This week I have fallen in love with Woolacombe, a feeling evoked in many on their first visit to this beautiful haven in North Devon. If Woolacombe were a student it would be a straight-‘A’ pupil: its long sandy stretch of beach is one of the world’s top ten, and it has won the ‘England for Excellence Gold Award’, ‘Best British Beach’ in the Mail On Sunday and Blue Flag and Seaside Beach accolades; all give a nod to why visitors return time and again.
I have been chatting with a few local businesses recently, getting a feel for the local area. Today I’m excited to share some of my ideas with you for enjoying a break in Woolacombe.
I am starting away from the coast with another award-winning attraction – ‘The Big Sheep’.Nicola, who looks after marketing and events at The Big Sheep, shared with me what makes them such good fun.
“Gold Award Winners for Devon’s Largest Attraction of the year (2013-2014), the BIG Sheep is firmly established as one of the UK’s most innovative and exciting family attractions providing wacky and unique entertainment for all the family. Hilarious and entertaining shows include world-famous sheep racing, complete with woolly jockeys, Horse Whispering, and Dog and Duck Trials. Shepherds with a wicked sense of humour will have you laughing out loud as you are introduced to ten different breeds of sheep that will to strut their stuff on stage to live music.
A huge indoor play area will amuse children and adults, with slides, soft play climbing areas, mazes and obstacles; for outside exhilaration, there is an Adventure Centre adjacent to the park where thrill seekers can get their adrenaline fix with bookable sessions including climbing, low ropes and water zorbing.
With many years’ experience in entertaining the whole family we have loads of activities up our sleeve to keep everyone happy. Dads may like the free beer tasting, whilst for some watery fun there is the family splash zone – and there are plenty of places to change and feed baby too. After an exhilarating day out, browse our Sheepy Shop and find local West Country products before relaxing with delicious homemade scones and a great big dollop of Devonshire clotted cream.”
A brilliant insight into what promises to be a great day out. Thanks Nicola.
My second stop is Woolacombe Riding Stables. It has been many years since I enjoyed the thrill of being on horseback. I have fond memories from my childhood and teenage years; although I was only ever a novice, the thrill of being out in the open on the back of one of these majestic animals is magical. Situated at Eastacott Farm, within walking distance of Woolacombe village, the stables are nestled in the valley of Woolacombe and surrounded by 200 acres of Devonshire countryside. Whether a novice like me or a more advanced rider, you are in safe and experienced hands: a British Horse Society and Pony club approved equestrian centre, they’re also the 1st club mark accredited stables in North Devon and ranked no.1 on Trip Advisor with a certificate of excellence. All instructors are BHS qualified.
A day at the stables is a great way for children (aged seven and over) to gain a good understanding in not just riding but also meeting the horses and ponies and learning about grooming, tacking and taking care of these gorgeous creatures. There are many different options available for riding out, though you will be advised of the best option to suit your experience and ability. With the valley and countryside to explore, sand dunes and beach rides, and the scenic coastal path, whatever ride you take part in will be exhilarating; it’s a thoroughly lovely way to explore this spectacular area.
After a day with the sheep or out exploring on horseback, a day by the sea is always welcome – and where better to indulge in some ocean fun than Woolacombe?
I recently said that I think surfing is a sport that seeps into your soul, with the peace and openness of the ocean – just you and your board. Well, the instructors at Lyndon Wake Surf School would agree. You will only find professional, qualified and passionate instructors on hand here, to enable you to make the most of your surf experience. Situated at Croyde’s famous Baggy Point and surrounded by stunning National Trust coastline, you can book lessons for Croyde, Putsborough or Woolacombe – as long as the surf’s up!
If the waves are flat or you fancy something different, Lyndon Wake Surf School also offers coasteering (I wish I was brave enough) or SUPing (for those of you who don’t know, this is an off-shoot of surfing and is short for stand-up paddle boarding!). Why not try something new?
A recent famous visitor who enjoyed some lessons with LWSS was Victoria Pendleton (check out the pics on Facebook) – if you do decide to visit Woolacombe or the surrounding area, take the plunge and book a lesson.
Lastly, another great idea for family fun: Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park. I was lucky enough on Friday to have a lovely chat with Lynne, who – along with her sister –runs this amazing haven for wildlife.Lynne’s enthusiasm has been catching on: I have already been online showing my boys the website so they can see for themselves what makes this Wildlife Park so special. Set in 28 acres of spectacular gardens, in an Area of Outstanding Beauty no less, you will enjoy a perfect day here.
There are two pieces of big news at the moment. The first is the birth of an endangered baby Lar Gibbon, born two weeks ago to proud parents Parker and Dillon, and the second offspring of the pair. Two-year-old brother Marwah is fascinated by the appearance of his sibling and can’t stop himself prodding the youngster to the annoyance of his mum! Mum and baby are reported to be doing very well and she is proud to show the youngster off to visitors of the park. Dad Dillon is typically keeping out of the way having done his bit, and is more likely to be seen play fighting with Marwah!
These are truly fascinating animals to watch, and clearly with the breeding going so well, they are very healthy and happy in their surroundings.
Also coming in July is a new Baboon enclosure, which I know from Lynne to be something everybody in the park is very excited about. Keep your eyes peeled for the opening date.
What else can you experience here? Well, there are a wide range of species and I can’t list them all, but there are all the usual suspects along with some more rare species: white Hudson Bay wolves (only one of two places in the country where these can be seen), alongside primates, lions, meerkats, penguins…
Each day there are a host of fun and informative talks along with shows and animal encounters. One of the most unique experiences you will find here is the opportunity to swim with sea lions; this is the only place in the UK that currently offers this. You will, of course, also see some fascinating displays from these mesmerising animals – as if taking the plunge with them wasn’t enough!
There are several other great opportunities that you can take part in, such as shadowing a keeper and feeding the lions or even stepping back in time and exploring Dinosaur World with new animatronic dinosaurs, a museum and show. I have yet to meet a child who isn’t enthralled by it, and what with all of the other animals and attractions, you can’t fail to have a wonderful day.
So that is a wrap for me and Woolacombe’s attractions today, but for more information, check out Visit Devon and Visit North Devon and Exmoor; they have provided lots of help and inspiration with ideas of places to visit and attractions and activities for different areas across the region.
They are the real experts, bursting with ideas, events and up-to-date information for what’s on and when. Start building your North Devon experience today, and browse HomeAway to find that perfect home from home for the holiday.
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