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Woolacombe

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West Country : Devon : Woolacombe
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A view of Woolacombe, taken from Mill Rock (half way along) Woolacombe Beach

Woolacombe [1]is a seaside resort on the coast of North Devon, England, which lies at the mouth of a very deep valley. The beach is 3 km (or 2 miles) long, sandy and gently sloping, making it ideal for flying kites. The waves are gentle when the tide is out but become more vigorous when the tide is in. This provides different types of fun and is a popular destination for surfing. The beach lost its blue flag in 2012 due to water quality issues, mainly due to agricultural run off caused by one of the wettest summers in the history of Great Britain. It is considered a tranquil, mellow area, and is quite similar to the beaches of the nearby Gower Peninsula or Bude in Cornwall - relaxed, informal, laid back.. An occasional bus service runs from the town to Ilfracombe, Combe Martin and Mortehoe, although always check on availability.

Woolacombe is much larger and more spacious than nearby Croyde, is better value, has better facilities, and has a much more friendly, laid back, non competitive atmosphere than its upstart neighbour. Even during the busy summer months, there is always plenty of parking and beach space available. Croyde does have better waves for the dedicated hardcore surfer, but the congestion and prices in Croyde during the summer can so bad that it can be stress inducing! By contrast if you arrive to Woolacombe via Ilfracombe (and therefore avoid the chronic road system around Barnstaple and Braunton), even on a summers day, congestion isn't too bad at all.

The winter population is very small (around 1,000, if not smaller), however, during the summer many people come to the town for a holiday. Ironically, the winter months are best for surfing, as low pressure system out to sea cause a combination of a generous Atlantic swell and on-shore winds, ideal surf conditions. What's more, parking charges in some places around Woolacombe are reduced as well.


Get in[edit]

  • The sea. If the waves at Woolacombe are a bit rough for the kids, head around the corner to smaller Barricane, which is more sheltered. Alternatively, if the waves are too blown out to surf on, a quick wander over to Coombesgate (near Mortehoe end) or over to Puttsborough (nearer Croyde) may each provide results. Lifeguards are only on Woolacombe main beach though.

Get around[edit]

  • In a car. Hitching sometimes works, but don't hinge your hopes on it. Buses are infrequent at the best of times.
  • You can actually walk from Woolacombe to Croyde via the coast path. Quite a decent walk too, but take some drinks and a hat.

See[edit][add listing]

  • The quintessential British seaside resort, albeit with white sand, turquoise blue sea and exotic marine life. The likes of seals, porpoises, dolphins and the odd basking shark have been known to make the odd appearance, particularly at Baggy Point and Morte point.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Go to the beach, it gets much quieter past Mill Rock, although dogs are allowed past this point.
  • The National Trust Headlands. Stunning scenery and countryside walks, with breath taking views.  edit
  • Woolacombe has pretty decent surf with the right conditions (i.e Atlantic well and an on shore wind). Although not quite as demanding as Croyde - the waves in Woolacombe are not quite as fast or hollow as Croyde - netherless there is plenty of space, plenty of options, and plenty of facilities (including lifeguards in the summer), and if you are a novice/beginner Woolacombe is probably the best place to learn on the Bideford Bay coast without costing a small fortune or breaking bones!

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Handmade fudge is the villages fudge and sandwich shop
  • Many surf shops available in town for all your beachwear needs!
  • Surfing. With a number of surf schools to help you get going, Woolacombe is one of the best places in the UK to learn this exciting activity.  edit
  • Either buy or rent a pair of sturdy surf boots, just in case of stepping on a weaver fish - a very painful experience and the bane of many a holidaymaker in Wales and the West Country.


Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Breakfasting in town is a local's favourite; either the Beachcomber (actually on the beach) or Electric Cafe/Restaurant provide fantastic options coupled with great views!
  • Big Chief Waffles is a small but fantastic waffle shop (always seems to have good music coming from it!)
  • A more gourmet experience can be found at Bar Electric, which provides a great lunchtime menu, as well as asian evening cuisine by one of Nobu's own.

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • The Red Barn is a true surfers pub (even with old surfboards hanging from the ceiling), they have different live music on certain nights and it is also open in the day time.
  • The Marisco Dirty Disco. Open W-Sa in the high summer, with top name DJ's popping in for sets occasionally. Acts such as Shy FX, DJ Hype, and Roots Manuva have all played here, believe it or not. A great night (if not memorable) to be had on every excursion...
  • The Tides Inn, The Tides Inn Beach Rd, 01271871420, [2]. Beer, food and stunning views.  edit
  • The Bay Brasserie, South Street, 01271 872115, [3]. Mediterranean style menu using fresh, local and seasonal produce. Great choice of dishes for all tastes. Children and dogs welcome.  edit
  • The Bay Brasserie, South Street, Woolacombe, 01271 872115, [4]. Mediterranean style menu using fresh, local and seasonal produce. Great choice for all tastes - dishes from the sea, from the fields and from the farm. Children welcome.  edit
  • The Woolacombe Bay Hotel, South Street, Woolacombe, 01271 870388, [5]. The Woolacombe Bay Hotel welcomes non residents for drinks on the terrace, Devonshire cream teas, and offers a choice of two restaurants. Choose from Doyle's for fine dining or the Bay Brasserie for a more relaxed, informal atmosphere.  edit


Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Just don't. If you have to, get a BnB or a caravan. Staying in campervans along the Esplanade is also a popular option! A good idea is stay in nearby Ilfracombe, which has lots of options and is reasonably priced, and just a a five minute drive away.
  • Woolacombe Bay Holiday Park, +44 1271 870343, [6]. Self-catering family holiday facilities. 3 miles of blue flag beach. Lodges, apartments, caravan holiday homes, touring caravans and camping.  edit

Get out[edit]

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