Clovelly is a village on the north Devon coast, England, about twelve miles west of Bideford. It is a major tourist attraction, famous for its history and beauty, its extremely steep car-free cobbled main street, donkeys, and its location looking out over the Bristol Channel. Thick woods shelter it and render the climate so mild that even tender plants flourish.
The village itself is not accessible by motor vehicle and space at the harbour is extremely limited.
Visitors usually park in a municipal car park above the town, at the end of the B3237 road; service buses make calls at the car park also.
There is a visitor centre (consisting of a barrier to the village, a cafe and gift and guidebook shop) at the car park and a number of tourist-oriented shop units. Visitors can enter the village through the visitor centre. A taxi service operates in summer using Land Rover vehicles, between the car park and the harbour.
There is a public road down to the harbour (followed by the Land Rover taxi), although parking at the bottom is all private, and there is a sign warning visitors against going down that road
Clovelly used to be a fishing village and in 1901 had a population of 621. It is a cluster of wattle and daub cottages
on the sides of a rocky cleft; its steep main street descends 400 feet (120 m) to the pier
, too steeply to allow wheeled traffic. Sledges
are used for the movement of goods. The street is lined with houses, and a small number of shops and a cafe and a public house.
All Saints' Church, restored in 1866, is late Norman, containing several monuments to the Cary family, lords of the manor for 600 years.
The scenery is famous for its richness of colour, especially in the grounds of Cary Court, and along The Hobby, a road cut through the woods and overlooking the sea. The South West Coast Path National Trail runs past the village, and the section from Clovelly to Hartland Quay is particularly spectacular.
The novelist Charles Kingsley
lived here as a child from 1831 to 1836, while his father, the Reverend Charles Kingsley served first as Senior Curate then as Rector. Later, in 1855, his novel Westward Ho!
did much to stimulate interest in Clovelly and to boost its tourist trade.
Clovelly is also described by Charles Dickens in A Message from the Sea and was painted by Rex Whistler, whose cameos of the village were used on a china service by Wedgwood.
The surgeon Campbell De Morgan (1811 – 1876), who first speculated that cancer arose locally and then spread more widely in the body, was born here.
Clovelly is mentioned in passing by Rudyard Kipling in Stalky & Co. as being located to the west of the boys' academy.
Deliveries by sledge
The impossibility of getting vehicular access to the main street has led to deliveries being made by sledge. This is not done as a tourist attraction but as a matter of practicality. Goods being delivered are pulled down the hill from an upper car park. Refuse is pulled down the hill to a waiting vehicle at the harbour.
In former times, deliveries were made on the backs of donkeys. This is no longer practised, but some donkeys are kept at the village, for children's rides in a paddock by the main car park, and for photo opportunities in the street.