North Devon Coast

National Landscape

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Rapparee Cove

The word Rapparee is sometime defined as an ‘unusual soldier or vagabond’ and this quaint little cove certainly lives up to its name. Opposite the Old Quay, Rapparee Cove is a great place to take a stroll. This evocative rocky inlet is where the ‘London’ was wrecked in 1796. Many of those onboard the ship perished in the wreck, along with a handful of locals who tried to save them. But the story doesn’t end there. 


Ten years ago, human remains were discovered at Rapparee when a landslide prompted an archaeological dig. It is widely agreed that these were the remains of those onboard the ‘London’, but, to this day, there are arguments as to the origins of those that lost their lives. French prisoners? Slaves from St Lucia? The mystery is still unresolved. For now, the bones remain locked in a safe in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

Rapparee Beach was where the famous “Battle of Ilfracombe” between Alfred Price and the Crown Prince of Germany unfolded….

In 1878 Crown Prince Fredrick William of Prussia (the Future Kaiser Wilhelm) stayed at the Ilfracombe Hotel when he was 18 years old. During his stay, according to legend, the young Prince visited Rapparee Cove, where there were some ladies bathing huts. Apparently bored, the prince started throwing stones at them and he took no notice when told to stop by local boatman Alfred Price, and this resulted in a fight in which the Prince “got the worst of it” before his entourage intervened.

At the time the story was hushed up, but on commencement of the First World War, the story became public making Alfred Price a local celebrity.

Fact or fiction? According to the local paper, the Prince did visit Ilfracombe in September 1878, travelling under the name of Count Von Valingen and was recorded as staying in the famous Ilfracombe Hotel by the local paper.