Devon’s main attractions are its sandy shores and gorse-covered moors, but there is plenty in between to keep landlubbers and culture vultures happy. All urban tastes are met, whether it’s the student-filled Exeter, alternative Totnes, tourist-packed Torquay, beautiful Sidmouth, genteel Ilfracombe or seaside town-on-the-up, Plymouth. For rugged scenery, Dartmoor or Exmoor is the place to go, with some great tors to climb.
The surf-washed northern coast draws in surfers by the campervan-load, while the southern coast provides more tranquil waters and more gentle sands for families and sunbathers. Yachties can head to Dartmouth and Salcombe, but that shouldn’t put you off – these are the county’s prettiest towns, and should be a highlight to your holiday in any season.
Normally unpredictable, the weather in Devon can be bright one minute and rainy the next. Take clothing for all weather.
Many rural areas of Devon don’t have phone signal so be prepared for a trek to the closest farm if you run into trouble when out and about.
You need strong nerves to tackle Devon’s narrow country lanes where sheep, tractors and hairpin bends make travelling by car slow and dangerous. Being good at reversing into a tight space is very important: local etiquette states that the driver nearest the passing place pulls into it.
Scenic coves and cream teas, catching the surf and picking mussels, picnics and pints in beer gardens – trips to Devon are basic and beautiful. A trip here blends two of life’s finest pleasures: great food and the outdoors.
Most people are pulled to the stunning beaches on the south and north coasts, but central Devon has its attractions too. Dartmoor and Exmoor are huge granite plains providing solace and huge skies, while the more tranquil pastures of mid Devon hold groups of thatched villages, weaving rivers and thickly wooded areas.
Devonians make the most of the fine pantry of food outside their front doors. Lamb, venison, pheasant, pork and seafood are basics, and the county’s farmers’ markets are packed with artisan producers offering scrumptious scrumpy, apple juice, cheeses and ice cream.
As with anywhere, it pays to find out about a place before you go. If you get it wrong, you’ll end up in a horrible guesthouse. Get it right and the huge range of the county will trump any foreign holiday easily.
Many of Devon’s main landmarks, museums and National Trust properties open their doors at the start of April through to the end of October. If you can go outside of the school holidays, do: you can avoid tailbacks on the M5 and packed beaches. If you can’t, don’t drive down on a Saturday, which is normally the changeover day for most holiday cottages. After Easter, coastal paths are full of spring flowers. In autumn, the colours turn, making the moors glorious.