Category Archives: Blogs

Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre

Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre has been in its’ current location for 20 years – opened in March 1999 by local MP at the time, Nick Harvey, it is situated in a prime spot, looking down the length of the award-winning beach, all the way to Putsborough.

Tourism has played a big part in Woolacombe and Mortehoe’s history and there has been active promotion of our beautiful coastline for many years. We have brochures dating back to the early 60’s, and no doubt they were in existence before then too, bearing in mind that the introduction of the railway from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe in 1847 saw the birth of tourism here. The Woolacombe Bay Hotel was built in 1887, and many more guesthouses and shops followed in the early 1900’s. Things have changed over the years, with the changing demands of visitors, and now the number of apartments far outweigh the serviced accommodation options, although there are still some lovely B&B and Hotels on offer.

The first information service started, we believe, in the 1960’s, when The Red Barn had a dedicated staff member and phone line at the front of the pub to assist visitors in finding accommodation – the idea being that it was in everyone’s interests to have people stay in the village for longer, as The Red Barn, and other businesses would all benefit. 

A more official TIC started up sometime in the 1970’s, initially housed in the foyer of Hall 70 (now known as Woolacombe Village Hall) and later, back to The Red Barn in a temporary building in the car park. This was run by the Woolacombe & Mortehoe Publicity Association. In 1998, the Woolacombe & Mortehoe Tourism Association was formed, and the new building, to be shared with Mortehoe Parish Council, was purpose built. Funding for the new centre came from grants from the EU, Rural Development Commission, North Devon District Council, and Mortehoe Parish Council, as well as the Publicity Association, Chamber of Commerce, Parkin Estates and Lancaster Holdings, who all recognised the importance of promoting the area and having an Information Centre.  

In the last 25 years, whilst I have been involved in TICs (first Ilfracombe for 7 years, and then Woolacombe for 18 so far!) the way in which Tourist Information Centres are run has changed dramatically. From receiving funding to run the centres, including everything from staff uniforms and the annual ‘tool kit’ (a wide selection of reference books, including enormous train and coach timetables!), these days there is no funding to be had, and we have to operate as a business to meet our overheads … a bit of a conundrum when people (both visitors and some businesses) still expect us to offer an information service for free. 

If you call in and see us, you’ll see that we now provide lots of other services that complement the free information and extensive local knowledge on offer – everything from boat trip tickets, discounted attraction admission, Tramper and Beach Wheelchair hire, accommodation booking service, parking permits, buckets & spades, ice-creams, gifts, souvenirs, local crafts, postcards … a one-stop shop for all your holiday essentials … and all crucial in keeping the TIC open! 

We are also very fortunate to have some 130 businesses who recognise the need for a Tourist Information Centre, and subscribe as members to generate much needed income for the TIC. In return, we not only promote their business, but the area as a whole. The internet and social media have wiped out the need for a holiday guide, although we do still produce an information pack that we will gladly send out to enquirers. 

We spend many hours each week working ‘behind the scenes’ updating the content of the website, especially events and special offers, as well as posting frequently on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 

We live and work in such a beautiful area. It is easy to post images and information about Woolacombe, Mortehoe and the surrounding areas.

In 2016, we strengthened our links with the National Trust, as they became partnered with us, and helped fund a partial refurbishment of the TIC. We continue to work closely with the Trust, hosting their annual Cadbury Easter Trail, selling Memberships and Gifts, and promoting their events and conservation work through the TIC.

In 2018/19 we were proud to be Silver Winners in the ‘Visitor Information Service of The Year’ Category in both the Devon Tourism Awards and South West Tourism Awards – we strive for excellent customer service and it is a pleasure to promote our beautiful corner of North Devon!

Why not call in and see us when you are passing?

 We are open all year – 7 days a week from 10am- 5pm from Easter to October, and six mornings a week from November to March. 

Instagram: Woolacombe_tic   

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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

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


Andrew Cotton – Big Wave Surfer

Andrew is a Plymouth born married father of 2 who grew up on the North Devon Coast where he started surfing at the age of seven. Ever since then, catching waves and being in and around the ocean has been his life. When he left school he worked in a local surfboard factory until the age of twenty-five. He then re-trained as a plumber, but along the way began to realise that his real passion lay in big wave surfing. Initially Andrew focussed on helping to pioneer big wave sports in Ireland, and more recently he turned his attention to Nazare, Portugal. Numerous Billabong XXL entries followed and he came to wider attention in 2012 when he towed American surfer Garrett McNamara into what the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed as the biggest wave ever surfed. Since then Andrew has a number of indisputably big waves under his belt, one or two of which have caused debate in the press as to whether they are even bigger than Garret’s record. With the national and global media coverage that followed, it might be said that he has been helping to push the boundaries as to what was thought possible and put Great Britain firmly on the surfing map. But it definitely hasn’t come easy, particularly as home in North Devon is not exactly famed for its big waves. So it’s meant making a lot of sacrifices to get to where he is today, working hard all summer in order to chase down waves all over Europe in the winter as well as spending as much time as possible with his wife Katie and their two children.

Can you remember when you first went on a board and tried surfing? Yes. Easter holidays at Saunton Sands when I was about 7. Hired a suit and board, freezing cold, raining and windy. Loved every second!

Surfing is often considered a spiritual as well as a physical pursuit, does it feel that way to you? Yes. I think surfers have a natural connection with the ocean and at times feel I’m physically performing my best when I connect and get in a really good flow with the ocean. So I guess that is spiritual in a way.

What made you want to surf the ‘big wave’ what is it that appeals? It was never a conscious decision I suppose it just evolved. I truly enjoyed surfing way more the bigger it got.

When you have surfed that ultimate big wave, which to many people is the ultimate achievement in surfing. What ambitions do you have beyond? I’ve got loads of goals and ambitions as well as that ultimate wave. Obviously the biggest wave is the dream but my surfing is constantly evolving and I’m always looking to improve. My small wave surfing always needs to be worked on so maybe I’d focus on that!

Where and when was the best wave you ever rode? I still haven’t ridden my dream wave yet, hopefully that is still to come.

What is the appeal of surfing, how would you explain what surfing means to you to someone who knew nothing about surfing? It might sound cliche but I suppose it’s a full on lifestyle maybe even a life commitment. Everything evolves around the wind, tide and long range forecast which can make planning things really hard. But it has always been like that my whole life.

How good is the surfing in Devon? Devon has great wave with a good variety in most conditions, on the whole it’s pretty consistent and if your keen you can probably surf most days in some form or another.

What other interests do you have apart from surfing? Swimming, cycling, training and hanging with the family.

Your friend Skelly is quoted as saying nothing scares you, is that true? No that’s not true , I get scared all the time. But challenging fear is healthy and something we should do more from time to time .

Mark Johnson Photographer

I have been taking photos around North Devon for a number of years so have got to know many of the features and seasonal variations. Whether it’s the sun setting over Baggy Point in the winter and Morte Point in the summer, the tide variations between seasons or the different flowers that grow during the year. This knowledge of the area can help in knowing where and when to go to get some great pictures. The other thing to take into consideration is whether I can take my little Westie dog, Poppy out with me. She often makes a perfect little subject and loves the experience of being out and about around the North Devon coastline.  Although I have taken pictures in many areas of the landscape, I have some favourite places, particularly when there is a view which includes a sunset and as much detail of the wonderful landscape as possible.

I am proud that some of my mounted pictures are now available to buy at the beautiful little West Country Gallery in Woolacombe.

Read the full article in our latest magazine.


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