Horseriding or hiking through Dartmoor and Exmoor, surfing off the beach at Croyde, or taking a trip in a motorised glider for a bird’s-eye view of the Cornish and Devon landscape – the southwest of England offers plenty for outdoors enthusiasts to get excited about. Discover the beauty of the region on these adventures and relax in a top spa hotel – bookable on Culture Trip.
The fossil-packed, World Heritage-listed Jurassic Coast, the windswept wilds of Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, Croyde on the north coast with its buzzy surf scene – Natural Devon is an irresistible dream for outdoorsy types on a go-slow break. Beyond the lively waterside towns and cities such as Exeter, Plymouth, Dartmouth and Torquay, you can horse-ride through moorlands, surf the waves, go river or sea kayaking, hike remote paths, paddle in the English Channel, spot wild ponies and red deer, or take it all in from a bird’s-eye view aboard a motorglider. Many of the county’s most intriguing sights tie in outstanding walks, too, such as the Dart Valley Trail to crime author Agatha Christie’s unmissable riverside summer home, Greenway.
“Devon seems to delight in slowing you down,” says Belinda Dixon, a local Ordnance Survey GetOutside ambassador. “Hidden beaches, steep coastal paths and twisting, hedge-lined lanes tempt you to take your time. And empty, expansive Dartmoor is perfect for hiking off grid.”
Gazing out on Lyme Bay from the pretty southern town of Sidmouth, with its Georgian and Regency architecture, the coastal-chic, nautical-nodding Harbour Hotel makes a great base after a day of leisurely exploring. The 56-room boutique property is just steps from the beach, ideal for exploring the Jurassic Coast – you could even tackle part of the 630mi (1,013km) South West Coast Path – and picnics can be arranged at the hotel. The heated outdoor pool has great views and there’s a spa with hydrotherapy pool and Espa treatments for the ultimate in relaxation. The restaurant serves up seasonal delights including roast hake, grilled tiger prawns and squash ravioli with brown butter sauce.
Morwenstow village is the starting point for this exhilarating 4mi (6km) hike along the wild and isolated Cornish coastline. Wander the clifftops of the Hartland Heritage Coast until you reach a remote 19th-century timber hut where Anglican priest and poet Robert Hawker composed his verses, stopping off at a Norman church and 13th-century pub. Dazzling Atlantic views, peaceful meadows and steep paths are all part of the thrill.
England’s sweeping southwest corner takes on a whole new beauty when admired from the sky on a sun-soaked day. This motor glider trip flies above the wildly beautiful Blackdown Hills on the Devon-Somerset border. Spot landmarks such as the Culmstock Beacon and 19th-century Wellington Monument, the tallest three-sided obelisk in the world. Back on land, you can delve into World War II history at the Dunkeswell Airfield Heritage Centre.