Devon, in the southwest of England, was still uncharted territory for me until we went on a short road trip around the northern part. We packed in many beautiful places and some local culture and lifestyle (sheep!).
About halfway down there, somewhere in Somerset, we decided to stop for lunch. We followed an intriguing sign that read Red Lion Country Pub and Rooms. We drove down a country lane for quite a long distance until we came across a sign saying “Not long now.” That put a smile on our faces and spurred us on. The pub turned out to be beautiful and the food was excellent.
It rained heavily almost all the way, and it stopped just before we reached our destination: Clovelly. Clovelly is a private village founded by a local family in the Middle Ages. They charge an admission fee (£7.25 or £4.40), which goes towards maintenance. As we were staying at a local hotel, we didn’t have to pay.
This pretty village was built at the foot of a cliff, overlooking a small bay. The stone quay and harbour date back to the 14th century. Since the streets are very steep and parking space scarce, they suggest visitors take the Land Rover to go from the Visitors’ Centre at the top of the hill to the village at the bottom. They told us that it’s not unusual for visitors to ride the clutch when trying to go back up.
Clovelly harboured a cod and herring fishing fleet, but what’s more exciting is that it was a perfect place for smugglers to land. That is until authorities noticed and put paid to these illegal activities.
I walked around the very steep and slippery streets. The views of the bay were spectacular from all angles and I couldn’t stop snapping pictures. We then went to the pub and struck up a conversation with a couple of locals. They told us they e missed the film crew shooting scenes for a period film based on the novel The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society by a day. I enjoyed the book and now I’m looking forward to the movie.
Clovelly is gorgeous but tiny, a few hours suffice. We spent the night at the lovely Red Lion Hotel and set off to explore more after a hearty breakfast.
The second stop was Bideford. A market town, a royal charter was granted in 1272. The Pannier Market’s current building is Victorian, though, and very pretty.
Bideford has connections with the New World. In 1585, Sir Richard Grenville led an expedition to found a second colony in Roanoke, modern day North Carolina in the U.S. On his return, he brought back an Algonquin Indian, whom he had baptised Raleigh at the parish church. The church’s registry book noted his baptism but not his burial.
Bideford is also known as the town where England’s last witch trial took place. In 1682, Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edward, and Mary Trembles were found guilty of the crime of witchcraft and hanged in Exeter. The death penalty for witchcraft was abolished in 1736.
We drove to South Molton, a market town that goes back to Anglo-Saxon times. Thursday and Saturday are market days and as it so happened, it was a Thursday. We could hear the bleating of sheep from the car park. We followed the sound and came across a livestock auction. We asked for permission to enter and watched it for a while. It was fascinating to witness this aspect of life on England.
South Molton produced fine wool for five centuries and, nowadays, it’s the southwest largest slaughter sheep market.
We ended our road trip with a fabulous Devon cream tea. Sean ordered the savoury one, which came with scones several kinds of cheeses. Mine was the traditional scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. It was heavenly!