places to visit

Beach huts and sand dunes at Littlehampton, West Sussex

We had a wonderful staycation back in September, exploring a bit more of our local area in East and West Sussex. Since moving to Seaford two years ago, there's definitely been less need to go away on long trips as there is so much loveliness a short drive away (coast and country). In fact, this was one of the main reasons we decided to move.

Sandy beaches are a rarity in these parts, however, so when I found out there was a sandy beach and some sand dunes at Littlehampton, I had to visit, especially as I remembered there being rather a lovely lot of beach huts nearby too....

Littlehampton has two beaches, either side of the River Arun, East Beach and West Beach.

West Beach, Littlehampton

West Beach is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with a local nature reserve, sand dunes and a sandy beach (with a fair amount of shingle too). We had a lovely time there, splashing in the sea and relaxing on the beach, followed by a wander through the sand dunes. Our little dog Misty absolutely LOVED the chance to roll around in the soft sand!

NB. there aren't many facilities here as you might expect from an SSSI - but there is a small cafe and some toilets (there are lots more across the other side of the river at East Beach).

We were lucky to have some lovely weather, so just enjoyed pottering along slowly soaking up the sunshine and blue skies and eating our picnic on the beach. And did I mention paddling in the sea? Such a treat for us to have some soft sand to walk on, as all our local beaches are shingle.

East Beach, Littlehampton

East Beach is the busier one, with lots of things to do. There is a very nice Cafe right on the beach (it's shingle here, rather than sand), plenty of parking, a family amusement park, kitesurfing.....and lots of beach huts.

The beach huts are managed by the local Council and are colour-coded in uniform rows of green, yellow and blue. I love to wander down the beach away from the crowds to find the older huts, which are much more characterful, with peeling paint. I was particularly lucky to have the most perfect blue skies with little fluffy clouds whilst I was there, so I got a little trigger happy - I hope you'll forgive me....

I think the sky blue ones might just be my favourites :)

Rustington

And on the off-chance that you haven't seen enough beach huts, if you wander eastwards along the beach until you reach Rustington, you will be rewarded with some very lovely numbers. In fact, I think these might be my favourites (apart from West Wittering, of course). But be warned, parking by the beach is pretty much non-existent here, so you are probably best to park in Littlehampton and walk.

The huts here are full of variety, but I do think their owners must collaborate as there are lovely rows of pastel ones and colourful ones, and then the blue ones...

Despite the strong light and harsh shadows, they made such a lovely backdrop, so we had to get some portraits with little Misty.

It was very hard to drag me and my camera away...

So there you have it, a little wander around the sandy beaches and beach huts of Littlehampton and Rustington - they make a lovely day trip. And if you're in the area, West Wittering, a little further west, is a beautiful sandy beach well worth a visit (and also full of pretty beach huts!). And then there's the historic town of Arundel with it's beautiful castle and gardens, Chichester, and one of my favourites, West Dean Gardens. I'm looking forward to some return visits already!

Now just in case you're a fellow beach-hut lover, I must mention my 2017 Beach Huts Printable Calendar, which features some of these beauties from West Sussex :) You can find it in my Etsy Shop.

Oh and you might like to follow along with my new Pinterest board, Beach Hut love. I shall be filling it with as many pastel and colourful pretty beach huts as I can find.

West Dean Gardens revisited

I was very fortunate to visit the beautiful West Dean Gardens near Chichester, West Sussex, for the second time last month (you can read about my first visit in West Dean Gardens through my macro lens). They are an independent charity (NOT National Trust) and the site is also home to West Dean College, which offers courses in creative arts and conservation, including lots of interesting gardening ones.

Dogs on short leads are welcome, which is fantastic, as it meant our recently adopted dog, Misty, could come with us. There is a lovely cafe/restaurant and some very picturesque seating areas if you want to bring your own picnic. We spent the whole day here and still didn't manage to see everything!

The gardens are huge - there are 100 acres of garden and parkland in total, including a 50 acre arboretum. My absolute favourite part is the walled cutting garden and the 13 Victorian glasshouses. I visited with my family and am very lucky that we are all (mostly) keen photographers, so stopping every minute or so to marvel and snap away was no problem. I even got to do one circuit with my macro lens, and then a second with my 50mm f1.4 lens and my sister :)

So let's start with the cutting garden shall we? An absolute riot of colour and full of bees and butterflies. Hard to pick favourites, but I fell in love with cold frame (above) full of succulents and a marvellous Geranium collection outside. And the Larkspur and Cosmos and Cornflowers and Nigella and Dahlias and.....

Beautiful isn't it? Shall we move on to the glasshouses now.... First up, is one entirely devoted to Geraniums and Fuchsias in every shade of pink and red you can imagine. Just divine!

And just next door is the potting shed, full of old tools and books and the prettiest cut flowers from the garden.

And next up another huge favourite of mine - the fern glasshouse. An absolute dream! I would have loved to have spent some time in here with my sketchbook. The details on the leaves are just incredible...

There are several tropical collections as well. I think this guy was from one of those...

The fruit and veg glasshouses are inspirational too. And now on my wish list ;) There were an abundance of chillies in every colour, size and shape imaginable as we visited shortly before the chilli fiesta started.

I hope you're not bored yet? Apologies for the picture heavy post, but there's so much to see!

I also loved the kitchen gardens, right next to the cutting garden and bursting full of healthy, colourful looking veggies and, of course, lots of flowers. The Californian Poppies are just so cheerful.

And I must just mention the incredible pergola, designed by Harold Peto in 1911 and restored after the 1987 storm. It's 300 foot long and wrapped in the most beautiful climbing plants. The Roses and Clematis were blooming when we visited and provided a lovely pop of colour. I can't imagine how much work must have gone into this and all the careful training and pruning. I'm in awe!

So that's it for now - well done if you made it to the end! I really hope I get to return soon - there's still so much we haven't seen.

For more information or to plan your visit, see the West Dean Gardens website.

If you'd like to see more photos, head over to my West Dean Gardens Flickr Album - or you can click through the embedded album below.

West Dean Gardens, Chichester

Monk's House: the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf

Monk's House, the home (and garden) of Virginia and Leonard Woolf is located in the small and very picturesque village of Rodmell in East Sussex. I feel extremely fortunate to have this gem of a place not far from where I live - and I have no idea why it took me so long to visit. Virginia Woolf was the subject of my final year dissertation at University (a couple of decades ago!) so it felt extremely special and slightly unreal to be able to literally tread in her footsteps and imagine her living there.

Monk's House: The Home of Virginia & Leonard Woolf

I was equally enchanted by the garden as well as the 17th century cottage. It was clear that this was a very important space for the Woolfs and a source of inspiration for Virginia's writing. We visited at the beginning of May and I plan to return many times to see it bloom throughout the seasons.

I loved the colour scheme running through the garden - the pinks, purples and whites of the elegant tulips worked so beautifully with the Magnolia, which we were lucky to catch in bloom.

Monk's House: The Home of Virginia & Leonard Woolf

It was fascinating to visit the writing lodge in the garden and look out over the views of the South Downs that Virginia would have stared at, whilst she wrote. The garden is such a tranquil space in a perfect location - very easy to see why the Woolfs fell so much in love with it. It was grey and wet when we visited, but still so very beautiful.

The house is full of books and artwork and many other collections owned by the Woolfs. It has a very relaxed and lived in feel. It was a pleasure to chat to the very knowledgeable staff, who had many interesting tales to tell. You are also allowed to take photographs, which was very welcome indeed. I'll only share a few snippets, as I don't want to spoil it all for you.

I loved seeing vases full of fresh flowers from the garden all around the house.

I really enjoyed tiptoeing around Virginia's bedroom, the lightest room of the house, with the most amazing views of the garden.

Talking of the garden, let's return for a little more spring colour - very welcome on this grey summer's day in the UK!

And just to prove it wasn't all about the pinks, purples and whites, here is a little more vibrant colour. I just adore the shape of these tulips - so elegant. I used a combination of my 100mm f2.8 macro lens and my 50mm f1.4 lens to capture these photos.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit when in Sussex, I highly recommend it. It's just a short drive from Lewes, another wonderful place to explore. There are lots of events at Monk's House too, including some photography workshops - I hope I get the chance to attend some of these.

I'll leave you with a few shots from the pretty village of Rodmell - so many beautiful cottages - well worth a wander whilst you are there.


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Monk's House: The Home of Virginia & Leonard Woolf

Pashley Manor Gardens Tulip Festival

I know summer is blooming all around us, but I would love to take you back to springtime for just a little while.... If you're a fan of tulips, then you would love the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor Gardens - imagine 30,000 tulips (with over 100 different varieties) set in a beautiful garden on the border of East Sussex and Kent.

The festival ran from 22 April - 07 May this year (2016) and cost £10.50. This time I visited on a weekend and it was very busy, which made photography a little more challenging, as it was almost impossible to get a shot without someone in it! If you can, I would strongly recommend visiting on a week day - we visited the day before it opened last year as part of a staycation, and it was much more relaxed. But still 100% worth a visit, busyness and all.

The tulips are planted/arranged by colour and the complementary planting was just as beautiful. I'm a big fan of pink (no surprises there!), so let's start with those.

The tulips are all really clearly labelled, which is brilliant if you are looking for some inspiration for which tulips to plant in your garden - just remember to bring a notebook - or photograph the labels, as there are far too many to remember. You can even order the bulbs at the festival, whilst admiring a beautiful cut flower display (wish I'd left enough time to photograph this!).

If I had to pick a favourite, I think it would have to be Tulipa Angelique, which reminded me of peonies, but the tall slender West Point tulips (further below, in yellow) came a very close second.

Whilst the tulips were mostly planted in colour blocks, I loved the subtle combinations and two tone varieties, especially these ones.

I had the pleasure of visiting with my sister this year, another avid photographer, so we happily pottered around at snail's pace. We managed at least two circuits of most of the garden - one with my 100mm macro lens (my floral photography lens of choice) and the other with my 50mm f1.4 lens, to capture a few wider shots. Happily there are plenty of places to sit and rest your weary legs along the way - all very pretty too, so the perfect place for a few portraits. And I must just mention the cake! Food and drink are served on the verandah by the manor house and I was very impressed to see a selection of gluten free cakes.

Another beautiful place to sit is by the pool. You could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the mediterranean (except perhaps for the temperatures!). Throughout the garden you will find lots of perfectly placed sculptures, all leading the eye to lovely viewpoints or planting. I think my favourites were the ones by the pool.

I loved this sculpture too - looking out to a beautiful Magnolia on one side, with the most amazing Wisteria behind it. I would love to have returned a bit later to see it in bloom - it looked like it had been trained in beautiful loops all up the wall of the house.

Although we were there to see the tulips, one of my favourite places was the glass house (of my dreams!). I'm currently rather obsessed with Geraniums and succulents, so this was heaven for me :)

And finally, we should return to the tulips! Let's finish with a little more colour for good measure.

A familiar sight, amongst the tulips - you'll spend much of your time avoiding all the other photographers and visitors, so using a shallow depth of field can be very helpful to blur out distractions. This is my sister, though, so this one was intentional (and I'll forgive her for getting in the way!).

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and would love to return next year. There are also several other events throughout the summer - the special rose week is on this week - so hopefully I'll manage to return. You can read about my visit last year or see more photos on Flickr below if you fancy.

Pashley Manor Gardens

Do you have a favourite spot to visit for tulips or spring flowers? I'd love to hear - I'm always on the look out for lovely new places to visit.

Arlington Bluebell Walk

Well, hello there folks. My apologies for a rather unplanned blogging break - the result of lots of DIY and garden projects whilst trying to balance things with my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I'm learning to be kinder to myself and to go gently when I need to, and to ask less of myself when things are challenging - so I hope you understand. I've got lots of photos and places to share with you, so hopefully I'll be back in my stride (in a gentle way) soon.

First up, is the very beautiful Arlington Bluebell Walk. If you live anywhere near East Sussex, I highly recommend a visit during late April/early May. They have a website www.bluebellwalk.co.uk with helpful updates on the current state of the bluebells, so you can plan your visit when they are at their peak. There is an entrance charge (£5 in 2016) which is donated to several charities each year. I was a little sceptical at first about paying to see a bluebell wood, when there are many places you can visit for free, but this place is very special indeed and well worth every penny - I have never seen a carpet of bluebells quite like it. Magical is the only word for it.

It's a huge site, with wide paths accessible to wheelchairs around the parts where the bluebell planting is at its densest. There are lots of other walks on narrower tracks around the surrounding farmland as well, if you fancy going further afield. You will also find refreshments, toilet facilities and some farm animals to meet before you enter the woods.

There are lots of places to sit and admire the views and listen to the beautiful birdsong as you wander along. But if you're anything like me, you might get a bit twitchy with a camera in your hand and so many beautiful photographs waiting to be taken. Literally every few steps is a new picture and a new delight.

This year was my second visit and I enjoyed pottering around with my 85mm f1.8 lens on my camera. I love to shoot wide open for maximum background blur to try and capture a little something of that bluebell magic. Bluebells can be a really tough subject to photograph as it can be tricky to get the colour balance right, and if you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, you will find the conditions very contrasty. My style is light and bright so many of my shots are intentionally overexposed and shadows brightened just enough to try and represent that magical light and experience.

Before the bluebells emerge, the woodlands are carpeted in white wood anemones - a beautiful sight in their own right - but the combination is really delightful.

The woodlands are full of interesting tree stumps, piles of logs and bendy branches to add interest and focal points for your photos - and they can provide a perfect setting for some portraiture photos.

One of my favourite things to do is to try and capture the sweeps of light through the trees, creating beautiful sparkling highlights and interesting shadows. I was lucky enough to visit on a gorgeous sunny day, so there was plenty of magical light.

Have you visited before? What are your favourite bluebell haunts? I'd love to hear.

More photos can be found on Flickr below, if you'd like to see more :)

Bluebell magic

10 Beautiful places to visit in East Sussex

We moved down to East Sussex over a year ago now and have been busy exploring our new part of the world. I absolutely adore it here. There's still so much to discover, but I wanted to share the current favourites, as I get asked quite often about the best places to visit. You will notice a strong bias towards the coast  - it has been our dream for many, many years to live by the sea….

10 beautiful places to visit in East Sussex
  1. Cuckmere Haven

  2. Seaford Head

  3. Birling Gap

  4. Seaford Beach

  5. Camber Sands

  6. Alfriston (and the walk to it from High & Over)

  7. Bexhill

  8. Lewes

  9. Eastbourne seafront

  10. Merriments Garden

You will notice that Brighton's not on the list. I love Brighton, but I figured everyone knows about it already and there are tons of guides already written, so I thought I'd focus on some of the other places.....


1. Cuckmere Haven

This just had to be no.1 - it was the place that sealed the deal for us moving out here - we fell head over heels the first time we visited.

Cuckmere Haven is an area of flood plains where the river Cuckmere meets the English Channel. It has a lovely shingle beach with magnificent views of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs. The beach is split in two where the river meets the sea and you can access it from either side. The most popular way is to follow the path alongside the river from the Seven Sisters Country Park - it is very accessible and very popular with tourists. My favourite side is the other side - smaller and quieter. You can drive and park at South Hill Barn on the outskirts of Seaford and walk 10 minutes or so down to the beach. The 360 degree views along the way are so beautiful.

On the left you have the lush green South Downs, with the river Cuckmere snaking its way down to the sea, and on the right you have sheer cliffs and the sea. It feels wild and peaceful. If you are feeling energetic, you could walk from Seaford along the cliff path and enjoy beautiful views all the way. In fact, if you have a lot of energy you can walk from Seaford all the way to Eastbourne.


2. Seaford Head

The cliff path that leads to Cuckmere Haven starts at Seaford, at the eastern end of the beach. In just a few minutes you can climb high up on the cliffs to wonderful views of the Seven Sisters. I love coming out here to get away from it all. It’s the perfect place to come and clear your head. It’s also a nature reserve - I’ve seen lots of butterflies here in the summer and it's popular with bird watchers.  It's also a beautiful area to kayak around (especially when the sea's all sparkly) - the perfect way to access hidden coves.


3. Birling Gap

The Birling Gap is a stunning shingle beach in the middle of the Seven Sisters, in the care of the National Trust. It is accessed via a metal viewing platform and steps. It’s the kind of place to make you feel humble and in awe at the power of nature and the sea. Coastal erosion is a big issue here - as much as 0.7 metres are eroded every year with frequent cliff falls. The NT visitor centre shows photos of the area in years past, and you can see the row of cottages perched on the edge of the cliff diminishing in number.

There is so much to look at and enjoy here - when the tide is low, vast swathes of white chalk rock are exposed. As well as walking on the beach, dodging the waves and marvelling at the tall cliffs above, I love to walk on the cliff paths.

In one direction you can walk to Cuckmere Haven, and in the other, to Beachy Head and on to Eastbourne. The walking is pretty strenuous, though, with massive undulations as you climb and descend the brows of the Seven Sisters. For more information on walking in this area have a look at the Walking Club website and the Beachy Head website.

It makes a lovely spot for a picnic and there is also a National Trust cafe here which serves food.

If you do come out here to visit, may I plead with you to stay away from the edge of the cliffs - the drops are sheer and the cliffs are very crumbly….I see so many visitors posing for photos perilously close to the edge - it just isn’t worth it.


4. Seaford Beach

Well, I just had to mention Seaford beach! This is my local and I love it here. At the eastern end are a cluster of pretty pastel beach huts - if you follow me on Instagram I’m pretty sure you will have seen lots of photos of them! The area is wonderfully undeveloped (just a couple of coffee places) and parking is free - a rarity in today’s age. There is a concrete path that runs the entire length of the beach all the way to Tide Mills, the New Haven end of the beach and another nature reserve. It’s always popular with dog walkers and usually a few fishermen and sometimes kayakers and paddle boarders. It gets very busy in the summer at the weekends, but I guess that’s true of every beach! Nevertheless, we enjoyed some deckchair lazing at the height of summer :)


5. Camber Sands

Camber Sands is a vast sandy beach at the easternmost end of East Sussex, near Rye (another lovely place on our "to visit" list) and is the only sand dune system in the county. So it’s the place to come if you need a sandy beach fix and a change from all the shingle (another lovely alternative sandy beach is West Wittering in West Sussex - a firm favourite of ours). It’s a huge open space and reminds me of Saunton Sands beach in Devon.


6. Alfriston

Alfriston is a lovely, small historical village in the middle of the South Downs. It’s a popular stop off for walkers and cyclists and is full of tea shops. It has a beautiful bookshop called Much Ado (closed until 4th Feb) with a lovingly curated selection of books, including lots of crafty numbers. It also stocks Flow Magazine, a personal favourite of mine. There is a beautiful walk you can do from High and Over (a viewpoint looking over the Cuckmere Valley, with a car park) via Litlington, and along the river, which is just lovely.


7. Bexhill

Bexhill is a seaside town in-between Eastbourne and Hastings. It has some beautiful art deco architecture and is home to the De La Warr Pavillion, an art gallery with a theatre and a cafe. It’s a nice place to come for a stroll along the seafront, a leisurely coffee and cake overlooking the sea, and a wander around the exhibitions.


8. Lewes

Lewes is a wonderful town to visit, with a good range of independent shops and lots of antique shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s also lovely to wander around the steep cobbled lanes (the Twittens) off the High Street and peer at all the interesting houses. There is a castle if that is your thing and there are also the lovely public (free) Southover Grange Gardens, a little off the beaten track.

A few favourite shops include: Closet & Botts, Popsicle  (located in the Needlemakers), Wickle, Flint and the Flint Owl Bakery - but there are lots more!


9. Eastbourne seafront

Eastbourne’s seafront is a lovely place to stroll along with its famous victorian pier. I’m particularly fond of the Holywell end, which is much quieter and usually very popular with dog walkers. You can also pick up the cliff path at Eastbourne and walk towards Beachy Head and onwards to the Birling Gap. For more info on walks have a look at the National Trails website, the Beachy Head website, or the Walking Club website for the entire route.


10. Merriments Garden

I had to squeeze one garden into the list! Merriments is located near Hawkhurst, not far from the Kent border. It’s a lovely garden, packed full of flowers with lots of curves and different viewpoints. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting it throughout the seasons. The cherry blossom near the Monet bridge was rather spectacular in spring, shedding clouds of white petals into the Tulips beneath.


If you'd like to see more photos, you might like to have a browse of my East Sussex albums on Flickr:

Or you might like to follow along with my East Sussex board on Pinterest:


So that’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll be back with more recommendations once we’ve done some more exploring (including some for nearby West Sussex and Kent). I’d love to hear what your favourite places to visit in East Sussex are….


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10 beautiful places to visit in East Sussex

10 beautiful places to visit in North Devon

I've just returned from a lovely week away in North Devon and thought it would be fun to share some of my favourite spots to visit, along with some of my photographs. I'm lucky to now have both my sister and my dad living in Devon, so I've got to know the area reasonably well over the years. My top 10 is as follows (in no particular order, apart from the first two) - read on for more info:

  1. Westward Ho!

  2. Saunton Sands

  3. Putsborough Beach (Woolacombe)

  4. Hartland and Welcombe Mouth

  5. Sandymouth and Northcott Mouth

  6. Watersmeet

  7. Donna Flower's Vintage Shop in Barnstaple

  8. Appledore

  9. Clovelly

  10. RHS Rosemoor Garden

10 beautiful places to visit in North Devon

1. Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! (with it's jolly exclamation mark - the only town in the UK to have one) has become my new favourite beach in Devon. When the tide is out there are huge stretches of sand and so much S P A C E. There is often a thin film of water on the sand which provides some beautiful reflections of the clouds, making the space look even bigger. There are beautiful sand dunes (Northam Burrows) and beautiful giant pebbles (originating from Hartland I believe and smoothed and tumbled by the sea to end up here). It's a popular beach with surfers and dog walkers. I recommend parking at Northam Burrows for access to the best bit of the beach. It cost us £3.50 for the day in June (you can also get weekly and seasonal passes).

It's one of those places that looks so different every time you visit, depending on the tide and the weather - it's quite literally a reflection of the world around us. Even on the evening we visited (after a scorcher of a day with a cloudless sky) the view kept shifting and changing with the clouds and the light - and what magical light it was!

We had so much fun strolling up and down the beach, splashing in the waves and just drinking it all in. So many people were out and about enjoying the perfect evening, cooling off after a hot day. I loved the soft sinking sand that left deep footprints as you walked - I turn into a big kid on the beach!

On another visit, we spent some time nestling in the dunes, sheltering from the wind. And pebble hunting, of course! The pebbles here have beautiful white rings and lines. There is nothing more joyful than holding smooth warm pebbles in your hands with the sun on your face and the sand in your feet. Oh yes, it's most definitely the simple things in life for me!

Pebbles from Westward Ho! and Sandymouth beach

Pebbles from Westward Ho! and Sandymouth beach

And finally, I must just mention the beach huts. You can find a small row of pretty pastel huts at the end of the beach where all the shops and restaurants are. They never fail to make me smile!


2. Saunton Sands

Next on the list has to be Saunton Sands. It held the no.1 spot in my heart for many years and has only just been pipped at the post by Westward Ho! It's just round the corner really from Westward Ho! (although it's about a 40 minute drive as you have to go round the estuary) and shares many similarities. There's always huge stretches of sand to be found, even at high tide. I just love the S P A C E (bit of a theme?!) and the energy this beach has - there are always surfers to be found and lots of dog walkers and families and people generally having fun. There are some cafes, a posh hotel, surf board hire/lessons and deckchairs/beach huts to hire for the day. And parking will set you back £6.50 - at least it did in June 2015!

Saunton Sands is also great for reflections as it usually has a thin film of water covering a large stretch of sand - just add some clouds - and voila! These photos are from a visit several years ago. When we visited this time it was a scorching hot day with no clouds so it wasn't very photogenic - and we were so hot we actually had to leave!! Unheard of in Britain!

The sand dunes (Braunton Burrows) are beautiful too - and vast! You could walk for hours - in fact we once did, as my sister took us on a "short cut" to the beach that had us getting lost for hours (the best kind of fun)...... You can find lots more photos in my Saunton Sands album on Flickr.


3. Putsborough BEach (Woolacombe)

Putsborough beach is round the corner again from Saunton Sands, just past Croyde - Woolacombe is the opposite end. It's another lovely big stretch of sand with some interesting rocks and a cafe I like to hole up in when the weather is colder. Also popular with surfers. There are lots of facilities at the Woolacombe end (which gets very busy).


4. Hartland and Welcombe Mouth

Hartland is wild and rugged. Huge jagged rocks that you can imagine ships smashing into in times gone past. I don't actually have any photos of Hartland itself to share here -  every time we've visited it's been very grey and stormy. I absolutely love it, though. It's quite a long drive down narrow roads and you really feel "away from it all". There are some lovely walks you can do in this area. We did the circular walk from Hartland Quay to Spekes Mill waterfall and Docton Mill Gardens and back - lots of rugged coastline and pretty leafy green lanes. The heavens opened and we got soaked on the way round, but I still loved it. I will take wild and peaceful over hot, busy and crowded any day! You can find out more info at hartlandpeninsula.co.uk.

The beautiful Hartland Abbey and Gardens is also worth a visit - I've enjoyed bluebell walks in the spring and remember lots of colourful camellias, rhododendrons, and magnolias everywhere.

I do have some photos of Welcome Mouth, however. It is a beautiful beach really tucked away down super narrow country lanes (the kind you breathe in as you drive through!), a bit of a drive from Hartland Quay. As it is so hard to get to, and there are no facilities, it is usually very quiet. We came here on a landscape photography course several years back and had fun playing around with long exposures as the tide came in. The rocks here are similar to Hartland and remind me of backbones.

WelcombeMouth-2063.jpg

5. Sandymouth and Northcott Mouth

OK, so Sandymouth isn't in Devon, so I'm stretching things a little. But it is just over the border in North Cornwall (just North of Bude) and SO worth a visit if you are in the area. It has a very special place in my heart. Sandymouth is in the care of the National Trust who run the car park and a rather lovely cafe. The beach has large stretches of beautiful sand when the tide is out, and beautiful pebbles, similar to those you will find at Westward Ho! (spotting a pattern here?!). The cliffs are stunning and the rocks fascinating. You will find lots of similarities to the Hartland Peninsula, which isn't far away. It's also hugely popular with surfers (there is seasonal lifeguard cover) and dog walkers (you can walk dogs year round). It offers huge variety in terms of landscape and I love how different it always looks on the many visits I have made here.

This is the view from the outside seating area at Sandymouth cafe, looking down on the beach - not a bad spot for lunch!

This is the view from the outside seating area at Sandymouth cafe, looking down on the beach - not a bad spot for lunch!

The backbone type rocks at Sandymouth were covered in green seaweed this visit - looking very colourful!

The backbone type rocks at Sandymouth were covered in green seaweed this visit - looking very colourful!

Fun with pebbles at Sandymouth beach

Fun with pebbles at Sandymouth beach

This visit, we did the short (1 mile-ish) cliff path walk to Northcott Mouth and back. It's a beautiful walk with lovely coastal views, as well as views inland over patchwork fields. Northcott Mouth is another lovely beach, smaller than Sandymouth. There is also a tea garden there, filled with gnomes and all manner of garden statues :)

Northcott Mouth beach

Northcott Mouth beach


6. Watersmeet

Watersmeet is a beautiful woodland area in Lynmouth with lots of lovely walks alongside rivers and streams and waterfalls. It is the meeting place of the East Lyn river and Hoar Oak Water. It is in the care of the National Trust, who run a perfectly situated cafe right by the water. I love coming here for a good dose of green and peace and quiet and always come back feeling refreshed and restored. The walk from Lynmouth is particularly lovely. There are lots of other things to do in nearby Lynton and Lynmouth too - see www.visitlyntonandlynmouth.com for more information.

The National Trust cafe at Watersmeet

The National Trust cafe at Watersmeet

Watersmeet is another great spot for long exposure photography - bring your tripod (there's not much light under the canopy of trees) - and your wellies!

Watersmeet is another great spot for long exposure photography - bring your tripod (there's not much light under the canopy of trees) - and your wellies!


7. Donna Flower's Vintage Shop in Barnstaple

Whilst I adore being outdoors, it's always wise to have some indoor things planned for wet weather, because, let's face it, it's going to rain at some point ;)

If you like vintage clothes, fabrics and other paraphernalia then you will LOVE Donna Flower's vintage shop in Barnstaple. It's packed full of beautifully curated collections of good quality vintage clothing and accessories and hard to find vintage fabrics and sewing paraphernalia. Everything is displayed so beautifully and the ever changing window displays are pretty special. Donna has sourced lots of beautiful wooden display cabinets and drawers, all very swoon-worthy. She runs the shop with her daughter, Jasmine. You really must pay a visit!


8. Appledore

Appledore is a small fishing village near Westward Ho! and Bideford, across the water from Instow. You will find lots of narrow cobbled streets lined with bunting and pretty pastel houses with beautiful flowers everywhere. There are a few cafes and art galleries and antique shops to nosey around. You can also go on boat trips from the quay and enjoy many other watersports. The attraction for me, of course, was the pretty pastel houses - I do love strolling around quaint streets marvelling at people's pretty houses and gardens!


9. Clovelly

Clovelly is a private village, with steep cobbled streets leading down to a harbour. There are no cars and you have to pay an admission fee to enter, to help towards the upkeep of the historical buildings. It's very pretty - I loved photographing all the doors and flowers. There are some beautiful gardens and lovely walks and boat trips and donkey rides, if that is your thing!


10. RHS Rosemoor

I couldn't complete this list without mentioning at least one garden! As you will probably have gathered, I adore the coast, so my trips usually focus around visiting as many beaches as possible. I do love a good garden, though, and Rosemoor doesn't disappoint. It is one of four RHS gardens and is pretty sizeable, with many gardens within the garden. There is also  a large woodland area which is good for walks. It's been a while since I've visited, though, so the RHS Rosemoor website will be able to give you a much better overview of current highlights.

Other gardens I've enjoyed visiting include Broomhill Sculpture Gardens, Marwood Hill Gardens, and the previously mentioned Docton Mill and Gardens and Hartland Abbey and Gardens.


So that's it - my favourite places to visit in North Devon. Next on the list is Lundy island. What are your favourite places to visit in North Devon? I'd love to hear your recommendations, especially those off the beaten track.


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10 beautiful places to visit in North Devon