Devon, England

Haytor Rocks and wild ponies, Dartmoor, Devon, England, UK

Haytor Rocks and wild ponies in Devon‘s Dartmoor, south west England.

Why holiday in Devon?

Haytor Rocks, Dartmoor, Devon, England, UK

Another view of Haytor and Dartmoor.

Devon is one of the UK’s largest counties and lies on England’s south-west peninsula, bordering Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset with two stunning and distinct coastlines hosting great beaches – spectacularly sandy or rocky, though washed by chilly waters.
Surfing is particularly brisk on the (north) Atlantic coast while the south coast is more protected and specialises in cute little coves.

Devon embraces some pleasant urban areas such as Exeter, Torquay (aka The English Riviera but a little tired and down-at-heel these days), Plymouth (the port from which USA’s ‘founding fathers’ departed), and lots of quaint little villages.
But for many English people the Devon interior means moors, Exmoor, Bodmin and especially Dartmoor – bleak open spaces with mists, rocks, wild ponies and the howling ground of the Sherlock Holmes mystery ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ – superb for hiking and biking.

Fingle Bridge, Dartmoor, Devon, England, UK

Post Bridge, just outside west Dartmoor  between Moretonhampstead and Princetown.. Unfortunately there’s no guarantee that rain won’t be part of a tourist’s experience as the West Country is famously warm but wet.


Exeter cathedral, Devon, England, UK

Exeter’s 14th century Gothic cathedral, Devon

Exeter is an historically interesting city and the capital of Devon, with grand medieval buildings such as the cathedral, houses in Cathedral Close, St Nicholas Priory, Quay House and The Guildhall as well as various medieval churches, half-timbered Tudor houses and well-kept Victorian and Georgian buildings. The city also contains the oldest public space in England, Northernhay Gardens.

But Exeter has more to offer than just ancient sights – university students bring a buzz to the city encouraging a wide range of lively, historic pubs in the compact city centre and around the quay, in addition to a variety of energetic festivals throughout the year and one of the newest, top rugby teams in Britain.

Exeter statue, Devon, England, UK

A fine statue of a seagull outside Exeter cathedral, Devon

Getting to Devon

Exeter is about 200 miles from London, a 4 hour drive or 2. 5 hours on the fastest scheduled train.
The city has a history stretching back to Roman times, was the start of the Fosse Way Roman road; parts of a fortified Roman wall can still be seen.
Unfortunately the city’s narrow streets – Parliament Street is reputed to be the narrowest street in the world – cause considerable traffic congestion, so car travel here is not a pleasant option.

From London the fastest car or coach route to Exeter would be the M4 motorway to Bristol followed by the M5, though a winding trip through Dorset would be far more interesting and scenic. However, in the summertime herds of lumbering caravans migrate en masse to the West Country along ‘A’ roads so speed freaks may prefer the motorways. Or let the train take the strain.


Plymouth Hoe, Devon, England, UK

Plymouth Hoe, Devon.

Plymouth is Devon’s largest city and a famous old port that played a key part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 thanks to ex-slaver Francis Drake and the bad weather, waved goodbye to the Mayflower’s ‘Pilgrim’ passengers on their way to America in 1620, shipped out both Captain Cook and Charles Darwin and was bombed flat by the Luftwaffe in the 1940’s.
Some of the old city survived but much of the rebuild was lacking in both style and sensitivity so Plymouth is hardly packed with attractions and traffic can be terrible.

However, the Hoe is calm, pretty and encompasses varied memorials and an outdoor pool (Tinside Lido), naval-gazing is popular with the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Citadel at the fore and Crownhill Fort at the rear, while a handful of stately homes offer sumptious treats such as Saltram, Mount Edgcumbe, Elizabethan House and the Merchant’s House Museum.

Reality check

Salcombe, south Devon, England

Salcombe, Devon, the rural part.

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