I love Devon, and I’m in a position to be planning my trip next year to Woolacombe again. I mentioned this to someone, and they said ‘Why do you always go alone to what is a family resort, don’t you get bored? What do you even do?’
Apparently ‘enjoy being on my own’ wasn’t an acceptable answer. She actually wanted to know what there is to do around the area for someone who always travels alone, like I do, and that’s what prompted this post.
So here’s five things to do around Woolacombe if you’re a solo traveller.
Take a walk
I love hiking, and there are some excellent walks to be had around the Woolacombe area. My favourite walk is out to Bull Point Lighthouse via Mortehoe village. Grab a sandwich, snacks and a drink from Fudgies, make sure you’ve got sturdy shoes on, and away you go. You can go via the Esplanade and its 25% gradient or via the coast path, which is still steep but less of a burn on the legs. And there are buses up to Mortehoe, if you can’t make all the journey on foot.
Bull Point Lighthouse is a lovely place to stop and admire the scenery, but if you can’t make it all the way to there, stop in Mortehoe and visit the wonderfully peaceful cemetery. The views are just as spectacular, plus there are some rather beautiful gravestones.
Not a bad place to spend eternity, actually.
There are a load of walks in the area (this one is my favourite of many), so be sure to visit the tourist office or have a look online to get information and maps. All the paths are clearly marked, so there’s no worry about getting lost. Make sure you have sturdy shoes and sustenance, as some of the longer walks don’t have many places to get refreshments on their route. A solo walk is a great way to clear your head.
And at the risk of sounding like your mother, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and what time you’re expecting to be back. The receptionists at the Woolacombe Bay are more than happy for you to let them know you’re off on a long hike by yourself and will take down your mobile number so they can contact you if you’re not back by the time you said you would be. It’s never wise to go walking alone with nobody knowing where you are, especially around the coast.
Jump on the 31 bus from Woolacombe and head out to Ilfracombe for the day. There’s plenty to do if you’re on your own – visit Ilfracombe Chocolate Emporium for a great chat with the lovely owner, an interesting little chocolate museum and, of course, some delicious chocolate. It’s a nice place to get gifts for your friends and family too.
Down the road is The Gift Gallery, which has an absolutely gorgeous selection of little gifts and trinkets for everyone in your life. I got a bunch of stuff from here for birthdays, Christmas and a housewarming gift. The gifts are beautiful and many of them are locally made, so you’ll be supporting local businesses when you buy something.
Of course there’s the controversial ‘Verity’ statue to view. She has been deemed offensive by some, but personally I just don’t like her as an artwork. I didn’t realise how huge she was until I got close to her, at which point I decided that she’s much better viewed from atop the hill where the chapel sits.
And do make the (rather steep) walk up to the chapel and go inside – it’s delightful and the history of it is fascinating. The views from the top of the hill are incredible too. Be wary if you have a vertigo issue, the walls are low and the drops are, as I heard a small child say, ‘very droppy’.
The final awesome thing to do in Ilfracombe is go and have a chat with the fishies at the Aquarium. It’s small, but there’s lots of fish, the staff are really knowledgeable, and you might get smiled at by this guy, who is SO happy you’ve come to visit him!
Visit Chambercombe Manor
This wonderful property is located just outside Ilfracombe, and it’s very much worth a visit. Historically fascinating and allegedly haunted, make sure you go on one of the guided tours to get the best experience of the house. You never know, you might experience some paranormal activity! Personally, I felt there was an energy in certain parts of the house, but didn’t see anything – I’m one of those people who is hyper-sensitive to energies but never actually sees any ghosts. It’s such a fascinating building, and well worth the day out. I neglected to take any photos while I was there, so you guys will have to do it for me.
Find out more about Chambercombe Manor here.
Shop at Atlantic Village and in Barnstaple
Atlantic Village is a small outlet near Bideford, and while it’s no Bicester or Clark’s Village, there’s a decent selection of shops to grab a bargain in. The Gap and Nike outlets are particularly good, plus there’s a Starbucks over the road for those of us who can’t even go a week without a skinny latte (guilty).
Atlantic Village will at best occupy only a couple of hours of your time, so on your way back to Woolacombe, stop in Barnstaple for a more familiar high street shopping experience. There is a nice mix of high street and independent shops. There’s also plenty of places to eat in Barnstaple, so you can make a real day of it.
If you are taking a full day in Barnstaple, the 303 bus goes from Woolacombe to Barnstaple so you can leave the car behind. Do check the bus timetables before you go – this isn’t London, and there won’t be another one along in three minutes. Make sure you have change for the bus ticket too – those of us who are used to tap-in-tap-out Oyster systems probably don’t carry much change, and I made this mistake, and made the bus driver have to find change for a £20 note. Whoops!
Explore the rocks on Woolacombe beach
An activity that only really works when the tide is out (for obvious reasons), exploring the rocks on the right hand side of Woolacombe beach is really fun. The way the water sits in the rocks makes them look like an alien landscape. It’s great for photography, because you can get some rather otherworldly shots.
Rockpooling fare is scarce – there’s not much in the pools, and don’t do this activity barefoot. There are razor clam shells around and about as well as the usual beach detritus of glass, driftwood and litter (shame on the people who do this) so make sure that you’ve got shoes on. And watch the tide – it can creep up on you quicker than you think.
The rocks are really interesting, because you might just find a whole new city there.
I have no idea who built this, but that’s one of the most impressive sandcastles I’ve ever seen.
There’s plenty to do in and around Woolacombe if you’re on your own. This is just a snapshot, and any solo visitor will no doubt find their own favourite activities.
But every visitor, whether they are alone or not, will agree that the best way to end any day at Woolacombe is by watching the sun set behind Lundy Island.
This alone is reason to visit Woolacombe, be it by yourself or with your family. Don’t be afraid of going on holiday by yourself, or worry that you’ll be bored – pack up the car, make sure you’ve got your bucket and spade, and off you go!
(This post is not sponsored in any way – I just love Woolacombe!)