One of the most famous villages in the world!
Clovelly is situated on a steep hillside, this single street village stretches and winds its way steeply down through cobbled streets via traditional 16th century Devonshire whitewashed cottages to the small harbour below. It has long been a favorite spot for visitors and the coast here returns to hogback cliffs after the long sandy dunes either side of the Torridge/Taw estuary. And like Lynmouth and possibly Combe martin, this is a visitor spot for the beauty and history etc… and not for a beach day out.(The beach here is shingle.)
Clovelly is famous, not least because of the association with Charles Kingsley, author of The Water babies. He already gets a mention on the Westward Ho! page, and again here due to this place being his childhood home and where he indeed wrote that novel amongst other works and poems. But, this picture postcard village is famous for more than just Mr. Kinsgley! Its cobbled streets, the picturesque harbour and a long association with donkeys all contribute too.
Clovelly as a settlement has been here for many years, In fact it gets a mention in the Doomsday book, but George Cary, a 16th Century lawyer was the man who really established the village as a bona fide community. He built the stone harbour we see today giving shelter to the local fishing fleet. Add to that the fact that the policy of the local authorities state that no holiday cottage developments are allowed, and the result is this picture postcard living village. One other local family must take great credit too, for the village we see today: The Hamlyn family, or more precisely Mrs. Christine Hamlyn in the 1880’s restored the then decaying village. It was she that had the pavements cobbled and brought water and electricity to the cottages.
FACT! The Clovelly High street drops by 400ft in just half a mile (122m in 0.8kms) down through the cottages to the harbour!
The narrow and cobbled roads are actually constructed of pebbles from the beach below and only add to the overall charm and character of the village. However visitors are warned they can get a bit slippery with the steep incline, so sensible footwear is advised.
But, strolling around the village is nice and it’s a traffic free zone too, as all traffic is banned from the narrow High street. Visitors park-up at the top of the hill near the Heritage centre, then either walk down through or there is a Land-Rover service that operates up and down a back road to the harbour. But most people who can manage it, opt for walking so as not to miss the stunning scenery on route.
Then of course, there are also the famous Clovelly donkeys! These donkeys have always been the main way of getting about because of the sharp incline. You’ll see the donkey present on many a tourist gift in the local shops, especially souvenir corkscrews! In fact, although many locals use sledges to carry goods up and down the cobbles, the donkeys still have their place, if not just for the benefit of the visitors. In 2006 a new Donkey stables visitor attraction opened.
In their heyday they would have carried the post for example as well coal to warm the cottages and fish from the catch down at the harbour and so on. Even up to the 1990’s the donkeys were used to carry guests’ luggage to the New Inn (and occasionally still do to this day) along with beer barrels etc. Up until the 1960s they would also have carried adult tourists up from the harbour too. This practice was stopped as they were deemed too heavy for the donkeys. In fact, thanks to modern animal welfare correctness,The donkeys of our generations main tasks are to entertain the kiddies with rides around the meadow and of course to politely pose for all those visitor photographs!
For more fascinating facts and figures and to find out the names of the donkeys visit Clovelly donkeys.co.uk
Ready to explore?
There is a small charge to get into Clovelly village, this goes towards its up-keep and does include parking and access to the audio/visual film at the visitor centre, as well as entry to the Charles Kingsley museum. In fact that’s a good place to start your visit. You can get your street guide and other local information there. Just nearby and below the Visitor centre you’ll find a craft workshop, apart from everything else, Clovelly is well known for its arts and craft, especially pottery. You can find out how it’s all made at the workshop and can purchase finished items of pottery in the gift shop.
Down at the harbour, there’s just as much to see and do. Clovelly was once a busy fishing harbour, you can visit the Fisherman’s cottage where you’ll see how a 1930’s fisherman’s family lived. There’s been plenty of shipwrecks off Clovelly over the years and the village still has it’s own lifeboat! The lifeboat house is open, but you need to pre-book. More info from the Visitor website, along with this years village entrance costs. (website link below).
Not forgetting the Red Lion which is right on the quay for superb views and dates back to the 18th Century. The Quay itself dates back to the 14th century, and there’s a host of historic smuggling and piracy associated with this lovely Devon village. Finally there are many different boat trips available from the harbour including fishing trips, and you can even venture to Lundy Island. Again, check with the Visitor centre for full details.
CLOVELLY VISITOR CENTRE
Clovelly visitor Information Centre,
EX39 5TA. Tel: 01237 431781
The local Clovelly website for further information is;