In January, we took a quick tour of the North Devon and Cornwall coast. We did the east coast of Devon back in 2016, and this was our first visit to Cornwall. Our final destination was Portreath in Cornwall, where we stayed at Gwel an Mor luxury lodges.
I knew the drive would be too much in one go, so I broke the journey up with two overnight stays, one at the Holiday Inn Express in Bristol and the other at the Premier Inn in Barnstable.
After a good sleep and as much bacon and egg as I could manage, we set off for the first leg of our Devon and Cornwall adventure.
As you can see from the photos, the weather was rubbish. We still loved our trip to the North Devon and Cornwall coast. I did consider doing some jiggery-pokery with the colours on the photos but decided against it.
Weekend in North Devon and Cornwall
On route, we dropped into Ilfracombe and Woolacombe. Sadly, as suspected, both were pretty much shut for the winter.
Ilfracombe was our first stop in North Devon. I like how Ilfracombe describes itself as having “Curious Coastal Charm”, and I agree.
When we arrived, the wind was howling. I thought twice about pushing Bridget in her chair, but the TGA wheelchair mover came to our rescue, and we grabbed a few photos.
As you can see, poor Bridget is getting battered by the howling wind – the things we do for The Bimblers!
The biggest surprise in Ilfracombe was a 66-foot bronze statue of a pregnant lady named Verity. Verity was designed by Damien Hirst and is a modern interpretation of “Truth and Justice”. The figure looks out of place, but it doesn’t in real life if that makes any sense?
During the season, there are lots of things going on in Ilfracombe. Understandably, fish plays a big part, whether catching it or eating it. Ilfracombe has had a harbour since the 12th century, and the port is still landing fish today.
The famous Tunnels Beach describes itself as accessible to wheelchairs for beach lovers. It’s not a golden sand beach; it’s a more natural coastline which means rocks. That said, here is what they say about accessibility:
Is the site accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs?
Yes, the ground throughout the tunnels is either paved or concrete. Access is good, with only a gentle slope leading to the Main Beach. Access WCs and baby changing facilities are also available on site.
Details of accessibility in Ilfracombe: Accessibility in Ilfracombe
It was late in the day when we arrived in Woolacombe, and to be honest, we were both knackered. We didn’t spend much time exploring because we wanted to rest our weary heads.
Woolacombe is dominated by miles of award-winning beaches, and it is a utopia for surfers, kayakers and water sports enthusiasts. Sadly, we don’t fit into any of those categories, but we still appreciate the beauty of Woolacombe.
You can hire a Tramper, an all-terrain mobility scooter for those of us who the sea is a challenge too far. The tramper can be hired from Woolacombe tourist information centre. If you fancy using the tramper, it’ll open up much more of the coast and Countryside than a standard scooter or wheelchair would.
Accessibility in Woolacombe: No mention of accessibility – phone Tourist Information for Guidance.
I would imagine both Ilfracombe and Woolacombe to be gorgeous during the summer months, but in January, it was freezing and not ideal to be pushing a wheelchair.
Devon has plenty of accessible beaches, some with beach wheelchairs if you are a beach lover. Accessible Countryside has kindly put a list together. See Accessible Beaches in Devon.
I’m not going to bother reviewing the Premier Inn in Barnstable because it was no different to any other we’ve stayed in. I would say, though, I do wish they’d state on their website whether an accessible room has a bath or a shower.
Day 3, and we were finally on our way to Gwel an Mor, but not before continuing along the coast and crossing over into Cornwall.
Cornwall has quite a few accessible beaches, not that we’d be using them in January. If you fancy a day out on the Beach, see these resources:
Our first stop in Cornwall was at Crocketts Beach in Bude. The Beach was understandably deserted because it was gale force winds, so I jumped out of the car for a quick photo of the beach huts.
Granted, they look a bit drab in the winter, but I have seen pictures of a bustling beach in much better weather, and it looks gorgeous.
I like that Visit Bude’s website has a special section for accessible attractions, and this seems to be a common theme throughout Cornwall. Accessibility is essential, and as Britain’s most popular holiday destination, this kind of information makes visiting so much easier.
It’s also in Bude, where we encountered the rules around Blue Badge Parking. There are specific rules which mean to park in a council-run car park for free, and you need a permit from Cornwall Council before your visit.
You can pay and display, but the cost soon adds up when you visit as many car parks as we did.
If you register your vehicle with the council, you can park for free in their car parks as long as you display your Blue Badge and clock.
Here are the details: Blue Badge Parking in Cornwall Council Car Parks
I love the history and myths of Cornwall, and the most famous has got to be the legend of King Arthur.
I didn’t feel it was a waste of time visiting Tintagel because sometimes, just being in a place is worth the effort.
Some facilities are open to you during the summer months, but these are limited. You can find out more about access at Tintagel Castle on the English Heritage website.
I wasn’t too disappointed because I parked up on the headland at St Materiana’s Church and had a little wander on the headland that overlooks the island.
I was hoping Merlin would magic an access lift across, but it wasn’t to be.
Details of accessibility in Tintagel: Access at Tintagel Castle
You know Padstow because of Rick Stein if you are anything like me. We’ll come back to Rick in a minute, but I want to talk about the Camel Trail.
The Camel Trail is described as a well surfaced, reasonably flat cycle path, and it runs from Padstow to Bodmin and is an old railway line that has been converted to a leisure path. As you know, I like a wheelchair walk, and the Camel Trail is high on my to-do list next time I’m in Cornwall.
Padstow is a harbour town, and everything is situated around it. It’s still a working harbour with fish landed daily, and it’s popular with leisure craft and sea tours. We didn’t see it in its best light, yet it was still a beautiful little harbour.
So, back to Rick Stein. Rick is probably Padstow’s most famous son, and he has undoubtedly made his mark on the seaside town. I’m not entirely sure how many businesses he owns in Padstow, but it’s a few.
We wandered around the town and stuck our heads in the door of his restaurant. We considered eating there, but the lure of a Cornish Pasty was too much, and we settled for a trip to Chough Bakery instead.
As I write this, it’s just dawned on me that we didn’t have a Cornish Scone the whole time we were in Cornwall?
Details of accessibility in Padstow: Disabled Access in Padstow
Newquay was the busiest place we visited in Cornwall. It feels more commercial than other Cornish towns, but don’t let that put you off visiting.
One of the reasons Newquay is so busy is because it’s so popular. With that comes a responsibility to keep everyone entertained, and Newquay does that and then some.
Even during our brief visit, it was easy to see why Newquay has won multiple awards and is a favourite holiday destination.
The Newquay Tourist Information website has access information on their scenic trails, beach wheelchair hire and beach accessibility. They have a lot of information about access in Newquay, including accessible places to stay – Well Done, Newquay.
Details of accessibility in Newquay: Visitor Access Information for Newquay
Finally, we arrived home for the next few days – Gwel an Mor Luxury Holiday Lodges in Portreath.
While we were staying in Portreath, we popped down to the Beach:
I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that I think St Ives is my favourite town in Cornwall. I can’t tell you why, but St Ives is it when I imagine a Cornwall town.
After navigating the quaint “cobbled” streets, we sat on the harbour for about an hour, and it felt right. It felt like Cornwall.
St Ives is a fishing town, and it’s a holiday town, quintessentially Cornwall.
With numerous beaches, independent shops, galleries and more fish restaurants than you can shake a stick, St Ives has everything you could want from a Cornwall town.
Details of accessibility in St Ives: Disabled Facilities in St Ives
It would be wrong to visit Cornwall without visiting Lands End.
You get a funny feeling in your stomach when you’re heading towards Lands End. It’s not like you’re going to fall off at the end of the road, but it’s an odd feeling.
On a sunny day, I would imagine Lands End to be spectacular. On a cold January day, the coastline is dramatic and unforgiving.
The shops were closed, the restaurant was open, so we got out of the wind.
Accessibility at Lands End can be found in our review: A Day Out at Land’s End in Cornwall
Visit North Devon and Cornwall
I hope you enjoyed our trip around North Devon and Cornwall as much as we did. If you did, can you please share this post on your social media channels? Happy Travels.