It doesn’t matter how much I travel, I still think that we have one of the best coastlines in the world – so it’s no surprise to me that Woolacombe Beach in North Devon, with its long stretches of sand and craggy landscape has been voted Britain’s Best Beach. In fact, it’s also been named as the fourth best beach in Europe, beating off the likes of Turkey, Spain and Greece by Trip Advisor.
Part of Woolacombe’s charm is that it’s a traditional British seaside resort, and it’s incredibly beautiful – it’s on the North Devon Coast of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The beach is three miles long, gently sloping and faces the Atlantic Ocean. Plus you have all that rock-pooling, so it’s ideal for exploring with smaller kids, plus it’s safe for swimming and surfing – in fact a lot of people holiday there because of the surfing (if you’re looking for somewhere to stay it’s worth checking out the affordable accommodation at Woolacombe Bay.) In winter Woolacombe is fairly quiet but in summer it really comes to life, and one of the biggest attractions in the centre of the village is a pirate themed crazy golf course. I don’t know about you but as a family we never miss an opportunity for a round of crazy golf.
One of the reasons surfers love Woolacombe is because of the Atlantic waves, which mean the swell is large and clean, plus you have those dramatic cliffs and landscape which adds to the thrill of it all. Move over California.
There are also sloping sand dunes which you can climb on, and a lot of the surrounding countryside is owned and cared for by the National Trust; across from the beach there are stunning panoramic views of Lundy Island.
And if you want to really impress the kids, you can tell them that during the Second World War, the US Army Assault Training Centre was based at Woolacombe. In fact, because the beach and the climate was considered to closely resemble the Omaha Beach landing area, this was where thousands of small boat crews and infantry practised amphibious landing assaults on the beach in preparation for the Invasion of Normandy, part of Operation Overlord. There is actually a moving memorial to the soldiers on the grassy headland at the northern end of the beach.
And Woolacombe is the perfect base for exploring North Devon, which offers a range of fabulous eating out options – everything from cosy pubs to fine dining restaurants – and cultural experiences (with of course the wild beauty of Exmoor right on your doorstep). There are family attractions ranging from an aquarium to a Dinosaur Park, theme parks with rides and slides and of coruse farm attractions. There’s even an aquarium.
Exmoor itself is perfect for walking or mountain biking, and it’s also where you’ll find Dulverton, which was the setting for part of that classic novel Lorna Doone. In fact North Devon has inspired lots of literature – including Tarka the Otter. Barnstaple, North Devon’s oldest and largest town sits at the centre of the Tarka Trail, a 180 mile path with 32 miles of off road cycleway.
In fact whatever your interests, Woolacombe is definitely a great destination for a family holiday, and you don’t even have to get on a plane to reach it.