If I had to name one thing that makes any holiday (in fact any day) complete, it would be having Poppy dog at my side to share new experiences, discover new places and make ever-lasting memories together. So when I was invited to write a blog about the dog-friendly village of Clovelly in North Devon, I was just a little bit excited! Okay, paws-up, I was in fact elated and extremely honoured!
From the moment we arrived, I got the feeling that Clovelly was my kind of place! Having parked the Dottymobile in the Visitor Centre car park, (Clovelly is pedestrianised) we walked through to the reception where we were met by a lovely lady who informed us that dogs are welcome everywhere in the village, providing they are on leads. My excitement at this news was mounting considerably as was Poppy’s, who after our three hour car journey, was rather in need of a comfort break! Map of the village in hand we descended the steps of the visitor centre, only to be met by Brian the donkey! Yes, laugh you may, but my husband Rob, being as equally fanatical about animals as me, has to name most creatures we meet and apparently this furry nosed beauty looked like a Brian! Anyway, having been well and truly welcomed to the village by a chorus of donkey braying, we continued down the steep, cobbled path towards the centre of the village and towards our home for the night The New Inn.
The inviting smell of wood smoke, billowing from quaint chimney pots, filled the autumnal air as we made our descent, and I couldn’t fail to notice the amount of four legged friends enjoying a family day out with their humans – this place was getting better by the minute! The New Inn is situated in the heart of the
village, half way down the cobbled street, and has been welcoming guests since the seventeenth century. On arrival, we explained that we had a room booked for the night, to which the landlord replied, “Oh you must be the dog lady!” I instantly felt at home – there is no title on earth more fitting, or more flattering as far as I’m concerned! After checking in, we were shown upstairs to our room – a lovely clean, cosy bedroom complete with an ensuite shower and a shared balcony which overlooked the main high street; just perfect for someone whose fascination, along with the nations woofers, is people watching!!
We quickly parked our belongings and headed out, keen to see what the village had to offer. If you’ve never visited Clovelly before I cannot speak highly enough of the unique feel that exudes every, ancient cobble stone – it really is one of the most magical places I think I’ve ever visited, it’s almost like stepping back in time; like being part of a film set in one of the most picturesque of period dramas.
Donkeys are a big part of Clovelly, not only is there a donkey stables (where visitors can stroke and feed the donkeys and mules), but many of the businesses feature a donkey reference in their name. Historically the donkeys have been used to transport goods up and down the steep streets of the village, however in more recent times they have been replaced by quirky handmade sledges which can be found parked outside each dwelling. Due to a foot operation earlier in the year, walking downhill is still a relatively slow process for me and I could see Poppy dog looking longingly at these contraptions thinking it maybe a quicker option to get us to the harbour-side at the foot of the village!
The quay itself is quintessentially English, colourful fishing boats moored on the sandy beach, fishermen busying themselves with preparations for the next tide, and the old stone wall of the harbour being clambered on and enjoyed by children and tourists alike. It is also home to Clovelly’s lifeboat station, and if you amble over the pebbles a short distance, you’ll discover an impressive waterfall cascading down the cliff. Having explored the narrow side streets and the pebbly beach (not to mention making Poppy pose for more photos than the average celebrity) we headed to The Red Lion for a spot of lunch.
Nothing beats a good traditional English pub, and The Red Lion did not disappoint. Having ordered a glass of Rose (my usual tipple!) and a pint of Clovelly Cobbler (when in Rome and all that!) we settled ourselves on a cosy bench seat by the window and ordered a couple of fish finger butties. The pub serves lunch between 12 and 2pm and dogs are welcome in the bar area, but not in the restaurant. Both Rob and I agreed that the fish finger butties were some of the best we’d ever had, and trust me we are connoisseurs, being as we have a fish-loving pooch, and her dietary preferences are always taken into consideration when making any menu choices (you can tell she’s got us well and truly wrapped around her little paws!!) Feeling suitably full after our scrumptious lunch, we waddled back up the cobbles to the start of the Hobby trail – a beautiful scenic walk that offers panoramic views of the village down below. (There is a Land Rover Service that will take you back up to the Visitor Centre from the bottom of the village, however, it was not running when we were there, and what with all we’d eaten, we needed the exercise!!)
The weather could not have been more perfect for our visit, having driven through dark skies and the odd spot of drizzle on our journey from Wiltshire, clear blue sky and crisp cold air greeted us on our arrival. Hobby Drive winds itself round a series of meandering bends through avenues of trees. Crunching through colourful carpets of Autumn leaves, with the late afternoon sunshine beaming through leaf-leaden branches, we explored this quieter part of Clovelly. In fact we didn’t meet another sole, apart from a host of chatty pheasants enjoying the woodland. The views from the trail are simply stunning. We had been told in advance that we must walk to the white benches (it took about half an hour to walk there) and it was certainly well worth it for the picturesque views and yet another photo opportunity!
By the time we’d completed our walk, the light was beginning to fade and so we made our way back to The New Inn, for a bit of rest and relaxation before dinner. I have to say The New Inn is by far the most welcoming place we’ve ever stayed with Poppy. In the past we’ve usually opted for self catering cottages, only because it’s been easier and we don’t have to endure her protective ‘rumbling growl’ when someone dares to move in the next door room! However, the walls at The New Inn are so thick, you’d never even know anyone else was staying there!! There’s no standing on ceremony, no special dog beds, food bowls or provisions for dogs, they are just treated like one of the family – exactly how it should be, made to feel just as welcome as their humans – and as a result, Poppy ended up feeling just as relaxed as her humans too!
Feeling refreshed after a cheeky forty winks, enjoyed by all family members (furry and non!) we headed downstairs to the bar for dinner. Just like the rest of the hotel, the bar area has a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, with low beams and a wooden fronted bar giving it an almost Nordic feel. Many local villagers were enjoying a swift pint and, along with their canine counter parts, made us feel just as welcome as the hotel staff, engaging us in conversation and making a fuss of Poppy – a sure way to win my heart! The menu choices were equally as inviting – good hearty British pub grub, making it incredibly difficult to chose – unusual for me, as usually there’s only a couple of things on any menu that take my fancy. I opted for the scampi, whilst Rob had the curry – both of which were incredibly tasty, and good portion sizes too – something Poppy was particularly impressed by as it meant more offerings were passed her way!! Although we were comfortably full after our main course, the amazing desert selection was just too enticing, and we both gave into the temptation of After Eight Cheesecake – well after hiking up and down those cobbles, I felt we’d earned a few extra calories, and my goodness it was to die for!!
After a night cap, we retired to our room, and needless to say, after our exciting day of exploring Clovelly and feeling completely relaxed and at home in our cosy hotel room, it didn’t take any of us long to drift off!
The lure of a cooked breakfast, made to order, is enough to get anyone out of the most comfortable of beds on a Sunday morning, and so after a lovely hot shower and a little comfort break for Poppy, we went in search of breakfast. There was an inviting selection of cereals, fruit juices, yogurts and fruit that you could help yourself to, along with a breakfast menu with choices to suit every appetite! We’d both opted for the full English which was cooked to perfection, and set us up nicely for the day ahead! The New Inn does not allow dogs in the breakfast room, but for me this was perfect as it meant we had our own private breakfast area, which we shared with another couple who were holidaying with their equally pampered pooch! We soon struck up conversation, and found ourselves learning all about their travels and their family connections to the village – it reminded me just how lovely it is to stay somewhere where there are other guests, and also how easy it is to meet new people when you have a dog!
Having checked out, and promising to return, which we definitely will, the hotel was perfect for us in every way, we headed up to the Visitor Centre where we were meeting Em Long, and her dog Peppa, to find out all about Clovelly Weddings – yes, you can even tie the knot in this beautiful village. We left the visitor centre and headed towards Clovelly Court Gardens, an attraction that is included in the entrance fee to the village, however one that relatively few visitors actually explore, according to Em.
Clovelly Court is owned by The Rt. Honorable John Rous, as is the rest of the village, and is accessed by a scenic woodland walk. Just like the rest of the village, dogs are welcome, but must be kept on leads at all times. Once the pecking order had been established between Poppy and Peppa (in other words poor Peppa realised that Poppy was not up for any doggy interaction!) both dogs enjoyed sniffing through the undergrowth, discovering new scents and smells, and indeed new plant life in the form of
Exotic Victorian Rhubarb! Seriously, I have never seen a plant with leaves so huge, these leaves would dwarf the ears of any African elephant! The path brought us out on the lawn of one of the most breath-takingly beautiful estate houses I’ve ever seen; an elegant white fronted building with fairy tale turrets, and a view to challenge any Mediterranean wedding venue. The lawn in front of the house provides the perfect position for a marquee, with uninterrupted views of Bideford Bay and beautiful, immaculate gardens, providing the most magnificent backdrop for photographs to capture your big day. The thing that really stood out to me is not only the uniqueness and beauty that Clovelly offers, but the flexibility too. Clovelly Weddings cater for anything from the smallest, most intimate ceremony, to a large gathering with all your friends and family (and of course your dog!)
Clovelly Court, The Red Lion and The New Inn are all licensed for weddings, and there is the Norman Church of All Saints too – a picture perfect church accessed via a pretty pathway from the terrace. Em took us round to see the church where the congregation were beginning to gather for Sunday morning service. She clearly knows all the locals, and it made me appreciate just what a special place this really is. With only 300 residents living in the village, it has a warmth and intimacy like now where else I’ve ever been. I often think it’s easy to feel like an ‘outsider’ in places such as this, but I honestly cannot describe how welcome the villagers made us feel; all of us, including Poppy dog, that is!
Leaving the church behind us, we went to explore the kitchen gardens. Em told me that Clovelly has won the Gold Award for Britain in Bloom two years in a row, and as we made our way through the well-tended beds and borders I could see exactly why. Restored Victorian glasshouses, not so many weeks ago home to juicy red tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables, stand proud in between rows of colourful Dahlias, now at the end of their season, but still offering the last glimpse of Autumn before Winter descends on us.
In the corner of the walled garden is a quaint stone outhouse which houses the estate’s organic vegetable shop. Operated on a ‘honesty basis,’ you weigh your own produce, packaged in rustic brown paper bags, and get to take your own little bit of Clovelly home with you to eat – what a simply charming idea! Poppy loved sniffing around the herbaceous borders and even managed to stumble on a colourful array of pumpkins, just perfect for posing by!
Having got to know Clovelly and all that it has to offer, I can honestly say that if you’re looking for a wedding venue, and in particular one that welcomes all members of the family – including the most important ones, the ones with four legs and a wagging tail, I cannot recommend Clovelly highly enough. I have every confidence that Em would manage your day meticulously and would ensure that you had the wedding day of your dreams.
After making our way back to the visitor centre, we sat and enjoyed a coffee overlooking the village before it was time to start making tracks. Both dogs instantly looked at the comfy leather sofas in the cafe and were soon sprawled out, eyeing each up over the coffee table, and Peppa looking so confused as to why Poppy kept ‘smiling’ at her and revealing her teeth – was this a Wiltshire tradition I could see her thinking?!
I was genuinely sad to be leaving Clovelly behind us as we made our way to Westward Ho! for our final walkies before heading home to Wiltshire. It really had been the most amazing few days, and just so lovely to spend time in a place where Poppy was made to feel genuinely welcome everywhere and treated like one of the family.
Thank you for having us Clovelly.
Kate and Poppy x