Devon is the third largest county in the UK and it’s heaven for nature-lovers. There’s so much to explore and countless options for walking. In Exmoor you can enjoy woodland, rivers and soft and rolling hills whereas Dartmoor is more dramatic, with wild open spaces and hundreds of granite tors as well as ancient woodland and rivers. There’s also the South West Coast Path, with its craggy cliffs in the north facing the Atlantic sea and a much calmer experience of inlets, estuaries and indents in the south overlooking the English Channel.
Dart Valley Trail, south Devon
This is one of Devon’s most popular walks, covering 16 miles from Totnes to Dartmouth and the Kingswear Peninsular through the villages of Ashprington, Cornworthy and Dittisham (or the other way if you prefer). If you’d rather walk a shorter section, Totnes to Dittisham is around eight and a half miles, Dittisham to Dartmouth is three miles and Greenway to Kingswear four and a half miles. Recommended stops en route include The Sharpham Trust retreat centre in Ashprington, which does wonderful cream teas and Agatha Christie’s former holiday home, the glorious National Trust owned 18th century Georgian house, Greenway Estate.
Teign Valley, Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor is a rambler’s paradise, with the option to stay overnight camping in the wild in certain areas. The Teign Valley circuit is said to be Dartmoor’s most famous walk. Start at Castle Drogo, the last castle built in England, then follow the Hunter’s Path which descends towards the Fingle Bridge before following a route back alongside the scenic River Teign.
Newbridge, Dartmoor National Park
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, as well as opportunities to canoe, kayak and indulge in some refreshing wild swimming at Sharrah Pool and Spitchwick.
Circular tor tours, Dartmoor National Park
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. To plan your own walk, this index of the tors is a useful guide.
The Dewerstone, Dewerstone Wood, Dartmoor National Park
In addition to being a wonderful haven for wildlife and walks, Dartmoor is also rich in myth and folklore. Within Dartmoor, one place that has beautiful scenery as well as 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. Legends say that the devil 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 such a spooky 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. The views are amazing as you head back through the woods.
Sidmouth to Beer, Jurassic coast, south Devon
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Jurassic Coast spans 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.
Watersmeet, Exmoor National Park
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. More inspiration about Watersmeet walks can be found here.
Dartington Hall, Dartington
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. More information about Dartington Hall and the estate is available here.
Killerton House and Gardens, Exeter, Devon
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.
Wembury Point, south Devon
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.
Croyde Bay, Baggy Point and Woolacombe, north Devon
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 mecca 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.