Devon is a huge county with two coastlines, a National Park, charming towns, tucked away villages and unspoilt rolling countryside. There is always something to see and do and you will always be surprised at the variety of what is on offer. Around every corner is something different.
Devon North Coast
The North coast is famous for its wide sandy beaches – this is surfing country. Competitions are held here and, in summer, there is a wonderful atmosphere in the air as surfers come here from all parts of the UK and beyond. Behind the beaches are farms, small villages and interesting small towns. If you want fresh air, golden sand and a wide expanse of scenery, this is the place to stay. Ancient pubs can be found in almost every village, many offering accommodation as well as food and drink. There are two major towns in the North – Barnstaple with its delightful pannier market and Bideford, a port town on the River Torridge.
Devon South Coast
By way of contrast, the South coast of Devon is warmer with tourist beaches as well as tucked away coves. Many beaches in this area offer safe swimming which is ideal for families. On this coast are the well known seaside resorts of Torquay, Dawlish and Teignmouth. The River Exe with its estuary at Exmouth is an internationally famous birdwatching site and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds provides cruises up the river most of the year. On the West bank of the river lies Powderham Castle, home to the Earl of Devon, with its fine deer park. The castle and grounds are open to the public and a visit makes a perfect day out.
The most Southerly part of Devon is known as the South Hams. There are no major thoroughfares here so the area is accessed by windy roads and small lanes. But it is worth the effort because this area offers some of the loveliest coastal scenery in the UK. Off this coast lies Burgh Island home to just a pub and a 1930s art deco hotel which has been restored to its former glory and which has provided the setting for many films including novels by Agatha Christie who lived in nearby Dartmouth.
The area East of the River Exe is known as East Devon and encompasses Exeter, Devon’s major city. Exeter is an historic city which was badly bombed in World War II but fortunately many ancient buildings remain including England’s oldest Guildhall and Exeter Cathedral in its stunning setting on Cathedral Green. Medieval buildings surround the green which, on a sunny day, is popular with shoppers and students who attend Exeter University. Much of the old Roman wall remains too. Exeter has well supported football and rugby teams with home matches often both at weekends and during the week. Just four miles South lies Topsham, an ancient town in a beautiful setting on the banks of the river.
The rest of East Devon is mainly rural and much of it is farmland. Tiny lanes cross the area and, with the aid of a map, the visitor can find themselves in quiet, out of the way villages. For antiques, pay a visit to the town of Honiton with its long, wide High Street. About 10 miles South of Honiton is Sidmouth, a Georgian resort on the East Devon coast, unspoilt and timeless. Sidmouth has wonderful parks and lovely walks along the cliffs and through the small town streets, and is very popular with older people.
Walking Holidays in Devon
If you enjoy walking, the South West Coast Path offers a huge variety of landscape, flora and fauna. A touring holiday of Devon means freedom to explore all the highways and byways of the county. It is said that Devon has more roads and lanes than the whole of Belgium! Many tour companies offer coach trips to the area which is also well served by the railways. In fact one of Britain’s most scenic railways goes right along the South coast from the outskirts of Exeter to Teignmouth where it turns inland. The passengers on the trains are only a stone’s throw from the sea and when the sea is rough the waves often come right up over the carriages.
Another delightful journey by train is from Exeter to Barnstaple. This stretch of line is known as The Tarka Trail, named after the novel Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson. The journey takes you through tiny villages and hamlets with names like Copplestone and Eggesford. If you take this train, you will feel that time has stood still.
Dartmoor is Devon’s National Park. Part of the moor is dedicated to the Army for manoeuvres but the rest is breathtaking and accessible to motorists and walkers. From the high moors, you can see for miles. In this area are little towns such as Moretonhampstead and Buckfastleigh which are well worth a visit.
All in all, this is a county of contrasts and one which offers so much to see and do that one visit is simply not enough.