Devon is a South West oasis of spectacular coast and country scenery, with award-winning beaches, National Parks and Geoparks, charming villages, ancient cities and historic maritime centres. Ocean city capital Plymouth is brimming with world class museums, attractions and Grade Listed maritime and military architecture around beautiful Royal William Yard which affords magnificent views across the Sound towards Drakes Island. The South West’s largest county is a favourite holiday destination with families, packed with theme parks, family friendly attractions and water sports. The region with its many historic market towns is also famed for its local produce, gourmet dining experiences and independent art and crafts scene.
Explore the ancient city of Exeter with its great Gothic cathedral and Roman City Wall remains, or hop aboard a wildlife watching boat trip along the coast or around scenic estuaries. Devon contains two National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and coastal Geoparks offering a wealth of adventure activities. Marvel at breathtaking coastal scenery along the North’s Heritage Coast from Lynmouth and Lynton on the Exmoor coast to Hartland, and along South Devon’s Jurassic Coast with its distinctive red coloured sea cliffs around Sidmouth and Seaton.
Offering an independent festival scene and coast and country landscapes which have inspired authors including Agatha Christie, Charles Kingsley and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Devon is a unique area in Britain with a variety of holiday experiences. The region has long been a favourite UK holiday and short break destination, with a huge choice of accommodation options ranging from luxury family lodges and holiday parks to coast and country cottage retreats, brand new contemporary apartments overlooking harbours and Grade Listed B&B guest houses in ancient villages and market towns.
Outdoor Activities & Wildlife
A wide range of sports and outdoor activities across coast and country landscapes make Devon a top choice for a ‘get active’ holiday or short break! Water sports from sailing to windsurfing are around the coast, and some of Britain’s most popular surfing beaches are on Devon’s Atlantic north coast including Croyde, Woolacombe and Westward Ho! The Devon coast is also rich in coastal wildlife and nature reserves like off-shore island Lundy and the Exe Estuary where a choice of wildlife watching boat trips are on offer. Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks offer a wealth of opportunities for walking, cycling, horse riding, climbing and Geocaching. Devon is also a real angler’s paradise, with outstanding opportunities for sea, river, estuary and lake fishing!
Devon is one of England’s top foodie centres, home to the famous River Cottage at Axminster. Best seafood fresh from the catch can be sampled in Devon’s many fine restaurants, old inns and cafes. The rural interior features some of England’s oldest market towns and villages which draw on an outstanding farming region for seasonal fruits and vegetables, locally reared meats and dairy produce on sale at monthly farmers’ markets, county shows and weekly pannier markets dating back centuries.
Family Attractions & Seaside Fun
Devon is packed full of top family attractions, activities and fun family days out. Best UK theme parks include The Milky Way Adventure Park near Bideford on the north coast and Crealy Adventure Park near Exeter with over 60 rides and attractions across its 100 acre rural site. Visit family farm parks and be amazed by racing sheep at the quirky, award-winning Big Sheep Adventure in North Devon. The region contains coast and county zoos, family water sports and surfing opportunities, aquariums, river adventures, treetop activity centres, vintage cliff and steam railways, seaside model villages and piers, boat trips and family friendly castles and historic homes. Seaside resorts and award-winning beach bays on Devon’s north and south coasts are great destinations for family summer holidays with favourites including on the south coast award-winning Blackpool Sands family beach and the endless golden sands of Paignton on the Riviera. Great value family friendly accommodation is plentiful around the north coast’s award-winning Woolacombe beach and the man-made tunnel beaches at Ilfracombe.
Heritage & Culture
Devon’s ancient heritage from pre-historic archaeological sites and Roman settlement to ruined castles, old fishing villages and smuggling haunts take centre stage. Around the coast sit great British naval and maritime centres including ocean city Plymouth with links to seafaring adventurers like Drake and the Pilgrim Fathers who embarked on one of the most famous voyages from Plymouth’s Barbican Quay aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Plymouth’s world class museums, heritage harbours and Grade Listed military architecture tell the epic stories of exploration, emigration and defence through the ages. Devon’s other large city Exeter is one of England’s great ancient centres, with the great Gothic St Peter’s Cathedral dominating the city centre, along with the remains of the Roman City Wall, old medieval Guildhalls and underground passages, a beautiful historic quayside and wonderfully preserved Elizabethan merchant houses.
The National Trust has many historic castles, houses, gardens and magical landscapes across Devon. Highlights include the unique 16 sided A la Ronde house near Exmouth, Sir Francis Drake’s former home Buckland Abbey on the western edge of Dartmoor, Castle Drogo the last castle built in England and the great 30 metre high Lydford Gorge waterfall. The Trust also owns one of Devon’s most popular heritage homes – Greenway, the former home of Devon author Agatha Christie near Brixham.
Take a step back in time and visit famous coastal villages like Clovelly with its steep cobbled streets and two museums – Fisherman’s Cottage and the Kingsley Museum. Devon’s interior is brimming with historic treasures, social history museums like the Museum of Dartmoor Life in Okehampton and some real surprises. Great Torrington in the heart of Tarka County was a strategic centre during the English Civil War – the 1646 Battle of Torrington was the last stand by Royalist resistance in the West Country. Historic Devon market towns like Holsworthy and Tiverton are brimming with heritage architecture and host weekly Pannier Markets with a history stretching back centuries.
Festivals & Events
Festivals and events across Devon have wide ranging themes. The region hosts numerous food festivals, county shows and music festivals in historic market towns. Famous literary festivals include the Agatha Christie Festival in the queen of crime fiction’s birthplace town Torquay and the celebrated Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival on Devon’s Jurassic Coast, both held annually in September. Seaside carnival weeks take place across the summer season in locations including Teignmouth, Hartland, Dawlish and Ilfracombe, and maritime themed festivals are held in little maritime centres like Clovelly and in big ocean city Plymouth. Exeter and the Exmouth estuary are famed for their many craft, film and arts festivals, and enjoy year round steam railway events and fairs on great heritage railways like the Dartmouth Steam Railway.
Torbay’s popular summer festivals include award-winning BrixFest around Brixham harbour and the popular Babbacombe mid-June festival. Tavistock’s annual May Garden Festival attracts huge crowds and seaside Sidmouth Folk Week annually at the end of July into August is one of Britain’s major league folk events. Active events and festivals are also numerous in the National Park. Both Exmoor and Dartmoor host big walking festivals, and major cycling events like the Tour of Britain pass through Devon’s dramatic rural interior.
Devon has an excellent transport network making it easy for national and international visitors to travel in to the region. Exeter International Airport offers a wide choice of internal flights from major UK cities, and to and from major European locations. The M5 and M4 are fast motorway routes in and Devon has fast rail links from London Paddington and Waterloo. Major railway stations in the county are at Exeter, Plymouth and Tiverton. Great value National Express coach services also run into the region, including direct services to top seaside stops such as Ilfracombe and Bideford.
Where to Stay
Accommodation around the Devon coast and across the interior and National Parks is of the highest quality. This South West County has centuries of experience welcoming visitors and travellers, and the region offers a huge variety of holiday cottages and barn conversions, luxury lodges on leisure complexes, character historic coaching inns with rooms and charming coastal smuggler and fisherman’s cottages. Torbay, Teignmouth and South Devon are brimming with affordable seaside B&B guest houses and an outstanding choice of family holiday parks with onsite leisure facilities, kids clubs and more. Romantic retreats are not hard to find – stay in a luxury harbourside apartment or a traditional old inn with exposed beams and Devon real ales. Luxurious town and country house hotels with award-winning gourmet dining can be found in Devon’s old market towns, or book a short break in one of Torquay’s classic boutique villa hotels just a stone’s throw from Meadfoot beach where Agatha Christie loved to bathe.