14 May 2011
We spent a day in Ilfracombe whilst on holiday at the John Flower Ilfracombe holiday park. The day was a wet one so we didn't get to spend much time on the beach, but we did get to visit the Ilfracombe Aquarium.
A first look from the outside and it didn't look like the aquarium would be worth a visit, but as they say "don't judge a book by it's cover" and the same applied here. The reason that nearly put is off was the size of the building. It's housed in the old lifeboat station, which is a good use of a historical building, but a fraction of the size of any of the other Aquariums / SeaLife centres that I've visited previously.
Fortunately they've made very good use of the limited space available.
There are a number of tanks and pools with fish local to Ilfracombe from the freshwater river, to the harbour and out into the ocean. As well as the usual information the edible species were labelled according to their sustainability status.
As we went in the kids were provided with stools that they could take around to help them look in to the tanks. There was also a overhead viewing area accessible by stairs over the largest tank.
We saw some fish being fed and there was a quiz for our eldest child (age 5) to fill in. The final part was a display about the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) with posters and leaflets. I'm already a strong believer in sustainable fishing after watching The End of the Line on DVD, but this display inspired me to join the MCS.
There is not much space to move around (just enough to get a pushchair around). It's not as big as most other Aquariums, but it was still worth visiting for an hour or two and the admission price is much lower than the bigger SeaLife centres. In fact for young children then it's probably the ideal size for them to enjoy and learn without getting bored.
Well worth paying a visit for a couple of hours and weather permitting perhaps combining with spending some time in and around Ilfracombe and the Tunnels Beaches.
We visited the modern Lifeboat station and spent a little time on the rocky beach, but the weather turned against us so we didn't venture as far as the Tunnels Beaches; which were a Victorian seaside attraction and provides sheltered bathing areas.
Ilfracombe is also one of two places offering a summer ferry service to Lundy Island which was England's first statutory Marine Nature Reserve, and the first Marine Conservation Zone. Lundy island is on my list of places I'd someday like to visit, although I think I'll wait until the kids are a bit older first.