Ilfracombe’s superb setting amidst the cliffs helped this important medieval port develop into North Devon’s leading Victorian resort. Centred on its beautiful harbour, where fishing boats mingle with yachts and smaller pleasure craft, Ilfracombe is predominantly Victorian in buildings and ambience.
On Lantern Hill above Ilfracombe Harbour, there was a beacon fire to guide ships even before St Nicholas Chapel was built there in the 14th century. Secularised at the Reformation, the chapel became a dwelling but continued as a lighthouse. Now restored, it has a good collection of Victorian photographs and press cutting, as well as model ships, a provides a lovely view of the harbour.
A variety of boat trips are available from the harbour. The pleasure steamers Balmoral and Waverly – the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world – offer cruises in the Bristol Channel. Wildlife cruises of various lengths combine sightseeing with opportunities to see birds, seals and dolphins. Charter boats offer fishing trips, but fishing from the pier, the harbour wall and the rocks by Capstone Hill is also popular.