Holiday to Westward Ho!, Devon with kids
This summer we went on holiday to Westward Ho! in North Devon so I wanted to write a detailed post all about how to have a perfect holiday in Westward Ho! with kids. Yes Westward Ho! is one of those rare places with an exclamation mark in the name. Taken from the title of a Charles Kingsley novel, Westward Ho is a seaside town in Bideford, North Devon and luckily for us turned out to be a fantastic holiday destination.
Accommodation in Westward Ho!
Where to book in Westward Ho!? Well, first of all, I didn’t want to stay in a hotel. As we are a family of five, it’s not economical or practical either. The easiest thing was to look at Air B&B or Booking.com and search frantically — I booked one month prior to the dates I wanted (last week of August) so that’s why it was a bit rushed. Now after lots of searches it became apparent that there were more properties available last minute in Devon than in Cornwall. And that’s how I stumbled upon Westward Ho!
Top Tip: Book in advance! Not because it’s cheaper but because there’s more variety as less has been booked — obviously! Ideally I wanted a pool or hot tub, because I left it so late, I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.
Top Tip: Do the research! Check if the beach is walking distance or whether you’ll have to take the car. You pay more to be near the beach so if this isn’t that important then you can get somewhere cheaper in Westward Ho! which is still only a five minute drive to the beach. Devon on the whole is massive and there’s different parts, North and South. There’s mainland so half the properties are not anywhere near the beach, which was my main criteria.
Trying to find where to go when you’ve never been to the West Country wasn’t that easy. I knew about St Ives but that’s it really! I stuck to the map and used that to see which properties are closest to the water.
Our home in Westward Ho!
The house we ended up booking was a large modern family home in with an outstanding view. The view sold it to us, and it completely lived up to its expectations. The house had everything we could possibly need including access to anything in the garage which had surf boards, body boards and four bicycles.
It also had some gym equipment much to the amusement of my kids and a foosball table. The host also told us the shortcut to get to the beach (10-15 mins walk through woods). As it was a functional home and not just a holiday rental property, the house had everything, including those everyday things like dishwasher tablets, washing powder etc.
The house we stayed in is great for a larger family but if there are less of you and you have younger kids, having just been to Westward Ho! I would advise you to rent a home or apartment/flat right on the seafront. There are hundreds of modern apartments with balconies and sea views around. If you want somewhere quieter then a house or hotel away from the may be better. Our house was in a Cul de sac at a height and therefore had amazing views.
Top Tip: Check everything about the property before booking and once you’ve booked, ask the host for any details you might need. For example we were pleasantly surprised that there was a Smart TV (advertised as TV) which meant I didn’t need to take old DVD’s with me as there was Now Tv and Netflix available for us to use! Often hosts don’t list things and often we assume things will be provided and they’re not.
Weather in the Westward Ho!
Now lets talk about weather. Someone in Westward Ho! told me ‘We don’t really get seasons here, we just get weather.’ Quote of the year I think. What can I say except it just comes down to pot luck and this has always been my hesitance in booking holidays in the UK. We were lucky in that we only got one wet day, but on the other hand it was twelve degrees lower there than home. Yes a whole twelve degrees. We left a super hot Surrey at thirty-two degrees and got to North Devon about 5 o clock and it was twenty degrees. And that was pretty much how it was the whole week (end of August) , ranging from 16-20 degrees celsius.
We got very cold going into and coming out of the water because of the coastal winds, so be warned! The weather is unpredictable but the sunsets are something else. As long as it’s not chucking down at sunset you’ll get some beautiful shots.
The beach at Westward Ho!
Westward Ho! Beach has all the things a beach should have – dessert shops, many fish & chip shops, pasty shops and lots of restaurants, what else do you need? The village behind the seaside has a Co-op, Tesco Express and a pharmacy which is handy.
You could stay here all week and be self-sufficient. The sandy beach is massive in depth and length (around three miles) but the tide is fierce. It’s essential to check the Westward Ho tide times as it comes up so high that you can’t even access the beach. If that’s the case, check in the morning so that you can go to a different beach. For example one day it came up around 2pm and the next day around 4.30pm. There is an RNIL patrol in the summer months in Westward Ho! beach though, which is reassuring.
But the great thing about Westward Ho! beach and others in Devon is that the water is shallow when the tide is out. So you can go really far into the water and it’s still only waist high. However the tides can be pretty vicious which makes it a surfers dream and this is why we had so much fun body boarding (half the size of a surf board which you lie on rather than stand so much easier). As someone who has never touched a surf board it was pretty exciting!
Top Tip: Hire/Buy wetsuits. They’re available near any beach or town centre in Devon. We hired them for four hours which meant we could spend the whole afternoon in the sea without freezing our bits off. If you’re going to be going in the water daily then it might be better to just buy one. Prices vary from £30 – £150 otherwise cost about £6 for two hours and £12 for the whole day. Obviously multiply by four or five for the whole family then it’s adds up. But it’s worth it if the water temperature is anything below twenty degrees celcius (which it is most of the year).
The sea is certainly volatile in Westward Ho! but all three of my kids (13,11 and 7) went pretty far out. I fretted a little when the older two went out of sight but luckily they knew what they were doing. If you can swim it’s all good, but even if you can’t very well like my youngest you can have a whole heap of fun as long as you’re supervised. The tide went over her many times which was a bit scary but she enjoyed it! The undercurrent caught us by surprise so you have to be careful.
Parking in Westward Ho! is straight forward, follow the P sign for the over flow carpark which is £7 for the day or the one ‘on the field’ charges £4 for the whole day.
Top Tip: Don’t fear the water! If you have a body board it also acts as a float. If you’re not confident in the sea, North Devon Surf School (where we hired wetsuits from) do surf lessons daily for all ages.
What to eat in Westward Ho!
There is an abundance of stalls on the seaside in Westward Ho! Our favourite was Nice which serves the most delicious donuts in the world! The pasty shop also does a mean broccoli and cauliflower pasty. I noticed there were lots of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options at most places so most dietary requirements can be met (except halal meat, I will be writing about in a separate post).
I recommend Atlantic Bay for the best quality fish and chips in the area. They were consumed very quickly by us after a long swim, and there’s a seating area inside and outside. There are also come nice tea rooms but they close at 3.30 so we didn’t get a chance to visit them. As well as foodie places there’s a beautiful gift shop and a good souvenir shop which also sells anything you might need for the seaside including wetsuits, flip flops, balls..you name it, they’ve got it. There are restaurants but we didn’t try them as we ate elsewhere or at home.
What to take to Westward Ho!
As I mentioned earlier there’s convenience stores everywhere so you can buy eggs and milk etc. when you get to Westward Ho! I took it all with me because I didn’t want to waste precious holiday time shopping. Or you could do what my sister does and arrange a Tesco delivery to your holiday home for the day you arrive!
What I would recommend is things like drinks, snacks for the journey and if you’re going out for the day, instant noodles (for emergencies!), butter/jam for breakfast. I bought some GU desserts, which went down a treat while cosying up watching a movie!
Our rented home had cooking oil and spices so it was easy to make eggs and basic meals but not every house will have this. Extra towels for the beach are essential because the accommodation will usually have towels for bathing. Comfortable shoes for all the extensive coastal paths is important too if you plan on going for long walks.
Picnic blanket/beach mat and some foldable chairs are all really useful things to take, I wish I had remembered to pack ours! A wind breaker is useful too for that blustery coastal wind but you can hire them there too. As well as this a kite, football, cricket, aerobi are all worth taking. We took our current favourite board games Codenames and Exploding Kittens and a pack of cards as well.
Top Tip: Take some food items you can’t get very easily like home-made kebabs, frozen chicken nuggets or cooked keema so you can just add it to pasta or have it with naan.
I thoroughly enjoyed the family time we got in North Devon as it was much needed. Even the bad weather one day meant we were indoors so we ended up playing games most of the day. The kids crave our attention and I feel I can only give it when I don’t have housework to do which is basically never. That is the point of holidays I guess but holidaying in the UK is not something we’ve done that much but I certainly intend to make it a regular thing!