Category Archives: Blogs

The Woolacombe Bay Hotel

The Woolacombe Bay Hotel was constructed in 1887, and was initially called the “Shakespeare Hotel”, before it was renamed the Woolacombe Bay. Photographs of the Hotel under construction show, at the time, it was surrounded by empty fields for some distance, highlighting just how small Woolacombe was before the late 1800’s and how speculative these developments were.

In 1894 one guest of the hotel describes it as a “handsome commodious hotel, run on first-class lines, with water certified by Dr. Blyth, the famous Devonshire analyst, now residing in London; all the latest sanitary arrangements, designed by Barlow, of London, and carried out by Hubber, of Exeter ; and appointments making it a fit home for a prince.” 

 Early pictures show that many parts of the existing building have retained their original features. The hotel has enjoyed a long and colourful history, and much of its traditional charm still remains today. In 1895, Rosalie Chichester of Arlington Court granted tenancy of The Woolacombe Bay Hotel to Arnold Perret, who bought the tenancy in 1899.

The Woolacombe Bay Hotel was sold to Cheltenham Brewery in 1932, and over the following nine years an extensive programme of renovation transformed the building. The original core of the building is of four storeys, with wings of three storeys. Constructed in a Tudor Revival style, the upper sections have mock timber framing while the lower portions are of exposed red brick. Balconies and bays, alongside a cupola and, on the older portions, chimney stacks add to the character of the building.

This work resulted in the Hotel appearing much as it does today and added several notable features – including the ballroom, which showcased the first sprung floor in the West Country. The hotel also retains large grounds facing towards the beach, with its own swimming pool and tennis courts, as well as a private path leading down towards the beach near the old Lifeboat House. In 2013 the swimming pool was renovated creating the Bay Lido 

John Phillips was a young boy living behind the hotel in the 1930’s. He remembers the waiters in their long tailed morning suits and the chefs in their hats of varying heights according to their status! The Hotel had a Boiler House which housed four huge boilers – one was for central heating, two for the hot water and the other provided steam to the kitchen. Supervised by three men, they were not always attentive and consequently guests often went without hot water and the kitchen steam!

The gardens of the hotel were completely enclosed and supplied a lot of produce and flowers for the hotel, it was also where the young local boys ended up playing football, much to the annoyance of the gardener, Mr Tom Sollis!

In 1935 Miss Crowhurst was the new manager of the hotel and by 1939 the hotel had been enlarged to accommodate up to 180 residents, reflecting the increased number of tourists wishing to stay in Woolacombe in the heyday of British seaside resorts.  It was at this time that war was announced and the British army commandeered the hotel. It became home to the 4th County of London Yeomanry, who were based in Woolacombe to protect from invasion.

When the London Yeomanry arrived at the hotel John remembers three tanks rumbling past their house in Rosalie Terrace en route to Cowlers garage, which was located just behind the hotel. 

 In 1943 the British Army left Woolacombe to make way for the American Army where they set up their Assault Training Centre Headquarters. Woolacombe Beach was used for amphibious infantry landing practice involving hundreds of small boats, the long flat beach and the surrounding landscape were thought to sufficiently resemble Normandy as to make this realistic training environment.

The training for the Normandy landings on D-Day saw Woolacombe taken over by the Americans with huge camps, and those who were in the area at the time will remember how much better off the Americans were, as the British had been short of the good things in life for some time. 

 Some Americans and locals are still in touch today and a stone memorial was erected on Greensward in Woolacombe in 1992 to commemorate those who were here during the war. The soldiers remained in residence until the end of the war in May 1945 and the Woolacombe Bay Hotel was bought by Mr Bertie Johnson.

The hotel was bought by the Lancaster family in 1978 and ran successfully by Roy and Rosemary until the year 2000, when their daughter Sally returned and took over the reins. Over the last 18 years Sally has taken the hotel to a new dimension, combining old world grandeur with new cutting edge design. In 2010 the hotel was awarded four stars by the AA which is reflected by its outstanding bedrooms, bathrooms, spa, food, facilities and of course the most personal service in the area!

In 2017  the hotel was Winner of ‘Best Hotel’ at the North Devon Food, Drink & Tourism Awards 2017 offering a timelessly elegant yet friendly and relaxed place to stay. 

If you want more infomration abut the hotel or to make a booking please visit their website”

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Plastic Free Woolacombe

Plastic is big news and has been so ever since viewers saw the BBC’s Blue Planet II and were shocked at how much plastic was in our oceans. 

We were already alerted to the problem posed by plastics when supermarkets started charging for their carrier bags. But Blue Planet bought those concerns into sharp focus and told us we simply have to do more to protect the oceans, their inhabitants and our planet. 

It is believed that up to eight million objects enter our seas on a daily basis, with up to two-thirds of those objects coming from litter left on beaches or washed down in our rivers. That debris chokes our seas and damages the fish, mammals and birds that either consume it or become entangled in it. The Marine Conservations Society found that rubbish washing up on UK beaches increases year on year; it was up 10% in 2017. 

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) list many shocking stories on their website about the damage done by plastics when they enter the sea. In one case a whale had to be put down after being found malnourished off the coast of Norway. An autopsy showed 30 plastic bags and other packaging in its stomach and intestines. 

Read more

Latest Magazine – December Issue 16


In this issue you can read about the Chichester family and their connection to Woolacombe and Mortehoe as well as a little more about Arlington Estate where they lived. As well as finding out about the carpenters of Simonsbath, or some local reads.

If you would like to contribute to any future magazines I would love to hear from you, get in touch


Parade House, Woolacombe

Once the home of Rosalie Chichester, Parade House has been turned into luxury self catering holiday lets, John and Briony who have a deep affinity with Woolacombe and all it has to offer, tell us more about the renovation of Parade House.

Both John and Briony have been visiting Woolacombe for a combined 45 years. Briony has been holidaying in Woolacombe for the past 30 years of her life and introduced John when they met. Now they have a young family, they visit as much as possible. The couple first saw Parade House back in 2013 and fell in love with the history and the possibilities to bring it back to life. Sadly at this time, the works looked to be too costly but thoughts of Parade House never left their mind. In 2015 they found themselves in the position to be able to purchase Parade House and start renovations. They were very aware at this time, that there had been local opposition to the previous developers’ plans for Parade House.

With this in mind, they were very keen to retain as many original Victorian and Georgian features as possible, whilst giving it a contemporary luxurious feel inside. Briony and John were keen to use as many local contractors as possible in the restoration of Parade House. The main building contractor was Pearce based in Barnstaple but all of the other trades involved were also local to Woolacombe and Barnstaple. There were uncomfortable moments when, for example, the old render was stripped off and there was just fresh air where bricks should have been!

Parade House at its height, saw up to 30 local people on site each day. Not all went to plan during the 9 month build. As happens, the many years of fighting the elements on the windswept Esplanade had taken it’s toll on the structure of the building.

The handiwork and skills of the whole team were inspiring to behold. From the team at Pearce to the chap who rebuilt the original cornicing throughout, to the the local artist who painstakingly reconstructed the original terracotta feature panel added in 1890 alongside the main front door. The results speak for themselves and John and Briony are delighted that Parade House continues to stand tall whilst the new contemporary additions merge with the background.

We hope Lady Rosalie Chichester would have approved. It was important for John and Briony to work with the local expertises. They are very keen to start a network of businesses that work together to help increase the services on offer within Woolacombe and the surrounding areas where people help and promote each other. They are also keen for Parade House to attract new visitors to Woolacombe, as it’s wonderful to have repeat visitors but an injection of new visitors, however small, will help Woolacombe grow in the future.

Already, 55% of guests had never visited Woolacombe or Devon before and all leave with fond memories. Parade House is very much something that Briony and John wish to keep in their family and something which they hope to pass onto their young boys in the future.

For more information about Parade House, please visit their website:


Looking after our coastline

Woolacombe’s award winning three mile stretch of golden sands is one of the many reasons people visit this beautiful coastline. Like a number of British beaches Woolacombe is privately owned. Much of the land in and around Woolacombe was once owned by the Chichester family of Arlington Court, when the last in the family line, Lady Rosalie Chichester died in 1949 much of her land was gifted to the National Trust. However the beach, along with some of the surrounding land had previously been purchased from the Chichesters by the Parkin family. The beach is now managed by ‘Parkin Estates’ a family owned company who take a responsible and conscientious approach to its service and how the land and beach are looked after. Considerable investment is made to provide high standards whilst being sympathetic to its environment. This work is reflected in the awards that Woolacombe Beach frequently receive not to mention the thousands of people that choose to visit this glorious place each year. Parkin Estates do a fantastic job, maintaining the beach, we can also play our part in keeping our beautiful beach clean and tidy.

Looking after our coastline is extremley important. One of the big issues that we can help reduce on a personal level is the increase in marine litter. Marine litter describes the litter that is left on our beaches or washed up on our shores. The environmental charity ‘Surfers against Sewage’ work to protect the UK’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy. The SAS have projects that target coastal environmental issues including marine litter, sewage pollution, climate change, toxic chemicals, shipping, industry and coastal development. Marine litter is the collection of discarded objects that do not occur naturally in a marine environment. The amount of this type of litter that can be found along the UK’s coastlines has almost doubled in the last 15 years. The majority of which comes from plastic waste which never truly breaks down and can impact our environment for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The rise in plastic can also be very harmful to the marine food chain.

“Over 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million seabirds die every year from ingestion of entanglement in marine litter.” So, what can we do to help? Of course we can be more aware of what plastics we are throwing away, do we really need to use as many plastic bags, can we reuse plastic bottles? We all need to be more mindful of what we are using and the impact that it has on an environment that we all love. In 2013 the #2minutebeachclean was started. The campaign encourages people to spend a couple of minutes when they are on the beach clearing some of the litter away that has been left by the tide or people using the beach. Working together we can help keep our beautiful coastline a place that future generations will love to visit, and marine wildlife can safely enjoy. The National Trust for Woolacombe conduct a series of Beach Cleans that you can join, please visit their website for more information:

The Royal Hotel, Woolacombe – The Future

If you are reading this magazine, you more than likely agree that Woolacombe is a very special place. You may be discovering its delights for the first time, or a seasoned pro who has seen the town evolve considerably over the years. Preserving Woolacombe’s charm for locals and visitors alike is perhaps the most important thing for new businesses to consider as they come to the area, and as a significant hotel refurbishment is about to take place, we wanted to share some of the vision and values behind it. With demand for seaside accommodation increasing rapidly every year, and the UK experiencing something of a staycation boom, Devon must adapt to make sure that anyone who wants to visit can do so – and have a comfortable and memorable stay. The Royal Hotel in Woolacombe will be completely refurbished, to become the Atlantic Bay Hotel in 2019.

The Royal Hotel has been a family favourite for many years, with a reputation for friendly staff and great food, as well as some of the best views over the bay. Those traditions will live on in its new incarnation as the Atlantic Bay Hotel, with the building receiving the thorough refresh it deserves – as well as a few exciting additions. The hotel will get its biggest makeover since the 1960s, both outside and in, to become a stunning four-star hotel and spa. All 96 rooms will be revamped and provided with all the latest mod-cons, while the refitted swimming pool will be complemented by a new spa and fitness centre. A fantastic restaurant and a relaxing lounge and cocktail bar will be created, while redundant buildings to the rear will make way for expanded parking. The front of the hotel will be freshly landscaped to provide patio areas with seating to make the most of the magnificent views. The sympathetic conversion is planned to begin in January 2018, and the hotel will be up and running by the summer of 2019. Trusted local tradespeople will be contracted to complete the building work with a strict timeframe of under a year in order to minimise disruption to the area.

The incoming operator, Giant Hospitality, prides itself on safeguarding the things regular holidaymakers love about their favourite places. The family-owned group made its name in another classic holiday hotspot – Llandudno Bay in North Wales, where it runs the traditional, family-oriented Queen’s Hotel, and the more modern Llandudno Bay Hotel. The business model of the developer is to take hotels in wonderful locations that are due a bit of a makeover and whose owners are ready to move on, bring them back to their former glory (in-keeping with visitors’ requirements and the tastes of the local market), and deliver exceptional service at a competitive price. The hotel itself will be majority owned by people who care about the area and intend to use the hotel. Anyone can invest in a room, earn a healthy share of profits, and stay at Atlantic Bay for two free weeks every year (taking care of the family holiday as well as trouncing interest rates in the bank). For more information about the refurbishment, or to invest in a room from £75,000, contact Property Frontiers, or call 01865 700 202


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