There’s something uniquely alluring about England’s Westcountry. And at the region’s heart, stretching coast to coast, Devon has a magic all of its own.
Devon is a land of breathtaking landscapes, from gently rolling green hills to dramatic craggy cliffs to wild open moors. The lure of the ocean is never far away, promising classic days at the seaside, swimming, surfing, watersports and spectacular coastal strolls.
And there’s history, heritage and irresistible folklore at every turn. Stories of pirates, and the region’s remarkable industrial mining past capture the imagination.
From charming fishing villages barely touched by time to towns and cities featuring fantastic attractions, there’s a world of culture to discover, and an endless catalogue of things to see and do. And of course, a Devon holiday wouldn’t be complete without taking time to embrace the laid-back pace of life and sampling local delights like a pasty and a delicious cream tea.
Coasts and beaches
Devon is flanked by the ocean at both its northern and southern sides – and what a coastline it has. Wherever in the county you are, you’re never far from a beach. For idyllic sandy bays, there’s Woolacombe in the north, a paradise for surfers. The south offers gems like Bigbury-on-Sea, with its causeway to Burgh Island, which you can walk at low tide or traverse on a unique sea tractor when the water is in.
But the Devon coast has more than stunning sandy beaches. You’ll find countless quiet ‘secret beaches’ nestling along the coast. You’ll find sand dunes, rockpools and coves. And spectacular jagged rock cliff shorelines that tell stories of shipwrecks and pirate landings. What’s more, thanks to the South West Coast Path, you can explore all of this varied coastline on foot.
Whether you’re seeking swimming, watersports, sailing or simply somewhere to relax and take in sensational sea views with an ice cream, Devon’s coast has it all.
Towns and cities
While rural charm is what we often associate with Devon, its urban spaces have much to celebrate too. Throughout the county you’ll find towns with wildly distinctive characters and each with their own unique merits.
Tavistock, the birthplace of one of the region’s most famous sons Sir Francis Drake, is a pleasant market town filled with handsome aarchitecture. The pretty town of Totnes, with its Norman castle and Tudor features, is home to a thriving alternative scene and a fascinating collection of independent shops. Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, Dartmouth and Sidmouth are among the many towns well worth a visit on a Devon holiday, each with their own blend of history, geography, architecture, shops, pubs and restaurants.
Devon also offers a rich taste of city life. Exeter is home to a beautifully ornate cathedral, Roman walls and remains, and a vibrant mix of shops and eateries. Plymouth (pictured), Devon’s largest city, is soaked in martime history. You can visit the Mayflower Steps from which the Pilgrim Fathers set sail to establish New England in America, and explore the ancient cobbled streets of the Barbican. Plymouth has also had a resurgence of late, with the Drake Circus shopping mall, theatres, cinemas, restaurants and bars waiting to welcome, entertain and nourish.
Inland, Devon delivers even more natural beauty. The famously green rolling hills and patchwork farmland make every walk, from a gentle stroll to a serious hike, a viewing pleasure. This county, with so much open space, is a playground for anyone who loves exploring outdoors.
With numerous opportunities for pursuits such as cycling, horseriding and rock climbing, adventure seekers are well catered for. And for anyone wanting to take it easier with a picnic or a cream tea, the picture-perfect scenery and wide open landscapes of Devon provide a beautiful backdrop.
Impressively, Devon boasts two national parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor. These vast areas offer a wilder version of the county’s great oudoors. These landscapes feature magnificent heather-topped moorland, wild ponies and ancient gnarly woodland. View the spectacle of Exmoor’s soaring cliffs meet the sea or survey the region from atop the granite tors of Dartmoor.
There are days out to suit every taste dotted throughout Devon. Families have no shortage have options to let the children run riot. Woodlands Theme Park and Crealy offer adrenaline-fuelled fun for kids of all ages (and grown-ups) while Diggerland delivers fun for truck-loving youngsters. There’s plenty of wildlife-based action too, with a chance to see sharks and seashorses at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth to penguins at Torquay’s living coasts – plus a whole selection of iconic animals from around the world at Paignton Zoo.
Culture lovers will love the county’s wealth of historic houses and gardens, with a huge selection of National Trust and English Heritage properties to explore. You can pay a visit to the stunning active monastry of Buckfast Abbey (where the infamous Buckfast Tonic Wine is made). Knightshayes in Tiverton is a gloriously quirky Victorian Gothic edifice surrounded by gardens and parkland. At the opposite end of the county on the outskirts of Plymouth is the grand Georgian manor house Saltram (which appeared in the Hugh Grant and Kate Winslett adaptation of Sense and Sensibility), set among sweeping parkland. And for a taste of Devon’s more medieval past, there are castles aplenty to discover, including Berry Pomeroy, Drogo Powderham and Dartmouth Castle (pictured).
Whether you’re looking for action, leisure, history or culture, Devon is jam-packed with attractions to fascinate and entertain. With play centres, heritage sites, museums, art galleries and wildlife centres located all around the country, you’re sure to find an enjoyable way to pass your time, whatever your age and interests, come rain or shine.
Devon is blessed with a rich and varied assortment of features. Its beaches, natural beauty and warm climate are what often attract people to visit. But once here, you’ll see that there’s so much else to discover – culture, history, architecture and some fantastic attractions at which to enjoy unforgettable days out. And of course, it all starts with choosing where to stay. Check out our independent collection of holiday lets and start planning your dream Devon getaway today!