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ISSUE 17 ARCHIVE - PRACTICAL GUIDE TO ILFRACOMBE

Juliet Savigear

Ifracombe is a hilly resort on the North Devon coast. The small fishing town stands out from many with it’s both loved and hated double conical buildings

of The Landmark Theatre on the Promenade. Although wait, as a twenty metre statue of a pregnant woman by artist Damien Hirst has just been intalled which should definitely get the locals talking.

This English seaside town can provide a great base for diving the North Devon coast and also one of Britain’s top dive locations – Lundy Island. As you would expect, there are plenty of reefs, wrecks and the ever popular chance to dive with those curious and playful seals.

Food and Booze

Be warned, it seems that Ilfracombe is “laced with prostitution” according to Star Trek actor, William Shatner (Have I Got News For You – May 2012), so you’d better be careful on those streets at night.

There are plenty of options when it comes to beer o’clock and filling those rumbling tummies.

The Ship and Pilot - on Broad Street has a good range of beers, including six local real ales. Tel: 01271 863562

The George and Dragon - the oldest pub in Ilfracombe and definitely a decent traditional boozer with a wide selection of pub food on offer. Tel: 01271 863851

11 The Quay - The wallpaper in the bar is designed from butterfly wings and indeed, the various artworks about will soon reveal that this establishment is part owned by Damien Hirst. So expect no ordinary dining experience. The Atlantic Room is fashioned in the shape of an up- turned boat and to keep those divers eyes keen, there is an aquarium at one end of the room whilst the other end looks straight out over, you’ve guessed it... The Atlantic. One reviewer on Trip Advisor stated “food was like listening to classical music, almost as though not made by human hand. This is no exaggeration. Just go. End of review”. Need I say more? Tel: 01271 868090 11

Take Thyme – a relaxed restaurant with a great fish menu as you would expect from a fishing town. Tel: 01271 867622

Eclectick – an excelent, relaxed place for dive groups with cocktail bar and restaurant. Tel: 01271 866900

Combe Cottage – a gem of a place offering proper food using local produce. Tel: 01271 862605

A Good Night's Kip

The Avalon Guest House looks out over the sea and has free parking with the option of off road undercover parking at a cost of £3 per day. Tel: 01271 863325

The Mariner's Vaults is a large self-contained apartment that works well for large groups and dive clubs with a maximum capacity of 20. Tel: 01271 862951

Another good budget accommodation for groups is

Ocean Backpackers. Tel: 01271 867 835

Right on the quay The Royal Britannia offers some great value accommodation. Tel: 01271 862939

If you’re not planning to slum it, then Westwood B&B offers a more contemporary look. Tel: 01271 867 443

Out and About

Ilfracombe is a real English fishing town with lots of things going on. The town has captured the eyes of various artists and has eight small art galleries and The Landmark Theatre is definitely a good place to make the most of your dive trip and broaden those minds.

If you get the chance during the day you can have an amazing time exploring the rock pools by Tunnels Beaches. These beaches were rated the 3rd best in the UK for rock pooling (BBC Wildlife Magazine). Philip Henry Gosse, a renowned Victorian biologist, discovered several new species here with rare sea corals to be found at very low tides. These sheltered beaches, once a tidal Victorian bathing pool, have four tunnels leading to them that were hand-carved back in the 1820s. There is plenty of information around about the site giving a glance into the seaside culture of the Victorian age.

Sea Kayaking offers another wonderful way to make the most of our beautiful coastline. Tel: 01271 813 271

Local Diving Contacts

Obsession Boat Charters – 2 dive boats accommodating 12 divers each with ample space to manouevre in a wheelchair. Tel: 01271 866325; Mobile: 07971 462024

Bristol Channel Charters – Evolution 38 “Jay Jay” 38ft GRP boat powered by a C7 Caterpillar diesel engine. Accommodating 12 divers. Tel: 01271 863398; Mobile: 07827 679189

Ilfracombe Dive Club – The local BSAC club offers BSAC members the opportunity to dive with them (members of their own club have priority). They can also provide airfills. Tel: 01271 855652. (Wed after 8pm) or leave a message.

Useful information about diving on Lundy Island can be found on the Lundy Island website.

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