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Top 10 Places to Visit in Devon

Devon is the fourth largest county in England – its name comes from the Celtic tribe of Dumnonii, whose members were living on the South West Peninsula at the time of the Roman Invasion in AD 43.

By the sea, the Jurassic Coast is well-known for its dramatic landforms and fossil-bearing cliffs. Inland, the landscape is of rolling countryside dominated by agriculture and moorland; in fact, the county has two major National Parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor.

Devon has something for everyone, whether you’re looking to lounge by the sea, go on a hike, stargaze, hunt for fossils, or travel by steam train. Here are our top 10 places to visit:

1. Exmoor National Park

In the north of the county, just over a quarter of Exmoor National Park’s 267-square-mile area lies within Devon. This area encompasses several miles of stunning coastline along with open moorland, wooded valleys, and clear streams. The sea cliffs are the highest in Great Britain, producing spectacular waterfalls such as the 200-metre cascade at Martinhoe.

Exmoor is also brilliant for stargazing. Did you know that the low levels of light pollution helped Exmoor to be designated Europe’s first Dark Sky Reserve in 2011?

2. Jurassic Coast

The county’s southeast coast forms part of a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, officially named the Dorset and East Devon Coast. The impressive cliffs along this coastline display a complete sequence of rock formation spanning 185 million years of geological history, shaped into fascinating landforms. If you’re into fossil hunting, make sure you visit Hooken Cliffs near Beer Head!

3. Ilfracombe

Nestling among the cliffs of the north coast, this harbour town has long been a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful setting and many attractions. It includes a port, which has been there since at least the twelfth century, as well as a promenade for strolling along. If you’re looking for a longer walk, a climb up The Torris will be rewarded with beautiful views of the sea and town.

4. Exeter

Situated at the southern end of the M5 motorway, the historic city of Exeter is for many visitors the gateway to the south of Devon. This small city, located on the bank of the River Exe, has all-year-round attractions including the stunning cathedral, the vibrant Quayside, the compact shopping centre and the well-reserved Roman city wall.

5. Croyde Bay

Croyde Bay is the surfing capital of the county – this small bay is enclosed on both sides by rocky headlands, with a sandy beach backed by sand dunes. The vibrant village of Croyde also provides facilities and a starting point for walks along the local nature trails and coastal path.

6. Woolacombe Beach

The neighbouring beaches of Saunton Sands and Woolacombe are located near Croyde Bay and offer excellent water sports opportunities. Their long golden sands are also very popular with families.

7. Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor’s wild, open moorland strewn by granite outcrops and cut by deep river valleys was recognised for its landscape and wildlife value when the first four English National Parks were designated over 70 years ago. The inland park covers an area of 468 square miles, and it’s perfect for wildlife walks – see if you can spot the famous Dartmoor ponies! –, exploring the numerous archaeological sites, and outdoor activities such as climbing, letterboxing and geocaching.

 

8. Roadford Lake

This reservoir, located in the west of the county, has an activity centre that offers kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. There are also walking trails around the lake and surrounding countryside, with Dartmoor providing a beautiful backdrop.

9. South Devon Railway

This 7-mile track was once part of a branch line of the Great Western Railway, and it runs between stations at Buckfastleigh and Totnes Riverside. The steam trains that run along this line pass through beautiful rolling countryside, and there is also a museum in the former goods shed at Buckfastleigh station, perfect for railway enthusiasts.

10. Torbay – Torquay, Paignton and Brixham

The seaside resorts along this 22-mile stretch of coastline that fringes Tor Bay have been known collectively as the English Riviera since they became popular tourist destinations in Victorian times – the main resorts are Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. Their sheltered position on Devon’s south coast creates a warm climate with plenty of sunshine hours.

 

Planning a trip to Devon? Discover everything this area has to offer with our fully updated Collins Pocket Map, only £3.99.