Ok, so we’ll admit it: even in beautiful Devon (or ‘the land of milk and honey’ as we call it) it does rain occasionally. But that doesn’t stop play. There’s still plenty of activities for children, adults and the whole family, as you’ll see from out list of eight great things to do in Devon when it’s raining.
Find more things to do across Devon
1. Get arty
Inspired by the beautiful surroundings, Devon’s colourful arts scene is well worth dipping in to when the skies are grey. Families will love galleries where they can paint their own pottery (and take it home afterwards); try Waves in Woolacombe, Tarka Pottery in Torrington and Clay Art in Plymouth. And adults or older children will appreciate the collections at The Wharf, an arts centre with theatre, concert hall, cinema and art gallery in Tavistock; the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, a contemporary crafts venue in Bovey Tracey displaying ceramics, jewellery, textiles, furniture, prints and woodwork; or the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, an innovative arts and ecology centre in Haldon Forest Park near Exeter.
2. Get active – indoors
Devon has a great selection of indoor sports to suit all ages. Indoor climbing walls are great fun, and usually suited to all abilities – Exeter has Haven Banks, Clip ‘n Climb (particularly good for those with young children) and Quay Climbing Centre, or try Rock and Rapid in South Molten. For a good workout, Barnstaple has Tarka Tennis, an excellent indoor tennis facility with six undercover courts. Indoor bowling is always popular and most towns have a centre nearby, such as Tenpin Bowling in the Barbican Leisure Centre in Plymouth, and Woolacombe Golden Bowls. And for something completely different try your hand at Dragon Archery in Holsworthy, Plymouth Karting or Plymouth Pavilions Ice Rink, which are all under cover.
Got small children? Take them to one of Devon’s many soft play centres, such as Funderzone in Barnstaple, World Of Country Life (with animals and exhibits too) in Exmouth or Drake’s Den and Jump in Plymouth, then get yourself a cup of tea and relax while they run riot.
3. Go underground
Kent’s Cavern in Torquay is a surprisingly warm and cosy place to spend a wet afternoon. This labyrinth of intriguing caverns is known as one of Europe’s top prehistoric Stone Age caves, and you can take part through guided tours, a woodland trail quest, the children’s archaeological dig area, hands-on cave art walls and appearances from Cavog the Caveman. Or try Exeter’s Underground Passages, a fascinating tour (you’re led right through them!) of the narrow medieval pipes that were built to house the pipes that brought clean drinking water into medieval Exeter – the only passages like this open to the public in Britain.
4. Get even wetter!
Got a bit wet? Embrace it! No-one notices if it’s raining when it’s surfing – mostly because they’re having too much fun! There are countless surf schools in Devon, most of which usually also offer a variety of other beach or watersports, including windsurfing, kayaking, coasteering, paddleboarding, kite surfing or buggying. Visit one of our sister sites to find a certificated, professional school near you: Torbay, South Devon, East Devon Coast, Plymouth, and North Devon and Exmoor.
But if that’s not your bag, take a dip in one of Devon’s many indoor swimming pools. Most towns have one, and particularly good ones to visit are the sports complex at Golden Coast Holiday Village in Woolacombe, which has a surf simulator and WaterWalkerz (which allows you to walk on water – we told you Devon is the land of milk and honey), as well as a climbing wall, trampolines and bowling; and Plymouth Life Centre, which has fantastic Olympic-standard diving and swimming facilities, as well as offering other sports.
5. Find your marbles
There’s a lot we like about House Of Marbles, in Bovey Tracey: it’s an eclectic, slightly eccentric mix of a working glass and games factory set in an historic pottery, alongside museum-type displays of said games, glass and marbles, marble runs and penny press machines; it has a really good cafe; it’s free to get in; it’s within an hour’s drive of most of Devon; and much of it’s undercover!
6. Let off some steam
Forget, ‘Let’s go for a drive in the car’: the best way to still see the Devon sights when it’s wet is by train. We’ve a number of scenic railways, including those at Dartmouth, Dartmoor, South Devon and Woody Bay on Exmoor, which allow you to take in beautiful country and coastal scenes from the comfort of a carriage.
7. Visit a historical home
There are so many beautiful, historical buildings across Devon that you could spend every day of the week in a different period. We’ve chosen one from each area as a starter (do check their websites for opening dates and times), but you’ll find many more across the county on our sister sites (see 4. Get even wetter! for links):
Greenaway in Brixham was the holiday home of Agatha Christie and featured as the setting for three of her novels, and now offers a fascinating glimpse into her private life; extravagant Saltram House near Plympton was home to one family for nearly 300 years, and its original contents provide an insight into country-estate life through the centuries; Dartmouth Castle is an imposing fortress that dates from 1388 and is worth visiting for the views alone; Powderham Castle outside Exeter was home to the 18th Earl of Devon and has secret doors and amazing architecture; Buckfast Abbey in Buckfastleigh is home to the great Abbey church and has art treasures and shops selling products made by the monks; and Arlington Court a few miles from Barnstaple is a restored Regency home with great stories behind it and a carriage museum.
8. Learn something
Exercise your brain instead of your legs on a grey-weather day. The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is educational as well as fun, with stunning collections of marine life from the shores of the local area to tropical coral reefs. Or go to one of Devon’s excellent museums: most towns have one, and they’re often a source of the weird and wonderful. Some that come highly recommended are the Museum of British Surfing in Braunton; Torquay Museum, which has an area devoted to explorers that kids love; the award-winning Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter which is known for its events and innovative approach; and Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, which has some great collections.