With rolling green countryside, sweet little fishing villages, two incredible coastlines and some of the finest food in England, Devon is an absolute must for anyone visiting England. There’s something here for every member of the family, whether you’re an adventure seeker or a cake eater. Here are 25 things not to be missed when visiting Devon.
Dubbed as the English answer to the Galapagos Islands, Lundy Island is a 5-km (3-mi) stretch of rock off the coast of North Devon. Here, you can get up close and personal with puffins, seals and basking sharks, as well as a huge variety of seabirds. Arrive by boat from Ilfracombe or Bideford several times a week.
Lydford – the deepest gorge in the southwest of England – is surrounded by thick, lush woodland and is filled with waterfalls and tales of faeries. Stand under the Whitelady Waterfall and get close to the churning Devil’s Cauldron. Parts of the walk around here can be treacherous, so tread carefully.
It really isn’t a trip to Devon without a windy stomp to a tor in Dartmoor. Great for blowing away the cobwebs, this 945-sqkm (365-sqmi) wilderness throws up ancient woodland, open moorland, pretty villages and Stone Age ruins.
Even if you’re not an Agatha Christie fan, a visit to Greenway and her River Dart holiday home is definitely worth the time. Agatha stayed here to seek inspiration for her novels and to enjoy some downtime in this absolutely spectacular part of Devon. First-edition novels line the shelves, as well as family photos. Be sure not to miss the gardens, particularly the peach house and the fernery.
Whether you want to walk it, canoe it, sail it, kayak it, swim it, camp next to it or take the train over it, the River Dart is a fantastic adventure playground for kids of all sizes and ages. There are, of course, pubs all along the water, as well as a vineyard and lots of lovely little towns and villages to amble through.
Salcombe is filled with pretty, pastel-coloured houses, sandy coves and yachtie types from up-country. It’s an upmarket town, but worth a visit even if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to Salcombe prices, as the atmosphere is always good and it feels as though the sun shines eternally .
With a boaty culture, quiet narrow lanes that climb up steep hills and wonderful waterside views, Noss Mayo is Salcombe’s more reserved little sister. Have a drink at The Ship Inn, or walk the coastal path around the headland for horizon views and trails through thick woodland.
Built at the top of a hill, this motte and bailey castle is filled with ghostly goings on and is said to be home to some pretty gory crimes. The story goes that the Lady Howard, who once lived here, killed all four of her husbands and then made a carriage from their bones.
As you can expect from a prison high in the foggy hills of Dartmoor, there’s a pretty morbid past at this Devonshire prison. Built to cope with the American prisoners of war in the early 1800s, the place was ridden with disease due to overcrowding. Mutinies, capital punishment and torture have all taken place here. The prison is still active, so can’t be visited (unless, of course, you’re visiting someone inside), but there is an adjacent museum that is open to the public.
For hidden beaches down zigzagging pathways, views that go on for days and walks along a picturesque and leafy coastal path, look no further than East Prawle. The Pigs Nose Inn is a great pub here, and there’s also a campsite where you can wake up with a view of the ocean.
After admiring the giant cliffs and majestic waterfalls, make your way to the lovely hotel at the ‘end of the world’, where you can drink a nice cuppa and enjoy views along the coast – Cornwall to the south and up to Woolacombe in the north.
This moorland, which comes to a dramatic end at the coast, is like Dartmoor but quieter and with a sea breeze. The former hunting land is now covered in purple heather fields, dramatic woodlands and craggy shores.
Discover the red deer that roam the grounds, or learn about a colony of horseshoe bats living at the Court. Join the gardener for a day to learn about growing your own food, or simply wander the grounds and take a step back in time. There are also more than 32km (20mi) worth of footpaths to explore, and even a wildlife hide for anyone who wants to take a break from the history lesson to spy on the local birdlife.
Dartmouth is situated on the mouth of the River Dart and is one of South Devon’s most delightful towns. With historic streets, a picturesque river location and spectacular countryside surrounding the town, you’d find it difficult to find anywhere as lovely as this.
From magnificent gardens to woodland walks, an afternoon at RHS Rosemoor is not just for the gardening enthusiasts in the family. It is, of course, spectacular and full of inspiration for your garden at home, but there are also tonnes of activities for both the kids and the grown-ups – from story time to lessons in roses.
If you’re into cycling, you’ll be into the Tarka Trail. This is England’s longest traffic-free cycle route and it follows a disused railway line from Braunton all the way to Meeth. You can do as much or as little in a day as your legs can handle, and there is always a bus to take you back to where you started.
This long-distance hiking trail, which links both Dartmoor and Exmoor together, isn’t for the faint at heart or the unfit. The pathway takes in Devon’s most dramatic inland scenery and, like the Tarka Trail, follows an old and disused railway line.
The Jurassic Coast isn’t usually associated with Devon, it’s more Dorset. Nonetheless, Devon is the beginning of this impressive coastline, with fossils being found daily, and it features gorgeous beaches and hills that roll effortlessly from their summit to the sea.
Lovely Clovelly, which tumbles chaotically down steep cobbled streets from the top of the cliffs to the harbour, is an absolute must-see when visiting North Devon. See how residents use sledges to drag their shopping up and down the town and have a pint right at the bottom of the village looking into the harbour and up the cliff.
Of the many wildlife experiences Devon has to offer, Dartmoor Otters is the most unique. You can meet several different species of otter, learn about them during talks and watch the feeding sessions. There is also an insect house on-site full of colourful butterflies that fly freely around you as you walk through.
Sitting between Exeter and the Jurassic Coast, Bicton Park contains centuries worth of botanical history. The Victorian-era glasshouses are still intact, and the whole garden is well maintained and full of other activities to keep both kids and adults occupied.
Becky Falls are arguably the most recognisable falls in the south of England, having been open to visitors since 1903. A lot of time and care has been put into looking after them since then, and now you can choose from a list of routes to reach the 20-metre (66-ft) waterfalls, depending on how adventurous you’re feeling.
With six tanks of sealife on show, the National Marine Aquarium is the largest in the UK. This popular Plymouth attraction is home to countless rays, sharks and other fish, and the largest tank even features a sunken WWII aircraft.
The core of Powderham was built in the 14th century, growing from a fortified manor house to a full-blown castle in the 17th century, and providing a home to several powerful Devon families throughout the centuries. Remarkably well maintained, the castle is now open for guided tours, and the grounds can be fully explored, including a nature trail and an arts and crafts activity area.