On my birthday last year I set myself a task to visit 12 new places by the same time this year and, with the striking of midnight and saying goodbye to the absolute mess that was 2017, I promised myself that 2018 would be full of happiness and adventure. So far, so good – 2018 has seen a lot of smiles, a lot of laughs and my calendar is full of exciting times ahead, the most recent of which was a weekend in Devon.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but Devon is actually somewhere I hold close to my heart. From the ages of about 18-22 I visited there around 7 times and, in fact, I love it so much that both my cats official registered names give a nod to the area. So, when the opportunity arose for a long weekend there in April, I jumped at the chance.
Opting to stay at the Parkdean Bideford Bay resort, I had to try and persuade Ben that a caravan holiday wasn’t going to be as grim as he was envisaging – he had done one before with a group of lads so I think he was imagining something a little more chaotic and messy than it would be with just the two us.
Upon arrival at Parkdean we were checked in really quickly and trotted off to find our ‘van. I was silently praying to myself as we walked towards it that it would be nice, if only to prove Ben wrong, and I was very pleasantly surprised – the caravan was spacious (one double bedroom and two twin rooms) and absolutely spotlessly clean. The surrounding space was quiet and leafy with a beautiful view over the sea and with plenty of wildlife walking around – including a family of robins and a peacock which we happily watched from our window.
The night we arrived we didn’t do too much as we got there early evening, instead getting ourselves unpacked and settled in, cooking a bit of dinner and watching some TV. Total relaxation and absolute bliss!
After a really good nights sleep and a long lie-in (oops) we decided to visit the village of Clovelly for the day. I had been there many years before and knew Ben would love it, plus I wanted to refresh my memory and with the sun shining down on us I knew it would be the perfect day for exploring.
Situated a 400ft drop down a half-mile long path, every single footstep you took gave you another view and every single one of them was stunning.
Being so steep, the village isn’t accessible for vehicles, so those who live there have their own home-made sleds which they use to take their belongings and shopping down the hill. The man you can see in the centre of the photo above had just had his Sainsbury’s delivery at the top of the hill, loaded it all on to his sled and was dragging it down to his house. I absolutely loved this as it is a process that won’t have changed since the days when the fishermen and their families lived in the houses – it’s so rare to see an old everyday habit that still lives on!
Another old tradition that still continues is the Clovelly donkeys. Going back in time these would have been used to carry loads up and down the steep cobbled street (and probably people too) but these days they’re more of an attraction, with donkey rides available for the children.
The donkeys are really friendly and we had the opportunity to meet some of them, my favourite being the little fella above. His name is Wellington and if you look at his feet you can see his has little shoes on – they noticed he doesn’t seem to like walking on the cobbles so they had these made especially for him and I think it might just be one of the cutest things I have ever seen!
As I mentioned above, the village offers you spectacular view after spectacular view and I honestly don’t think I’ve been anywhere so Instagrammable in my life. These little cottages gave me all the notions – my dream would be to live somewhere like this, spending my days in the garden with my animals, tapping away on my laptop. I definitely think that would be the dream life and I was green with envy every time I saw one of the homeowners, especially on a beautiful sunny day like this!
At the very bottom of the pathway you find the quay which would have been the hub of the village in its heyday, with fishermen bringing in their catches to feed their families and sell on for additional income. The tradition still lives on today and the lobster and crab cages line the harbour wall waiting to next be put in to action.
Situated handily at the bottom of the pathway, atop the harbour wall is one of the local pubs – The Red Lion – so we stopped for a quick refresh before we made our way back up to the top of the village. Ben ordered a pint and I had a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc which we sipped in the sunshine whilst we looked over the Devon coast to the natural waterfall in the distance. This was one of those moments of absolute peace; one of those life-affirming moments where you feel truly content.
The upward climb back to the car wasn’t so easy with my dodgy leg, but with a few pit-stops on the way, we got there in the end! If, however, you couldn’t manage the walk, there is a jeep service which will drive you back up to the car park.
Clovelly is a privately owned village so you do need to pay for entry but, honestly, it is completely worth it. (I can’t remember how much it was exactly, but I think it was about £5 so not much). There’s also various little bits and pieces to look at, with a traditional old fisherman’s cottage that remains as it was back in the 1930’s, which is definitely worth a look!
On the Sunday we woke up to a sky full of cloud and forecast warning of rain, so we decided to pop to Exmoor Zoo for the day. Now, although I love animals I am quite choosey about what zoos I go to, as there’s far too many of them that are all about the dollah and less about the animals’ care, but Exmoor Zoo really is excellent, with a really important and well-regarded conservation programme.
Within the zoo they had so many animals I have never seen before and every single enclosure was not only a good size, but left to nature with minimum interference from the staff, something which is really important. I was also really impressed with the fact that every single enclosure had one or more places that the animals could move to where we couldn’t see them – sure, it might mean that we see empty enclosures but it also means the animals can hide away from prying eyes and take time for themselves which is much, much more important than any visitor getting their monies-worth!
Overall, it was a brilliant weekend and although we only had 2 days there, we had the best time. We are planning to do more mini-adventures like this in 2019 and already have a long list of places we want to try and visit!
I 100% recommend Parkdean Bideford Park for accommodation (plus the entertainment, bar and food were good for the evenings too!), Exmoor Zoo for educating yourself on some animals you may not have been aware of before, and Clovelly for a day out – I think next time we visit we might just book a room in The Red Lion on the quay so that we can see the sun set and a sky full of stars over the water; that sounds like absolute heaven to me!
There are so many beautiful and interesting places in the UK, I definitely want to try and fit in a few staycations in the coming years to see just what this little island of ours has to offer.
Do you have any recommendations for places I should visit in the UK?