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Ilfracombe in North Devon offers pretty much all you are looking for.
It is a harbour town with rocky coves to explore as well as being just six miles from the golden sands of Woolacombe, voted the best beach in the UK on TripAdvisor.
We’re on the doorstep of Exmoor National Park and on the South West Coast Path and is a Walkers are Welcome town.
There are some 300 mainly independent shops, restaurants, pubs and cafés here, so you can get most of what you need locally, plus a Lidl and Tesco. We also have Damien Hirst’s statue of Verity. It also has a theatre, cinema, minor injuries unit, banks and post offices.
Ilfracombe is also the food capital of North Devon with lots of restaurants serving local fish and a whole line of teashops, plus Devon Life’s Best Tearoom in Devon at Hele Corn Mill.
There is a mix of housing including bungalows, which are not over priced as North of Devon is still an undiscovered secret and people are starting to appreciate its remoteness.
There is a railway station in Barnstaple, some 13 miles away, which connects with Exeter or you can get a direct train to Paddington at Tiverton which is an hour down the A361. I tend to take this if I am travelling to London.
Crime rates are very low here. Yes, we get an influx of holiday makers in the summer, but I feel comfortable walking through the town at any time of night, which I didn’t feel when I lived in the South East.
The town also has superfast broadband, which is not common in rural areas, so if you work from home, you can get a decent internet connection.
I work from home and walk for three or more hours a day with our dog, instead of commuting. There are so many great walks on our doorstep.
My advice is definitely to make the move, even if partial, before retirement. It helps to enjoy it for 10-20 years before you retire or no longer have mobility. I’m so glad we did, because I’ve met quite a few people who can no longer climb hills after a long and active life, so I’ve decided I need to enjoy them as much as I can before that day comes.
Good luck with your search!April 30, 2014 at 11:33 am in reply to: North Devon/Cornwall borders move – tell me about it #11147
Ilfracombe is definitely worth a look as it not only has a thriving community but is attracting lots of investment at the moment: new gastro pubs, £3.5 million new Wetherspoons build, new luxury holiday park opening this summer. The academy here is achieving excellent results and as well as the delights of our picturesque harbour, we have Exmoor a few miles to the east and miles of golden sand at Woolacombe a few miles to the West. We have a thriving art community and a modern theatre. The town is small enough to have retained its character and is full of independent shops. We’re also getting superfast broadband in June so good for business too.February 10, 2014 at 2:16 pm in reply to: North Devon/Cornwall borders move – tell me about it #6774
Hello Judy. We’ve just celebrated 10 years in Ilfracombe and we would not live anywhere else. The communities in North Devon plus the environment are a fantastic combination.
True, life can be more of a challenge. Getting anywhere takes time, but then we don’t go on holiday when we have all we want here.
As Lucie said above, there is so much to do here. If you want to get involved in the community, volunteer or participate in social activities, you’ll soon fit in. Having a dog is good too. We have met so many other dogs and their owners.December 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm in reply to: Property wanted for new life in the country – Somerset or Devon #6439
I know of two people keeping alpacas around Ilfracombe/Combe Martin and a good friend who keeps llamas near Bideford, both on the North Devon coast. There are plenty of places within easy reach of villages and small towns here too. I don’t think your dream is unreachable.
Hello Christy. I agree with pretty much what everyone else has said. I was born in Hounslow and lived in the South East for 40 years. 10 years ago, we moved 200 miles to Ilfracombe. On the day we moved down, I wondered what we were doing, but we have never looked back.
Life is different outside London and by the sea is better than anywhere else. Every time we go away, we don’t feel at home until we come back and see the sea.
Settling into a community is down to your approach. If you’re genuine, you’ll always meet nice people. It’s much easier to meet people outside London. We have a dog and know so many people as a result.
I’d also say you’re doing it at exactly the right time. Many people leave it until they retire, but you will have the energy to enjoy it more if you are younger. I am so glad we moved down when we did.
We couldn’t go back to London now. We have found the community where we want to be and love the sea.
PS We can wave to you across the Bristol Channel.
Hello Jennifer. While North Devon is not the wealthiest of areas, on the other hand it has a very low crime rate. I live in Ilfracombe and feel comfortable walking home late at night, whereas I did not feel safe at night in the South East in my latter years there.
Each place here really does have its own character so I’d advise travelling around to see what you like. Lynton/Lynmouth and Clovelly have rugged coastlines, Ilfracombe has a harbour and theatre, Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton have miles of sandy beaches.
A lot will depend on your professions as finding work/running a business can be tough here. To succeed anyone has to work harder, but the benefits of walking by the sea etc every day are fantastic. If you need good internet, some parts of Barnstaple, Bideford and Ilfracombe have reasonable speeds but some remote areas have no broadband. Mobile phone coverage can be patchy too.
If you like local food, there’s no place better. Most towns still have traditional butchers, sourcing meat from local farms, while some greengrocers stock local fruit and veg. We ate Braunton asparagus last weekend and look forward to Combe Martin strawberries. We had to start watching our diet because pies, pasties, cakes, clotted cream etc can be very tempting. We had no choice like this in Windsor, just supermarkets. There are some great pubs/restaurants/chippies, although when it’s deserted in the winter some do close. Once you get to know the area, you’ll find ones that are open all year round.
For entertainment there are theatres in Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and Torrrington; cinemas in Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and some local film societies. Lots of pubs, music groups, amateur theatre groups and clubs. In places like Ilfracombe, there is just as much going on in the winter as in summer because locals have more time to enjoy themselves than in the busy tourism season.
Whatever you like, I hope you find it. I feel at home here and love the North Devon community.