"I have never before been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty"
Steven Spielberg, Director
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Long beaches of golden sands, rugged moors, bustling cities, rolling hills, pretty villages and pastel-coloured seaside towns … Devon is a beautiful yet diverse county, with many different areas to explore. Read on for a taste of each distinct area of Devon – but be sure to visit for a full flavour of each.
Parts of Exeter city centre date back to Roman times, with most of the original Roman wall still remaining. However, it also boasts a superb high street, cobbled side streets and squares housing high street and independent shops and boutiques. If you’re looking for a relaxing cultural getaway with plenty of opportunity for retail therapy, then Exeter’s the place for you.
Host to a fabulous array of things to do and places to stay, Torquay, Paignton and Brixham as an area are known as the English Riviera, thanks to its palm trees, beaches and family holiday atmosphere. The area’s steeped in maritime history and plays host to a number of sporting events and festivals, including the Riviera’s own regatta, and has some fantastic places to eat. It also has its own UNESCO-stamped Geopark, where visitors can explore a unique ecosystem and take part in a variety of unusual activities.
South Devon offers fantastic countryside and coastline, whichever way you choose to enjoy it. The area is packed with water sports and gentle walks and there are plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy. South Devon is a landscape of gentle rolling hills backdropped by the drama and wildness of Dartmoor, making it a region of contrasts. Its unique character has encouraged artists and musicians to make South Devon their home, and you’ll find plenty of galleries, music festivals and alternative livestyle centres in this part of Devon.
Plymouth might be located in Devon, in a fabulous waterside setting, but it has its own distinctive character. Steeped in history, and the scene of Sir Francis Drake’s legendary game of bowls, this university city also contributes much to Devon’s cultural scene. With great theatre, live music and art galleries, it’s full of excitement and entertainment for the whole family and a great place to experience Devon nightlife.
North Devon is home to a number of stunning stately homes set in glorious grounds, and adrenaline junkies love its excellent surfing beaches and opportunities for outdoor adventure. It too has its own distinct character: long sandy beaches contrast with dramatically rugged cliffs, and rolling farmland edges into purple moorland. Its largest town of Barnstaple offers nights out and shopping whilst Croyde and Woolacombe (often voted one of the best beaches in the UK) have a surfy, laid-back vide.
The dramatic beauty of Exmoor is quite stunning, and the perfect location to go hiking, riding, climbing or cycling – whilst the rugged coastline has given birth to the relatively new adventure sport of coasteering. Wildlife enthusiasts are drawn to the opportunities to spot wild deer and seals, and stargazers are able to pursue their hobby thanks to the dark, unpolluted Exmoor night skies. And when it comes to a little hospitality – there are some fantastic traditional Devon inns in which to rest up and eat excellent local produce, including the Michelin-starred (and thatched) Mason’s Arms.
Dartmoor’s rugged beauty, and that of the Greater Dartmoor area around it, inspired Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, and has been used as the backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters. With 368 square miles to explore, you can walk for miles without seeing another soul or visit some of the Devon attractions to be found on the moors such as Haytor and the fascinating Dartmoor Prison Museum. Feeling energetic? Then cycle the Drake’s Trail or encounter the herds of pure-breed Dartmoor ponies that wander the wilds. And when you need a little sustenance, be sure to check out the hospitality of the moorland pubs and restaurants, such as the wonderfully named Nobody Inn.
Don’t miss an opportunity to visit the Jurassic Coast and surrounding beautiful Devon countryside to the east of Exeter. This stretch of stunning UNESCO World Heritage Coastline charts 185 million years of the Earth's history, and its rocks, fossils, landslides, cliffs and beaches uncover stories from Earth’s ancient past. But it’s not all lessons and learning – this area has some lovely seaside towns that make great family holiday destinations, such as Exmouth and Sidmouth. Inland, much of the area is designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – East Devon AONB and the Blackdown Hills AONB. Both are rural paradises, rich in history with stunning countryside, landscapes and farmland.