Idyllic, alive with curiosity and often pretty as a picture, North Devon and Exmoor have some of the prettiest villages in Britain to explore. Bursting with local character and independently run shops, eateries and places to visit, they hold an irresistible charm to so many Devon visitors. Often relatively unchanged for decades, these villages, small towns and hamlets preserve a priceless sense of nostalgia and identity in the region.
So where are the best villages to visit in North Devon? Whether you want to discover quiet coastal walks or country villages with great little shops, pubs and places to stay, you're spoiled for choice. And while you won't find chain stores or all modern conveniences, you’ll certainly find the locals welcoming and prices often very reasonable.
Here are some of our absolute favourite Devon villages and places to see in North Devon and Exmoor, all within easy reach of The Rising Sun Inn, Lynmouth:
Arts, crafts, independent cinema and even its own feral goats? We kid you not (Image credit: Wikimedia/ Nilfanion)
Right on our doorstep, the village of Lynton has been a favourite place to explore for visitors since Victorian times, thanks to its grand town hall, clifftop railway and fabulous coastal walks. Summer is when you will find the most activities and events available, although autumn and winter offer a quieter feel and still lots to discover, regardless of the weather.
Recommended places to visit in Lynton:
Lyn Valley Arts and Crafts, run in an old church site, is a great place to browse local arts and crafts. With very fair prices and something new to see every time, it is also great for a spot of gift shopping. Similarly, if you’re here for the first Saturday in each month, there is a Farmers Market at the Town hall.See: www.lynvalleyartandcrafts.co.uk
Lynton Cinema is another great little feature. You won’t find many smaller or more old school cinemas in the country, but this great little picture house serves up both brand new and classic movies, with a friendly intimacy, old fashioned curtain call and very reasonable ticket prices (www.lyntoncinema.co.uk.
The Lyn and Exmoor Museum is also worth a look, forming a great little introduction to Exmoor National Park and the area in general, with intriguing local history too. Visitors can get the lowdown on Exmoor, discover gripping accounts of the deadly Lynmouth Flood, and find local curiosities such as an authentic Victorian doll’s house).
Village Fact: One of Lynton’s most popular attractions with walkers in recent years has been a tribe of feral goats, in spite of their occasional acts of mischief. There is even a Lynton Feral Goat Preservation Society these days.
St Petrock's Church is Parracombe's most notable place of historic interest (image: Robert Cutts/ Wikimedia Commons)
Cute, classic and largely unchanged by the passage of many decades, this is a very pretty Exmoor village, well worth a detour for the visitor. Short of hopping into a time machine, there are fewer and fewer places which offer such a traditional feel. Narrow streets and centuries old walls and hedgerows characterize this idyllic place.
Recommended places to visit in Parracombe:
St Petrock’s Church is a Grade I listed building, beautifully maintained and with several interesting and unique features, including Georgian box pews, rare paintings and artefacts dating back several centuries.
The Fox and Goose is a gastropub with old school charm, great ales and some excellent traditional dishes, including local game such as venison and duck.
Fine views from the South West Coast Path, just a short distance from Countisbury (picture credit: Derek Voller)
This pretty hamlet is just a mile and a half east of Lynmouth and a popular spot to explore for walkers and lovers of the coast. You won’t find a huge amount here in terms of ammenities, but the stunning views and access to wonderful country walks are the real draw, with the South West Coastal Path very close.
Recommended places to visit in Countisbury:
Circular Walks on Exmoor: There is a lovely circular route from Countisbury to National Trust property Watersmeet on Exmoor. Click here for further details.
The Blue Ball Inn: If all that walking and epic scenery built up an appetite, you could always stop for a pint of ale and traditional pub food at The Blue Ball, one of the best dog friendly pubs on Exmoor.
Up in the true north of Exmoor National Park, the scenery becomes ever more craggy and the villages pleasantly free of supserstores and overdevelopment. A great little place to stop in its own right, as well as a handy base for various walks, Porlock is a lovely village to pause and enjoy en route. Even if you have just a couple of hours to spare, a look around the harbour and seashore are a must.
Recommended places to visit in Porlock:
Culbone Church: is the smallest in England (tall visitors prepare to duck in one or two places!), with plenty of charm.
Porlock Beach: Rich in fossils and geological interest, including what remains of an ancient sunken forest! Visit outside peak summer season and you’ll find it deserted as well as dramatic.
Another scenic village right in the heart of Exmoor and set in a lovely sheltered valley. Again, do not expect all mod cons or any great level of consumerism! What you will find is a quiet and lovely village setting that also serves as a great base for several little day excursions and walks, with sites such as the famous Tarr Steps not far away either.
Recommended places to visit in Winsford:
The Caratacus Stone is older than Bruce Forsythe's grandfather, and holds an eerie sense of distant past (Image credit: Wikimedia/ Nilfanion)
The Caratacus Stone: When is a hoofing great stone not all it seems? When it is an inscribed stone with a history going back to at least the 6th Century. Speculation on the engravings suggests that the ancient relic may well have served as a family memorial to descendants of 1st Century Chieftan Caratacus. Liable to result in an eerie feeling of dark mystery, (or cries of “but Daddy, it’s just a chunk of stone.”)
The Royal Oak Inn: Ticks pretty much all the boxes in the traditional olde-worlde village inn category, with thatched roof, village green setting and a fine selection of real ales and hearty grub.
The Rising Sun Inn, Your Perfect Base to Explore North Devon & Exmoor
Offering a warm welcome, fantastic food and comfortable, character rooms in a great location, The Rising Sun Inn is one of the best places to stay in Exmoor. We are open year round, offering excellent hospitality and your ideal home from home to explore North Devon, whether you are looking to enjoy the perfect foodie break, walking holidays or romantic minibreaks on the coast. Keep an eye on our offers section and Facebook Page for more.