A Solo Traveller’s Guide to Devon

Enjoy a life-affirming solo adventure by walking the South West Coast Path
Enjoy a life-affirming solo adventure by walking the South West Coast Path | Photo by Greg Jeanneau 🗾 on Unsplash
Alex Allen

From Jurassic-era cliffs, craggy as the crust of a scone and studded with prehistoric fossils, to softly rolling green hills and wind-swept moorlands roamed by wild ponies, Devon is a patchwork of dramatically different landscapes. It’s this variety that makes it the perfect place for solo travellers to embrace their adventurous side, and indulge their inner foodie.

What’s the vibe?

There’s a storybook prettiness to some of the villages in Devon, all thatched cottages overgrown with wisteria, red postboxes and creaky old pubs. But there’s a dashing, unkempt wildness about it, too – particularly along the rugged coastlines (although there are also gorgeous sandy beaches) and Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, dotted with mystical ancient ruins.

Wild ponies pound the rolling moorlands of Exmoor National Park

The best time to visit Devon

It all depends on what you like in terms of wild and woolliness. Come in summer and you’ll likely bask in warm days. Winters are routinely rain-lashed – and this being the UK, you can expect the forecast to change as quickly as the scenery beyond the train window. Talking of scenery, solo travellers in particular should tell someone where they’re going when hiking in the national parks, and take an OS map and compass. Be aware, too, of exposed and unguarded clifftop paths. And it goes without saying that if you plan on sea swimming, you should check the swell and wave height as well as tide timings (magicseaweed.com is useful for this).

Visit Devon in summer for balmy days and blissful walks

Where to stay in Devon

1. The Three Crowns, Chagford


A modern guestroom at the Three Crowns with a double bed, duck-egg-blue walls and a light-wood desk
Courtesy of Three Crowns / Expedia

With a thatched roof and granite-slab walls, this 13th-century inn might look Hobbit-y from the outside, but inside its five-star status shines bright. Rooms are punctuated with period character, the food (always local and seasonal) is exceptional, and the fireside bar is the perfect place to warm up after a day on Dartmoor.

A one-night stay at the Three Crowns is included in Culture Trip’s exclusive six-day Walking and Swimming the Wilds of Devon trip.

2. The Red Lion Hotel, Bideford

Pubs with Rooms

A homely guestroom at the Red Lion Hotel, Bideford, has wooden oars above a double bed
Courtesy of Red Lion Hotel / Expedia

If your idea of luxury is waking up to the sound of the sea caressing shingle, this is the place for you. Tucked away on the north coast of Devon, in tiny Clovelly Bay, this boutique hotel has natural light, sea views and wonky character in buckets. And you won’t find fresher seafood than that served at the in-house Harbour Restaurant.

3. The Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh


A traditional guestroom at the Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh, with a four-poster bed and wood-beam ceilings
Courtesy of The Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh / Expedia

There are many things to love about this higgledy-piggledy pub with rooms on the edge of Dartmoor: the tongue-in-cheek name, the wood-burning stove crackling gently in the low-ceilinged bar, the cottage-style rooms with stained-glass windows. But the best bit has to be enjoying a pint of locally brewed beer in the delightful garden.

Eat and drink in Devon

4. The Oyster Shack, Bigbury

Restaurant, Seafood

The Oyster Shack is legendary in these parts. What started around 30 years ago as a small oyster farm, where mollusc-lovers would turn up with bread and wine and shuck their own lunch, has evolved organically over the years into a superb seafood restaurant with an extensive wine list. You should book days ahead, especially in the summer.

5. The Church House Inn, Marldon

Restaurant, Pub, Authentic

It was the first pub in Devon to be listed in the Michelin pub guide, so expect the grub to be a cut above your regular ploughman’s. The daily changing menu is informed by what’s available locally and in season – with main dishes (at the time of writing) such as Church House game pie, and fillet of Devon beef stroganoff. Although if you just want some pork scratchings and a pint of local cider, you can have that too.

6. Gidleigh Park, Chagford

Gastropub, Pub Grub

The 1920s building at Gidleigh Park and the tiered, manicured gardens
Courtesy of Gidleigh Park / Expedia

Consistently ranking among the best restaurants in the country, Gidleigh Park is the place to book when you fancy pushing the boat out a little further than usual. Housed in a 1920s Arts and Crafts manor house (along with a five-star hotel), the restaurant specialises in the kind of creative fine dining that MasterChef contestants aspire to emulate. Dishes such as aged fillet of beef cooked over coals are edible works of art.

What to do in Devon

Walk the South West Coast Path

Running for more than 620mi (1,000km) from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset, this is the longest National Trail in the UK. It’s also, in our books, the most beautiful. Picking a manageable chunk to do in a day – say, from Sidmouth to Beer (along clifftops; through cow-grazed fields; up and down big-dipper valleys) – and taking your time, with a proper packed lunch to enjoy on a deserted beach, is the way to do it.

A day walking the South West Coast Path, as well as a kayaking or stand-up-paddleboarding session, is included in the itinerary of Culture Trip’s exclusive six-day Walking and Swimming the Wilds of Devon trip.

Hike the weather-worn cliffs of the South West Coast Path

Hop aboard a vintage steam train

There are few things more romantic than speeding through the Devon countryside by steam train. Buy a ticket on the South Devon Railway and you’ll blur past farms, thatched-roof villages and forested hillsides on the 7mi (11km) journey between Buckfastleigh and Totnes.

Book a seat on the South Devon Railway for a dreamy ride through Devon

Take a fishing trip

With the rich waters of the English and Bristol channels at your disposal, there’s no better place or time to reel yourself some supper. Day-trip fishing tours operate from seaside towns on both north and south coasts, and you’ll usually have the option of a casual mackerel fishing trip – ideal for families, not just as they’re an easy catch, but because you’ll get to keep – and eat – what you catch.

Head to the coast for a relaxed day casting a line into the sea waters

Getting around Devon

With some of the most scenic spots only reachable directly by car, it’s best to either rent one when you’re down here or bring your own. Either way, make sure you have a reliable satnav to guide you across the mazy network of country lanes.

Public transport is available, of course, with bus and train routes connecting the larger towns and cities (Plymouth, Torquay, Exeter and Exmouth), although timetables – especially for Plymouth – should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Driving is the easiest way to navigate the winding country lanes

Experience the natural beauty of the county on our specially curated six-day Walking and Swimming the Wilds of Devon group adventure, featuring wild swimming, sea kayaking and more.

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