Much Improved Since My Last Visit
Previous to this visit my last visit to Ilfracombe was in the late 90's and I wasn't impressed with the place. Everything was run-down, the hotels were shabby and uninviting, the pubs were dingy and not particularly friendly and the harbour and beach areas were litter-strewn. The town seemed more of a cheap tacky resort where the only thing to do was visit its garishly lit and noisy amusement arcades and feed the slot machines.
This visit however (June 2009) has impressed me. It's like a different town. Everywhere has had a lick of paint, there's no litter, the pubs are friendly and inviting, the hotels, guest houses and other accomodations have taken a step upmarket and even the amusement arcades, although still there, seem to have toned themselves down.
Arriving by bus I found the bus station still a bit shabby and lacking in facilities, but shabby in a greyish utilitarian manner rather than dirty or unkempt.
The minute or so's walk to the harbour however served to counter the initial impression given by the bus station. This has been seriously cleaned up and whilst still very much a working harbour is now an major attraction - this is the place to sit and have your fish and chips and enjoy the slow-paced North Devon biziness. That's the attraction: everything that needs doing gets done, but at its own pace, not rushed.
The town too is a delight. Not only have most of its buildings been smartened up but also the streets are a riot of colour with floral displays everywhere and beautifully tended parks and gardens.
Being a "Combe" the town nestles in its valley and the hills on both sides are well worth the walk to appreciate not just the land and sea 'scapes but also the neatness and relative lack of development of the urban area as well.