Pictures of England


Historic Towns & Picturesque Villages

10 of the Prettiest Villages in Devon

Clovelly main street.

Clovelly main street. - Image by member Peter Evans (view gallery)

10 of the prettiest villages to visit in Devon.

1. Clovelly, Devon

Clovelly, Devon.

Clovelly, Devon. - Image by member Geoff Chapman (view gallery)

Beautiful Clovelly, mentioned in the Doomsday book, has its origins rooted deep in Saxon times. Often referred to as Devons' Secret
Treasure, this lovely place has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

With its single cobbled street plunging in wide steps between quaint cottages to the sea some half a mile below, Clovelly is not for the feint hearted. To visit this, one of Englands' prized "Showplace" villages, the visitor needs plenty of stamina and comfy walking shoes for transport up and down the steep slopes is - on foot! Those who do decide to decend down the narrow slope are richly rewarded by the beguiling sight of flower decked cottages all tantalizingly different in shape, size and colour. The picture is very much of cottages tumbling over one another and at some of the steepest points, the door of one house looks out on the roof of its neighbour.

Once below, you are greeted by a small curving quay with an old inn facing the sheltered harbour estuary. The harbour is alive with pleasure boats and fishing craft, many of which provide locally caught crab and lobster to the cafes and inns that populate this pituresque village.

The Hamlyn family, Lords of the Manor, first occupied Clovelly Court in 1738 and much credit is due to this family for preserving the village and maintaining many of its cottages. Both house and village are now owned by a trust. At the top of a cliff close to this great house lies the church of All Saints which surprisingly has a Norman porch, a Jacobean pulpit and a monument to the novelist Charles Kingsley, author of Westward Ho, who lived in Clovelly as a child. The church and original court were built over 600 years ago. But the house was twice destroyed by fire and rebuilt - in the georgian era and in the 1940's when it was used as a convalescent home for Britains war wounded.

Many legends and customs still exist in these parts and on Shrove Tuesday, the village children drag tin cans and buckets up and down the cobbled streets. This action is said to scare off the Devil before Lent begins.

This area is a natural haunt for Devon's Artist community and there are many original paintings for sale in the local shops that are dotted up and down the main street and all around the harbour.

Clovelly is beautiful, it retains an 'Olde Worlde' charm that even along this breathtaking coastline, is simply incomparable.


2. Appledore, Devon

Appledore, Devon

Appledore, Devon - Image by member Tatiana Thrush (view gallery)

Appledore is as enchanting as its name. It is a pretty place that shows a host of colourful fishermens cottages in the narrow streets beyond the quay. It has a seafaring history that stretches back down the centuries for almost a thousand years. Queen Elizabeth Ist is said to have given Appledore 'free port' status in gratitude to the brave men of Appledore whose ships played an important part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

The town has a fine ship building tradition and when Appledore yard was opened in 1970 it was the largest of its kind in Europe. A ship building industry remains but it is the larger bulkier vessels that are built today. Interestingly though, replicas of some famous vessels have been built by the craftsmen here and these include Drake's Golden Hind and a Viking Longboat.

Many aspects of fishing have long since diminished but fishermen in Appledore still manage to garner a living from the sea. Freshly caught fish and seafood feature on menu's in almost all of Appledore's delightful inns and restaurants. The quay continues to be a busy scene of visiting yachts and colourful pleasure craft and in the summer a ferry takes passengers between Appledore and Instow on the opposite side of the Torridge. Sailing and surfing are popular sports here and in the summer a regatta is held.

This is a pleasant resort that offers visitors a lively and interesting time. It has a museum which tells much of the proud seafaring history of Appledore and apart from all the usual seaside activities there is a coastal nature reserve. Bideford is but a short drive away and Westward Ho is just along the coast with picturesque Clovelly being within easy driving distance. This is a fascinating coastline with a rich and varied history, you can take a gentle stroll around a quaint village or trek a towering cliff where you can drink deep of the majestic views that extend to Lundy Island and far, far beyond.


3. Cockington, Devon


Cockington - Image by member J.m. Van Der Putten (view gallery)

This idyllic thatched village perfectly reflects the harmony and glory of a by-gone age, for here you can walk in ancient parkland, or take a romantic drive around Cockington in a sedate horse-drawn carriage.

This celebrated village is an old place, it was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, and is seemingly little changed since Tudor and medieval times. Sweet little stone cottages peer out at you from beneath a lush thick thatched roof, these are now mainly curio shops and tea-rooms, none-the-less the village is lovingly preserved.

Quaint Cockington Forge has been there since the 14th-century, its eye catching thatch looks almost about to fall were not for its sturdy supports.

Parts of the village were pulled down in the 18th-century to open up the view from Cockington Court, thus its church was left in an isolated position.

The Drum Inn is a worthy hostelry, built to a design by Sir Edwin Luytens in 1930. This building is particularly notable for the engraving of Whistler's poem "The Drum" in one of the windows.

Historic Cockington Court and its 460 area of parkland are open to the public. The grounds offer scope for delightful walks, picnics, rambles in the woods, and lakes with wildlife. From the park you get an interesting glimpse of the beautiful Gamekeepers cottage which is sited close to the entrance of the woodland walk.

The house hosts many events, most recently it was the venue for an evening of Murder, Mystery and Suspense, featuring the work of Agatha Christie who was born in near-by Torquay. The Court makes a dramatic backdrop for the very English game of cricket which is often played in the grounds on a Sunday after-noon.

Cockington is but a few minutes drive from the centre of Torquay, to miss it would be to miss a joyful experience, for it has a charm beyond compare.


4. Woolacombe, Devon

Woolacombe, North Devon

Woolacombe, North Devon - Image by member Andy W (view gallery)


5. Braunton, Devon

The green, Braunton, Devon

The green, Braunton, Devon - Image by member William Bedell (view gallery)


6. Beer, Devon

Beer, Devon

Beer, Devon - Image by member Pat Trout (view gallery)

Interestingly, lace making was once an industry of this picturesque little fishing village, and lace worth around 1,000 was supplied by Beer in 1839 for Queen Victoria's wedding gown. Beautiful hand made lace can still be seen in Beer but not in great quantities.

There is a shingle beach here and the main street, accompanied by a sparkling little stream, leads down to it. There is no harbour here but Beer remains very much a fishing village and little boats go out to sea for crab and lobster. In the summertime the beach is crowded with holiday makers, all seeking the pleasures of sea and sun. Motor boats can be hired and an enjoyable time can be had off shore from where you can get magnificent views of the coastline and the cliffs that tower above the beach.

A son of this delightful village was the infamous smuggler, Jack Rattenbury. Smuggling continued here until the mid-19th-century. Jack Rattenbury published his Memoirs of a Smuggler, after escaping the excisemen for 50 years and taking a career turn to become a Fisherman in 1837. This and many other stirring tales are swapped nightly in the inns and pubs around this lovely old village.


7. Croyde, Devon

Craft Centre in Croyde, Devon

Craft Centre in Croyde, Devon - Image by member William Bedell (view gallery)

Croyde has an olde-world charm of immense appeal to everyone. It is one of those places that in spite of encroaching modernity and an influx of youthful enthusiastic surfers and walkers, has fortunately managed to retain its 'old fashioned serenity' and friendly welcoming atmosphere.

Croyde village has a scattering of thatched, colourwashed cottages and other delightful buildings, all sheltered by dunes which stand between the village and the bay. The grassy dunes, crossed by rippling streams show several varieties of pretty wild flowers and although the bay is popular with surfers it is unsafe for bathing at low tide. In the hinterland beyond the coast there are fascinating old villages - at Georgenham, the ancient church of St.George stands in the midst of a cluster of enchanting thatched cottages. Other features of this lovely holiday area include attractive coastal walks across fine National Trust land. From Baggy Point, owned by the NT there are splendid, far reaching views to Lundy Island. Beneath Baggy Point lies a large cave which can only be reached by boat at low tide.

Situated in one of England's finest coastal regions, Croyde offers a worthwhile holiday resort for every member of the family. There is a wealth of interesting architecture in the area, pleasant inns and restaurants, fabulous sandy beaches, excellent opportunities for watersports and an abundance of wild sea-birds and other sea life. Croyde also has a fascinating gem rock and stone museum.

For fun, sea, sand and a great deal of pleasure, Croyde is a must!

Places to visit include: Barnstaple for museum and fine gardens, Morwood Hill Gardens, Woolacombe, The Taw Estuary or Enjoy a fishing trip.

The village's thatched, picturesque cottages are sheltered by dunes which stand between the village and Croyde Bay's beautiful sandy beach. In recent years the bay, which has always been popular, has become increasingly busy with surfers. Surfboards and beach equipment can be hired locally, and there are plenty of pleasant places to enjoy a meal and a drink. Visitors will find attractive shops, with souvenirs and paintings, some by local artists.

Because Croyde is somewhat smaller than its near neighbours it can get very busy during the summer months, particularly with visitors who flock here for the excellent windsurfing and swimming. It is also an ideal location for walking, with a pleasant walk along a coastal footpath to Baggy Point, where National Trust land offer splendid sea and coastal views. On a clear day, Lundy, some 15 miles offshore is visible from this dramatic headland. Baggy Hole, a large cave carved into the headland can be reached by boat at low tide.

There is a wide choice of holiday accommodation in the area, this ranges from luxury hotels, to guest houses, self-catering holiday cottages and friendly Bed and Breakfast rooms in local homes.

Croyde Bay sits between the beaches of Saunton Sands and Putsborough Sands, both offer attractive beaches for sunbathing and swimming.


8. Bigbury-on-Sea, Devon

Bigbury Bay, Devon

Bigbury Bay, Devon - Image by member David Reynolds (view gallery)


9. Dittisham, Devon

Dittisham as seen from the River Dart

Dittisham as seen from the River Dart - Image by member Sharon Raydon (view gallery)

Attractive unspoilt village in a tranquil setting overlooking the widest part of the River Dart. There are delightful stone built and thatched cottages sided by small boathouses at the waterside and from the higher ground there are stunning views of bright river-craft making a vivid splash of colour against a backdrop of densely wooded slopes. Narrow lanes reach down to the beach where the waters are a popular venue for boating enthusiasts. The village is lively, with no shortage of amenities although the pace of life is blessedly unhurried. Of the interesting buildings around Dittisham, its 14th-century church dedicated to St. George , has many interesting features and is well worth taking time to visit. Dartmouth is easily reached by ferry.

Places to visit include: Brixham, Totness, Dartmouth, Bowden House, South Devon Railway or Take a river trip round the estuary.


10. Instow, Devon


Instow - Image by member Bpeters (view gallery)

Instow is a gorgeous seaside resort with a mass of golden sands backed by a delightful village clambering upwards to meet with fine wooded countryside. It has the good fortune to lie between the waters of the rivers Taw and Torridge, giving it added appeal to boating enthusiasts, both river estuaries are navigable in small craft.

This is a popular tourist destination almost all year round, but never more so than in high summer when bright sunshine leads to lazy days on the beach and fun in the water. Conditions are good for wind-surfing, sailing, speedy catamarans, and fishing further off the coast. For the more energetic there is a close by riding stable, and keen cyclists can follow the Tarka Trail which offers miles of safe cycling along the magnificent north Devon coastline. Instow caters well for walkers, apart from rambling along the cliffs, the town has well prepared "town trail" featuring the most historic and scenic spots.

The views are quite spectacular no matter in which direction you look. From the higher vantage points you can get good views towards Bideford, Appledore, and the views of the estuaries are nothing less than amazing, only to be topped by the sight of the rolling waves of the Atlantic ocean as they lap the sands and the harbour wall.

Features of the town include the old lime kilns, the railway station - now the yacht club, the jetty and quay backed with terraces where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll, or simply prop yourself in a corner and watch the world (or rather the sea crammed with boats) go by.

Shopping facilities are good, these together with pubs, restaurants and galleries can be found within easy reach of Summerfield House.

Throughout the season Instow hosts several entertaining events for visitors and locals. The regatta is always a jolly, well attended affair, and those not taking part enjoy the sport and spectacle of a forest of gleaming white sails in the sea.

This happy seaside town with its gentle Devon atmosphere is ideal for every age, however its beautiful sandy beach is great for young sandcastle builders, making it particularly appealing to families.


A Pictures of England article submitted by Sarah

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