The Georgians and the Victorians transformed Ilfracombe from a quiet fishing village into a seaside resort. Visitors arrived first by steamship from Bristol and Wales and then by train from urban areas to enjoy the unspoiled beauty and the rise and fall of the North Devon coastline. It goes from combe to cove to cliff. Capstone Hill and Hillsborough Hill frame the harbour and offer beautiful views and interesting promenades and walks around the town.
In the 1820s four tunnels were carved to provide access to Tunnels Beaches and a tidal bathing pool and this is still a major attraction. Southwest along the coast is Lee Bay and a three mile stretch of sands at Woolacombe. A combe is a steep narrow dry valley. Broadsands Beach, Turks Cove and Golden Cove invoke a smugglers' past near Coombe Martin as does Rapparee Cove. In 1997 human remains were found here from the 1796 shipwreck the London. The bones were thought to be slaves from St Lucia, French prisoners of war or British and Irish sailors. It was not unusual after shipwrecks to bury bodies quickly in mass graves. The Burial of Drowned Persons Act 1808 put an end to the practice of mass burials after shipwrecks.