Again I chose a place based on the fact it was on the way to where I was going and it was also a good distance to travel in one day on the train. I also planned to have a ‘do nothing’ stay at Ilfracombe because I hadn’t read anything about it, but as usually happens I found places to see and do. One of the more unusual things to see was the tunnels leading to the beach - although it will cost you £2.50 for the pleasure!
An entrepreneur had six tunnels hand carved in the 1820’s by Welsh miners to access natural rock pools on the seaward side of the cliffs. I think only one of the naturally formed pools is still properly intact and four of the tunnels still in use. At first they had segregated pools, men through the tunnel to the left and women through the one to the right; but somewhere along the line the rules were relaxed and mixed swimming was allowed. I was the only one there for quite a while and it was a bit spooky going through the tunnels and being down on the shingle beach with cliffs all around; especially after reading some of the accidents that had happened over the years. Yeah, I know, I let my imagination run away at times.
A Bath House that used to house, wait for it, salt water baths – of course, is nearby. I’m not sure if it’s open at all but it wasn’t when I was there. Some doctor way back when had the brilliant idea that bathing was good for the health and there’s a boiler still down near the beach that was used to heat and pump the sea water up to the baths. The baths were apparently in little cubicles under the house – all sounds rather primitive now, doesn’t it?
One of Englands well known and controversial artists, Damien Hirst, lives nearby and has donated a sculpture to the town to sit at the mouth of the harbour for 20 years. It’s called Verity and from what I heard it doesn’t sound like many locals are very impressed with it – see what you think!! I tried my hand at a sketch while I was at the harbour – mind you, my eyes really aren’t good enough to pick out the detail from the distance I was at, so I drew the left hand side.
I also had the good fortune to meet Ruth and her husband Steve, who are the owners of the Harbour Lights guesthouse. Ruth left a little pack of fudge in my room after my first night with a note wishing me a good time and when I left the following day she gave me a postcard of Ilfracombe with another lovely message wishing me safe and happy travels – a genuinely nice person.
So, I enjoyed my ‘do nothing’ break in Ilfracombe, next stop Newport – again because it’s on the way and a good distance to cover in one day.