In recent years Ilfracombe has become well known for Damian Hirst’s iconic and sometimes controversial statue "Verity" which overlooks the harbour. Love her or hate her she certainly draws a crowd. Made of stainless steel and bronze Verity stands at 20.25-metre (66.4 ft) tall on the pier at the entrance to the harbour in Ilfracombe, looking out over the Bristol Channel towards South Wales. The harbour itself is a working one, with fishing boats and passenger boats plying their trade as well as being home to many privately owned sailing boats. You can buy seafood and fish fresh from the quay, enjoy the hustle and bustle during the day or the quiet of an evening. There are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby as well as the wonderful Roly’s Fudge Shop and Damian Hirst’s The Quay Restaurant with its works of art.
Ilfracombe has developed something of a foodie culture with some really good restaurants, including the Michelin starred The Olive Room and a fabulous fish restaurant, Take Thyme. With many more besides all offering good quality food at reasonable prices served, alongside a warm North Devon welcome, you will certainly enjoy eating out. In August Ilfracombe hosts its own North Devon Street Food Festival and there is a regular farmer’s market in The Lantern on Ilfracombe High Street.
Do take some time to visit Ilfracombe’s aquarium. Situated in the old lifeboat station it provides a fantastic insight into the wonders of the aquatic world found locally around North Devon, from moorland streams to the open sea. Its beautiful exhibits are within carefully recreated natural habitats, providing home to over 75 species of fish, some of which have never been seen before by some visitors.
A short walk away is the entrance to Tunnels Beaches. Step back in time as you walk through the tunnels, hewn through the Ilfracombe cliff face in the 1820s by the Victorians, to the beach and tidal bathing pools. There are amazing views of the rugged coastline and out to sea and children can play in the tidal pool or explore the fantastic rock pools – it was rated the 3rd best beach for rockpooling in the UK by BBC Wildlife Magazine.
There are still echoes of the traditional English coastal town as you walk along the promenade with its crazy golf, amusement arcades and formal planted gardens. The views from Capstone Hill are stunning and on a clear day you can see across the Bristol Channel to Wales, and looking back on the town with its abundant Victorian architecture it’s not hard to imagine what Ilfracombe was like in its heyday.