Monday, 18 January 2016

West Country Tour … Ilfracombe … part 12 …



Moving on eastwards up the Devon coast we come to the very historical, pretty and once again geologically amazing hinterland and harbour of Ilfracombe …




  • Now we get the slaty cleavage of Iflracombe slate …
Simplified Geological representation -
Hartland point of my part 11 ... is south of
Barnstaple's River Taw estuary



  • Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age inhabitants left their mark in the surrounding landscape … an ancient ridgeway connecting Cornwall, Devon with England; an Iron Age fort on Capstone Hill overlooking the town.



  • Alfreinscoma” (either of Anglo-Saxon or Norse origins) was first noted in Liber Exoniensis of 1086 – a composite land and tax register associated with the Domesday Survey covering much of southwest England …

The fractured coastline around Ilfracombe


  • Smugglers, wreckers and mooncussers all made use of the fractured coastline with its hidden caves…




  • The naturally protected harbour – became a significant safe port (registered port of refuge) for the Bristol Channel.
Taken on my walk back from parking the car ...
the inner harbour, the protective arm of the pier keeping
the Bristol Channel seas at bay ...
  • Established trading routes to Ireland, Wales and beyond … fish, minerals, men, coal, lime … what was necessary during each era …


So as you can see Ilfracombe has a long, chequered history …


Monchrome photo from Capstone Hill showing the
new development of the Georgian and Victorian town


Then came the Georgians (1714 – 1837) … a time of immense social change:  as seen in Ilfracombe when it became a fashionable spa and sea-bathing destination, thus establishing the hotels, public rooms found in the town.




Some of the coves, and caves were inaccessible … but in 1819, a local entrepreneur saw their potential: miners from Wales were brought in to dig tunnels to the coves … creating segregated, modesty, bathing beaches … and opening up that side of town, away from the harbour.



Old oak plaque informing us about
Prince Edward's visit
We found our “Royal” Hotel – so designated by Prince Edward aged 15 (1856), before becoming Edward VII when he was 59 (1901) … but the tavern, as it would have been, was right at the harbour’s edge, where he would have arrived by ship – away from the more elegant spa developments of the Regency period.




The hotel is the cream building on the right at
the end of the quay road

The hotel is a typical 300 year old, grade II listed, building … early Georgian bay windows, square in shape and full of dark rich oak … 




Confirming the use by
Lord and Lady Nelson


... a cellar cluttered with beer barrels below the bar … dark, musty, old tar – a place for ‘old salts’ (sailors) … no doubt enhanced in standards after Admiral Nelson and Lady Hamilton stayed over (probably sometime in the period 1788-1792 – when England was at peace) …



I’ve been struggling to think how I could describe the hotel … a truckers’ café, a fishermen’s watering hole … now of course when I take my mind back to the Stuart and Georgian periods … it is obvious – it is an old salt’s tavern – a meeting place; an embarkation point; or at the end of a journey a drinking place.

Our bedroom windows above the patio - I'm just glad it was
late Autumn, a monday and drizzling - we had a quiet night!


It was all a bit switched off … yes, it was a Monday, … anyway we sorted ourselves out and were blessed with first floor, bay-windowed rooms looking straight out over the harbour, even if it was raining or drizzling – the view was stunning.




The choice for dinner seemed to be non-existent or Asian in a pub?! so we decided we’d have dinner out … that’s the next tale.


View at dusk or early nightfall
out of my bedroom window

We both had good nights … the tide going about its business, the fishing boats getting ready to go out on the turn of the tide at 4.00 am … swishing waves against the harbour wall just below our rooms.


Breakfast – now this was indicative of my reticence in describing this ‘hotel’! … there was no welcome, just help yourself, someone eventually came – after I’d called them - I decided I needed some fruit … there was nothing at the so-called breakfast bar. 



We came across them practising with the
Lifeboat when we were walking around before supper


Jenny was fine and happy with her order … but I asked for fruit – a look of despair and retinence faced me … so I said no worries I’d go out and buy myself an apple or an orange and be back shortly.  Shock, quelle horreur … but we were right in the middle of the town … oh no – we’ll go out and get out something.



Fine … but ... back comes my apple – cut in four with some pip and husk left in … and my orange peeled with a lot of pith still on … it was interesting!  I kept my mouth shut and ate!!


Just a photo of half an information page -
the more informative part for this post
The parking was, understandably, difficult ... but at least it was late autumn and my car had been left up the hill on the other side of the harbour.  So I couldn’t easily take our luggage out to the car after checking out ... they very kindly let us stay til 1.00 pm … check-out being 11.00 am.


It was raining or drizzling – so Jenny and I took time out to rest up, read, re-pack, write postcards etc … in between brief forays out to see the sights.


I wanted to see Verity properly … we’d seen her at dusk the night before … but I wanted to get close up and personal … so went to the end of the pier to see her …


The Landmark Theatre - known locally as
Madonna's bra!


Before we left we thought we’d try and see the tunnels – but the weather was foul, and it was quite a walk … we wandered towards them, saw from a distance the museum and the modern theatre … locally known as Madonna’s bra – perhaps you can see why … we retraced our steps …



The next morning when the tide was out ... and
we were hoping the drizzle would pass

Ilfracombe gave us an insight into life through 4,000 years … especially as the Regency and modern changes to the town (with one exception – next post!) happened away from the harbour … leaving the memories of the old tars to mill around in our minds …


Next post is ladies’ day at Ilfracombe … and yes, Verity …



I’ve linked across to one of my earlier posts (August 2009) on the sea tunnels at Ilfracombe - showing bathing machines and the tunnels ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

56 comments:

Nilanjana Bose said...

Wow! That view from your bedroom is totally stunning! All your photos in fact. Four thousand years is a long trek through history.

Mooncussers, what an interesting word :)

Safe and interesting travels to you!

Rhodesia said...

Another lovely post of an interesting area. I am surprised at the breakfast, but at least you got your fruit if not quite in the state you expected! Take care Diane

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Odd they didn't serve fruit.
Smart idea to bring in people to tunnel down to those caves. Who wouldn't want a private beach and cave to explore?

Manzanita said...

Mooncussers..... I had to look up that one. And I bet those pirates could really cuss.
You came up with some fancy descriptive words..... and how about Madonnas Bra. LOL

Karen Lange said...

Lovely photos, as always! Appreciate you sharing them with us. Perhaps you should be a travel guide someday. Surely you would add richness and great fun to anyone's travel experience. Glad you eventually got your fruit, such as it was. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

No fruit for breakfast! Your room was perfect as along as the pub wasn't too busy right below it. Funny about Madonna's bra.

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

I had to look up mooncusser! That's a keeper. :) I love the photo of the water from your window.

Joanne said...

pirates, then a spa area, an "old salt's tavern" is a perfect description, and so much more. Even in drizzle this looks so quaint and has so much character and history. Now if only we could up the ante on customer service...but you can't have everything...?? Keep the adventure going

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I had to look up "mooncussers." What a great word!
I can imagine that the shoreline and caves there would spawn all kinds of story ideas (and probably already has)!

Bish Denham said...

Mooncussers and Madonna's Bra... There's humor in the rocks and coves.

I'd so love to be along for the drive!

Chrys Fey said...

I love the looks of the fractured coastline.

Madonna’s Bra. Haha! Yup, I can see why. :P

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I'm still thinking about all the history and the smugglers. Beautiful pictures.

cleemckenzie said...

As if a three-hundred-year-old hotel isn't exciting enough to read about, you included Madonna's Bra as well. I just love the name, mooncuxxer. It's so much more romantic than pirate. Thanks for another great post.

beste barki said...

Mooncussers? I had not heard of them Hilary! Yesterday I watched The Revenant. We worry about the times we live in today, boy, did they all live in lawless violent times back then. Salut, Beste

Elise Fallson said...

What beautiful coastline.... and Madonna's Bra, Ha! That made me laugh. And I'd never heard of the term "mooncussers" but I like it, created a vivid image. :) Pitty about the breakfast bar...but glad you got your apples in the end! I'm looking forward to 'ladies' day!'

Elephant's Child said...

I had to look up mooncussers. Oh dear. Their name is nicer than their practice. I think what makes my skin crawl is the cold-bloodedness. They took no personal risks, but caused death and destruction for others.
Sigh on the hotel front. Another intriguing post which touches on so many things I will have to explore.

Anabel Marsh said...

The word eclectic springs to mind for Ilfracombe! It looks lovely, though I might choose another hotel if I visit.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'd love to dine and watch the water. Not in the rain though.

dolorah said...

Great research info for someone writing middle earth settings :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nila – it was a fabulous setting … and I felt I could put the 4,000 years through history up – just seem possible through the development of Ilfracombe …

Mooncussers – came up in my post “S is for Smuggling” in my A-Z Cornish posts last year … Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” mentioned it .. “few places on the British coast did not claim to be the haunts of wreckers or mooncussers”

@ Diane – I know the breakfast was a shock! But perhaps I’ve covered the ambience in my descriptions here … I did get some fruit and quite quickly .. so I was satisfied in a somewhat inelegant way!

@ Alex – it was into the ‘down season’ and it was ‘a Monday’ .. but the whole thing was a little strange …

The beach tunnels were to provide separate men’s and women’s beaches and pools – modesty prevailed 200 years ago …

@ Manzanita - I used ‘mooncussers’ from Kidnapped in my A-Zs .. but it’s so easy to forget words … and yes I’m sure those pirates cussed! So far no-one’s mentioned my ‘slaty cleavage’ description … but the descriptions do not belie the truth!

@ Karen – thanks re the photos – they can highlight one’s ideas and prose … and show the area. I seem to get the moniker ‘ travel guide’ … a compliment – thank you. I’m glad I got my fruit too …

@ Susan – I know it was a little odd .. but I guess they didn’t normally cater for the likes of Jenny and I – still I got it! Not a hotel for the long evenings … Madonna’s bra – does bring the theatre to mind!

@ Holly – yes I mentioned it in my A-Z at “S for Smuggling” last year in the Cornish series … now it’s made its way out into the big bad again! Despite R L Stephenson using it in Kidnapped …

Thanks – our rooms were so well positioned …

@ Joanne – I’m glad I brought the area to light with my descriptions … it is a quaint vibrant harbour town … and certainly has a great deal of history and characters …

I think the hotel caters for a different trade from Jenny and I … looking at the ambience of the place.

@ Dianne – yes ‘mooncussers’ is a wonderful word isn’t it – that’s why I put it back in … it was in Kidnapped originally … stories I’m sure abounded from here … certainly ideas from the sailing waters around these coasts …

@ Bish – there’s humour in those rocks and coves and cusses – certainly … even Madonna’s bra, and a slaty cleavage – all grist to the mill of words! It’d be great to have you along …

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Chrys – the fractured coastline – good from afar .. not so happy close to! It’d be razor sharp. Madonna’s bra .. is a great description isn’t it …

@ Sheena – yes lots of history, and I’m certain lots of smugglers. Glad you enjoyed the photos ..

@ Lee – Mooncussers made a happy entrance in last year’s A-Z under S for Smuggling .. but Robert Louis Stevenson – was 200 years in advance … in Kidnapped. I agree it’s a good name .. but a pirate of the name of Johnny Depp I wouldn’t turn down!

@ Beste - Mooncussers seems to have taken you all by storm. Oh we’re thinking of going to see the Revenant, but might end up seeing a lighter film .. depends on what’s out in 10 days .. but I’d like to see the Revenant after the previews we’ve had of it from the Oscar nominations.

@ Elise – I found the name in Kidnapped … Madonna’s bra as the name for a theatre ‘delights me’ … The coastline is wonderful, but you need to walk it … or fly it … to see it properly. Yes .. I think you’ll enjoy ladies’ day …

@ EC – well everyone seems to be looking up mooncussers – such a wonderful word … and their name is funnier than meeting one of them on a dark, wind-swept, coastal stormy night. In fact in those days 300 years ago .. I think they probably did take risks … they were the scavengers of shipwrecks etc …

I hope you enjoy checking your thoughts out re this post …

@ Anabel – I write eclectic posts and after my next post – Ilfracombe will definitely fit that description for the town … pity, as the hotel is the centre of life there – I’d guess! But I understand I too would want my sleep …

@ Diane – yes dine and watch the water in peace and quiet without the rain, or a noisy crowd around one ..

@ Dolorah – I thought the post might resonate with writers .. lots here to consider and the previous posts …

Thanks so much to you all … ‘mooncussers’ seemed to resonate .. cheers Hilary

Vallypee said...

Despite the miserable weather, it looks lovely, Hilary! I have a feeling I've been there, but I don't remember it. I'd love to go back! The service in your hotel sounds as if they had something to learn still :)

Out on the prairie said...

I'm not sure if i knew any Mooncussers. LOL Great historical events to enjoy, and the rugged coastline is really nice.The area I live in was settled in 1837,so the earlier local history still stays within that century.

Vallypee said...

I've just been looking at the map, and yes, I have been there. I did a similar trip to yours with my mother years and years ago, and we drove along the north Devon coast. It really is so beautiful, isn't it? I remember Clovelly and Lynton/Lynmouth, so Ilfracombe was certainly on our route! What a shame the weather was so horrible for you.

Jo said...

Another interesting wander for the pair of you. Not sure I ever made it to Ilfracombe. The hotel building doesn't look particularly attractive - and no fruit? Was there juice, or not even that?

It is a beautiful view from your room and I love the nickname of the theatre.

TexWisGirl said...

mooncussers - loved that!

Truedessa said...

These posts are fun to read! I get to see a bit of the world and learn some of the history behind these places. I have to say I would certainly enjoy exploring a cave. I had to to look up mooncussers but, I was sure it was a pirate of some sorts.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Val - I see you also had a trip around the area ... it is stunning - we never got to Clovelly or Lynton/Lynmouth ... it was extra ups and downs! and it was early Autumn as the clocks had gone back. Thankfully the weather wasn't bad - in fact probably quite good ... it was warm, and mostly dry - just for that one morning it was soggy. We were central to the harbour and village .. so it was quite convenient. The hotel catered for a different trade ... but they were good to us - in a funny way!

@ Steve - I'm sure I've come across a few mooncussers in my time in Cornwall - but they are rare now-a-days! I doubt they wander around your wonderful prairie lake. It's so interesting to read your areas was settled when Victoria came to the throne!

@ Jo - yes .. it was another good town to visit and stay in. The hotel is of early Georgian type - so simple and built as a working tavern on the harbour frontage. There was juice - it's just I wanted some fruit and I'm not fond of juice.

The view was stunning though and the theatre's nickname is fun - and very obvious.

@ Theresa - thought that name would 'catch' a few comments ...

@ Michele - so pleased you're enjoying the read ... and you're finding out a little about our West Country ... there are plenty of caves here - but those at Ilfracombe are liable to be flooded as the tide comes in - so perhaps somewhere else!? Mooncussers ... Robert Louis Stephenson used that word in Kidnapped ...

Cheers to you all - so glad you are still enjoying the journey ... Hilary

Gattina said...

What a pity that the weather was bad and what an adventure with your hotel ! Sometimes we have no other choice ! The worst I had were bunk beds !
Interesting history of this area !

Patsy said...

Gorgeous scenery and the history is fascinating. Sounds as though a few hotel staff think that's enough and friendliness - and fruit - would be overdoing it.

Rhonda Albom said...

Interesting and beautiful scenery. I love the fractured coastline shot. My kind of destination.

Beate said...

I love visiting those places through you, Hilary!
Asking for fruits at the breakfast table - that would be totally me. I so know the horrified looks from the waiter ;)
Have a fabulous Monday!
Lots of hugs to you,
Beate

Murees Dupé said...

Definitely an interesting trip. I do see the Madonna Bra. Sorry the food wasn't that good. Have a great week.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gattina - thankfully it was just this half a day ... and in fact even then at times it was a light drizzle. The hotel had its advantages being on the harbour ... and it is an 'old salt's tavern' as now described by me ... so we make allowances.

@ Patsy - it's as I said to Gattina ... an old salt's tavern .. run by English but with Philippinos or Thais or Indonesians perhaps involvement.

However the history etc really made up for these minor inadequacies ...

@ Rhonda - fractured coastline - sadly not one of my photos .. but it showed the fracturing. Definitely a beautiful coastline ...

@ Beate - thank you ... it was a 'funny' hotel - but I could understand their 'take on life' ... Monday morning, out of season etc .. and they'll be full - I can guarantee you that.

@ Murees - it's been a great reminder blog-tour for me .. as I follow our trip round - taking Jenny's lead!

Cheers to you all - thanks for visiting ... Hilary

Annalisa Crawford said...

Mmm, sometimes hospitality isn't quite what you expect, is it? But I love the idea of staying in a place that's 300 years old.

A Heron's View said...

To be truthful during my life in the Westcountry I never took to Ilfracombe at all, Bude, Clovelly of course who could not be enamoured by the place, similarly with Lynton and Lynmouth. Then moving northwards to Blue Anchor and Watchet but Ilfracombe never.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Annalisa - it just wasn't what we were expecting .. but I hadn't done my homework .. if we had we wouldn't have had those fantastic views.

@ Mel - we never got into Clovelly and didn't make Blue Anchor, though I've been to Watchet at another time. Ilfracombe was on Jenny's list to visit and stay in .. it was very interesting ... and I've learnt so much about the coast ...

Thanks to the two of you .. Ilfracombe was an experience .. Hilary

Sara C. Snider said...

What a lovely town, with lots of amazing history. Must have been fantastic to visit, even if your hotel was so-so. At least the view was amazing. :)

Maria said...

What an adventure! I can identify with he madness of the service industry. The good the bad and the just plain weird!
Love that word mooncussers - never heard it before but it got my attention.

Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures.

Ana coelho said...

So much history and great pictures thank you for letting me have a glimpse at your adventures... Ana..

Lowcarb team member said...

It's years since I visited Ilfracombe so it was very interesting to read your post and yes, I can see why 'Madonnas Bra' is the nickname.

Hope your week is going well

All the best Jan

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I know nothing about this area, so this has been very interesting. And so amusingly told, Hilary! You've got such a great voice. Love Madonna's bra (yes, I can definitely see why) and your tales of the old salt’s tavern. Great entry in your travelogue/historical series!

Susan Scott said...

Was wondering where Verity was Hilary but glad to see she'll be appearing next time! I'm HOPING that son Mike has linked me properly (tho not through Feedly I don't think) to your posts so that I receive them timeously instead of when I go in search on purpose. Your trip sounds very purposeful and lovely. Interesting bra shape - very Madonna like! Much more lovely is the view from your bedroom!

Crystal Collier said...

You know, the history of the place makes me wonder how much treasure hides somewhere beneath the old hotel and in the inaccessible caves.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sara - it's been good for me to investigate its history .. brought things into line for me. The hotel was fin - and of course it makes a good blog post! The view was extraordinary ...

@ Maria - oh yes the service industry has its moments - definitely requiring a large intake of breath, a big relaxed smile ... and getting on with what one can. Robert Louis Stevenson called us to account with mooncussers in Kidnapped .. it's a great word. Thank next one's up for tomorrow ...

@ Ana - lots of history, which the pictures help explain the area .. it's been a fun trip.

@ Jan - I'm glad Ilfracombe rang a bell for you .. and you remembered parts of it. Madonna's bra - is a great nickname isn't it ...

@ Elizabeth - thanks so much re 'my voice' - it's taken me 3 months almost to work out 'the old salts' tavern' .. but still I got here. I'm delighted you're enjoying the journey round with me ...

@ Susan - yes Verity is now written and up for tomorrow. Well I hope the feed link works ... there are various of them: BlogLovin, Feedly, and no doubt others .. I'm sure Mike will have worked it out for you ...

Thankfully our bedrooms looking over the harbour did not have to look out at the theatre .. but Verity might change your mind?!

@ Crystal ... I'm fairly certain most has been found - but things keep appearing ... and then can be traced back .. that's what I find so interesting ...

Thanks so much - it's lovely having you all along with me .. cheers for now - Hilary

D.G. Hudson said...

I love the photos you've attached to this post, Hilary. Even if the hotel isn't as classy as one would like, the scenery and the associated history you mention would make it interesting to me. I'm enjoying the travel tour you are taking us on with your posts!

Deborah Weber said...

What a wonderful look into your adventure Hilary. And the idea of staying at an old salt's tavern certainly puts a more palatable spin on things doesn't it? I couldn't help but think you were taking a scurvy cure with your orange.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Hilary. Stunning photos, riveting text. Thanks as always for taking us on your journey. Another name we have in Australia..Ilfracombe. Ours is in the outback, desperate for rain. Only been there once, I think, but Geo stopped there on a car rally to raise money for cancer research. The whole town stopped when they drove into town and put on a party in the main street, so excited were they that someone had visited.

Thanks again Hilary. You and Kevin McCloud keep me in touch with the English countryside.

Denise :-)

Nick Wilford said...

Totally stunning part of the world. The view you had was great. Seems like the hotel was a mixed bag but I'm sure that didn't detract from things too much.

M Pax said...

How can there not be fruit? It still looks like an amazing place to visit. I know I'd enjoy it. :)

Munir said...

Thank you for such a nice tour of very interesting places. You are a terrific and very patient guide indeed. You do all of the hard work and we get to enjoy. Cheers !
PS Please take car of yourself.

mail4rosey said...

The caves in the shoreline would scare me. I'm always wondering what's hiding in things like that... and critters that aren't domesticated make me nervous. ;) LOL at Madonna's bra. I see it though, definitely. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ DG - thanks re the photos ... the hotel was good, being on the harbour ... I imagine in the high season it'd be fairly noisy ... delighted you're enjoying travelling around with us ..

@ Deborah - I'm enjoying reliving the journey and learning more - 'old salt's tavern' thankfully is a good description ... and I wanted to get us staying in interesting hotels as we went round. A scurvy cure is a fun thought ... thankfully something I don't think I suffer from.

@ Denise - thanks so much .. appreciate your thoughts. I hadn't realised there was an Ilfracombe in Australia ... our names have been taken across into various continents, which always amuses me to find. Interesting about their excitement seeing those taking part in the car rally - so pleased it was for cancer research.

Kevin McCloud certainly visits some interesting places ...

@ Nick - it is stunningly attractive .. I'd love to go back sometime. The hotel was interesting - I'm glad we stayed there: it had character .. but we were out of season I'm pleased to say.

@ Mary - well it was unexpected to find there wasn't any fruit even if it was out of season .. who knows?! I got my fruit though - however haphazard it was provided. The harbour area is lovely .. as too the other side with the beach tunnels ...

@ Munir - it's a pleasure to write about our journey - gives me a second look at the area. Thankfully I'm home and writing.

@ Rosey - those caves in this day and age are well explored .. so unless your imagination runs away with you - you'd be safe! Sadly wild animals have almost gone from our landscape. Madonna's bra - good name by the locals.

Cheers to you - thanks so much for coming by and commenting ... Hilary

Rosalind Adam said...

I do love that part of the country, not so sure about that hotel but the view from the window was amazing.

Jeffrey Scott said...

The place you stayed at here sounds, errrrr 'interesting'.
Would it be good to give it a miss next time?
Still, sounds like a lot of history and even a bad experience is an experience to share. And you can't have a good experience with a hotel if you don't have a bad one from time to time.
If you get my meaning.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ros - there were compensations .. the view out across the harbour ... but in summer it would have been very noisy. It was a good hotel for a good storyline!

@ Jeffrey - yes exactly it was errrrrr 'interesting'!!!! It had merit that it was in the centre of harbour end of town ... but I'd go in winter, late autumn or very early Spring ... otherwise I'd avoid it.

Yes - there is a lot of history around here ... and so we enjoyed ourselves - accepted our rooms were fine with lovely views, but the hotel per se - was another story .. as you've gathered.

Thanks for the visits .. cheers Hilary