T’S a view that could inspire the artist Damien Hirst and put a spring in the step of triple jumper Jonathan Edwards. But more of those two later... We were staying on the fourth floor of Granville Point, an imposing, castellated former Victorian hotel in the centre of Ilfracombe.
The views from our apartment, called Ocean Breeze, stretched far and wide, from the town’s seafront across the Bristol Channel to south Wales. We had a balcony off the stylishly furnished lounge/ kitchen/diner and an even bigger one off the spacious double bedroom.
And as we were holidaying in Devon during this year’s heatwave we were blessed with some stunning sunsets as we sat there, glass in hand.
Granville Point is on a quiet road so there was nothing to disturb the sound of seagulls squalling and waves rolling in, seemingly beneath our feet.
The twin bedroom had a Juliet balcony, the door to which we kept locked in case our two children couldn’t control their inner dingbats.
We were just a hop, skip and jump away from Ilfracombe’s seafront gardens where we were surprised to find a tribute to Jonathan Edwards.
The Olympic gold medalwinning triple jumper moved to the town in 1976, when he was 10, and stayed there for 11 years.
Commemorating his 23-year-old world record, mosaic circles with bronze prints of Jonathan’s feet mark the points for each stage of the 18.29m leap.
Of course, I had to see if I could better the mark, but it turned out to be more of a hop, hop, hop, skip, skip... collapse.
The gardens are also home to Ilfracombe Museum, described as “a cross between an Edwardian collector’s study and your granny’s attic’’.
A shrunken head and rows of pickled bats are just two of the many curios in this fascinating place. Our daughter was excited to hold a mammoth’s tooth, while we had to drag our son away from the ship to shore radio station.
Next to the museum is the eye-catching Landmark Theatre, known locally as Madonna’s bra because of its unusual double conical design.
Here, too, is the tourist information centre, where I’d heard visitors could pick up a family-friendly ‘treasure’ trail.
I had expected it to be free but the eight-page leaflet cost a surprising £6.99, which I reluctantly paid having already promised it to my eldest.
And the trail turned out to be a murder mystery based on the game Cluedo – cue “what’s murder, Daddy?’’, instantly killing the holiday mood.
It got worse. We spent half an hour trying (and failing) to solve the first couple of questions and gave up completely when bamboozled by no.11...
“Along the Royal Britannia Hotel, deduct the date linked to W. Willis from the date relating to The Bath House and add the date found near a drawing by G Rowe,’’ it read.
And this was supposed to be for ‘‘ages six upwards’’! Still, at least the trail took us to some more of the town’s sights.
The walk to the top of Capstone Hill was well worth the effort. From there we could really appreciate our apartment’s prominent position. Here, too, we found a statue in memory of a 14-yearold Russian student who fell to her death from a cliff just along the coast in 2000.
The trail also led us up Lantern Hill, where a small chapel overlooking the quay doubles up as the UK’s oldest working lighthouse.
Such tradional scenes contrast starkly with another of the town’s attractions a striking sculpture by controversial artist Damien Hirst.
‘Verity’ is a bronze work of a pregnant woman. She stands on a base of scattered legal books and holds a sword and scales.
A “modern allegory of truth and justice”, its sheer scale – at over 20m it’s the tallest statue in Britain – is what grabs the attention. But what keeps your attention is that an anatomical cross-section of her head and torso reveal her skull and a foetus inside her womb.
Perhaps not what you would expect to find in a traditional English seaside town, and it certainly divides opinion –