The Ultimate Devon Guide and the Best Places to Visit on Dartmoor
Top Things to do in Devon and Dartmoor whilst enjoying the Devon Landscape
Devon is a region of Southern England made up of stunning landscapes and excellent experiences suited to a wide variety of interests and outdoor activies.
The county's market and historic towns with cobbled streets such as Exeter and Totnes offer an array of wonderful shops, spectacular restaurants to visit, and dramatic sites such as Exeter Cathedral and Totnes Castle.
The natural Devon landscape provides hundreds of gorgeous sandy beaches full of many rock pools to explore and beautiful countryside locations such as the Dartmoor National Park, South Devon AONB and the Exmoor National Park
The two national parks of Devon are complemented by South Devon's English Riviera, South Hams and the Hartland and Jurassic Coast - which provide moments to be taken in at every turn! Whether that means exploring the pretty landscape on foot via Devon's 205 miles of coastal paths or venturing inland on an exciting adventure, there’s plenty to discover in this lovely part of the UK.
A brief history of Devon!
Devon's documented ancient history spans many centuries and at Kents Cavern in Torquay, archaeologists have unearthed what are believed to be the remains of a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer.
The man's body was found 30,000-40,000 years old and it is understood that Dartmoor was inhabited as far back as 6200 BC by hunter-gatherers. Read the University of Oxford Thesis on the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer at https://ora.ox.ac.uk/
Devon is said to mean "Deep Valley Dwellers" in the Celtic language of old. This area had been the home to many tribes over the years but the notable Dumnonni Celts, who emerged around 500 A.D, flourished for nearly five centuries although they are often interrupted by invasions from Anglo-Saxons.
Eventually, the Kings of Dumnonia are thought to have withdrawn to safer strongholds in Cornwall and Devon
Devon had its first mention within the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in AD 823. the realm was originally part of the Wessex Realm of Winchester and then Sherborne.
Following the Norman invasion of 1066, King William the Conqueror, instantly recognised the value of securing the West Country. He divided up the rich farmland amongst his barons and knights, who slowly turned it into some of England’s most beautiful estates and castles.
The region has seen many battles throughout history, particularly during warfare between King Steven and the French. Many coastal towns have also been attacked by pirates.
One town we can have a look at is Teignmouth a historic coastal town in South Devon, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the last place on English soil to experience an invasion.
In 1690 the French navy attacked and besieged the town for two months until their fleet was replenished with provisions. Although there were no fatalities on either side, it is believed that all thirty-four of Teignmouth's ships were destroyed during the attack with British naval defences unable to stop them from entering into Teignmouth Harbour.
The Dartmoor National Park is the largest open space in Southern England. Here you’ll find enchanted forests, wild ponies, flowing meadows, an array of wildlife and granite tors, which entice walkers of all abilities to the area.
The Second national Park of Devon is Exmoor, which lies in both Devon and Somerset, and is a large stretch of open moorland that ends on the rugged North Devon Coastline and offers walkers dramatic coastal views of sites like the Valley of the Rocks.
Almost 70% of Devon’s coastline is classed as a Heritage Coast, with the South West Coast Path running the whole lot, offering an intensive selection of lovely walks beside the ocean. I would highly recommend a visit to South Devon and the South Hams.
We hope you find our Ultimate Devon Guide and the Best Places to Visit on Dartmoor helpful - from places, things to see and places to stay
The Top Things to do when visiting Devon
If you visit Devon you will find countryside, coast, ancient ruins, modern shopping centres and various area's of outstanding natural beauty.
Which make it the perfect destination for families, couples, groups and business trips - accommodating whatever it is you're looking to do during your stay. There are attractions and activities all over the region making many great places to visit.
For the adrenaline junkies out there, Devon has plenty to offer in terms of outdoor activities. If you're interested in climbing and water sports, Devon is great for canoeing and kayaking as well as rock climbing, while horseback riding and hiking is possible on the Dartmoor National Park.
If however you're looking for something with a little less adventure and some quiet exploration, there are various walking paths available to visit in Devon, why not rent bikes or bring your own to explore the countryside at your leisure without worrying about traffic.
We have a range of articles on things to See and Do whilst visiting Devon, from days out on Dartmoor to trips to the Devon Coastline have a look at our following articles for ideas and tips for great things to do when visiting Devon.
SEE OUR GUIDES ON THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN DEVON
Top ten exciting things to see and do on wonderful Dartmoor | At the heart of beautiful Devon is the stunning, granite topped moorland of The Dartmoor National Park, nearly 1,000sq km of stunning hillsides and valleys, rivers and woodlands and amazing places to visit | Here is our guide for things see and do on wonderful Dartmoor
Top Places to see when Visiting Devon
Devon is one of the most picturesque counties in England, and there are lots of reasons to visit Devon. It's known for its superb sandy beaches and quaint villages, not to mention the beauty that nature has created with its dramatic cliffs and hills.
Devon has inspired many a story throughout world history due to its unique and pretty scenery. Many people come here every year because they appreciate a good jaunt in the country side or want to escape into something more relaxing than city life!
Why not visit great sites like Bigbury on sea, head across to Burgh island, or see the cobbled streets of Clovelly, the historic market town of Exeter with its independent shops or visit the spectacular scenery of the river dart or river exe.
We have a range of articles on places to visit in Devon, from days visiting the wonder of the Dartmoor National Park to tips on visiting the best Devon Towns. Have a look at our following articles for ideas and tip for great places to visit in Devon.
SEE OUR GUIDE ON THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN DEVON
The Dartmoor National Park is one of the wildest and largest open areas in England and is a gem of South Devon, featuring vast sweeping moorland and high granite Tors interspersed with ancient woodlands it really is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a great place to visit in Devon for a few nights away or a day trip with the family.
With its Stunning Dartmoor National Park, Beautiful Rolling Hills, and Sweeping Never Ending Coastline full of small seaside villages and fishing villages, Devon makes for some truly beautiful locations to explore and interesting places to visit.
Interesting facts about Devon
The Last Castle - Not everything in Devon is ancient. Castle Drogo, for example, was built in 1930 and can be found about a mile south of the village of Drewsteignton. Julius Drewe bought up to 450 acres surrounding this small community and asked architect Edwin Lutyens to take his input and build him a castle.
Sadly, the First World War, followed by the Great Depression and financial constraints put a halt to many of its original planned features, nonetheless, one of the most famous buildings in all of England that isn't quite as old or traditional as its surroundings might lead you to believe.
The narrowest street in the World! well that's in South Devon - Exeter's smallest street lies at the centre of an area riddled with history and boasts a number of intriguing buildings and monuments. At its narrowest, Parliament Street measures only 0.65 meters wide, so there really isn't much wiggle room when it comes to navigating it.
The Original Pasty - Yes we all know the history of the Cornish pasty but, pasties were actually invented in Devon and have been reference as long ago as 1509, the main difference is that Devon pasties are crimped on the top and Cornish pasties on the side the later of the two options allows them to be eaten safer in the Cornish mines with dirty hands.
Roads Galore! - Devon has more roads than anywhere else in the country and that means there's a lot to keep track of. Devon County Council is responsible for more than 8,000 miles of roads and from single tracks that meander across Exmoor and Dartmoor to the busier A roads like the A30, the A38, and of course the M5, that stretch from the North Devon coast to the tips of Cornwall.
- Devon Witches - The last recorded executions for witchcraft were in 1682 when 4 people from Bideford were hanged after being accused of witchcraft by the government in Exeter. The events soured relationships between the Puritans and residents of Bideford, Devon which is why a plaque was put up at Exeter's Rougemont Castle which commemorates their execution while depicting them as innocent victims of unjust charges.
Great Places to Stay when visiting Devon and Dartmoor
Top Hotels to stay at in DevonFor those wanting a taste of luxury when visiting Devon check out our list of the best six hotels to visit in the County.
1 Gidleigh Park Hotel - Chagford
Gidleigh park hotel is on the pricier side of the budget but we couldn't make a list of Devon hotels without mentioning it. Why? well because Gidleigh park consistently does well in the ratings.
Making the best 8th hotel restaurant in the UK - 2014 Travellers’ Choice Restaurants Awards - https://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk the Hotel also regularly tops Trip Advisors hotel ratings for Devon and it can be seen why.
The Tudor-style country house located within Dartmoor National Park, sits among 107 acres of private grounds to explore. The area hosts a great array of natural beauty and you can easily take a wonder through the bluebell woods, sculptured gardens and meadowlands as well as many all-ability trails the area has to offer.
Having such wide open spaces and hiking trails provides guests with exceptional views of the stunning surrounding landscape and is one of the best hotels in Devon
Find our more at https://www.gidleigh.co.uk/
2 Bovey Castle Estate - Moretonhampstead
Another hotel on the higher end of the budget is Bovey Castle but you will see why when you visit.
Originally founded in 1930 by the Great Western Railway Company, the hotel and golf resort sits on a 275-acre estate within the Dartmoor National Park.
The stunning venue is surrounded by spectacular views of the English countryside while also being close to world-class fishing, clay pigeon shooting and falconry displays.
Guests will be delighted with what the property has to offer – from the beautiful spa facilities to their two restaurants at Smith’s Brasserie and The Great Western Restaurant – which are supervised by head chef Mark Budd, who gained his experience working in upscale London hotels such as The Ritz and The Dorchester.
I have personally eaten at the The Great Western Restaurant and can attest to the grandeur and elegance of the restaurant, expect silver service with an accompanying pianist to create one the most relaxing dinning experiences you will find.
Find out more at https://www.boveycastle.com/
3 Cary Arms Coastal Hotel, Torquay - The English Riviera
For those who love the sea and coastal towns (who doesn't) the beautifully laid-back seaside hotel of the Cary Arms is a must place to stay at, The area once hosted Queen Victoria and is a great place to visit in devon with its coastal character.
Re-opening in 2009, after it underwent an extensive overhaul the hotel now includes a beautifully updated interior perfect for families and vacation lounging.
Cary Arms give you the perfect way to admire the sea and its beauty whilst on the terrace as you have delicious pub-style food, like local battered Brixham fish or a great array of drinks.
The nearby village of Babbacombe gives you quick access to a range of local and independent shops to visit for a days shopping and the green at Babbacombe can be a great place to relax on a sunny day. Be sure to head out around the rest of Torbay and the English Riviera to see the other fantastic sandy beaches of the area.
Find out more at https://www.caryarms.co.uk/
4 Pig at Combe, Honiton
Robin Hutson’s Pig Group has a reputation for serving extremely hearty meals that consist of ingredients sourced just from within 25 miles from the restaurant itself.
A fabulous example of this is the Otter Valley location which takes place in Devon, UK. Nestled amongst nature in a beautiful Elizabethan manor, guests are treated to local cuisines served by friendly staff who will make you feel at home while also making you feel comfortable with your decision to travel far away from your normal day-to-day life and take a break.
It’s perfectly acceptable to be on vacation when staying here but even if you’re not vacationing, the Pig at Combe has so much to see so once you have finished your meal why not explore the drawing room, charming library and grand rooms that are spread across the main house.
Once you have finished in the house have a walk around the ground or see the wonderful Gardens where a lots of the food is produced for the restaurant or many of the interesting places to visit in the area.
Find our more at https://www.thepighotel.com/at-combe/
5 Gara Rock Hotel, Salcombe
A short ferry ride across the estuary from Salcombe, above the clifftop Gara Rock Hotel is situated in one of the most famous vacation destinations on the south-west coast of England.
The sea views from their restaurant terrace are sensational, making it the ideal lunch spot for a steaming bowl of local mussels or crab hotpot after a morning walk or swim in the pool.
On rainy weather days guests can retreat into the spa (the organic Apothespa products are made in Totnes) or intimate 12-seat cinema to enjoy a relaxing afternoon indoors.
Suites have a rustic vibe - wood-panelled feature walls, rattan lampshades and velvet bedheads — with two room types available: garden rooms, which are quieter and offer views over meadows and fish ponds; as well as balcony rooms with balconies overlooking the river below.
If you fancy a bit of a hike and some time on the beach, you can walk down to the beautiful cove style sandy beach at Gara Rock Beach and enjoy some time in the sun, the walk down to the beach takes 15mins and is steep in parts, but is one of the best examples of a sheltered bay on the South West Coast Path.
Find out more at https://www.gararock.com/
6 Paschoe House, Crediton
Paschoe House is a former grade II listed Tudor-Gothic manor house that underwent a multimillion-pound renovation between 2007 and 2017, which included making it dog-friendly and featuring 9 chic bedrooms (3 of them dog-friendly).
Paschoe House, is blissfully serene surrounded by rolling hills that go down to a lake. Most guests at the lovely country estate wake up to the sound of birdsong in the morning as opposed to traffic.
Food is seriously taken at the produce-led three-rosette restaurant serving dishes such as herb gnocchi and cured pork belly. Guests have quite a few activities they can take part in while on vacation here including playing tennis, walking amongst the beautiful walled garden (25 acres), fishing, or even windsurfing!
Find out more at https://paschoehouse.co.uk/
Top Campsites to stay at in Devon
Camping is great and for those looking for a holiday out in the fresh Devon air, check out our list of the best six campsite when visiting Devon.
1 North Morte Farm – Woolacombe, North Devon
North Morte Farm must be one of the best campsites in Devon because it is mere 500 yards from the stunning Rockham Beach.
The Campsite offers a great summer camping experience on the coast, with insane coastal views for as far as the eye can see.
Right on the edge of the South West Coast Path this great site is within walking distance of Woolacombe beach and several other stretch's of the North Devon Coast and its sandy beaches.
The site does have a few sloping pitches which are better suited to motorhomes but you can still find several level spots and even around 20 gravel pitches for caravans and motorhomes separate from the camping area.
Find out more at https://www.northmortefarm.co.uk/
2 Cloud Farm – North Devon - Exmoor Park
Cloud Farm is one of the best places to camp in the Exmoor National Park. Completely isolated with no phone signal or wi-fi, this peaceful north devon retreat is perfect for getting back to nature and relaxing away from those modern worries..
The area contains a range of stunning landscapes from forests to rolling moorland. If you love canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking and swimming then Cloud Farm is an absolute must! Surrounded by idyllic Exmoor scenery right on the border of Somerset and Devon, this unspoilt haven will let you drift off into blissful paradise. Perfect for families when during your visit in devon!
Find out more at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/cloud-farm-campsite
3 River Dart Country Park, Ashburton
River Dart Country Park is an adventure playground park with a large camping/caravan site set in the Dartmoor National Park. It’s definitely one of the best campsites in South Devon; the place has even been described as sprawling like a family-friendly village, where a variety of activities are available for all ages (including adventurous children).
Having visited the River Dart Country Park many times when I was younger I can attest to the area's peace and tranquillity, the adventure park is set among green rolling hills and a large forest.
Camping can include access to the adventure park so this is a great place for the whole family to visit when in south devon.
Find out more at https://riverdart.co.uk/
4 Lower Terawhiti Farm,
Terawhiti Farm also known as South Devon Camping is a great campsite set among the South Devon area of outstanding natural beauty.
Having spent many a night at this campsite I can attest to its choice on the list. The campsite is set back enough from the coast to miss the coastal views but is surrounded in tranquil and spectacular scenery.
The wonderful owners at Terawhiti Farm even ran a veg box collection service for a long time during Covid and the farm is still a full working farm.
Terawhiti campsite is located close to the south devon coast and home to some of the best beaches in Devon and I would even say the UK.
You have the spectacular Thurlestone Sands Bay and South Milton Sands beaches within a short drive and the wonderful Bigbury Bay and Burge Island along the coast.
The off grid seclusion, hot showers and campfires give Lower Terawhiti Farm a special atmosphere. In fact, the smell of fresh air will make you feel at peace, We would highly recommend a visit.
Find out more at http://www.southdevoncampingsite.co.uk/
5 Treacle Valley Campsite
Treacle Valley Campsite in Daccombe is a tranquil idyllic spot for couples and families wanting to get away from it all on a camping holiday.
It’s located on several grassy fields making use of an estate belonging to a 200 acre working farm, which is quite large meaning there is plenty of room for people to set up tents without having the worry of being too close together
Daccombe which lies not far from Mortonhampstead and a 15min drive from Exeter, is a very rural area, campers wanting a peaceful stay and those that are after a great array of outdoor walks from the local Dartmoor National Park should choose Treacle Valley Campsite
Find out more at https://treaclevalley.co.uk/
6 Croyde Ocean Pitch – North Devon Coast
Overlooking Croyde beach, Ocean Pitch is a small campsite next to the seaside village of Croyde in Devon. With its pristine features and incredible weather, it’s no wonder that this place is quickly becoming the number one camping site for families with children.
Ocean Pitch campsite really is a gem of Devon, as it sits by the local beaches of Croyde and has splendic views across the bay.
The Ocean Pitch campsite is a very versitle site with both hard pitchs and soft grass pitches making it perfect for both tents and campervans.
Set on the coastal path to Baggy Point, Ocean Pitch is a few minutes walk from Croyde village. You’re also not far from the beach - a beautiful sea-view setting where you can feel yourself relax as soon as you step in!
The area and the north devon coast is a great location for surfers with many pristine beaches so if you have your surfboard with you, we would highly recommend a visit to this campsite.
Find our more at https://oceanpitch.co.uk/
The Top Ten Devon attractions in brief - as rated by TripAdvisor
We have created many articles on wonderful attractions and places to visit in Devon which you can see below the list, but for those looking for a quick suggestion or even a day trip to Devon see these ten great places to visit as ranked by TripAdvisor
See more great article about things to do and places to visit in Devon and the Dartmoor national park below
Top ten exciting things to see and do on wonderful Dartmoor | At the heart of beautiful Devon is the stunning, granite topped moorland of The Dartmoor National Park, nearly 1,000sq km of stunning hillsides and valleys, rivers and woodlands | Here is our guide for things see and do on wonderful Dartmoor
The Dartmoor National Park is one of the wildest and largest open areas in England and is a gem of South Devon, featuring vast sweeping moorland and high granite Tors interspersed with ancient woodlands it really is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a great place to visit in Devon.
With its Stunning Dartmoor National Park, Beautiful Rolling Hills, and Sweeping Never Ending Coastline full of beautiful coastal towns and the best surf beaches, Devon makes for some truly beautiful locations to explore.
If you love the Devon Landscape why not check out our range Devon artwork at Sebastien Coell Photography
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