When I first visited Clovelly a few years ago, I was immediately reminded of Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. They both have a steep main street leading down to a tiny harbour which sets the heart pumping madly on the way back up. And they both have a quaint mix of shops, pubs, galleries etc. to pause at en route. The main difference between the two is that to access the centre of Clovelly, which is privately owned, necessitates passing through a ticket office and paying an entrance fee, which came as a shock to me although we paid up anyway because we couldn’t be in the area and not visit. Parking is included in the fee. Before the ticket office there is a Visitor Centre with a gift shop and a cafe with a terrace offering wonderful views along the North Devon coast. Those who are dubious about managing the steep descent and ascent can arrange at the desk to be transported in a Land Rover.
At the top, outside the paid area, are the Clovelly CourtGardens, which can be visited for a fee if not entering the village, otherwise entry is free for village ticket-holders. For the village itself, once through the Visitor Centre, on the way down you get the chance to ooh and aah at the donkeys in the Donkey Stables. Donkeys have long been a feature of the village, from the old days when they were used to transport fish up from the harbour, to more recent times when they transported the luggage of visitors staying overnight. Now they are having a well-earned rest, apart from giving rides to children in the summer months. Continuing further down, just beyond the NewInn, is the Charles Kingsley Museum, dedicated to the writer of The Water Babies, who moved to the village in 1831.
Once at the bottom of the main street, there is a harbourside pub, and a number of other points of interest. The old lime kiln is a reminder of the time when limestone from Wales was burned here, an industry dating from the 14th century. The original quay was built in the 13th century for the fishing trade, then a new one was built in the 17th century. There are four cannon barrels used as bollards which came from the Spanish Armada fleet. The cottage with a balcony overlooking the harbour is known as Crazy Kate’s Cottage, named after a woman who went mad after seeing her fisherman husband drown.
A short distance to the east of Clovelly is another idyllic village set in a wooded valley called Buck’s Mills – this one is free to get into and completely devoid of gift shops and all the other trappings of tourism, so it makes a nice contrast to its more famous neighbour.
Map of the area.
|Photo by Richard Croft, via Wikimedia Commons|