Art & Culture:
Ilfracombe boasts a burgeoning arts scene and is brimming with artists and galleries, selling work to suit all budgets; including Forty-three, a co-operative on Fore street where talented local artisan makers can sell their beautiful products.
May is when Ilfracombe holds its annual Art Trail which is an independent collaboration of artists, artisans and galleries all located in Ilfracombe, mostly within a 20-minute walk of the high street. The Art Trail provides an opportunity to visit venues of your choice, talk to artists and of course purchase art if you want to.
For those of you that didn’t know, Ilfracombe is home to Verity, a stainless steel and bronze statue created by Damien Hirst. The sculpture stands over 20-metres-tall on the pier at the entrance to the harbour, looking out over the Bristol Channel towards South Wales. The name of the piece refers to “truth” and Hirst describes his work as a “modern allegory of truth and justice“.
Verity was erected in 2012, after Hirst, responded to the town’s tourism drive and offered a work on a twenty-year loan.
Overlooking Verity and the historic harbour, is St Nicholas Chapel
perched on Lantern Hill. Reported to be the oldest working lighthouse in the country, it was first built in the 14th Century and was named St Nicholas after the patron saint of sailors.
Dating back to 1321 the chapel was built as a place of worship for the seafarers of Ilfracombe living and working around the harbour. If want to learn more about the history of this charming town then you can join Devon History Tours who over guided tours and offer an insight into its colourful past! They even offer Ghost Tours if the paranormal is more your thing.
For all literary fans there is the annual Appledore Book Festival and in 2023 it will be held from the 15th to the 23rd of September. Appledore is a pretty village at the mouth of the river Torridge, about 17 miles from Ilfracombe. If you are not driving don’t worry, the number 21A bus will take you there from the harbour area. It is also the home of Appledore shipbuilders and Hocking’s Ice Cream.
The festival is becoming one of the biggest cultural festivals in Devon, attracting world-class authors, speakers, and performers. Run almost exclusively by a team of volunteers, who do everything from stewarding the events to adorning the village with bunting, the festival is a unique experience.
There are several pubs in the harbour including The Pier and the George & Dragon that host bands throughout the week and the Grampus in Lee has an open mic night every Friday.
Ilfracombe also boasts its own Theatre. The Landmark Theatre is a controversial double conical design. It was built to replace The Pavilion Theatre, a Victorian building partly destroyed in a fire during the 1980s and later demolished. Love it or hate it, the Landmark is a great space and promotes the arts, including dance, drama, literature, music and song, in North Devon and also houses the Tourist information centre and a café with exceptional sea views.
Things to do on a rainy day in Ilfracombe:
Ilfracombe has a multiscreen cinema that shows live theatre performances as well as popular films. The cinema has a licence and offers plenty snacks so you can really make an evening or afternoon of it on a rainy day.
Believe it or not Ilfracombe also has an Aquarium that has local aquatic exhibits and is an award winning local educational attraction. It is located in the old lifeboat house in the pier in the Harbour.
If you are looking something a bit different, Ilfracombe has its very own museum located in an historic building next to the theatre. This museum houses some unusual finds, such as a shrunken head and a collection of pickled bats. First opened in August 1932 Ilfracombe Museum has eight rooms for you to explore, with almost 28,000 items in the collection including natural history, Victoriana, taxidermy, local history and much, much more. This is a great place to take young children on a rainy day.
Another interesting fact about this picturesque seaside town is that is has its own Chocolate Emporium that produces exquisite, award-winning handmade chocolates and is a both a shop and museum. It also offers tutorials and workshops through the year so could prove another welcome distraction on a rainy day!
A little bit further afield is Dinosaur & Wildlife Park and another great activity for younger children. A family run park set in a Combe Martin valley over 28 acres of spectacular gardens and as well as wolves, sea lions, African lion, primates, penguins to name a few, they are known for their impressive life size animatronic dinosaurs & gigantic Dinosaurus Playzone!