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Journal's 50 things to do in North Devon before you die

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: July 19, 2013

  • Damien Hirst's statue, Verity, in Ilfracombe

  • The leper festival in Torrington

  • Earl of Rone festival in Combe Martin

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In the first of a new five-part feature, the Journal has devised a list of 50 things you should do in North Devon before you die. This week our top 10 details some of the area's must-see traditional pastimes.

10. Play the penny pusher slot machines at Westward Ho!

NO trip to the seaside is complete without a visit to the amusements.

But, surprisingly, in a world of loud video games, virtual guitars and computerised punch bags, it's the traditional two-penny pusher machines which continue to draw in people of all ages.

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Nothing tops the anticipation of watching your coins drops into the vintage machine before hearing the clatter of coppers on the metal collection tray.

And if you hit the jackpot, you may even collect enough to buy a modestly priced ice cream – what could be better?

9. Enjoy Mayfair at Torrington

THIS annual three-day festival – which doubles as a raucous street party for locals – features traditions such as maypole-dancing, the gruelling round-the-tree race and a carnival procession.

It is a real community event which draws in the crowds and receives a huge amount of support – all of which contributes to the unique atmosphere.

The Mayfair starts on the first Thursday in May.

8. Spend New Year in Bideford

THIS year could be your last chance to experience one of the country's biggest and best New Year's Eve celebrations at Bideford Quay.

The annual revelry sees people from across North Devon – and further afield – descend on the little white town in all manner of fancy dress to enjoy live music, stalls and a jaw-dropping fireworks display.

However, funding cuts could see the event scaled down next year, so make sure you catch it while it's still in its heyday.

7. Play a round of golf at Royal North Devon, Westward Ho!

FOUNDED in 1864, this elegant links course – often dubbed the St Andrew's of England – claims to be the country's oldest course and regularly features in the top 100 clubs in the country.

Teeing off against a backdrop of the dramatic North Devon coastline is an experience which appeals to thousands of golfers who flock to the course throughout the year.

The clubhouse also boasts a museum which tells the story of the sport's birth.

6. Watch the Boxing Day rugby derby

INTER-TOWN rivalry across North Devon is fierce and nowhere is this more prevalent than the annual Boxing Day rugby clash between Barnstaple and Bideford.

This physical fixture (which is anything but friendly) always draws hordes of festive revellers keen to see the clubs take chunks out of each other for the ultimate bragging rights.

For many years Barnstaple has emerged victorious from this brutal encounter, but with Bideford's promotion last season it seems the Chiefs are increasingly snapping at Barum's heels.

One thing's for sure, this year's encounter promises to be a real treat.

5. Visit the North Devon Show

THIS splendid annual homage to all things North Devonian attracts thousands of locals and tourists each year.

As well as celebrating the region's agricultural roots with all manner of animals on display, there is also a huge host of stalls showcasing flowers, fruit, vegetables, food, arts and crafts, trades, country clothing and some of the best local produce in the country.

This year's show also includes aerial daredevil entertainment from the Bolddog Lings Freestyle Motocross Team and the Mighty Smith Show strong man act.

And of course your Journal team will be out in force at this year's show which takes place at Umberleigh Barton Farm on Wednesday, August 7.

4. Earl of Rone in Combe Martin

THIS bizarre pagan procession, which takes place during the spring bank holiday, is based on a local legend surrounding Hugh O'Neill – the Earl of Tyrone – who was forced to flee Ireland in 1607.

Legend has it he was shipwrecked at Raparee Cove and hid in local woods, surviving on the ship's biscuits.

He was eventually captured by a party of Grenadier Guards sent from Barnstaple.

The festival was banned in 1837 for drunken behaviour but revived in 1974.

Once discovered by the guards, the earl is marched through the streets as part of a large parade and thrown into the sea.

3. Take part in the Taddiport Leper Festival

THE thought of smearing porridge and lentils on your face and pretending to have an infectious skin disease may not be everyone's idea of a good day out.

But the Taddiport Leper Festival – which undoubtedly wins the award for North Devon's strangest event – encourages participants to do just that.

The event, which was the brainchild of artist Shan Miller, honours the memory of lepers from the town in the 14th Century.

It features a night time torch procession, a banquet and a party. It has to be seen to be believed.

2. Join Ilfracombe's Victorian Celebrations

FOR one week in June each year, the picturesque seaside resort of Ilfracombe transports itself back to its Victorian heyday.

The nine-day festival, which divides opinion in the town, features two grand processions which see locals parade through the town in their finest Victorian attire.

But anyone can join in, so why not give it a go?

The celebrations also include an explosive fireworks display and many events throughout the week.

This year's celebrations also included theatrical fun from the intriguing Mr Alexander and gun-slinging cowboys who held up several shops in the town.

1. Visit the Pilton Green Man Festival, Barnstaple

WHAT better way to conclude our inaugural list than with Pilton's infamous Green Man Festival which takes place this Saturday.

The event dates back to 1344 when Edward III granted a charter for a market and fair in Pilton.

And the tradition continues to this day with fun and frivolity reigning supreme throughout this pagan festival which sees Pilton Street and Rotary Gardens packed with throngs of revellers.

The day starts with a procession from Barnstaple High Street at 10.45am which travels through the High Street toward Pilton.

This is followed at midday by the traditional pageant – a ritual re-enactment believed to represent the initial antagonism of the Prior of Pilton and the Green Man – who are represented by red and green masks.

Craft stalls, activities, games and food are all on offer at the event, as well as entertainment from jugglers, storytellers, puppeteers and Uncle Tacko's extraordinary flea circus.

This year's event boasts live music across three stages from the likes of the Exmoor Do Dah Band, Kiera Osment, The Rockets, Barely Legal and the ever popular Liquidators AKA.

Think we've missed something off this list? Why not email your suggestions for things to do in North Devon before you die to editorial@northdevonjournal.co.uk.

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