Friday, 17 July 2009

Day 6 - South West Coast - Clovelly - The prettiest village I've ever seen

I'm starting to sound like someone who's addicted to hyperbole and over-exaggeration...but I honestly am not. I've worked as a journalist, and skepticism comes with the turf. I know I've given a few good words to places like Mousehole, Dartmouth, Brixham and recently St Ives, but Clovelly is extra special. For sheer beauty, this tiny village (much smaller than tiny Mousehole) is unmatched. (And I promise to get a few photos up soon!!! Update - Check them out below.)

My mate back in London made me swear that I'd visit Clovelly on my trip. He's been on a romantic escapade there, and I can see why. The little place would knock the pants - sorry, I mean socks! - off most girls (and guys) on a romantic weekend.

I will try to describe it, probably unsuccessfully, because you have to be a poet... There are only about thirty whitewashed tiny cottages, all situated in a steep culvert between two high hills. To the left and right are precipitous forests that come down to a stony coast. There is a waterfall cascading into the ocean just to the north of the village. The harbour keeps about ten fishing boats, and the breakwater tries its best to keep the winter swells out. Streets are cobbled. Flowerpots hang out the windows. And the sound of the sea is amplified by the narrow topography.

And many of the residents are old locals. Barry Perham owns the Shellfish Shop at the bottom of the hill, just before you walk onto the breakwater. He was born in Clovelly. His great grandfather moved there after marrying one of the locals. He's not bowing to any tourist marketing program...he's just selling his "hot, smoked mackerel in soft bread roll for £2.50". That's why Clovelly works. There are tourists, but it hasn't compromised the soul one bit.

The history of the place goes back to 1066, when it was described in the census for that year. The whole village has always been owned by a family, and today it is privately owned by the Hamlyn family, and has been since 1738. As a result, they have been able to preserve Clovelly, so that is has essentially remained unchanged for centuries. The town's tourist centre at the top of the hill does taint things somewhat, but it's far away from the town itself, so it doesn't matter. And you'll pay £6 to gain access to Clovelly, but it's worth every penny, and it helps to preserve it.

In fact, I would have liked to spend a night there. And will be going back for sure. Two places caught my eye, but didn't go inside:

- Red Lion Hotel, right on the breakwater. An impressive sight.

- Donkey Shoe Cottage, in the middle of the village.

- For more accommodation options, check out

Panorama of Clovelly, click on the image for a full screen version...a photo doesn't do the village justice, and I wish the sun had been deserves sun all year round - clouds should be reserved exclusively for London!! And notice the waterfall on the left of the image...

Barry Perham, who owns the Shell Fish Shop next to the Red Lion Hotel on the harbour (which is to the right of the panorama photo)

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