East Devon Coast & Ironbridge Gorge: UNESCO Sites 35 & 36

Well it’s been a while.

I while since I posted here and a definite while since I started ticking off UNESCO Heritage Sites (my full list here).

I feel like I’ve taken a sabbatical from The Sabbatical Guide in the last few months. It was a conscious choice. I started a new job (with the same company) back in late February and it was the biggest and most challenging to date. Something had to give and it couldn’t be family family time and I didn’t want to stop running so the website had to make way.

Well if the guy who runs the sabbatical guide can’t take a sabbatical, then who can!?

On the UNESCO Heritage Site front it’s been slim pickings in the last few years thanks to a small obstacle in the shape of a global pandemic. It’s been pretty big in the news, so I’m sure some of you have heard about it!

We knocked off 22 of them in 2018, eight in 2019 but then only one in 2021 and 2022 combined (thank you Budj Bim!).

The good news is 2022 is looking up a little as we picked up two of them on our recent trip back to the UK to visit family (and introduce them to our little girl for the first time. It’s not going to be easy to rack up many more in Australia, as there’s only two more within reach of Melbourne, but both are either a short flight of a (very!) long car drive away.

Dorset and East Devon Coast

dorset and east devon coast unesco

The first was the Dorset and East Devon Coast famous for its fossils and ancient rock formations.

We popped down to small seaside town called Budleigh Salterton where headed for a walk along the coast which, given it was the British summertime, was as wet as you’d expect, but it was a great stretch of path and made the coffee at the end feel well-earned.

Something Famous About Budleigh Salterton

budleigh salterton pebbles

The most famous thing about Budleigh Salterton?

Its pebbles.

Yep really.

We looked at them and assumed they’d been imported. They look like those big bags you get from the garden centre, rounded at the edges in a way that should be too perfect for nature (this website has some great close ups of them).

So I was a little shocked when doing some research about the beach later on to find that they were all authentic – mangled bits of old mountains that have been eroded over time as they’ve travelled along the coast.

But that wasn’t the biggest shock.

Apparently the beach at Budleigh Salterton has a local bylaw which prevents people from removing the pebbles with a £2,000 fine PER PEBBLE to anyone caught doing so.


grace on budleigh salterton beach

Our little magpie has a curious habit of collecting stones.

When we turned out her coat later on she’d nabbed enough to make British university fees seem cheap.

We deposited them around Nanny’s garden, nestled amongst their less famous cousins.

If the authorities come knocking, hopefully they won’t find them all!


Most UNESCO Heritage Sites have an official sign (see Ironbridge Gorge below) that gives some information about the site and when it was added to the list.

We couldn’t find an official one in Budleigh Salterton but given this stretch of coast is so long that’s hardly a surprise. I made do with this one, which had a little UNESCO icon in the bottom corner.

dorset and east devon coast sign

Ironbridge Gorge

the iron bridge

A couple of weeks later and in a different part of the country, we made the trip up to Ironbridge Gorge, the place where the industrial revolution began and the site of the world’s first major bridge made of iron back in 1978 (they say major as apparently an abandoned project in Lyon and a decorative bridge in the grounds of Kirklees Hall in Yorkshire technically came first).

There are remnants of the industrial revolution all through this valley of the Severn River, with furnace, railways and canals dotted everywhere.

sign showing all the areas at ironbridge gorge

According to my Dad, fountain of knowledge on almost every topic, (trust me, he even got the date of the bridge opening correct without looking it up) it’s because the steep sides of the valley meant gravity could push water down for steam production. That and a hell of a lot of coal locally!

dad at ironbridge
Yes Dad, you got the date right!

Ironbridge Gorge was the third site added to the UNESCO list in the UK, after the Giant’s Causeway and Durham Cathedral, though they were all added in 1986.

view from ironbridge
View from the bridge

All in all, a lovely little town, even if you’ve not a UNESCO addict like me. Unfortunately the Museum of the Gorge which we all wanted to visit was shut for renovation and then (despite my best efforts to get us lost at diversions and ignore the navigation advice from everyone in the car) we decided the Museum of Iron looked a bit to in-depth for an increasingly tiring 2 1/2 year old, so we headed on to a petting zoo instead!

Highlights of the visit were some amazing traditional old second hand book stores, the biggest teddy bear shop I’ve ever seen and a great cafe Darby’s 1779 of Ironbridge (they didn’t work that hard on the name!) where we got to have brunch while looking out at a UNESCO site, not something that happens often.

view from window of darybys 1779 of ironbridge


This was more like it!

unesco heritage sign at the iron bridge

A proper UNESCO Heritage sign plaque sat just before the bridge in town. Budleigh Salterton take note!

Finishing Up

Well, it’s nice to be back online and travelling again!

A quick update here, but one for our personal record books, hopefully not the last UNESCO sites of the year!

the reeves family picture


Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

Booking your trip via the links on this page earns us a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

You can also buy us a coffee

Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments