Tunnels BeachesIlfracombe
Bath Place
North Devon EX34 8AN
 
 

 

In the 19th century, the nooks and crannies of North Devon’s spectacular cliffs provided the natural harbour for the seaside town of Ilfracombe but not a sandy foreshore. To find sandy beaches it was necessary to either walk over the cliff top and descend a steep path or wait until low tide and walk around the point risking being cut off when the tide came in.

Both of these activities could be hazardous so in 1823 Welsh miners were engaged to hand carve tunnels through the headlands to provide access to several small beaches where tidal swimming pools were constructed.

Segregated Swimming
Victorian morals of the day insisted on segregation of the sexes when swimming, so one beach was for gentlemen and the other for ladies! An admission fee to use the beaches and pools was charged, and this continues to be the case.
 
Tunnels Beaches is privately owned by the third generation of the McLintock family and receives no funding, grants or subsidies from local councils, or any other bodies. The entrance fee is necessary to keep the tunnels and beaches open to the general public, to maintain a very high standard of facilities, to clean the beaches and to protect the beautiful coastline and its wildlife.
 
The fee also provides lifeguard cover during the summer school holidays to ensure safety and security for visitors. The fee is also critical to allow maintenance of the Ladies tidal pool, which often suffers from severe storm damage.
 
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Tripadvisor here:     External Link
 
Opening Times
April – End September: 10:00 – 18:00 daily
Summer school holidays: Closes 1 hour later 10:00 – 19:00 daily
October (closed Mondays except during school holidays): 10:00 – 17:00 hours
 
Closed November to End of March with the following exceptions:
New Year's Day: 10:00 – 16:00 hours - FREE OPEN DAY!
February school holidays: Open 10:00 – 17:00 daily
 
Admission
The ticket price covers all day access – come and go as often as you like. Please note: Last entry is 30mins before closing time.
 
Concessions & Season Tickets are available. For further information go to  Web:  Tunels Beaches/ Opening Times & Admission Costs   External Link
 
- Approximate Costs
Adults (16 yrs +): 2.50
Children (3-15 yrs inclusive): £1.95
Children (under 3yrs): Free
 
Disabled Access
There is wheelchair and pushchair access. The ground throughout the tunnels themselves is either paved or concrete; access is good with only a gentle slope leading to the main beach. Accessible toilets and baby changing facilities are also available on site.
 
Activities
Apart from sitting on the beach relaxing and enjoying the scenery, or frolicking in the tidal pool, there are plenty of fascinating rock pools to explore.
 
The rugged nature of the coastline provides ideal conditions for lots of weird and wonderful creatures and the rock pools are teeming with sea life. The huge tidal range allows access to very rare species such as sea corals, on very low tides. Most common species are very accessible - just lift up the rocks in very shallow water to discover crabs, fish and strawberry anemones.
 
Plan ahead by checking the tide times. Visit during low tide for the best rock pooling!

The TIDAL POOL is visible 3 hrs before & 3 hrs after low tide. Tide times can be checked by going to  Web:  Tide Times - Ilfracombe   External Link

Kayaking
The sheltered beaches are ideal for open-sea kayaking. During the summer, kayaks may be hired but if you have your own, paddle between rocks to small private coves and do a spot of fishing for Sea Bass.
 
Note:
Only kayak when safe and do not kayak in the tidal pool.
 
Facilities
Cafe Blue Bar; public toilets; The Play Hut (indoor soft play – separate admission fee applies); Beach Shops; Kayak Hire (seasonal).
 
The network of unique hand-carved tunnels leads to safe, sheltered beaches. Information boards throughout the site record the fascinating history of the Victorian bathing polls including hilarious guides to Victorian etiquette for boys, girls and for when boating with ladies!
 
Learn how local entrepreneurs developed the tunnels and pools, and transformed Ilfracombe from a small fishing village into a popular seaside tourist resort.
 
Please note:
- The natural coastline is not golden sand but grey weathered Devonian slate
- The Gentlemen's beach is often closed due to weddings
- The Ladies' beach, tunnels, Cafe & Play Hut are unaffected by weddings; and
- No dogs allowed on the beaches.
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0)1271 879 882   Follow the options given.  
Website   Tunnelsbeaches   External Link
 
Getting There
When in Ilfracombe, follow the brown road/pedestrian signs for ‘Tunnels Beaches

The Tunnels Beaches website has an excellent map at  Web:  Tunnelsbeaches/ Contact   External Link

Google Maps - Ilfracombe