A short break in Devon will see you bounding over beaches, wandering the moors and discovering an abundance of truly stunning National Trust properties.
When is the best time of year to visit Devon?
Devon’s high season – when most of its tourist attractions and museums are open – runs from April until the end of October. If you are likely to visit National Trust properties during your short break in the county, this is when to visit, and spring is when the coastline is swathed in blossoming flowers.
Devon is one of the prettiest (and most accessible) parts of the West Country, but that does mean it’s extremely popular during school holidays. If you’re in a position to travel during term-time, then do so. If not, plan your journey carefully!
While spring and summer are the seasons to hit the beach, autumn is the best time to see the Moors. If you’re a walker, you’ll be rewarded with luscious landscapes in a breathtaking display of colours.
In winter, the Christmas lights go on across the county in mid-November and are a dazzling attraction in their own right. Christmas markets take place in Exeter, Totnes, Sidmouth and Saltram, and if you plan to spend the big day in Devon, you can stock up for your feasting at the Crediton Christmas Farmers’ Market on the square. There, you’ll find colourful produce from all over Devon and beyond. And if you dare, join those braving a Christmas morning dip on the beaches of the north coast.
Where are the best beaches in Devon?
Be sure to check the tides (you can pick up a tide table from a newsagent or online) before you plan your visit to Devon’s beaches. Get it wrong, and you could be squeezed onto a narrow strip of sand with a surplus of other beach-goers at high tide. But in Devon, there is generally plenty of beach to go around.
Both the north and south coasts are magnificent – the north is perfect for surfers, while the south tends to be calmer for bathers. Croyde Bay and Saunton Sands are two neighbouring beaches on Devon’s stunning north coast. Surfing novices can pitch up here and learn to hit the waves in waist-height water, with the comfort of knowing there are instructors and lifeguards keeping an eye on you.
More seasoned surfers, or spectators, have miles and miles of sandy coastline to choose from – surfers love Devon because its waves are very consistent. Bantham and Woolacombe are also popular beaches for surfers. If you’re more of a rock pool explorer than a sun worshipper, head to Webury in south Devon for plenty of craggy formations and pools to explore – it’s Bill Oddie’s favourite climbing spot.
If you like to combine adventuring with repose, head to Ness Cove. This red-sand and shingle beach is accessed via an old smugglers’ tunnel, which is great fun for the kids. For a sundowner on the sand, head to Blackpool Sands, a mile-long private beach beneath wooded cliffs. It’s a pretty sweep of sand with a diving platform in the sea, and features a beach cafe where you can watch the sun set over this spectacular bay.
Which are Devon’s best places to visit?
Shaldon Zoo is a lively wildlife centre near Ness Cove beach, which houses one of the UK’s largest collections of critically endangered primates in an acre of pretty shaded woodland. You can visit Meerkat Mountain during feeding time and then have some lunch yourself in the pretty coastal village of Shaldon.
Beautiful beaches aside, Devon’s moors are one of the wonders of the county – a huge expanse of open countryside with sprays of extraordinary flora and fauna. The moors also boast a literary claim to fame – Lorna Doone is to Devon what Poldark is to Cornwall, and Richard Doddridge Blackmore’s 1869 novel was inspired by Exmoor’s rugged plains. You can pick up a Doone-themed guide book from any nearby newsagents and ramble these dramatic moors as the Doone family might have done. Call in on Lorna herself, who has been immortalised in statue format at Exmoor House, Dulverton.
Cotehele House, just over the border in Cornwall, is an interesting medieval estate on the banks of the river Tamar. The main house is full of medieval tapestries and interesting paintings, while the grounds also feature extensive gardens and a water mill. Clovelly village is a tiny little fishing cove, where you can sit outside one of only two pubs, and admire some of the landscape which once inspired JMW Turner to paint, and author Charles Kingsley to write.
If a mix of beaches, picturesque countryside and culture sound perfect for you, then check out our hotels in Devon.