Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The dramatic view from the coast path above Clovelly Harbour illustrates one of the reasons why this village is so unique.
The whole village is wedged into a fold in the cliffs. People have lived here since the Iron Age, but the Saxons named it Cleave Leigh, old English for cleft in the cliff.
Clovelly is part of a private estate, once owned by the wife of William the Conqueror and listed in the Domesday Book. It has been in the ownership of but three families in the past 800 years.
This straggling village of irregular, gleaming white cottages, with lichen-covered slate roofs, clings to each side of the cleft. The traffic-free streets, paved with cobbles hauled up from the shore, descends steeply in a series of terraces to a tiny fishing port, once famous for its herring catches, and its ancient, wave-worn quay.
The only forms of transport you will see in Clovelly are sledges and donkeys.
Clovelly remains a vibrant community, which enjoys a way of life that visitors can but envy. They say it is this atmosphere, the stunning views and the maritime setting which live on in their memories.
Despite its tranquillity, there is much to see and do once you have paid to enter the award-winning visitor centre. An audio-visual presentation gives a fascinating overview of the village and its history. There are shops, hotels, traditional craft workshops, the Charles Kingsley Museum the author spent part of his childhood here a cottage replicating the life of a fishing family in the 19th century, a Victorian kitchen garden at Clovelly Court, the manor house and much more.
You can also take a boat trip along the dramatic coastline, or to Lundy Island. Alternatively, enjoy the magnificent views from a cliff-top walk along the Hobby Drive, or west towards Gallantry Bower.
For those who do not want to walk back up the hill from the quayside, there is a fare-paying Land Rover service for much of the year to return you to the top of the village.