Donkeys and large wooden sledges can only make the journey down steep cobbled stones in captivating Clovelly – North Devon’s jewel is barely altered in 800 years.
With numerous trips over decades to England the opportunity to visit picturesque Clovelly never presented itself, until today.
Dating back to the 9th-century and perched against a 120-metre high cliff with stunning views over Bristol Channel’s Bideford Bay, Clovelly promises an incredibly steep walk down to the tiny harbour at the bottom. So much so that delivery guys must use large wooden sledges to slide their load over the ancient cobblestones as vehicle traffic doesn’t exist in Clovelly.
During past centuries, donkeys were also used to ferry goods up and down Clovelly’s steep narrow streets and alleyways, which can be treacherous when raining.
What to do?
If you only have time to spend one day in Clovelly, then strolling through this enchanting village and one of the coastal walks will be enough to keep you entertained.
Chartered boats leave from the protected harbour on day trips to infamous rocky Lundy Island or on diving and fishing trips. If the sea isn’t your love, then try a spot of wildlife watching.
The All Saints church dates back to the 13th-century and offers beautiful cooling grounds to rest whilst discovering the village’s ancient tombstones.
Today, it’s all about discovering and absorbing Clovelly…
Descending Clovelly’s main street
Just down from the Visitor cafe, stop off at the donkey stables – a favourite with children – with 14 donkeys to meet, you may be stopped here for a while.
Close by are the local craft shops selling pottery and woven fabrics. If you have time, you may be able to catch a pottery lesson before continuing to the cliffs for a coastal walk. If not, from here continue down the village.
The very aged and shiny cobblestones are difficult to walk on…
Rest awhile at Mount Pleasant, which is Clovelly’s remembrance monument to the fallen from the village during WW1. Locally known as the Peace Park, this serene picnic or rest spot unfolds splendid views across Bideford Bay.
An intriguing door frame design carved from wood some 100 years ago, hails from Bavaria and still graces charming Oberammergau Cottage.
New Inn Hotel
Dating back to the 17th Century, the cosy New Inn Hotel sits at around the half-way mark in the village as you descend with many eager tourists – a great place to stop for an afternoon Devonshire Tea or for an overnight stay.
Stunning views of the harbour are never too far away.
For those that wish to overnight closer to the water, the brilliantly white 18th-century Red Lion Hotel offers quaint rooms, food, and also beverages.
It’s easy to go slightly crazy in Clovelly taking loads of photos from varying vantage points.
Built in the 13th-century to protect the small fishing fleet that predominantly caught Herring and Mackerel in Bideford Bay, the quay was lengthened during the 17th-century.
The quay’s expansion created a ‘fortress’ against the sea’s wrath whilst also protecting the village’s fishing fleet.
Such a picturesque vista deserves a longer wander along the quay to absorb more of Clovelly’s history.
Along the way, you’ll see this pretty stone cottage on the beach with a balcony and hanging flower baskets. This is believed to be the oldest cottage in Clovelly and is named ‘Crazy Kate’s Cottage’ because of its tragic history.
Crazy Kate’s Cottage
From one of the upstairs windows, Kate Lyall would watch her husband fish the bay until one day he perished before her eyes during an awful storm.
This drove Kate mad until her death in 1736 when she donned her wedding dress and walked into the sea to be forever with her husband.
Clovelly’s Lifeboat Station – stone cottage in front of the two boats below – dates back to the late 1800s and is still in use today.
The pebbles of time prove hard underfoot. Forget about laying your towel down and taking a nap under the sun’s warm rays on this beach.
Ascending Clovelly’s main street
If you’re feeling energetic, then revel in the tiring ascent of the main street’s steep hill. Although for those that can’t make the climb back, then you do have a couple of alternatives:
- For a cost of £2.50, a flashy 4×4 Land Rover service is available during the holiday season to drive you back up to the Visitor’s Centre via the narrow locals-only road
- a donkey can take you back up the cobbled main street.
For me ascending is harder than descending, but persevere nonetheless as always find different scenes to photograph along this incredibly striking village.
Entry to Clovelly
Arriving at the large busy car park, buy your entry ticket at the Visitor Centre, which includes parking, entrance to two museums, and entrance to Clovelly Court gardens.
The entry fee to privately-owned Clovelly is quite expensive at £7.75, although the ticket includes one free return visit within the week. Retain your ticket if returning, as you need to present this at the Visitor Centre.
The spacious modern Visitor Centre cafe offers a couple of screens playing an audiovisual guide that explains the history of Clovelly and sights not to be miss.
Enjoy reasonably-priced food and beverages whilst admiring gorgeous views over Clovelly from the cafe’s deck area, until you continue down the steps to commence the descent through the village.
Where is Clovelly?
An easy drive along this dramatic coastline that holds tiny historical villages captive between its soaring cliffs, presents many stopovers for memorable photo opportunities.