We’ve recently spent a week on holiday with family in Ilfracombe. We were with the whole Mackcracken clan, all 15 of us with varying ages of children (4-12) to keep entertained, staying in one large holiday house.
We were very lucky with the weather whilst we were away and only had one rainy day. We wanted to make the most of the sunny weather and decided on lots of trips to make the most of the beaches and opportunities to explore what the local area has to offer.
With so many of us in the family and varied ages and interests to think about, it was a challenge at times to plan days out that were suitable for everyone.
I’ve rounded up our favourite family activities that we got up to whilst away and hope that they are useful ideas for planning your next trip to the area.
Coombe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
When we set off the for the day here it was a dry day, unfortunately it didn’t stay that way and we got rather soggy on our way walking through the animals. However, there was still plenty to do indoors whilst we waited for it to slow down a little and it didn’t stop us having a great day out.
The park is a mixture of animals including lions, monkeys, wolves and reptiles and animatronic dinosaurs hidden in amongst the greenery on the paths whilst walking round. We found the park to be clean and have lots of different areas to keep everyone entertained.
There is a rather large soft play area that the children loved exploring and gave us an opportunity to dry off from the rain for a while. There was also a bug’s exhibition and a pharaoh’s adventure that were both indoors to give us a break from the weather, as well as an indoor dinosaur museum.
There were lots of shows scheduled throughout the day including animals talks such as penguin feeding and an opportunity to meet the meerkats. We did settle down to watch the sea lion show but had to abandon and run to the soft play due to a heavy downpour of rain.
Despite the rain, we still spent 4 hours at the park and felt that is offered good value for money and offered something for all ages to enjoy. Please note that there are some very steep paths and steps around the park and to the car park which may not be suitable for those with mobility issues.
Current prices £14.50 per adult, £12.50 for children 3 and above with £1 off per person for groups of 4 or more.
Kate at crafts on sea has also recently been to the park, you can read all about her adventures here (www.craftsonsea.co.uk)
We visited Woolacombe Beach twice during our week as the kids had so much fun the first time. Both time when we set off for the day, the skies were grey and miserable, however on both occasions it seemed like within minutes of setting up on the beach the clouds had cleared to reveal bright blue skies for the rest of the day. Woolacombe beach has beautiful soft sand, perfect for digging holes and building sandcastles according to Mini. The sign at the start of the beach proudly boasts that it has been voted Britain’s best beach by Tripadvisor for 2015 and 2016.
We had lots of fun playing on the beach and splashing in the sea. There were plenty of children with body boards trying to catch the waves, there were also shops hiring them out if you don’t have your own. We didn’t try the boards out during our first visit but we still had lots of fun jumping over the waves.
On our second visit we bought Mini a body board to try out and she absolutely loved it, she was super confident riding the waves. I thought at only 4 she may have struggled but I obviously underestimated her and we will definitely use the board on holidays in the future.
The beach was really clean with good facilities, toilets/showers and cafes and ice cream bars, we can also highly recommend the bakery in the town for delicious pasties.
There were also a group of brightly coloured beach huts that can be hired for the day or the week, which looked like a fun idea.
The Big Sheep
As soon as we knew we were going on holiday to Ilfracombe, Mr Mack and his family talked about how they had enjoyed visiting The Big Sheep on their family holidays years ago. With talks of sheep racing, duck trials and rides to explore we were all looking forward to our visit.
You can read our full blog post of our visit to The Big Sheep here.
Crabbing at Coombe Martin
After our recent success of crabbing whilst away in Weymouth, Mini was desperate to show off her skills to her cousins. Armed with buckets, nets and some of Grandad’s bacon that we had stolen for bait, we headed to Coombe Martin.
The town itself is very small but does have a few nice cafes and gift shops. The beach is set across a bay, which also had lots of rocks for climbing on and exploring. Along the edge of the beach is a path that leads along the bottom of the cliff edge and runs across a large number of rockpools. This was clearly a popular crabbing destination as we had to walk quite a way along the path to find some rockpools that weren’t already being occupied.
With 9 of us in the group we were hoping for success and to spark some friendly competition amongst us. Unfortunately the crabs outwitted us and we didn’t manage to catch many at all, Mini’s Uncle Ian was the overall winner with three. Mini didn’t manage to catch any crabs but she did catch quite a few shrimps so she was pleased with that.
I think it might be a good idea to visit earlier or later on in the day when its less busy and you may stand a better chance. That being said we still had fun trying and enjoyed climbing over the rocks to reach the best pools to try.
We spent a morning exploring Ilfracombe Aquarium on our last day, you can read our full review here.
Boat trip from Ilfracombe Harbour
After a few days of travelling to days out, we decided to have a quieter day exploring Ilfracombe town, we were lucky in that we could walk in about 10 minutes from our holiday house.
Along the harbour there were stalls offering lots of different types of boat trips including Mackerel fishing trips and trips to the nearby Lundy Island. We chose to go for a trip along the coast line with “Historic Lifeboat Trips”.
The company uses ex-RNLI boats and is captained by local lifeboat crew volunteers. We booked onto a 30 minute trip, which ran regularly throughout the day. The boat holds up to 12 passengers, so we booked a whole one for our family which felt like a private charter boat with just us aboard.
We were helped aboard by the Captain and most of the family headed to sit at the front of the boat. Mini, however decided to stay inside for the first part of the ride. She enjoyed chatting to the Captain and even found a hat to wear. The cabin was exposed at the back so we still had good views out to see. Towards the end of the trip Mini got a little more confident so we all headed out to sit with the rest of the family at the front of the boat.
The trip took us along the coast line of Ilfracombe and the Captain gave us a commentary of historic facts about the area. We all really enjoyed the trip, even the bumps from us hitting the waves.
Current prices are £6.50 per person for 30 minutes, although we negotiated a cheaper price for taking all 12 seats.
More information is available at www.ilfracombeboattrips.co.uk
More ideas to consider …
I asked some of my blogger friends to share some of their favourite things to do in North Devon, these are their top tips:
Stephanie at Renovation Bay-Bee enjoyed her day out on the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway, you can read all about their adventures here.
Ky at Snapshots & Adventures has recently visited Exmoor Zoo and also recommends Woolacombe beach as a great day out for little ones.
Emma at Me and B make Tea also recommends a trip to Lynton and Lynmouth as a must do if you are in the area.
Hayley at Devon Mama highly recommends a trip to the Milky Way adventure park.
Emma at Devon Mum has recently spent a day at Watermouth Castle, you can read all about her adventures here.
Rosy at Bell & Bear had a great day out with her two children at the Atlantis fun park.
Arabella at www.exeterbabyactivites.co.uk suggested a walk along the Ilfracombe trail ending at Verity, a 66ft bronze sculpture by Damien Hurst that features in Ilfracombe Harbour.
I’d love to hear about your favourite spots to visit in the Ilfracombe and North Devon area.