On a recent visit to North Devon we spent the day on the beautiful Hartland Peninsula. It is a real hidden gem and is very quiet and missed by may tourists staying in North Devon. To be fair, one day was not enough and we will try to return and spend a few days based in one of the campsites on the peninsula and explore a bit more.
We avoided the more commercial village of Clovelly and headed out to Hartland Point, walking from the car park along the magnificent coast in both directions. From the point we could see the lighthouse and the small rusty remains of the Johanna which was shipwrecked in 1983
In the other direction the beautiful coast revealed itself in the direction of Clovelly.
That day the sun was shining and the wind was gentle but we could see how unhospitable the rugged coast is and how easily boats have been washed onto the rocks over the centuries. It was a lovely place to have our picnic lunch but there is also a small kiosk there selling food and drink if you do not want to pack a picnic.
We then headed to Hartland Quay. The views of the coast from the upper car park are amazing and below is another car park next to the pub and a tiny street of fisherman’s cottages.
The lower car park was rather full that day despite there being few tourists about. A kind young man with “Security” printed on his Hi-Viz jacket kindly moved a cone and allowed us to park. It was only later that we realised that they were setting up to film part of Daphne De Maurier’s Rebecca for Netflix. It seems, from the information on the noticeboards in the tiny village, that it has been used in many films and TV series. A short walk took us to the picturesque quay.
This area seems a little safer for boats to land but is still fairly treacherous. The museum tells of it’s smuggling past.
We drove to Hartland village where there are pretty cottages, a few tiny shops, a coffee shop and a couple of pubs. We unfortunately did not have time to do their Heritage Trail as we had planned to go to the nearby Hartland Abbey to explore the gardens.
Hartland Abbey is open to the public but on this occasion we chose to buy a garden only ticket and explored the woodland and bog gardens on our walk uphill to the walled gardens which have been restored in recent years. The gardens consisted of a vegetable garden, rose and flower garden and a range of greenhouses. We were the only people there in the tranquil gardens apart from two gardeners diligently weeding and planting. We returned to the car park via the main drive, past the tennis court and visited the lovely riverside gardens.
The weather was still pleasant so we decided to make the 30 minute walk through farmland and along the valley to Blackpool Mill. The final five minutes of the walk takes you towards the beach, past a rather rickety and quaint looking cottage which is part of the Hartland Abbey Estate and is used as a holiday cottage. Blackpool Mill Cottage was the location of both for the B.B.C’s drama “Sense and Sensibility” and Rosamunde Pilcher’s “The Shell Seekers”. The beach beyond it has many rock pools with sand at low tide and stunning coastal scenery all around.
On our return to the Abbey we looked at an exhibition that showed that, in fact, the area of Hartland has been used in many productions. It features in ’Guernsey’ , the film of the book ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society’, The Night Manager and even in Top Gear, just to name a few. Sadly we had run out of time that day so will have to return to do more of the walks in this walkers paradise, visit Docton Mill Gardens, Spekes Mill waterfall and further hidden gems in this unspoilt area.