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Clovelly is an old village popular with tourists in North Devon. The website claims that you need to pay an admission fee to enter. Putting the issue of whether the fee goes to good use to one side, is this claim legally and practically true?

This blog post from 2010 quotes wikipedia in saying that because it's a street owned by the council, members of the public have free access. But the current wikipedia page has had this section removed. This right of way map doesn't feature any paths that actually go through Clovelly, just near it.

The Devon Council Public Highways Map does show a road all the way down and through to Clovelly as a public highway. Is that the same as having a public right of way?

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What is the truth legally? And practically, has anyone gone in without paying and how did the owners react?

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  • The right of way map (your third link) only shows specific types of paths ("Public Footpaths, Bridleways, Restricted Byways, and Byways Open to All Traffic"), not public highways etc. I guess they're paths going through private property that you are allowed to use. The comments section in the blog post (your first link) has more information. Apparently at the very least since 2012 you can most definitely access the village freely. But you must pay if you want to use the "official" car park, of course.
    – jcaron
    Dec 29, 2022 at 15:50
  • Note that County Councils do not own public roads (the King's Highway). They adopt roads to take responsibility for their maintainance. Dec 29, 2022 at 19:47

2 Answers 2

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What is the truth legally?

The public right of passage is a defining characteristic of a highway. See for example Highways in England and Wales on Wikipedia or the definition in Halsbury's Laws of England.

As I understand it, highways are sometimes called "public highways" to emphasize that they're open to the public, not because there were other types of highways.

And practically, has anyone gone in without paying and how did the owners react?

I haven't been there in person. But in November 2022, the North Devon Ramblers' Association invited for a walk along the coast to Clovelly on the occasion of the annual Herring Festival, where they note:

On the walk you have the option of going into Clovelly to see the Festival if you wish to do so; however we understand it is unlikely there will be the usual free entry into the village and there will be an admittance charge

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Looking at the official South West Coast Path website provides a hint as to what's going on: Clovelly to Hartland Quay section says "The parking charge at Clovelly includes the entrance fee to their Visitor Centre so can appear expensive if you are just going for a walk along the Coast Path."

Visit Devon says "There is an entrance fee payable to the village that covers parking and admission to the village, information film showing, two museums in the village and nearby Clovelly Court Gardens" but OpenStreetMap shows the admission barrier at the east end of the visitor centre on the path to the village.

Taking all this together, you'll see some of it if you walk in on the coast path, but how much is another matter, and it's a long walk. Similarly getting the bus (519 or 319) and walking down the road should get you some external views, but probably little inside. An independent site about the coast path suggests the possibility of good exterior views without mentioning the need to pay.

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