Ilfracombe is a seaside town on the North Devon coast with its own seafront, harbour and quay. It grew rapidly as a luxury Victorian holiday resort and is admired widely for its interesting architecture set among magnificent scenic hills towering above it. Business in the town was impacted considerably by the closure of the railway linking it to London (via Exeter) in 1970. The current population of the town is estimated at 11,000.
Currently the town benefits from its modern, 480-seat Landmark Theatre, the installation of Verity, an artwork by international artist Damien Hirst, and its reputation as the food capital of North Devon. In 2014 JD Wetherspoon opened its £3.4 million new-build seafront pub and Premier Inn is scheduled to build a new hotel, reflecting growing investment in the town.
Situated within the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and on the South West Coast Path, you can view the surrounding hills even as you stand in the high street.
Ilfracombe business population
Ilfracombe has a broadly mixed economy with major employers including manufacturing, tourism, leisure, retail and services:
- 300+ mainly independent shops, restaurants, cafés and pubs
- Production plants operated by leading international manufacturers TDK-Lambda and Pall Europe
- Hotel, self-catering and camping holiday accommodation providers
- Leisure, travel and transport
- Business and industrial estates at Mullacott and Hele
- Trawlers, fishing vessels, pleasure operators and yachts operating from the harbour
- Specialist food producers and food supply businesses
- Construction, building and scaffolding businesses
- Professional, marketing, IT and business-to-business
- Care home and healthcare operators
- Agricultural and rural
- Art galleries
- Beaches, cliffs and harbour
- Bus services
- Fire station – retained co-responder station
- Badminton, cricket, football, golf, rugby, sea cadets, snooker, table tennis, tennis and more sports clubs and grounds
- Hospital and health centres
- National Express coach service to London Victoria
- Parks and countryside walks
- Petrol station and vehicle repair garages
- Schools – infants, juniors and academy
- Shops both independents and supermarkets – Co-op, Lidl, Tesco
- Superfast broadband internet
- Swimming pool
- Theatre and cinema
- Town council offices
- Sea and watersports including gig rowing, sub aqua and yacht club
Running your business
Set in a rural area, Ilfracombe is a town which provides services for residents, the nearby villages and holiday visitors.
The local North Devon tourism industry is mainly seasonal, although some businesses operate all year and there is support for developing all-year-round operation. Niche markets such as stag/hen/wedding holidays offer opportunities and there is potential to be exploited.
Businesses that can operate independently of location, such as marketing, professional and other knowledge-based activities, can also work well. Superfast broadband internet in the town enables businesses to communicate worldwide.
The 300 shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants also offer opportunities. More independent shops are opening up and Ilfracombe provides a welcome alternative to clonetown high streets stuffed with the struggling multiple stores.
Manufacturing plays a big part in the town too and there is land available for new premises at Mullacott Business Park, just outside the town.
There is considerable business potential for entrepreneurs with vision, especially in business services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail and tourism.
COMBEbusiness works to support all businesses in Ilfracombe. We hold monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of the month in Combe Martin, Ilfracombe or Woolacombe.
There are also Ilfracombe groups supporting specific areas or sectors including:
- Fore Street Association
- Ilfracombe Harbour Board
- Ilfracombe and District Tourism Association
- Ilfracombe High Street Traders
Find out more
To talk to business owners in Ilfracombe and ask questions, please call COMBEbusiness on 07971 176044.