Whether you arrive on the lonely approach road or via the zig zagging route down from the cliffs, Hartland Quay feels very much like the end of the world. Precariously clinging to the black twisted shale cliffs are a tiny huddle of buildings, the The Hartland Quay Hotel seems to have resisted the weathering of the elemental Atlantic Ocean which surround it on three sides.
The Quay and small harbour are interesting from a historical perspective. Built in the 16th century in the reign of Elizabeth 1, two of the most famous explorers of the time, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh were part of a group who financed the attempt to put an outpost here.
However, the heavy burden of continual storm repair from severe gales, coupled with the arrival of the railway in Bideford meant that heavy goods were no longer shipped in to the quay, and by 1896 the neglected pier had been almost completely destroyed, eventually allowed to be swept away by the wildest of Atlantic rollers.
The buildings were converted into a hotel and pub at the end of the 19th Century, and whilst not be the height of luxury, the location is unrivalled. In fact the location is a favourite of film and television makers, with everything from Disney’s Treasure Island filmed in part here in the 1950’s to more recent dramas and films such as Jane Austen’s’ Sense and Sensibility in 2007. It is worth wandering out of the front door of the hotel at sunset against a backdrop of stars and a soundtrack of thundering waves. There is also a small fascinating museum open seasonally detailing the trading, wildlife and terrible shipwrecks of this infamous spot.