasts, a stay here will really set you up for a day exploring. Another beach side option is at Braddicks Holiday Centre, with a host of self-catering options, including holiday homes, villas, apartments and caravans, you can find a home from home that will suit you, plus, you are well placed for getting out and seeing the coast, the village and the enjoying a round of golf or two at the Royal North Devon Golf Course. Alternatively, there is Beachside Holiday Park which slopes gently down to the beach making it perfect for anyone wanting to combine their literary visit with a surfing holiday.
Another popular option with literary connections is the Exmoor National Park. The National Park inspired a host of romantic poets, especially the areas of Lynton and Lynmouth which were affectionately known as Little Switzerland. Percy Shelley, Robert Southey and William Wordsworth all spent time around the Valley of the Rocks and Rudyard Kipling attended school in the Exmoor area, with his favourite walks becoming part of the Kipling Tor.
There are loads of lovely places to stay across the National Park, but one option that gives you amazing access to Exmoor is Riverside Caravan and Camping Park. This award winning holiday park is open all year round and features 70 acres of landscaped, beautiful parkland and woodland walks. It’s a lovely place for relaxing with a book or inspiring some writing of your own.
Of course, no literary visit to North Devon would be complete without heading along the Tarka Trail. Named after the journey that Tarka the Otter took in the famous children’s story, the Tarka Trail is over 180 miles and is the UK’s longest traffic free cycle path, linking areas of Barnstaple, Bideford, Ilfracombe, Instow and more. Following the trail is a great way to explore the nature and landscape of North Devon, whether on foot or by bike. If you want to stay near the Tarka Trail book a space at Tarka Trail Camping, which is located right next to the River Taw. It’s also dog friendly, so you can bring your dogs with you! The campsite is open from Easter until September, so this is a good one for next year’s adventures.
Want to find out more about places to stay and things to do in North Devon? See below.