Travel Guide to Devon

Best things to do and see in Devon

Devon: Why go

Devon is thatched cottages, cream teas, sand in your shoes and wetsuits drying in the sun (yes, this is one of England's sunnier spots). As for the coastline to the east, it's World Heritage-class and famous for fossils: you can't miss them. Patchwork pastures and cowparsley'd lanes - Devon on a summery day really is an idyll. To the north you have the surfing beaches of Woolacombe and Croyde, to the south, the old-fashioned English Riviera, headed by Torquay. If you prefer to shun the crowds, there's room for all on wild Dartmoor.

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Our top tips


Secret beaches North Devon

Bypass the madding crowds of Woolacombe and Croyde; the beautiful uncrowded beaches at Putsborough (pictured) and Saunton are great for sunbathing and paddling in the shallows (especially lovely for families, with tiny natural seapools). For something a little more intimate, seek one of the smaller coves like Barracaine Beach.


Our favourite eateries

1. Beach House on South Milton Sands is a place that underpromises and overdelivers. From the outside, a clapboard shack with peeling paint and rustic tables. On the inside, deliciously fresh seafood - cracked crabs, moules mariniere plus chowders and linguines. A perfect walkers' pitstop or come for cinnamon French toast as the sun rises.
2. On Friday and Saturday nights in the summer, a little hut on Barracaine Beach sells gorgeous Sri Lankan curries. Bring a blanket and some wine; they'll dish up on china plates and bring it to you (5-7pm).
3. The enchanting Millbrook Inn in sleepy South Pool (pictured) does an unbeatable Sunday roast. Don't miss its Veg Shed, either, a selection of their garden produce along with local sausages and bacon, manned by an honesty box. Brilliant if you're self catering.


Wild swimming Dartmoor

Spitchwick Common (pictured) on Dartmoor is a beautiful spot for an alfresco dip in the Double Dart river; bring a picnic and wade right in. The far side is much deeper but beware the cliff jump as there are a few submerged rocks. Further upstream, there's a natural jacuzzi by the Horseshoe Falls, and 20 minutes from that is Wellsfoot Island, where there's a secret golden sand beach.


Crabbing hotspots South Devon

Grab the essentials - a bucket, crab line, a net and some bacon bait - and head to one of the following places to get catching. Tip, pick the crabs up from the back so you don't get nipped!
1. Dawlish. The breakwaters along the sea walls and Coryton Cove's low-tide rock pools.
2. Dittisham. On the pontoon.
3. Shaldon. In the low-tide rock pools.
4. Teignmouth. On the back beach.
5. Wembury. In the low-tide rock pools.
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Fragrant farming Hartland

For something completely idyllic, head for Cheristow Lavender Farm and wander its extensive informal gardens: rows of lavender, fragrant David Austin roses and sprawling wildflower plantings. There's an extensive Secret Garden, too, with wildlife patches, orchards and beehives. Don't miss the wonderful tearoom, where warm lavender scones are loaded with local clotted cream and homemade jam.


The Hallsands Ruins South Devon

On 26 January 1917, the small fishing village of Hallsands collapsed into the sea. Its inhabitants literally clung to doorframes as walls toppled down and floors fell away below them, revealing the white waves. Amazingly no one was killed, but over 25 families were left homeless. It was a result of nearby dredging at Keyham, which was incorrectly carried out, altering the angle of Hallsands' beach and leaving vast holes in the cliffs and sea wall. All that remains of the village today is the ruins of the chapel, which perches on the edge of the cliff top, and can be seen from the nearby viewing platform.


Great walks Dartmoor National Park

1. Our favourite walk on Dartmoor is up the Tavy Cleave, initially following a leat (water channel), then a wild riverside to the junction of 2 streams; here you can strike left up to Hare Tor (531m) and return to your start point at Lane End above Willsworthy. Most of the walk lies in the Willsworthy firing range so don't go if the flags are flying.
2. On rainy days, head to the Middle Dart Valley and walk the surfaced paths and lanes between Totnes and Dartington (5 miles, starting and finishing by Totnes Bridge). Photo by


Baa-rilliant! Abbotsham, Bideford

We visited The Big Sheep with a clutch of kids aged 1-5, and they all adored it. There's an indoor animal barn (puppies, piglets, ducklings) and the chance to bottle feed lambs; there are hilarious live shows, including sheep racing with knitted jockeys and waddling duck trials; there's a splash zone and jumping pillows. Our older kids loved the rides - a vintage pony carousel, a rollercoaster, and tractor rides - whilst the littlies went wild in the soft play. A genuinely great day out, with a good cafe.