Discover the Hidden Gem of Ilfracombe: A Seaside Paradise Steeped in History

At A Glance


πŸ–οΈ – Beaches: Ilfracombe’s beautiful coastline and sandy beaches.
β›΅ – Harbour: The picturesque Ilfracombe Harbour, a hub for boating and fishing.
🌊 – Tunnels Beaches: The unique hand-carved tunnels leading to secluded beaches and tidal pools.
πŸ–ΌοΈ – Art: Damien Hirst’s famous “Verity” statue and local art galleries.
πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ – Coastal Walks: Scenic walking trails along the South West Coast Path.
🏰 – Watermouth Castle: The historic castle with family attractions and beautiful gardens.
🌻 – Bicclescombe Park: A lovely park with a playground, tennis courts, and a sensory garden.
🐟 – Seafood: Enjoy fresh seafood at local restaurants and cafes.
🚀 – Boat Trips: Embark on boat trips for sightseeing, wildlife watching, and fishing.
πŸ›οΈ – Ilfracombe Museum: Explore the history and heritage of the town through its local museum.


Nestled along the beautiful North Devon coast, Ilfracombe is a charming, picturesque town filled with rich history and captivating scenery. Known for its stunning beaches, dramatic cliffs, and beautiful countryside, Ilfracombe is the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway or an adventure-filled vacation. This article will take you on a journey through this enchanting coastal town, highlighting its fascinating past, must-see attractions, and insider tips to ensure you have an unforgettable experience.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane: Ilfracombe’s History

The history of Ilfracombe dates back to the Iron Age, when Celtic settlers first arrived in the area. Over the centuries, the town has played a significant role in the maritime industry, with its well-protected harbour being a vital port for trade and fishing. In the Victorian era, Ilfracombe transformed into a popular seaside resort, attracting visitors from across the country to enjoy its stunning landscapes and invigorating sea air. Today, the town’s rich history is proudly showcased through its well-preserved architecture and fascinating museums.

Top Attractions: Delve into Ilfracombe’s Charm

  • Ilfracombe Harbour: At the heart of the town lies its picturesque harbour, which has served as a bustling hub for centuries. Surrounded by colourful fishing boats, quaint shops, and charming eateries, the harbour is the perfect spot to begin your Ilfracombe adventure. Don’t miss the striking ‘Verity’ statue by renowned artist Damien Hirst, which stands guard over the harbour entrance.
  • Tunnels Beaches: One of Ilfracombe’s most unique attractions is Tunnels Beaches, a series of hand-carved tunnels that lead to secluded, sandy coves. Originally built in the 1820s to provide exclusive access to the beaches for Victorian bathers, the tunnels are now open for visitors to explore, offering a truly enchanting experience.
  • St. Nicholas Chapel: Perched atop Lantern Hill, this charming 14th-century chapel boasts panoramic views of the harbour and beyond. The chapel also houses a working lighthouse, the oldest in the country, which has guided sailors to safety since 1361.
  • Ilfracombe Aquarium: Situated along the harborfront, this award-winning aquarium is home to a diverse range of marine life from the local coastline. Get up close with colourful fish, graceful rays, and curious seahorses as you explore the exhibits, making it the perfect family-friendly attraction.
  • Hele Corn Mill: A short walk from the town centre, this lovingly restored 16th-century watermill offers a fascinating insight into Ilfracombe’s agricultural heritage. Witness the mill in action, producing traditional stone-ground flour, and enjoy a delicious cream tea in the quaint on-site tearoom.

Want more? Check out our ultimate list of things to do in Ilfracombe

Getting Around Ilfracombe: Your Transport Options

Ilfracombe is easily accessible by car, with ample parking available throughout the town. For those travelling by public transport, the nearest train station is in Barnstaple, with regular buses connecting the two towns.

Once in Ilfracombe, the town is best explored on foot, with many attractions within walking distance. For those looking to venture further afield, local bus services provide connections to nearby destinations such as Woolacombe, Lynton, and Combe Martin.

A Taste of Ilfracombe: Local Eats and Treats

Ilfracombe boasts an impressive culinary scene, with a diverse range of restaurants, cafes, and pubs to suit every palate. Here are a few local favourites to sample during your visit:

  • The Terrace Tapas & Wine Bar: For a relaxed, Mediterranean-inspired meal, head to The Terrace. This cosy tapas bar offers a wide selection of small plates, perfect for sharing with friends or family, alongside an extensive wine list. Don’t miss their patatas bravas or delectable churros for dessert.
  • The Thatched Inn: This charming, historic pub is perfect for a traditional British meal. The Thatched Inn provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere with its low-beamed ceilings and roaring open fires. Sample their hearty Sunday roast or opt for a classic fish and chips.

Rest Your Head: Ilfracombe Accommodation Options

Whether you’re looking for a luxurious hotel, a cosy B&B, or a self-catering holiday cottage, Ilfracombe has a range of accommodation options to suit every budget and taste.

  • Palm Court B&B: a charming family-run getaway near Tunnel Beach. Enjoy spacious rooms, friendly hosts, and a delicious breakfast. Immerse yourself in the cosy atmosphere, relax in the comfort of quality bed linen, and appreciate the convenience of onsite parking.
  • Cairn House: where exceptional breakfasts cater to all dietary needs. Enjoy spacious, comfortable rooms with stunning views of Ilfracombe and the sea. Relish the warm hospitality of friendly hosts, indulge in superbly cooked meals, and unwind with the honesty bar.
  • 2 Park Court: a beautiful, dog-friendly holiday home that sleeps 4. Enjoy the cosy atmosphere, spotless rooms, and a private garden in a quiet location. Just a short walk from Ilfracombe and a quick drive to Woolacombe, this charming house offers easy access to parks, nature reserves, and nearby attractions.

Insider Tip: Exmoor National Park

While Ilfracombe itself offers plenty to see and do, a visit to the nearby Exmoor National Park is highly recommended. Just a short drive from the town, this breathtaking park boasts rugged moorland, dense woodland, and dramatic coastal cliffs, providing endless opportunities for hiking, cycling, and wildlife spotting. Don’t miss the chance to explore the picturesque villages of Lynton and Lynmouth or take a ride on the historic cliff railway for a truly unforgettable experience.

Other Ilfracombe Resources


With its captivating history, stunning scenery, and warm hospitality, Ilfracombe is a true hidden gem on the North Devon coast. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a little of both, this enchanting town offers something for everyone. So pack your bags and let the magic of Ilfracombe weave its spell on you – we promise you won’t be disappointed.

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