There are so many amazing things to do in Devon and it is one of the best places to spend a holiday in the UK. With two beautiful – but very different – coastlines, two moors, and two historic cities, there is so much to do in this epic county.
It’s a place of contrasts – parts of Devon are very rural, especially in the north and the mid-Devon area, but both Exeter and Plymouth have a great urban atmosphere. And if you’re looking for chilled out holiday towns, these are in abundance on the south coast.
Whether you’re into epic scenery, fascinating history, moorland hiking, or want somewhere to chill out for a week or two, you’ll find it in Devon!
How to get to Devon
The best way to get to Devon is undoubtedly by car. Exeter is located at the end of the M5, and you can travel down the A38 to reach Plymouth. However, North Devon is a little more tricky to get to – you will need to leave the M5 earlier and drive on country roads.
You can also reach Devon by train. Exeter and Plymouth are well connected with services to London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and other cities. From Exeter, you can take a train to Barnstaple in North Devon and public buses to other destinations.
Coaches serve Exeter and Plymouth from London, Bristol and other cities.
When is the best time to visit Devon
The best time to visit Devon is definitely summer when you can enjoy the beautiful coastlines.
However, this is also the busiest time! To avoid the busiest months, visit outside of school holidays (the last week of May and the end of July- the start of September).
Devon is still beautiful in the off-season, and it can be cheaper to visit at this time. While you may not be able to lie on a beach in November, there are still lovely sunny days in this season!
There are also plenty of things to do in Devon in the rain if the weather isn’t so kind!
How to get around Devon
Driving around Devon can be an experience, with narrow country lanes traversing the county. However, the M5 and various A roads are a lot easier to navigate! If you are not comfortable driving on country roads, I recommend taking the buses and trains around the county.
A good train service connects Exeter and Plymouth, with stops in Torquay, Paignton, and other seaside towns. You can also take a train to Exmouth.
Trains run from Exeter to Barnstaple, and local buses connect the town with others in North Devon.
If you are flying to England and want to visit Devon, you can take a train to Paddington or Waterloo, where you can connect to train services.
One tip that I would give is not to try and see too much of Devon in one trip. It is one of the largest counties in England, and it can take up to two hours to drive from one side to the other (this is partly to do with its size, and partly to do with country roads!).
Therefore, I would recommend sticking to one area of Devon and exploring it thoroughly.
Budgeting for Devon
Devon can be expensive as it is such a popular holiday place. However, if you go away from the main touristy areas, you will find that prices are lower than the UK average.
I would recommend budgeting the following:
- £60-120 per night for a hotel room
- £15-20 for a meal with drinks
- £3-5 for a pint of beer or glass of wine
- £8-20 for touristy attractions, such as boat trips or entrance to heritage sites.
Top 10 things to do in Devon
Beach hop in North Devon
There are so many incredible beaches in Woolacombe and elsewhere in North Devon. Woolacombe Beach was once voted the 13th best globally, but that doesn’t mean that the others are any less impressive.
The wild coastline of Exmoor National Park peters out around Combe Martin to create some expansive sandy surfing beaches. I recommend visiting Lee Beach near Ilfracombe, Saunton Sands, Croyde Bay and the long stretch of sand at Westward Ho!
Hike in Dartmoor
Dartmoor is one of the most popular UK national parks. Home to nearly 1000 square kilometres of dramatic moorland, it is ideal for hiking and exploring nature. It’s famous for its Dartmoor ponies, as well as its many rocky tors.
Exmoor is Devon’s other moor, occupying a square 692 kilometres in the north of Devon and south of Somerset. Unlike Dartmoor, Exmoor is coastal, so there are some epic cliff walks that you can do here. Also don’t miss the picturesque village of Lynmouth, which is famous for its cliff railway.
Enjoy the beaches at the English Riviera
The English Riviera is a section of the South Devon coast famous for its popular beaches and yachts. The biggest towns are Torquay and Paignton, but visit Babbacombe and Brixham for quieter spots.
See the Western Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast starts in Exmouth and travels through East Devon and Dorset before terminating near Poole. The Devon section is the oldest, and there is plenty to see here, from the broad beaches of Exmouth to the quaint villages of Beer and Branscombe.
Go on a walking tour of Exeter
Exeter is a deeply historic city that was established during Roman times and prospered in the Medieval era due to the woollen cloth trade. It became a tourist city in Victorian times but sadly was heavily bombed in the Baedeker Blitz. However, it still has countless stories to tell and features one of the most impressive Cathedrals in the country.
You can learn all about this fascinating history on a city tour. Red coat tour guides offer free comprehensive tours around the city – choose from general history, Medieval Exeter, or forgotten Exeter.
Visit the Plymouth Gin Distillery
The Plymouth Gin Distillery is the oldest working gin distillery in the world. It’s a great place to visit – you can learn about its story from a Medieval distillery to the present day, educate yourself on the gin-making process, and of course, sample some of the gins!
Explore the River Tamar
The River Tamar is a lesser explored but beautiful part of Devon. Acting as the border between Devon and Cornwall, the River Tamar has stunning natural beauty, which you can enjoy on the Tamar Valley trail. You can also take a scenic train from Plymouth to Gunnislake (which is in Cornwall), where you can enjoy the scenery from a unique railway vantage point!
Go on a day trip to Lundy Island
Lundy Island is an epic island located in the Bristol channel, and without a doubt, it is one of the best things to do in Devon. The small scenic island is virtually road-free and is famous for its seal colony and local puffins! You can visit Lundy Island on a day trip from Ilfracombe or Bideford, or stay in one of the rustic cabins.
Enjoy a holiday in Exmouth
Exmouth is one of Devon’s most popular tourist towns, but this is for a very good reason! Not only does it have a broad, accessible beach, but it also features dramatic cliffs and a charming estuary with birdwatching opportunities. If you’re looking for somewhere to base yourself for a holiday, Exmouth is a great option!
Top Things to eat in Devon
Look out for the following dishes and treats when you’re in Devon!
- Cream tea – popular in Devon and Cornwall, this is a light meal commonly eaten in the afternoon. It consists of scones, jam, cream, and a cup of tea. The way you put the jam and cream on the scone is significant – in Devon, you put the cream on first and in Cornwall, it’s the jam on first!
- Pasties – you can only call Cornish pasties by that name if they are made in Cornwall, but pasties of all varieties are popular in Devon as well. Traditionally made with meat and vegetables, there are many varieties nowadays (including plenty of veggie options). Find a Warren’s Bakery to try authentic pasties!
- Homity Pie – another pastry delicacy, Homity Pie consists of potatoes and cheese and is served with roast dinner or mashed potato and vegetables.
- Fudge – fudge is another popular West Country food – a deliciously sweet treat made from crystallized sugar.
- Seafood – due to Devon’s expansive coastline, it’s no surprise that seafood is available in abundance! Devon crab and Exmouth oysters are popular favourites. Also, don’t miss the classic Fish and Chips!
Top Places to eat in Devon
- Exeter: At the Waterfront is a quayside restaurant that serves up delicious pizzas the size of dustbin lids, with plenty of veggie and vegan options! There is also an excellent street food market in the summer in Princesshay, the main shopping area of
- Plymouth: The Harbour is a fantastic seafood restaurant that serves lots of different kinds of fish and vegetarian fish and chips. Also, visit The Stable for pizza and West Country cider!
- Exmouth: there’s no better place than Exmouth to try Fish and Chips. Krispies is an award-winning chippy, famous for its battered chips and fresh seafood.
- North Devon: Bar Electric in Woolacombe offers delicious food and plenty of drinks in a desirable location looking out over the sea. I also loved the Seagate in Appledore for their delicious mussels!
Top places to drink in Devon
- Exeter: The Terrace Cocktail Bar is an excellent place in the city centre to enjoy an extensive cocktail list.
- Plymouth: Head to the Pier Master’s House for drinks over the water.
- Exmouth: The Puffing Billy is a lovely country pub located a little way out of town. Also, Mickey’s Beach Bar is a new bar open on the waterfront of Exmouth – perfect for the summer!
There are also lots of wineries, orchards and breweries that you can visit in Devon to try local produce!
Where to stay in Devon
There are loads of places to stay in Devon – so many that planning might feel a little overwhelming!
If you want to stay somewhere with many restaurants, bars and urban attractions but would still like to be close to nature, either Exeter or Plymouth are good options. You can easily explore the surrounding nature, but both cities are sizable.
If you’d like to stay by the beach but still have lots of amenities available, I’d recommend either Exmouth or somewhere in Torbay.
If you’re an adventurer and want to explore a rugged and dramatic coastline, North Devon is an excellent option!
- Hotel: For a double room, the price is from £80 a night (in peak season).
- Airbnb: The average cost for 2 people per night is around £130 (for an apartment).
- Hostel: Stay at one of Devon’s YHAs for from £20 a night for a mixed dorm bed.
If you on a bigger trip exploring more of Europe check out my guides to France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and United Kingdom.
Author bio: Claire is an expert in travelling to South West England. She writes about Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Bristol on her blog, Go South West England. When she’s not travelling in the UK or internationally, she likes to cook, hike and read!
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