Devon, England

Woolacombe beach, Devon, England

Wollacombe beach, Devon.

Why visit Devon?

Devon is one of the finest rural English counties. Mostly undeveloped, it offers the chance to escape and enjoy a slower pace of life.
The landscape is of rolling hills and lush pastures, with thatched villages and small towns dotted around.
Dartmoor, a national park of bleak but striking moors and forests is in the centre of Devon while the south west coast – a world heritage site – is known as ‘The Jurassic Coast’ due to its heavy fossil content.
During the summer months, the beaches – ranging from small, secluded coves to wide expanses of sand – are a major incentive to visit the area.
As the area relies on tourism, there are plenty of attractions, including a number of historic houses. Saltram, for example, was location for Kate Winslet’s “Pride and Prejudice. ” and Buckland Abbey home of Sir Francis Drake.
Some animal attractions, in particular Paignton Zoo, are excellent, and there are numerous museums in Plymouth.
Devon is a good choice for young families as there are many attractions without the stress of busy cities, but the county is not highly developed so don’t expect to find theme parks, and remember that not everything is within easy reach – the attractions are spread out, but the drive between them can be part of the experience.

Downsides

– If you’re visiting from overseas and only staying a short time, Devon is off the beaten track, at least 3 hours drive from London, often more.
– As it is a rural area, public transport is very thin on the ground and the roads are narrow, so drive slowly and stay safe.
– Don’t expect any big-city thrills or theme parks. Devon is undeveloped – the main cities do offer entertainment venues, such as theatres, clubs and bars as well as cultural attractions, but not on the scale of major cities.

Best seasons

Best: May – early Oct. (tho’ mid July-Aug gets crowded)
Worst: Jan-Feb (wet, cold, grey, and short daylight hours).
Due to its south-west location Devon enjoys a milder climate than most of the UK.

Where is Devon?

One of the UK’s largest counties, Devon lies on England’s south-west peninsula, bordering Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset. It has two stunning and distinct coastlines.
Exeter, the county capital, is about 200 miles from London – a 3 or 4 hour drive, or 2. 5 hours on the fastest scheduled train.

Main attractions

Where you visit depends entirely on what you want to do. To really experience Devon, stay in a rural area, such as picture-postcard South Hams or East Devon, touched little by the hands of time.
There is plenty of scope for walking, exploring the coast to find beaches, or sampling the shops and cafes of the small towns.
There are also many popular seaside resorts – small, yet still very busy in summer. You’ll find brightly painted buildings lining narrow, winding streets, curious shops and clean, sandy beaches. Dartmouth and Salcombe are two of the best.
A visit to the bleak open moorland of Dartmoor is a must, with its wild ponies and grand views.
Opt for a short stay in the cities of Plymouth or Exeter if you want somewhere cosmopolitan, with lots of attractions. Both are historic sites: Exeter is famous for its Roman heritage, whilst Plymouth for its seafaring traditions, and as the port from which the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to America aboard the Mayflower (the Mayflower Steps can still be seen in Plymouth’s Barbican area).

Activities

Walking and Hiking: Numerous walks scatter the county, particularly on Dartmoor (368 square miles of high moorland) and the part of the 620 mile South West Coast Path National Trail – the most southerly path in the UK. Beware Lyme disease.
Biking: The county is undeveloped and relatively peaceful so good for mountain bikers.
Pony trekking: popular around Dartmoor.
Fishing: lots of pretty coastline.
Surfing: Yes, but you’ll need a wetsuit! North Devon (Atlantic/north-west coast) has good, regular surf.
Beach life: plenty of cute, clean little beaches around on the south coast and big, rolling surf beaches on the north.

What’s the food like in Devon?

Many restaurants offer excellent fresh dishes, due to Devon ‘s rural nature and double coastline. Much of the meat is reared locally, vegetables are grown next door, and fish is bought daily from nearby.
Recently some gourmet chefs have opened restaurants in the south west but cuisine is generally high quality traditional fare.
Some pubs also serve good quality nosh, but equally some serve bland, tasteless dishes. The best bet is to go in for a drink and take a look at the menu before committing youself!
And don’t forget to sample a Devon Cream tea – scones, jam and thick clotted cream – this is a regional speciality. Opt for the farmhouse or family-run cafe for the best quality.