Watermouth Cove

On the dramatic south shore of the Bristol Channel, just over a mile east of Ilfracombe, a narrow gap in the cliffs leads to a shallow inlet known as Watermouth Cove.

On the dramatic south shore of the Bristol Channel, just over a mile east of Ilfracombe, a narrow gap in the cliffs leads to a shallow inlet known as Watermouth Cove.

The North Devon coast is high and imposing on both sides of Watermouth, making a small boat seem even smaller in the scheme of things. The old Coastguard cottages on Rillage Point look down from a lofty vantage, turning your mind towards shipwrecks and pitiless winter storms.

Just east of Rillage, the craggy scars of Widmouth Head form the starboard side of Watermouth entrance. To port is Burrow Nose, a lower promontory running parallel with the main coastline and enclosing the cove from the north. The west end of Burrow Nose is almost a small island and a distinctive ‘pill-box’ lookout stands on the main ridge.

The anchorage is just inside Watermouth entrance and is best at neaps when you can tuck further in. At springs, the cove dries out to Burrow Nose and local boats sit on a clean sandy bottom. The inner third is partly protected by a half-tide breakwater, marked by posts. At the head of the cove are the harbourmaster’s office and Watermouth Yacht Club, with some hard-standing for laid-up boats. An attractive cliff path leads to Burrow Nose and another towards Rillage Point and the Coastguard cottages.

From the clubhouse, a track leads east towards Watermouth Cove camping and caravan park where, in the evenings, you can get a good supper at the bar.

The view from the anchorage is striking, with impressive headlands overlapping eastward beyond Hangman Point. When the sun shines, the sheer stature of this coast is oddly reminiscent of parts of Spain. Beyond the mouth, the restless channel tides ebb and flow swiftly. Now and then a ship passes close inshore, bound for Avonmouth or Sharpness.

In quiet weather or southerly winds it’s quite feasible to stay overnight at Watermouth. But if the wind has any touch of north, a persistent swell starts rolling in, which may be restful enough for a lunchtime stop but not for relaxing overnight.

Watermouth is a must if you are cruising the area, even if there’s only time to nose in while passing. This is a majestic coast, where North Devon confronts the Bristol Channel in defiant style.

Pilotage Notes

Use Admiralty Chart 1165. The coast is fairly steep-to from either direction and the trick is simply to find the entrance, 1.4 miles east of Ilfracombe. The white Coastguard cottages high on Rillage Point are not quite half a mile west of Watermouth entrance. The pill-box on Burrow Nose stands two cables east of the entrance, a useful mark when approaching Watermouth from the east. Combe Martin village is visible just over a mile east of Watermouth.

You can enter Watermouth at practically any state of tide, although at low springs the cove dries out almost to the end of Burrow Nose. Neaps are best for cruising the Bristol Channel and a dead low neap is a good time to enter Watermouth, with minimal cross-tide across the entrance. You then know exactly how far to edge in before anchoring. Watch out for crab-pot floats each side of the entrance.

A night entry is not recommended, although it’s not difficult to leave at night if the weather changes. You should avoid Watermouth in fresh winds that have any hint of north.



Padstow 56 miles

Lundy Island 22 miles

Ilfracombe 1.5 miles


entrance 24 miles

Porlock Weir 18 miles


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