August in Devon means visitors – friends and family wanting the best of the British seaside. They are most welcome, as I get to have a holiday too, showing them the sights. We have walked and surfed and photographed, and have eaten ice creams and cream teas and fish and chips.
Not everyone wants to come bodyboarding with me in the strong Atlantic waves, so I have been searching out some quieter swimming spots on the north coast, in the shelter of the Bristol Channel.
This has to be my favourite, a little cove called Broadsands, accessible via 240 steps down from the coast path. Peaceful most of the time, it does however get visited by the boat trips that run from Ilfracombe, but they don’t land, just admire the view from the boats.
Another cove that we swam in last week is Lee Bay, which at mid-tide is just a rocky mess. But as the tide drops it reveals a smooth strip of golden sand, perfect for a gentle swim.
We also discovered that by passing through a narrow gap in the rocks, one finds a smuggler’s path…
…which leads through rocks and gullies…
…into the next bay.
Not as sandy, but nice and secluded.
Lee has another wonderful aspect – the little cafe serves pizzas on a Tuesday evening in the summer, and very good they are too. Sitting outside at high tide, with the water covering all the rocks and lapping at the wall ten feet away, and eating delicious food by candlelight as the sun set has got to be one of the most magical experiences in North Devon.
Another reasonably quiet beach, just north of the busy stretch of Woolacombe, is Combesgate. Descending the steps at mid tide it looks like a small cove.
But once the tide goes out it opens up to a wide stretch of sand, with huge rock pools and gullies to explore.
But the best bit about Combesgate at low tide is that you can walk round the end of the rocks to the best Sri Lankan restaurant in North Devon!
Here it is…walking up onto Barricane Beach…doesn’t look much, does it? Just a narrow strip of sand, and not soft golden sand either, but sharp, shell sand. With a tiny cafe in a cabin at the top.
This very unprepossessing little shack is owned by a Sri Lankan, and every evening through the season, it turns out plate after plate of delicious authentic curry. Served on china with proper cutlery, and eaten on your knees sitting on the sand, it is a real experience. After all, how many restaurants have this as a view?
Locals and tourists alike love it, and we turn up in our droves with clinking bags of wine and beer, folding chairs, and huge smiles. I like to get there early and have a dip first, and check the beach for cowries and sea glass. Unfortunately on a busy sunny day it can get rather busy, but the atmosphere is still great!
So there you are, some of the best swimming and eating beaches in North Devon. And if you really prefer the huge stretches of sand and the surfing waves, then Woolacombe is just around the corner.