Located in the southwest of England, the county of Devon boasts some of the most gorgeous and diverse landscapes, towns and heritage in the UK. Just next to door to Cornwall, Devon offers up two coasts as well as gorgeous moors and valleys just waiting to be explored. From the delicious, farm fresh local foods and seafood, to the historic market towns and national parks – spending time in Devon is the perfect way to enjoy some of the best that England has to offer. While our guide gives you some great insights into Devon in a week, there is so much to see and do here, visitors may find themselves staying for even longer!
One of the most well known harbour cities in the UK, Plymouth is often referred to as Britain’s Ocean City and offers visitors a great glimpse into the city’s history and charm. The city where the Mayflower set sail to the ‘New World’ from, as well as where Sir Francis Drake played his last game of bowls before sailing out to engage the Spanish Armada, the rich cultural history found here is matched with stunning harbour front and opportunities to taste the local cuisine. With great transport connections to the rest of the country as well as further on to neighbouring Cornwall, this is a great place to start a trip around Devon.
- Trip Details: Trains from London to Plymouth start at around £40+ and buses start at £7
- Duration: 3-5 hours
- Must-see Attractions: One of the most popular places to visit is the Barbican and Sutton Harbour, where cobbled streets meet a stunning harbour, and visitors can stroll amongst the many shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries along the water’s edge. The long awaited Boston Tea Party café-bar recently opened here in the iconic Jamaica Building, and is a great place to enjoy breakfast or brunch on the harbour. Afterwards, visitors should check out the Royal William Yard, which is a spectacular former naval yard boasting the most Grade I listed military buildings in all of Europe. Those looking for a great meal will also find a whole host of restaurants at the Royal William Yard to choose from.
- Recommended stay: 1/2 day
South Devon is a rich with gorgeous coastlines and beautiful market towns, and easy trains from Plymouth make it a great place to explore! One of these lovely market towns is Totnes, a town full of great English heritage as well as a number of great South Devon attractions and activities. A number of great B&Bs offer accommodation here, and local pubs and restaurants are renowned for offering up the best local dishes South Devon can offer.
- Trip Details: Trains from Plymouth to Totnes are from £5, and buses from £2
- Duration: 25 – 40 minutes
- Must-see Attractions: Totnes Castle, a castle standing since the Norman times, can be found and is a great attraction to explore and take in the views of the town from. Just outside of the town of Totnes is the Sharpham Vineyard and dairy, where a great selection of vineyard and tasting tours are given and offer up delicious local wines and cheese while located stunningly on the River Dart. River cruises are also available between Totnes and Dartmouth, including aboard a historic steam paddleboat!
- Recommended stay: 1 day
Side trip: Salcombe & Kingsbridge
All throughout Devon visitors can discover beautiful towns – whether they are on along the stunning Devon coastlines or nestled within the Dartmoor National Park. Two of our favourites that have to be mentioned are Salcombe and Kingsbridge, which can be visited as a side trip between Plymouth and Totnes. While they aren’t located on any major rail lines or motorways, local area transit can get you there from Plymouth -though hiring a car is the best bet. Beautiful beaches and some of the best seafood in the UK can be found here, and staying overnight in a B&B or cottage is the perfect way to get off the beaten path a little in South Devon.
- Price of trip: Local transit buses will usually be less than £10
- Duration: Around 1 hour driving
- Must-see Attractions: The Salcombe North Sands beach is a popular place to get your toes wet, and for a bite to eat afterward The Winking Prawn Beach Cafe and BBQ luckily calls the North Sands home! With daily outdoor BBQ and seafood specials that are truly delicious, it is the perfect place to eat before or after the beach. Kingsbridge is a great place for food as well, and visitors here should not miss the Kingsbridge Farmer’s Market, which is held on the first and third Saturdays in the town square. You’ll be able to discover the best Devon has to offer with locally grown and produced vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and meat! To go between the two, there is also the Rivermaid Ferry taking passengers on a 35 minute scenic cruise through the estuary.
- Recommended stay: 1 – 2 nights
Torbay: The English Riviera
Located in stunning South Devon, the area of Torbay is often referred to as the English Riviera for its 22 miles of beautiful coastline. Torbay consists of three amazing towns: Torquay, Brixham and Paignton. Each town is unique and great for visiting, with plenty of restaurants, sights and activities to do in each! There are of course other beautiful towns throughout the English Riviera, but with only a few days visitors should definitely not miss out on Torbay.
- Price of trip: Buses from Totnes to Brixham from £10, Trains from Totnes to Paignton from £4, Trains from Totnes to Torquay from £4
- Duration: 40 mins – 1 hour
- Must-see Attractions: All three of these brilliant towns offer up great choices for beaches, and food. In Torquay, where famed murder mystery writer Agatha Christie hails from, you can also explore the history of this town at the Torquay Museum or stay for an ‘Agatha Christie Break‘. In Paignton, spending the day enjoying the sea really doesn’t get much better as most of the Paignton beaches here have coveted Blue Flag status. Inn the evenings the town has delicious restaurants and friendly pubs and bars to enjoy, such as Shoreline located on the Eastern Esplanade where you can enjoy amazing meals crafted from local produce as well as delicious drinks while taking in a stunning view. For those who like a little bit of history and adventure, Brixham’s legacy as a coastal town also includes history of fishing, pirates and smuggling – and there are Pirate Days at the Old Fish Market to celebrate this throughout the spring and summer. To check out the best local seafood, the Brixham Fish Market is the place to go and tours are even offered.
- Recommended stay: 2-3 days, depending on if you want to check out all three of the main English Riviera towns!
Continuing the journey through South Devon, a trip to Dawlish is absolutely brilliant for any train enthusiasts! This is because the railway line runs right along the coast – making it one of the most beautiful train journeys in the UK. The railway here was designed and built by none other than legendary Victorian engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose other engineering feats include his famous tunnel as well as the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.
- Price of trip: Trains from Torquay to Dawlish from £5
- Duration: 1 hour
- Must-see Attractions: By far the main attraction here is the beautiful beach that is perfect to spend the day at. After getting all the sun and sand you could want, having a meal or enjoying one of the local ales at the The Smuggler’s Inn is the perfect way to enjoy the afternoon as the restaurant has a great menu and even better sea views.
- Recommended stay: One afternoon, or day trip
Teignmouth is actually located between Torquay and Dawlish – but after spending the day on the beach in Dawlish, it is well worth making your way back to beautiful Teignmouth. The beaches here are iconic, as red sand cliffs are found along the coastline of this town. Teignmouth has long been an ideal seaside getaway resort town, and the crescent of Georgian houses, promenade and lovely beach make it easy to see why.
- Price of trip: Trains from Dawlish to Teignmouth from £2.60
- Duration: 5 minutes
- Must-see Attractions: The red sand cliffs that are found along the coast at Teignmouth are truly stunning, and worth seeing if wanting to spend the day on the beach. The beach is also an hotspot for South Devon crabbing! The town is also a great place to take part in some water sports and SeaSports Southwest offer everything from kayak rentals, to sailing lessons, and jet ski rentals. After spending the day on the water, or searching for crabs, visitors can dine on some truly delicious sustainably sourced local seafood at the Crab Shack on the Beach.
- Recommended stay: 1 day
Exeter is one of the most well known cities in Devon, as it is home to some of England’s richest history as well as an outstanding university. The capital city of Devon, it plays an important connection for transport as you start leaving south Devon for the north of the county. The city is filled with great shopping, sites, food and nightlife (it is a university city afterall) and is a place to certainly not miss out on.
- Price of trip: Trains from Teignmout to Exeter from £4.10
- Duration: 1 hour and a half
- Must-see Attractions: Exeter has so much to explore, which organised visitors can do in a day and more casual visitors might do in a weekend. The iconic St. Peter’s Cathedral here is one of the architectural sights to check out, as are the Roman ruins you will see in the city. This year Exeter will also be a host city for the Rugby World Cup 2015! If you love a bit of a scrum, don’t miss out on the chance to see one of the games this September and October.
- Recommended stay: 1-2 days
North Devon: Okehampton, Barnstaple & Clovelly
The transport in the north of Devon is a little less extensive than in the south, but that does not mean visitors should miss out on this brilliant part of the county. Barnstaple is the premier town of North Devon and the perfect place to use as a base to explore the north as it is filled with charm and lots to see and do! But the rest of North Devon, including the likes of Okehampton and Clovelly, shouldn’t be missed out either, and to get to the other towns, consider renting a car or asking for local transit.
- Price of trip: Trains from Exeter to Barnstaple from £9.80, Buses from Barnstaple to Clovelly from £7
- Duration: About an hour
- Must-see Attractions: In Barnstaple, just exploring the town and the many independent shops, cafes and restaurants is a great way to get acquainted with North Devon. In October, the North Devon Food Fest will take place in the historic Pannier Market in Barnstaple, where visitors have the chance to sample all the best foods, drinks and more from across North Devon! Those looking to escape to more countryside should definitely take a side trip to Okehampton, which is the perfect gateway to the Dartmoor National Park. Take in a wine tasting at Eastscott Vineyards, located in Okehampton, or enjoy a day of cycling through the stunning scenery surrounding the town. Of course, couples should be sure to enjoy the lovely coastal town of Clovelly where the nestled and winding cobblestone streets make this town the perfect place to make a romantic escape. You can simply enjoy the stunning views and lovely local foods, or try your hand at local crafts such as making your own silk scarf at Clovelly Silk.
- Recommended stay: 1-3 days
Ilfracombe is a definite jewel of a town in North Devon, and a wonderful place to finish off a tour of the county. With a bustling harbour, beautiful beaches ranging from hidden coves to sandy sprawls, and plenty of festivals and events throughout the year – Ilfracombe is not to be missed.
- Price of trip: Buses from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe from £8.90
- Duration: 30 minutes
- Must See Attractions: There is just something for everyone here including museums and heritage sites, as well as amusement and fun parks for families! Take a few days here, you should plan to make a boat trip out to Lundy Island where you may see wild Puffins. Lundy Island cruises sail regularly from Ilfracombe harbour, and a day’s picnic or an overnight stay is simply great. On 5th & 6th September 2015, the Sea Ilfracombe Festival will take place, which celebrates the maritime and sea culture of this wonderful harbour town. With all the beaches and stunning views, visitors should also consider getting a Sunfish Cuisine Gourmet Picnic Hamper by Relish Bar & Bistro to dine on North Devon culinary delights al fresco.
- Recommended stay: 2-3 days
Side trip: Exmoor National Park & Dartmoor National Park
It goes without saying that two of the UK’s most gorgeous national parks lie partially or fully within Devon – and so we couldn’t leave them out! Both of these parks are stunning, and visitors can spend more than a week in either as there is ample hiking, trekking, cycling and more to do here. Towns like Okehampton or Ilfracombe are great springboards into the parks, and be sure to keep an eye out for the famous Exmoor ponies that still graze in Exmoor National Park
- Price of trip: Walk or trek into the parks from nearby towns for free, or utilise local transit buses
Cover Photo courtesy of Visit South Devon.
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