North Devon Area

North Devon High Coast

North Devon High Coast settlement Lee Bay

This is an area of spectacular seascapes, with a rugged, jagged coastline containing a series of rocky headlands and small coves with grey shingle beaches. The western part of the area has a remote and ancient feel, with extensive areas of colourful coastal heath and grassland containing prehistoric standing stones. The area around Ilfracombe is more developed, its imposing Victorian architecture telling the story of its rise as holiday destination. The enclosed, wooded coastal combes (each with its own unique character) cut through rolling, agricultural downland to the sea. Trees are prominent features which soften the windswept landscape of the open downland below the ridge tops.

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Map of DevonThis area comprises the north-facing coastline around Ilfracombe.  To the east is the boundary with Exmoor National Park (outside the remit of this study) and to the south is a gradual transition into the North Devon Downs.  To the south-west is the North Devon Coastal Downs.  The boundary between the North Devon High Coast and the North Devon Coastal Downs is marked by the change in the aspect and orientation of the coastline.  


Constituent Landscape Character Types

Constituent LCTs:4C: Coastal Slopes and Combes With Settlement, 4H: Cliffs, 5C: Downland, 7: Main Cities and Towns
Part of NCA:145: Exmoor


Distinctive Characteristics



Special Qualities and Features:

Forces for Change and Their Landscape Implications:

Past and Current




Overall Strategy:

To protect the distinctive seascapes, high scenic quality and strong sense of place within the North Devon Coast AONB and its setting; and enhance the area’s role as a setting for Exmoor National Park. Enjoyment of the area is encouraged, but tourism-related development is sensitively integrated into the landscape.  Sustainable agriculture is supported, and historic landscape features such as field patterns, sunken lanes and archaeological sites are protected and well-managed. Important semi-natural habitats such as woodland and coastal heath are well-managed and strengthened to resist climate change.