Come and enjoy the sights and sounds of the South West with a trip to sunny Devon. You can get up and active by cycling around and soaking up the tremendous history of the area, or you can take a step back and relax with the beautiful views from coastal towns. Whatever you choose to do, Devon will be become a firm favourite in a matter of moments.
Devon boasts some of the most diverse attractions available in the country, from sites of astounding natural beauty, to impressive man-made feats of creativity. Need help deciding where to go first? We put together a list of the best attractions, activities, and places to go in Devon to make sure you see everything this wonderful county has to offer.
Places to Visit
The capital of the county and second biggest city in the region (after Plymouth), Exeter is a picturesque town brimming with history. A cathedral city with ancient town walls still intact, it’s a delightful place to spend a day exploring. The city walls themselves are around 2,000 years old and, amazingly, 70% of the original constructions are still there, with free leaflets available at the Exeter Visitor Centre so you can learn while on your own guided tour. Alternatively, take to the depths of underground passages for a spot of medieval history and a unique perspective of the area! Throughout the city there are more historical sites for you to admire, along with night-time food markets and musical performances to spice up your trip.
Right in the south-western corner of Devon lies Plymouth, a coastal town with a vast array of sights to see. There’s the serene beaches of Bovisands and Wembury, or you can also enjoy a taste synonymous with the Royal Navy at the oldest working gin distillery in the UK, Black Friars. You may even get the chance to create your own unique bottle to take home! There’s also the magnificence of Saltram House, a Georgian mansion that gives visitors an insight into the estate’s history and welcomes everyone – from families bringing pets for a day out to couples enjoying a relaxing picnic on the gardens. But that’s not the only greenery on offer in Plymouth, as the Elizabethan Gardens hide away on New Street. That’s if you can find it, as even in the hustle and bustle of the summer months, the gardens can be completely empty! Truly a spot of seclusion just waiting to be found.
Dartmoor National Park
Experience the great outdoors in this majestic National Park, characterised by its green and purple heather-clad hills and its stone tors – distinctive rock formations that pop up throughout the landscape. The moors are famously the home of the Dartmoor ponies. Although now under the protection of the Dartmoor Commoners, the hardy breed of pony has a long history in the area and can still be seen roaming in herds. The park was also the setting for the smash hit Steven Spielberg blockbuster War Horse, so you might spot some of your favourite locations while hunting for geocaches and finding the perfect photo opportunities.
If you’re going to visit one beach in Devon, make it Woolacombe. Three miles of clean, golden sands give way to inviting clear blue waters for the ideal relaxation spot. Head down early during hot summer spells to grab yourself the ideal spot to build your sandcastles, work on your tan and even ride the waves if you’re feeling more adventurous. If you’re bringing a pet along with you, Woolacombe Beach is large enough for you and your faithful companion to run around without disturbing anyone else, and nothing beats a stroll along the sandy shore while the sun sets. No matter the time of year, it’s a wonder to behold!
Tour the most unique town in the entire country with a trip to Babbacombe Model Village. With 412 buildings and over 13,000 individual model citizens, the entire village is constructed with fascinating detail. The village’s homes will take you through time to see homes of medieval, Shakespearean, and Victorian design, along with a wealth of castles, factories, shops, and much more! Bring the kids to enjoy the big-screen experience of the film Knight’s Quest, a hilarious adventure complete with 4D effects. The village grounds are also home to award winning gardens that interlace the many exhibitions. They’re beautiful year-round and expertly trimmed to compliment the model buildings and create an unforgettable sight.
RHS Garden Rosemoor
Babbacombe isn’t the only home to beautiful gardens. This hidden garden nestled amidst forests near the market town of Torrington is run by the Royal Horticulturalist Society, a gift to the organisation by the garden’s creator, Lady Anne Berry. Discover the fantastic features in the vast grounds, including a fruit and vegetable garden and a stunning man-made stream and rock gully, but none are perhaps as impressive as the garden’s woodland area. Because of its location amidst the forests of the area, the soil is perfectly suited for majestic wild flowers and trees, leading the RHS to focus on reintroducing wild species and wildlife into the area over recent years. On a sunny day, there is no nicer place to enjoy a stroll and admire the flora.
Take a Ride to the Past
Hop aboard and get a taste of the past with a vintage tramline that boasts some of the best views in the county. Travelling along the coast line and through two nature reserves, Seaton Tramway is a great way to spot some of the region’s many coastal birds. Purchased from British Rail in the late 1960s, the line from Seaton to Colyton is the chance to take in three miles of breath-taking countryside through Devon’s Axe Valley. There are even special trips for Halloween and Christmas visits, and the chance for you to drive the tram yourself! Great for kids, the very special Dinosaur Train will take you to Nature Trackers’ Adventure Area at Colyton, complete with music, activities, and the chance to come face-to-face with snakes and lizards!
National Marine Aquarium
Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium is the biggest of its kind in the country, making it the ideal place to learn about environmentalism and conservation. Gaze at a beautiful array of sea life in the Eddystone Reef tank, with a massive cinema-sized viewing panel, as well as smaller exhibits for lionfish, clownfish, and pufferfish. Give your kids a night they’ll never forget with a ‘Sleeping with Sharks’ sleepover inside the aquarium – a fantastic event that highlights the ten different species of shark on offer. With a special twilight tour, arts and crafts, games to play, and even a midnight snack, it’s the perfect chance for kids to have fun while learning more about marine life from around the world. The aquarium is also the perfect spot to catch the British Firework Championship every August, lighting up the night sky with dazzling displays.
Experience a luxurious spa retreat in Devon
Treat yourself to an array of relaxing spa treatments, feel rejuvenated in the heated hydrotherapy pool or indulge in some fine dining at this peaceful luxury resort.
When I think of Devon it always reminds me of when I was a child standing ankle deep in the sand at Woolacombe Bay in blazing heat and in awe of the surfers – it will never be a place to forget. Devon really has everything you could want – from golden sandy beaches that feel never-ending to the hustle and bustle cities of Exeter and Plymouth. Both Exmoor National Park and Dartmoor National Park are here too.
The county is known for its array of cliffs and hills which makes walking a must for any area of Devon to admire the natural beauty– and who knows what you could find? Maybe a secret secluded cove to watch the sunset? A charming tearoom serving scrumptious cream tea? Or maybe just a country path to soak up the stunning views of the endless rolling hills? Trying to find hidden gems is one of my favourite things to do and there couldn’t be a better place for it.
Visiting the small harbour towns and villages are a must such as Sidmouth, Torquay, Dartmouth and Ilfracombe. Torquay is my personal favourite, it is in the heart of ‘The English Riviera’ with a big marina and the Princess Pier perfect for an evening stroll.
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