Ilfracombe & The Carlton


Discover the facinating history behind The Carlton Hotel and the traditional seaside town of Ilfracombe itself, one of the South West’s most renowned tourist hotspots.

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Ilfracombe History

The History Of Ilfracombe & The Carlton Hotel

One of the South West’s most renowned tourist hotspots, Ilfracombe has been capturing the hearts of holidaymakers from across the UK for hundreds of years. However, its status as a seaside resort was cemented in the Victorian era, with its beautiful bays and stunning sandy beaches offering a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of industrial city life. During this time, many of the town’s buildings, shops, and hotels were designed and built, one of which was The Carlton. Want to find out more? Let us give you a whistle-stop tour of the town’s rich history – hold tight!

Ilfracombe: A Brief History

Deriving its name from a mixture of Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Old English languages, Ilfracombe translates to ‘The valley with the bad ford’ and historically functioned as a busy port on the Bristol Channel dating back to the early 13th century. After supplying ships and manpower to many an English conqueror, the port gradually transitioned to become a quaint seaside town and rose to particular prominence with sun-seeking Victorians looking to escape the gloomy city smog.

Along with picture-perfect beaches and our dramatic Devon coastline, the town’s famous Tunnel Beaches – which were hand carved by Welsh miners in the 1800s – were a must for Victorian beach-goers. Both couples and families relished exploring the dark passageways before enjoying a refreshing dip in one of the tidal bathing pools at the end of each tunnel.

Today, Ilfracombe’s small-town charm and gorgeous coastal views continue to attract visitors from far and wide. While its characterful harbour and surrounding streets offer a wealth of history to uncover, its quirky shops, eclectic art galleries, and trendy eateries make it a superb place to enjoy a break. But its roots in Victorian history have not been forgotten.

Every year, the town celebrates its fascinating history through the renowned Victorian & Steampunk Festival, which takes place in the picturesque Runnymede Gardens in the warm summer months. From Victorian re-enactments and musical parades to fun-filled fictional activities such as teapot racing, ghost walks, and parasol duelling, this annual celebration combines history with a sprinkling of fantasy and promises a fantastic day out for all the family. Better still, this Ilfracombe tradition is just a short stroll away from the grand surroundings of The Carlton Hotel, which also finds its origins in Victorian tourism…

The Origins of The Carlton Hotel

Following the opening of the Tunnels Beaches in the 1830’s a number of properties were developed around. Hence around two decades later, two semi-detached villas were erected in fields opposite Runnymead Meadows. Named Runnydown and Leawood, these two houses were originally designed for individual Victorian occupation.

The design of these buildings is very different to the gothic Victorian style of our neighbouring Runnymede House, being more simple, solid and Georgian in proportions.

Like so many in Ilfracombe the homes were converted for visitor use, and in 1893 these villas  became St Petroc’s Boarding House. St Petroc being a Welsh catholic 6th century saint, well known in Padstow, Cornwall and North Devon. Thereafter maximising the benefit of the growing tourism economy meant the hotel buildings have been developed and added to significantly. The current frontage however, is still recognisable to the original villas from the 19th century.

At some point in the mid 20th century the name was changed to The Carlton Hotel, and in more modern time the interior has been updated as the visitor demands have changed too.

Indeed the Caribbean bar could be enjoyed in the 70’s and vibrant green formica adorned the same space right up to 2016.

If you’re searching for a relaxing base that’s bursting with history and elegance for your break to North Devon, book your stay at The Carlton today – you won’t be disappointed! Needless to say the hotel has been completely refurbished in the past seven years.

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The Carlton Hotel

Runnacleave Road, Ilfracombe, Devon, EX34 8AR

Contact Info
(01271) 862446

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