Things to do in Woolacombe, Devon
Woolacombe is a traditional small seaside resort in the County of Devon. It is located in the parish of Mortehoe; close to the western perimeter of the Bristol Channel, opposite the Atlantic Ocean. Woolacombe is included in the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Situated at the bottom of a steep valley (or combe), which descends to the three mile long golden sandy beach; Woolacombe is sheltered between the spectacular peninsulas of Morte Point and Baggy Point. It is also sheltered by sand dunes behind the beach and the uncommon maritime moorland. Due to the varied and unusual species found here, this coastline is included as a section of the North Devon Voluntary Marine Conservation Area.
For generations whole families have come and returned year upon year to Woolacombe, as a favourite destination for an annual summer holiday by the sea. In more recent times Woolacombe has become known to keen surfers as a great destination to enjoy the unbroken Atlantic breakers bringing rolling surf into Woolacombe bay.
Holidaymakers will find a good choice of places to eat and drink in Woolacombe, also lots of accommodation of all sorts, from hotels and guest houses, bed and breakfast and self catering establishments to camping and caravan sites.
Keen walkers will enjoy undertaking a section of the South west Coast Path National Trail, which has good walking to Mortehoe, Morte Point and Bill Point, or alternatively walk south along the sands over the sand dunes to the gorse covered hills for great views. Because the area is quite hilly, cycling can prove difficult, however keen mountain bikers would enjoy the demanding mountain bike trail from Potters Hill over Woolacombe Down to Putsborough.
Nature lovers will find the area interesting with a variety of wild flowers, birds and butterflies. Much of the surrounding countryside around Woolacombe is owned and cared for by the National Trust. Morte point is a good place to spot seals basking in small coves; you will make other discoveries on the sand dunes below Marine Drive.
For those longing for peace and tranquillity, a trip to Lundy Island provides just that. Lundy Island lies off the North Devon Coast and can be seen from the beach at Woolacombe. Owned by the National Trust most of the island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Lundy is a wonderfully unspoiled place to enjoy bird watching, climbing, diving, fishing, painting, photography, snorkelling, walking or simply relaxing and enjoying the local ambience. Visitors are taken to Lundy on MS Oldenburgh from Bideford or Illfracombe.
A visit to Arlington Court (open from March to October), makes for an interesting day out with many family treasures and gardens to be seen. Arlington Court was the family estate of the Chichester family who owned much of the area around Woolacombe. Today the house is in the care of the National Trust who added a Carriage Museum for the further interest of visitors.
The Doomsday Book record the name of Woolacombe as "Wolnecoma" or "Wolves Valley", this could have derived from the surrounding densely wooded area, which may at the time have been inhabited by wolves. Woolacombe is thought to have expanded from a farm in early years and over time has developed into a lively village and one of the most popular seaside resorts in Britain.
The Chichester family privately owned the beach at Woolacombe for over 800 years. Lady Rosalie Chichester, the last family member died in 1949. In accordance with her will the Chichester land in Woolacombe, the nearby village of Mortehoe and the family estate at Arlington were gifted to the National Trust. Prior to this date Stanley Parkin, a family friend of the Chichester family purchased the beach and some surrounding land, which is now owned by Parkin Estates, the company now under the chairmanship of Ray Parkin takes care of the beach and provides well designed facilities for its visitors.
During World War II Woolacombe was home to the US Army Assault Training Centre. The long level expanse of sands and the environment of the surrounding area was thought to be similar to the Omaha Beach landing area, a perfect place for the practice of amphibious landing assaults, in training for the Invasion of Normandy part of Operation Overlord.
In 1992 a stone memorial was devoted to the soldiers and was located on the headland at the northern end of the beach.