Last month we bravely loaded up the car and set off on the 6 hour drive from Leeds to North Devon, with our 22 month toddler in tow. This holiday was our Plan B after our flights to Spain were cancelled due to Covid. I was really happy with the Plan B we had come up with and was looking forward to getting away and to experiencing Devon for the very first time.
Joining us on holiday were my parents / Theo’s grandparents, making us a party of 5. We were all supposed to be going to Spain together, so naturally we all made a new plan together. They are really helpful and hands-on with Theo, so I was very glad to have them with us. Here's what we got up to on our wonderful family holiday in North Devon.
A Toddler Friendly Holiday in North Devon
Day 1 - Walking to Lee Village and Lee Bay
After the 6 hour drive turned into a horrific 8+ hour journey from hell, we wanted our first full day in North Devon to be as relaxing as possible. We spent the morning getting our bearings on the farm, and Theo got to feed the resident goats, sheep and donkeys.
In the afternoon we took the public footpath from Lower Camp Scott Farm to Lee Bay, which is the closest beach to our accommodation. The route of the bridle path is stunning and takes you through a magical woodland and through the pretty village of Lee (the village pub The Grampus is great to stop for a drink in the beer garden, but the food isn’t anything special).
Lee Bay is definitely worth a visit, but its worth mentioning that it’s not a beach. It’s an enclave of rock pools and little pools of water, that children will love exploring. Theo loved dipping in and out of the rockpools, but it did also feel very hazardous for a toddler. Theo had a blast, but Mum and Dad didn’t find it very relaxing! From Lee Bay you can take the beautiful coastal paths to Ilfracombe and Woolacombe.
Day 2 - Coombe Martin Dinosaur and Wildlife Park
On Day 2 we booked tickets in advance for Coombe Martin Dinosaur and Wildlife Park. The park interestingly spreads across two woodland valleys. The setting is beautiful, but the many steps and ramps means that it’s not ideal for a pram (although not impossible). The best part of the park was definitely the Dinosaur valley. The mechanical dinosaurs were very lifelike (especially to children) and the setting felt very ‘Jurassic park’. For children who are seriously into their dinosaurs, a walk through the valley would be wildly exciting.
I was a lot less impressed at the wildlife valley, as the enclosures looked very tired and in need of some upkeep and the animals all looked a bit sad. I wouldn’t recommend the wildlife valley, but you can only buy a ticket for general admission, rather than for the dinosaur valley only. There’s also an amazing indoor soft play area included in the admission price, so I would still say it’s worth a visit.
We spent about 3 hours at the park we went straight to Coombe Martin Bay which was a quick 5 minute drive away. It’s a lovely beach, but it doesn’t have the soft golden sands of nearby Woolacombe and Croyde. The beach is quite shingly so it’s worth getting some jelly shoes for little ones. There is public parking right by the beach which was really handy, and Coombe Martin itself is a pretty little village with cafes and shops.
Day 3 - Woolacombe Beach and dinner at The Jube
Day 3 was set to be a September scorcher (reaching 26 degrees) so we decided to spend a full afternoon at Woolacombe Beach. This was my favourite day of the holiday by far, mainly because of the weather and because of how much Theo adored the beach. He was so happy and content playing in the sand and exploring. The ‘surf’ was also amazing on this day so Mum and Dad also got to have fun in the sea with a Boogie board. Woolacombe is 4.8km long and very wide, so there was plenty of space for him to run around without getting close to other groups.
My main tip for visiting Woolacombe Beach is to arrive as prepared as possible. The beach itself isn’t lined with cafes or with toilets, so make sure you bring plenty of drinks, snacks and visit the loo before you find a base for the day. The nearest public toilets are by the Esplanade car park and there are shops and restaurants in the town itself.
My parents took Theo back to the cottage and Scott and I stayed out for dinner in Woolacombe. We found a great little pub called The Jube which is hidden away from the main streets. We both ordered burgers which were fantastic and ate outside in the small beer garden. It was a great end to an amazing day. You can't have a holiday in North Devon without visiting Woolacombe beach!
Day 4 - Lynton and Lynmouth
A family friend suggested that we visit the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth for a nice day out. Both towns are connected by the famous Lynton and Lynmouth Railway, which is the world's highest and steepest completely water powered railway. It's a Victorian funicular which dates back to 1890. The fare is £3 for an adult single and children under 4 travel free.
We parked our car at Lynton, which is a very pretty town that has some incredible interior and homeware shops. If I was child-free, I could have spent hours pottering around the interesting shops. I popped my head in a few, and then we stopped for lunch before catching the funicular down to Lynmouth. We didn’t need to book tickets in advance, we just stood in the short queue and bought one-way tickets.
Lynmouth is very small but it’s a nice place to stop for lunch or an ice cream. It has lots of nice shops to explore too. We only spent about an hour here before catching the funicular back up to Lynton. It’s worth knowing that there’s an outdoor playground for kids which is located over the bridge of the West Lyn river.
Day 5 - Croyde Beach and Baggy Point
An Instagram friend recommended visiting Croyde Beach, so that’s where we headed on Day 5. Croyde Beach is Woolacombe’s little neighbour, and although it’s smaller its also very popular with surfers. The sand is fine like Woolacombe, but not quite as pristine.
It’s a good idea to combine a visit to Croyde Beach with a short hike up to Baggy Point, a fantastic coastal view point. If you park at the Baggy Point National Trust car park, you’ll be perfectly located to visit Croyde beach and do the hike. Parking is £5 or free to National Trust members. If you're hunting for the best beaches during your holiday in North Devon, Croyde is a must-visit.
Day 6 - Ilfracombe for Devon Cream Teas and back to Woolacombe
On our last day of the holiday Scott and I spent the morning in Ilfracombe. My parents looked after Theo whilst we spent some time as a couple in this pretty coastal town. We paid a to visit to see Verity, the famous Damien Hirst sculpture. We stopped for an incredible Devon Cream Tea at Curiosity Cottage, which was so delicious that we will continue to talk about it for a long time!
In the afternoon we returned to Woolacombe again, as it was our favourite beach. Yet again, Theo had a blast, and taking it in turns to run after him meant that we all got to have a little chill time too. After a day at the beach, we went out for dinner at The Thatched Inn at Ilfracombe. I booked in advance after seeing good reviews online. The menu is currently small, but the food was absolutely fantastic and there’s also a good kid’s menu. I’d definitely recommend this place if you’re staying in or around Ilfracombe.
Day 7 - The Devon Railway Centre at Bickleigh
After a long and difficult journey down to Devon, we decided to change our strategy for the way home and drive back at night. The idea was that we would avoid traffic, and Theo would be more likely to sleep in the car. However, this meant we had a whole day to kill before driving home at around 7pm.
We did a bit of research and came up with a plan to visit The Devon Railway Centre, which is a great day out for children. It’s located in the village of Bickleigh and has train rides, playgrounds, a cafe and an impressive collection of miniature railways. Driving to Bickleigh also meant that we shaved off about 1 hour from our final drive back to Leeds. It was a win win situation. Theo loved visiting The Devon Railway Centre. Tickets can only be bought in advance so it felt very quiet and controlled.
Where we Stayed
Our base for the week was the extremely child-friendly Lower Campscott Farm, which is located slightly in land, right between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. You can read my detailed blog post review of Lower Campscott farm here. We booked a 3 bedroom self-catering cottage at Lower Campscott called Granary Cottage. It came complete with kitchen and two bathrooms, which turned out to be absolutely perfect. I would highly recommend it.
Our family holiday in North Devon was wonderful. Seeing Theo experience so many new things and fall in love with the beach was priceless. Thanks to my parents, we also got to spend a bit of time being Jess and Scott instead of Mum and Dad. Going on holiday with a toddler is an entirely different and new experience for us. I’ve realised it’s not very relaxing, but its a lot of fun, and is totally worth the journey.
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Are you planing a holiday in North Devon? Where did you first go on holiday with your toddler? If you enjoyed this post or found it useful, please leave me a comment in the box below. Jess x