Clovelly in North Devon, was once a thriving fishing village. These days its traditional industry has been given over to tourism and this impossibly pretty, privately-owned village is famous for its cobbled streets and historic harbour.
It was once owned by England’s first Queen, Matilda of Flanders in the 11th century. It’s the UK’s only privately-owned village.
It now belongs to John Rous who inherited it from his mother in 1983. He told the BBC, “It was almost important to me that Clovelly should remain a living village. I didn’t want to down the holiday lets line.”
The Rous family is only the third family to own it since the 1200s. The village has also been featured on film in Sense & Sensibility and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
It is certainly stuck in time. Photographs taken in the 1800s depict a village that remains unchanged today. The village nestles against a 400ft high cliff which tumbles its way down towards the port.
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Unusually, visitors must pay to enter the town and they have been doing so since 1924. For £8.75 you get a parking spot, museum entry, and a visit to the nearby Clovelly Court Gardens, home to tropical plants.
Some of the 83 cottages are more than 600 years old and are high maintenance thanks to the mould on the roofs and the battering from the winds and seawater. They are all centered around the steep, cobbled street, edged in flower boxes and those lucky enough to have tiny verandahs feature little tables and chairs and potted plants.
The road is so steep, it can only be negotiated by donkey or by two feet – wearing very sturdy shoes.
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Villagers get around a lot faster by using sleds made from wooden planks which are also used to drag their belongings up and down the street. Every one of the 300 residents owns one.
This adorable village is brimming with history. You can learn more at the Fisherman’s House, a small museum that depicts how a fishing family would have once lived in the 1930s. Boat building and trading in local limestone and Welsh Coal generated incomes for people who lived there centuries ago.
The Kingsley Museum is dedicated to the 19th-century writer Charles Kingsley who lived there as a child and wrote Westward Ho! In a letter he wrote to his wife after she visited in 1854, he said: “Now that you have seen the dear old Paradise you know what was the inspiration of my life before I met you”.
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