Wherever you stay in Devon, you’re never far from a scenic walking or hiking trail. On Exmoor, you can enjoy woodland, rivers, and soft and rolling hills. Dartmoor is more dramatic, with wild open spaces, hundreds of granite tors and ancient woodland and rivers. There’s also the South West Coast Path, with craggy cliffs in the north facing the Atlantic. In the south, there’s a gentler vista of inlets, estuaries and bays overlooking the English Channel. We round up the best walks in the UK’s third-largest county – and provide our pick of nearby Airbnbs.
One of the most popular walks in Devon, running 16 miles from Totnes to Dartmouth and the Kingswear Peninsula, and via the villages of Ashprington, Cornworthy and Dittisham. If you’d rather walk a shorter section, Totnes to Dittisham is around eight and a half miles, Dittisham to Dartmouth three miles, and Greenway to Kingswear four and a half. It’s worth a stop-off at The Sharpham Trust retreat centre in Ashprington; it does great cream teas. And there’s Agatha Christie’s former holiday home, Greenway, a glorious 18th-century Georgian house now run by the National Trust. Escape to the countryside in this one-bedroom barn conversion where you can savour morning coffees on a sun-drenched deck.
Dartmoor is a rambler’s paradise, with the option to camp overnight in the wild in certain areas. The Teign Valley circuit is arguably Dartmoor’s most famous walk. Castle Drogo marks the start of the walk, it’s famously the last castle built in England. You then take the Hunter’s Path, which drops to the Fingle Bridge and then runs back alongside the lovely River Teign. Sleep in a 600-year-old stone mill in this dog-friendly apartment with a private balcony, suitable for six people.
Another great walking set-off point is Newbridge, a narrow granite bridge over the River Dart in Dartmoor with a car park that gets busy in the high season. There are a few different walks to choose from, as well as opportunities to canoe, kayak and indulge in some refreshing wild swimming at Sharrah Pool and Spitchwick. Wake up to the scent of dewy grass and take in breath-stealing views of rolling hills through the double height window of this gorgeous one-bedroom barn conversion.
The granite tors are some of Dartmoor’s main attractions, and a popular way to enjoy them is to follow a circular walking tor tour, where you choose a selection of tors in one particular area and stop off at each one. In mid-Dartmoor for example, there’s a six-mile walk taking in Beardown Tors, Rough Tor, Devil’s Tor and Beardown Man which you can read about here. In the south east there’s a slightly longer walk for seven and a half miles that includes Hound Tor and the remains of the Medieval village of Hundatona. For somewhere to stay, brush off sandy boots and step inside the whitewashed walls of this storybook cottage – it sleeps up to three, welcomes dogs and is only a short drive from the coast.
As well as being a wonderful haven for wildlife and walks, Dartmoor is rich in myth and folklore. One place with a captivating story is the Dewerstone, a large granite outcrop in Dewerstone Wood that’s over 100 metres high and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The name comes from “Old Dewer”, an old Celtic term for the devil, who – according to legend – would haunt the woods at night with his pack of phantom Wisht Hounds from Wistmans Wood, and lost travellers would be pushed over the edge of the Dewerstone. Despite the spooky back story, the Dewerstone still attracts walkers and climbers today. There’s a circular three-mile walk starting at Cadover Bridge, which takes you up one side of the River Plym up to the Dewerstone. A dog-friendly, Grade II-listed coach house with its own log burner sits steps from the heather-clad moors, and sleeps up to four.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Jurassic Coastspans 95 miles of incredible coastline from east Devon to Dorset. You can see incredible fossils and rocks that show 185 million years of the Earth’s history. The route along the South West Coast path from Sidmouth to the village of Beer is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there are a few steep climbs but that does mean that you get to see great views. Retreat to this snug flower-fringed studio; set with one bed and dog-friendly, it’s perfect for couples looking to stroll along the nearby coastline.
For a great mix of walks that include rivers, waterfalls and coastal views, head to Watersmeet in Exmoor National Park. Here you’ll find one of Britain’s deepest river gorges and various hiking trails. Don’t miss Foreland Point and Countisbury, they’re some of the highest sea cliffs in England and the views east and west are spectacular. From Countisbury you can enjoy a good walk along the South Coast Path. Drive past tree-tufted valleys, rocky streams and award-winning fish and chips shops to find this two-bedroom cottage with a famous footpath right on its doorstep.
An 800-acre country estate that’s a great destination for walkers, with gorgeous landscaped gardens, numerous public footpaths, forests, rivers and wildlife to explore and enjoy. The estate is home to the Dartington Hall Trust, which runs 16 charitable initiatives, including Schumacher College, that are focused on the arts, sustainability and social justice. A walk around the entire estate is around eight miles. Entry is free but donations are always welcome. When you’re not out walking, forget the world in this spellbinding one-bedroom home and spend your days swimming in the pool and dozing off in a boat seat set over a babbling brook.
Owned by the National Trust, Killerton is a vast expanse of 6,400 sprawling acres of historic estate with a Georgian house and garden, two chapels and three satellite properties as well as Ashclyst Forest, one of the largest woods in East Devon. There are numerous walks and dogs are welcome too. A few ideas for walks around it can be found here, and if you’d like to stay nearby, hole up in this peaceful woodland-wrapped lodge – sleeping up to five people who can cook up moonlit meals on the sprawling veranda’s gas barbecue.
Bill Oddie describes Wembury, a Marine Conservation area, as his favourite spot in the UK for rock pooling, so it’s worth allowing time to put his recommendation to the test before or after your walk. When setting off for a walk, there are a few different routes to try; the circular around Wembury Point has lovely views of the rocky island Great Mewstone, or you can use Wembury Point as your starting point and head off elsewhere. From Wembury to Mount Batten Point is nearly 6 miles or you could include the Yealm Estuary in your rambles as part of a route that includes the South West Coast path. Soak up the natural light and hide away with a book in the cosy nooks of this pet-friendly, two-bedroom cottage.
If you’d like to do a decent-length coastal walk that includes a sweeping sandy beach, rolling dunes and views of farmland and the sea, the 10-mile hike from Baggy Point to Woolacombe will get your pulse racing and the wind in your hair. Start off at surfing hub Croyde, head to Baggy Point and look out for the beautiful wild flowers, then walk along Woolacombe beach towards the far north edge and back again. Rest tired limbs in the outdoor hot tub of this one-bedroom cottage, just a stone’s throw from surfer-friendly beaches.