Last week, I took a well-earned and long-awaited holiday. I usually have about two or three holidays a year but this year, because my health has been so bad, I’ve only managed to get away once.
I decided I really wanted to get away from everything – as in, literal middle of pretty much nowhere – so I booked myself into the Woolacombe Bay Hotel, which is in North Devon. I had been there before when I was little with my parents and it had some good memories, so I thought I would try it out again now I’m an adult.
On the drive there, by the way, if you take the A39 route (I had to because there had been a big smash on the route I wanted to use and it was closed), when you get to Porlock village I would recommend taking the Scenic Toll Road and paying £2.50 for a) amazing views of the coast from the driver’s side window and b) not having to slog up Porlock Hill, which is the steepest A-road in the UK – so steep it has escape lanes on the descent. I wasn’t about to do that in a fully loaded car. No siree – the scenic toll road was fab and totally worth it, even if there are still a few first gear hairpins on the way up!
Anyway, the Woolacombe Bay. It’s a pretty impressive building:
It was built in the 1880’s and a lot of the hotel is still original. Obviously it’s been updated over the years (fairly certain they didn’t have digital television in the 1880’s or a power shower) but it retains the original charm. It has a LOT of stairs – if you’re not that mobile, getting around the hotel could be difficult. There is a lift but not all the rooms are accessible from the lift.
The rooms are lovely. Mine wasn’t huge, but it was nicely decorated and clean and the bed was very comfortable, and I say that as someone with problems with their back who sleeps on memory foam in an electric bed. I slept very well! The bathroom was small but perfectly serviceable, and it was a nice cozy room for a solo traveller.
The hotel has two restaurants – Doyle’s and The Bay Brasserie. I only ate in the Bay Brasserie on my first night, because I was so tired from a four hour drive and couldn’t be bothered to go and find food elsewhere, and the food was very nice but like all hotels, quite pricey. Breakfast is served in Doyle’s, and judging by how nice it was, I imagine the dinner menu is just as good.
I ate in a place called The Red Barn every other night I was there – it’s a typical pub with typical pub food, about two minutes walk from the hotel. Good tasty food, reasonably priced and with very friendly staff. There is also a really nice cafe in Woolacombe village called The Captain’s Table, which I would definitely recommend for lunch, and Fudgie’s Bakehouse does a little takeaway cream tea which is fun to eat on the beach while being stared at by hopeful seagulls.
The hotel also has a spa, a gym and a pool, none of which I used, but I did have a look at them and they seemed just as clean and welcoming as the rest of the hotel. There are two quiet lounges off reception that are nice to sit in and read during the day. It rained like fury on Thursday last week so I curled up on a couch with a trashy novel and spent the day there, occasionally being brought drinks by the lovely staff who come round and check if you need anything at regular intervals. I recommend the hot chocolate at the hotel, by the way. Yum.
The main attraction of Woolacombe is its beach. I mean just look at it. Pic spam coming up, but you really have to see this to appreciate it. My words can’t do it justice.
The beach feels like it goes on forever and is a different world if you go early in the morning or just after sundown, when nobody else is around save for some dog walkers and the seagulls.
In Woolacombe itself, there isn’t much to do if you’re a solo traveller, although there’s plenty to do if you are there with your family. You need a car to get anywhere that does have things to do (or hop on the bus to Ilfracombe or Barnstaple) but if you’re a walker, then you’re set and Woolacombe is a really good base to explore the surrounding area on foot.
Woolacombe sits on the South West Coast Path, and while I was there I took the short walk from Woolacombe to Mortehoe, which is the next village over.
It’s a BIT STEEP.
20% gradient on parts of The Esplanade, to be exact. But the walk is worth it – you have views like this on the way round:
You walk past Barricane Beach, which is an inlet on the way up the coast path and looks like something out of Jurassic Park:
And when you get to the top of the hill and into Mortehoe village, you’re greeted with the lovely village itself:
Persevere with the hike and don’t get disheartened by the hill! There’s a few things to do in Mortehoe – there’s a very nice pub to have lunch in (The Ship Aground), a village shop that sells local produce (buy a box of Roly’s Fudge, you won’t regret it), an adorable museum (small but interesting) and just up the lane, the local cemetery which, as a final resting place goes, is pretty awesome because THIS is your view for eternity:
Not bad, huh?
The scenery and the peace and quiet are the best reasons to visit Woolacombe. Like I mentioned above, if you want to go to attractions or whatever, you have to drive. I was there purely to relax, and relax I did. Daily walks on the beach, chilling in the bar at the hotel and strolling around the hills made for a perfect holiday for me.
And of course, there were the sunsets.
The sun going down over Lundy Island every night is something I won’t ever forget.
Go visit North Devon – you won’t regret it.