Woolacombe to Ilfracombe

About this route

Devon’s coastline shows some spectacular geology and this is certainly true between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe.

Woolacombe itself is home to an impressive series of sand dunes. A short way to the north is Barricane Beach. Here, slates deposited in a shallow marine environment during the Upper Devonian are well exposed and are very rich in fossils.

From here the South West Coast Path passes through the wonderful Morte Point, with cliffs of slate rising from 50m to 100m, and on through some of the most spectacular of Devon’s coastline to Ilfracombe.

Getting Around

On foot: The South West Coast Path runs the entire length of the North Devon VMCA. Please take care whilst walking the coastline.

By bus: a regular service runs from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe  and from Barnstaple to Woolacombe (with one change), for further information please visit the Travel Devon website.

By bike: there is a National Cycle Route (on and off road) inland between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe connecting to Barnstaple.

By road: from Barnstaple follow the A361 to Ilfracombe, Woolacombe is a turning off the A361 onto the B3343.

Woolacombe and Ilfracombe have all facilities.
Some steep and uneven parts of the South West Coast Path, take care of steep cliffs and tides whilst walking the shoreline.

Interesting information

The same tremendous forces that have caused rocks to be heaved up and folded in other parts of South West England caused similar deformations along this coast. The rocks were caught between two converging tectonic plates, were compressed and their minerals re-crystallised and re-orientated. This resulted in the more mud-rich rocks developing the ability to easily split (this is known as slaty cleavage’).

Good examples of slaty cleavage can be seen with care from the cliffs at Windy Cove on Morte Point and further along in the cliffs of Tunnel Beach at Ilfracombe. As the name suggests, Tunnel Beach is reached through a tunnel which branches to the left and right. The left branch leads to ‘Gent’s Beach’ whilst the right branch takes you to ‘Lady’s Beach’, a reminder of the days when trips to the seaside were undertaken with a sense of decorum and modesty in mind.

This stretch of coastline is a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Devon Wildlife Trust organises guided rock pool adventures, there are mini-marine centres at Ilfracombe Museum, Mortehoe Heritage Centre and Braunton Countryside Centre. The National Trust organise guided walks and events including tractor/trailer rides to see the seals at Morte Point.  There is a small geology display at the Mortehoe Heritage Centre.

Photo looking across sand and through rocks to the sea at Barricane beach
Barricane Beach Credit: Pauline E

You can explore more in this area

Photo of the top of a waymarking post for the Coast Path and Tarka Trail

Tarka Trail walking route

Inspired by Henry Williamson’s much loved novel ‘Tarka the Otter’ which was based on real places, this 163 miles/261kms recreation
Photo looking along the coast past rocky cliffs to Mortehoe and Woolacombe from Morte Point

North Devon’s deadly coast

Mortehoe is a small hilltop village on Devon’s northernmost coast. Despite its proximity to the holiday resort of Woolacombe, it