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Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

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Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

Hi, I have lived in the Ilfracombe area for six years (in Devon for ten) , and I wondered what visitors and locals alike, think of Ilfracombe and Combe Martin. The 'Combe' is a good looking seaside resort down by the promenade, in my opinion. The town and its people are generally friendly, especially most of the shops, though Ilfracombe is marred by its 'bedsit' and hostels reputation. This is not the fault of Ilfracombe townspeople, this is the fault of policies, and the nationwide idiocy of putting trouble in to run-down seaside towns (telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10221475/Seasi…).

Recessions have also taken their toll, but we can still see the town's Victorian heritage, interesting perhaps to those who don't consider sitting in Wetherspoons and carrying on like they do at home, as a worthwhile pastime on holiday. Worth mentioning are the small businesses, who bravely battle modern trends, with their own shop, Cafes and restaurants. Bravo !!. We haven't been invaded by many nationwide chains, and for that I am grateful as a supporter of the High St. But the Councils have the final power; what will happen to our small businesses, in future?


Combe Martin about five miles away, has changed in recent years, and perhaps not for the better. All along the coast road from Ilfracombe to Combe Martin, there are coastal path walks, and wonderful views, the best anywhere, which of course cannot be harmed, thankfully. The village seems lifeless and drab though, Combe Martin seemingly has nothing to offer but a Museum about the village's good old days. No photogenic buildings of note, no flowers or bright buildings, and not more than a couple of really good restaurants and very little fish served. One wouldn't know they were in Devon. Whereas Ilfracombe has beautiful buildings, gardens and great restaurants. The village of Combe Martin has a wonderful history when you investigate, and there is an annual carnival but it seems to be a backwater full of shops. The village is hugely egotistical imho, and does not welcome visitors publicly. CM's Pubs have been decimated, latterly the Royal Marine, now yet another shop, but I guess shoppers and holidaymakers like that.

I do dislike the Ilfracombe theatre for its odd shape ("Madonna's Bra" they call it), "tribute" shows and mimics, with just a few good plays and shows. But complete disregard for the Victorian heritage. I'm not fond of 'Verity' either. That said, I am sure the right people will be attracted to Ilfracombe because of the statue, and equally sure 'she' attracts criticism because she has nothing to do with a few local values and beliefs. Ilfracombe has a rich history in maritime, boats, ship building, fishing, and Victoriana. If this is allowed to decline further, we will have lost one of the finest Victorian heritages in the world. The blame might lie squarely with the local Council.

There are rumours that Ilfracombe is due for redevelopment, good for the economy, maybe not so good for its traditional residents who value its quirky and quiet aspects. After the developers have finished, within a couple of years perhaps the town will look much different. It seems to have suffered in the recession and from under-investment, Hotels are sold and redeveloped, but just like any other town if we kept away from the less savoury parts, Ilfracombe would be a fantastic holiday. I love the area, it has some of the best walks, views, and rocky seascapes, in Britain. The town looks quite clean, and we have a brilliant quirky Museum with wonderful staff, which continually scores high on TA. Our Churches are lovely, and we have several of those. We have a few great restaurants, fishing, boat trips, and one or two outstanding Pubs here. That said: I do not venture on to the High St after dark , and this is what disappoints me. But does anyone have other positive views? Diversity and developments rightly reflect modern Britain which needs to be inclusive, but what if visitors can't get away to a Victorian seaside resort and have a change? Do we just rely on the coast and sea views and nothing else? Are we losing our Devonshire character? Love to hear other opinions.

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Solihull, United...
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1. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

We adore the town - it's where our hearts are. I'm in agreement that the High Street needs attention, but the harbour and surrounding areas are lovely. We visit at least twice a year and really enjoy eating in one of the many fine restaurants on Fore Street Health permitting, we'll be retiring here from Solihull in 9 years time. It's also a great base for exploring some of the most wonderful countryside in England.

Hampshire, United...
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2. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin


I tend to visit Ilfracombe 2 or 3 times a year, because I'm addicted to Chambercombe Manor. I like the harbour area, but the rest of the town is pretty much 'nothing special'.

I drive through Combe Martin to get to Ilfracombe but have yet to stop. I keep meaning to!

One of the things I like about Ilfracombe is it's quite dog friendly, and the countryside around is spectacular. I'll be bringing my husband in October so that we can enjoy a spot of stargazing on Exmoor.

I think I will continue to be a visitor rather than retire there, simply because it's too far away from the rest of the family.

Only 2 more weeks and I'll be back there! And then again in October.

Rutland, United...
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3. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

Hello :) I used to live in Ilfracombe, but to find work I had to move, unfortunately. I'll just make this long post and call it a day for another year. I grew up there, and we've been back to see the folks recently. I know it like the back of my hand. I love it, and its history, which is much better than most care to realise. However, aside from retail or seasonal hospitality work there aren't many jobs at all. I believe the local factory has laid people off recently. For some strange reason, there is no railway station, in a seaside resort?

According to the local papers and government, Ilfracombe suffered a spate of burglaries, and crime rates were at one time higher than the rest of the county. According to statistics, Ilfracombe's biggest problem was anti-social behaviour.

"EX34 8DX had 91 crimes reported in July 2015" , reported at crime-statistics.co.uk/postcode/EX34%208DX. On to the buses, I am sure that customers waiting for the buses on the High Street near the arches/Gym have to put up with anti-social behaviour , I certainly remember unpleasant experiences with unsavoury characters, drunks and rowdy foul mouthed young people. I stayed away after dark. However, the police state "20" crimes reported during July 2015. https:/… So what's going on there then? As for the shops, I found them okay, people were generally friendly. We were regulars in the greengrocers, bakeries, newsagents and Cafes, and we used those great butchers' shops all the time. It's not a pretty High St. by any standards but it was friendly, like many of the locals are friendly. Everybody knows everybody, and visitors used to say that they felt welcome here on holiday. "The people at home were much worse". On my return, I noticed Ilfracombe's getting a bit more multicultural and that's good. The other cultures seem to manage well with restaurants, and haven't taken over. There is a good balance in the town. I'd like to have seen more interest and imagination in the town's food establishments though. It's average at best, but Wetherspoons has it all. To be frank the food is boring in too many places, unless you try the Quay and Fore Street.

Now for the positives :) Down on the 'front' , the harbour and the Quay, there are lovely open spaces, hospitality, Aquarium, play areas and cliff walks. The Cafes and fish and chip shops are very good too. Though some could work longer hours. I thought most of the businesses and charity shops in Ilfracombe worked short hours tbh. At the harbour you can catch a boat trip, go fishing, and catch the ferries in the summer. This month there is a fair on the Quay. It's almost as if the coastal side doesn't belong to the town, and it's ashamed of it:)

Combe Martin, I've never been fond of - but it is what it is. A great harbour and lovely views if you make the effort to climb the hills and explore the hidden trails. It's rather dreary though, with about three very good pubs and restaurants, to be fair. The cafes aren't bad at all tbh. There is also an animal park, and a museum. However in the wet cold winter, it's like many other seasonal seaside towns.

Also I found Combe Martin very insular, but we mustn't forget the holiday accommodation in the village. Unfortunately, the "Visit Combe Martin" website seems a poor effort, it doesn't showcase the local accommodation ("page not found"). In general I found the bus service lacking, buses break down, and it's difficult to travel on Sundays and Bank Holidays when many people would rather not drive. One can't buy "day tickets" and can't plan to come back to Combe Martin in the evening either, there is no public transport and taxis are around £12 - £15 to and from Ilfracombe though you could get one for a tenner if you shop around. Ilfracombe's bus service is much better (different company), and the buses run later. To be absolutely fair, Combe Martin's buses aren't supported, and many passengers don't have to pay. It won't make any money if so few pay. So a regular, late bus service cannot sustain itself. It seems, funding and initiatives are lacking in these areas. One good point about Combe Martin AFAIK, is that it doesn't have a lot of crime but (unlike Ilfracombe), Combe Martin doesn't make much effort to get tourists in at all and it seems an unwelcoming village. But there are few crimes, and few unsupervised social problems placed in to run down (hidden) hostels and bedsits. As a nation, perhaps we're really poor at dealing with disaffected and marginalised people. Funding, police cover, and support in these areas seems a disgrace.

I believe that Ilfracombe is a good looking resort, as long as the High Street is well behaved, but as a woman I wouldn't have risked it after dark, alone. Avoid it after dark, and some of the alleys up there, and keep to the 'front', the theater area and recreation areas, and the Quay. You'll have a wonderful holiday with great views by the sea, and all the usual aspects of the traditional British seaside, I expect :) Wetherspoons has apparently, allegedly, taken a lot of business away from the local pubs which just gave up, but the locals need to support them if visitors will gravitate to Wetherspoons (open early til 11 PM every day) all day, every day. Fairly soon, it's said that a new travel-type inn will open near the theatre, so that should boost the economy. Yet I also think some other local hotels, and pubs, need to pull their socks up in Ilfracombe. Trip Advisor tells some informative stories on that subject.

All the best, till next year :)

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4. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin


Excellent Ilfracombe bus service around North Devon at good rates, otherwise avoid. Stagecoach has no Combe Martin service. Don't risk Combe Martin without your own transport, there's nothing there, nothing open and no buses after 6.30 nor on Sundays and Bank Hols. Useless. Brutally honest here, both places are appalling for shopping, they only work half the day and cafes are often closed. Fish and chips hit and miss. Everybody piles in to Wetherspoons Admiral Collingwood, all day boozing and shouting is not our scene. You will need at least two phone network chips because the signal is unreliable/network doesn't work. Coastal path looks good but we wouldn't risk it. You will end up stranded in Combe Martin & the taxis are v.expensive. Different rates for locals &^ tourists !! Both are terrible dark and miserable places, there is nothing to do. Go to Bideford instead.

They don't seem to care they're seaside resorts, and very scruffy High streets. Ifracombe is just a drinking den unless you walk down the steep slopes to the Prom, but I wouldn't recommend Ilfracombe at night. We were there today, couldn't get to Combe Martin because the Filers buses stop early. You will need own transport along the coast to Lynton & Lynmouth, Ilfracombe has a lot going for it if you like walking and have children/dogs but it's dark, scruffy and miserable. I feel heartily sorry for the townees. Ilfracombe might be better in summer but we were so glad to get back to Barnstaple.

Pontypool, Wales...
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5. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

visiting in june for a week with the dog so will let you know

England, United...
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6. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

Lynn, it's lovely. I'm not sure why the lengthly posts and no particular travel question.

If you want any suggestons of places to explore with your dog just ask in a seperate question. We're only too happy to help.

It's a small seaside town surrounded by high cliffs. Some wonderful food there with the fishing boats landing their catch just feet away from the cafes and restaurants serving it. The little aquarium has an award for pasties and there's a huge variety of ice creams.

Little secluded bays, cliff top walks and an easy drive to some other interesting sea side villages.

I go there as a solo female and have never felt unsafe. Would I go walking dark alleyways at night anywhere, I think not.

I can safely walk the SW coast path for the wonderful views. The boat trips to see the coast and the seals are excellent. Keep an eye out for the Balmoral Heritage steam ship. Sometimes they do day trips to Lundy Island, sometimes a trip further down the coast with stunning scenery. A wonderful experience with cafe and bar on board.

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7. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

Some of us count shopping and safety as vital to any holiday and living round there. In fact it's very important to me as a North Devon resident. Stay on the front and quay, and the beaches. You will have a nice holiday. The people of Devon, the real Devonians I mean, are usually friendly warm and chatty. Visitors have said they can leave the nasty stuff behind for a warm and friendly holiday down here, and having lived here for only a few months I know exactly what they mean. Devon & Cornwall can be veritable havens.

Want to know why so many just sit in Wetherspoons all day? Is it just that wonderful turfed balcony or is it that there is nothing to do and nothing open for six months of the year. Or is it just the national drinking habit. Visiting once or twice doesn't reflect anywhere's true conditions, those are first impressions, a thing people forget about TA, people paying taxes here have the same rights as those who don't even live here. Holidays, yes great maybe. My view is that Ilfracombe has a beautiful coastline and wonderful scenery, great Cafes and even a great Pub and hotel on the promenade. But it heavily reflects UK's national failures. The facts are not our fault .Visit Ilfracombe and make your own mind up, I have. Many - not all - in this area, are not as hardworking for their own seaside economy as Minehead and other coastal resorts.

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8. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

It depends what one expects from a holiday resort - lfracombe is OK as a basic resort and a cheap base for a family and sightseeing, Combe Martin not so much. At least the Combe (Ilfracombe) has made a huge effort on the sea front with plenty for the children to do, plenty of play and beach. The theatre is nothing special. Being honest here & referring to the OP the Combe was a beautiful Victorian resort a very long time ago. Besides a few respectable businesses and nice people it has fallen far. This reflects on the local authorities and police if you can find them, though otherwise the Combe people are wonderfully welcoming and friendly in general. They have a good Lidl, and a Tesco's out of town thank god, otherwise we'd struggle with basics and I would not rely on the local shops.

We could go on and on but I would choose Minehead and Dorset because neither of these resorts are much good for food or shopping, but in short the Combe (Ilfracombe) is passable as a family holiday resort with lots of stuff for the kids, and an excellent 7 days early til late bus service round North Devon. Combe Martin is good for a back-water day visit til 5 PM with your own transport.

Cwmbran, United...
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9. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

ok went in june with dog...combe martin was just a drive through for us a few shops but nothing special i wanted to see or do.

illfracombe we went to a few times only in daytime.plenty of shops for the wife while i spent my time at the great harbour fishing. a nice small beach to sit on or for dog to play.

always seemed very crowded though where ever you was.

our favorite was further on woolacoombe....huge beach with golden sand and areas for dogs to run.took us good 2 hours to walk the length and back.

cost 6.00 to park for day not bad.also a few shops and cafes.

Woolacombe, United...
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10. Re: Ilfracombe & Combe Martin

Devon is long gone, it's now a myth but the scenery and coastline have remained and they are the only things we're here for. Pretty much concur with the above remarks as in - Combe Martin is a drive through or a half day on the 'beach' with no sand and no teatime sit down Cafes. Useless for children. If you want nothing special and you've no kids you're fine. Dogs I believe are rightly banned from their beach in summer but unless you're in local accommodation there are much better places than Combe Martin.

Ilfracombe is rough and living on its past glories but there is lots going on for the kids in summer. Again all the Cafes close early which is just no good. Bottom line is both these resorts and grockles are only interested in all day drinking which will suit the alcoholics coming down here. In my view this is a very lazy region even though we have a home here. Woolacombe or Westward Ho! for beaches. Barnstaple or Bideford for shopping.

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