History & Culture in Devon

Did you know Devon is full of amazing history and heritage attractions? It isn't just castles and stately homes you can find here, you'll also find working museums, the oldest working distillery in the UK and more! From incredible heritage attractions to iron age settlements, castles, Roman roads and a rich maritime history, there is something from every era here to enjoy, especially with the region's many National Trust and English Heritage properties. 

As you'd imagine, Devon's history and culture is a rich and varied tapestry!

Magical Maritime history

Our county's great seafaring history is well known and has greatly influenced its culture. From the naval history of Plymouth and the pirate history of both the south and north coastlines, you're never too far away from somewhere you can learn more about the region's maritime history. The Mayflower, which took pilgrims to America to create the first colonies set off from Plymouth, while Lundy Island on the North Devon coast was once home to a poirate king! not only that but many famous historical figures from the maritime world feature in Devon's past, including Sir Francis Drake, Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Walter Raleigh. In fact several of the best known pirates in the world were from Devon!

But there's more to Devon's history and culture than the coast, you'll find evidence of the Romans and their influence on Exeter; the Viking invasion, and battle sites in North Devon; the story of Exeter Cathedral, now over 1,000 years old; mining and farming. Whatever era of history you're into, you'll find plenty to uncover here. 

Dartmoor's ancient tales

If you love being spooked, make sure to visit Dartmoor and ask about the moor's many myths and legends. Not only is the National Park full of iron and bronze age settlements (and the iconic ponies of course) but it also has an abundance of local myths and legends. From witches to giants to ghost dogs and mysterious grave side visits, Dartmoor will give you plenty of inspiration. 

Many of the ancient tales and legends from this area inform certain West Country traditions that are still in place today and it isn't just Dartmoor that continues to keep these traditions alive. Make sure to visit Tavistock for the yearly goose fair which has taken place for generations or to the village of Ottery St Mary in the East of Devon where they still hold tar barrel rolling to make Bonfire Night. 

Devon and the war

Devon played a huge role in the English civil war and there is still evidence of this that can be discovered across the county. In more recent times, Devon was used as a strategic post for the military during the Second World War. Dartmouth Castle was used as a defence post and that's not the only connection Devon has to the conflict, Slapton Sands was the host of a rehearsal for D-Day and you'll find a Sherman Tank at Torcross at the end of the beach, while large areas of North Devon were used by American soldiers and you can find a number of old Pill Boxes along the South West Coast Path. That's not all, keep your eyes peeled on the stained glass windows when you pass a church, you never know, you might be looking at the creation of Prisoners of War that were kept here.