Devon offers a plethora of 'things to do' and every year over eight million visitors flock to the region, either for a well deserved holiday or a business trip. The county is home to the English Riviera and boasts the title of being the only county in England to have two separate coastlines.
For sunny days on the coastline, a trip to the beach is a must, wherever that is. You could always add a dash of adventure with a trip to the Tunnels Beaches at Ilfracombe — the only way to get there is via a series of hand-dug tunnels.
Will it matter if it turns out not so nice when you’re wearing a wetsuit? Not one bit. There are surf schools at Croyde, Woolacombe, Westward Ho! and Saunton, and adventure centres at Skern and Abbotsham who will take you out on the water – whether in a kayak, on a surfboard, under a kite, breathing through a snorkel (with seals on Lundy island!) or even on a sailing boat. It could make a great day out if not so great weather! There are high ropes courses at Woolacombe and Abbotsham too, as well as a state of the art climbing centre at South Molton.
Cycling is becoming ever more popular in our area too. There are miles of easy, traffic free riding to be had on the Tarka Trail and acres of open space on Exmoor for off road biking. The coast path has its challenges too. Then there are the lanes and bridleways. Another Tarka, the tennis centre at Barnstaple, has excellent indoor facilities for a knockabout on dull days too, although there are outside courts all over the region.
Kids sometimes need a little more than a day at the beach and there are theme parks all over the place to put – and keep – a smile on their faces. The Big Sheep is world famous for its sheep and The Milky Way has the region’s only rollercoaster. Then again, for wild times try the Wavepool at Woolacombe Bay. It’s as close to surfing as you’ll get on dry land… sort of. Less state of the art but fun all the same is Watermouth Castle, which has rides and a fascinating collection of old penny arcade games.
Another fun day out is Clovelly, just west of Bideford. It’s a beautiful village with quaint cottages and cobbled streets and an incredibly pretty harbour. It’s a great place for an ice cream and a rest on the harbour wall.
When it comes to planning getaways in spacious and comfortable holiday cottages in great locations, it’s still very hard to beat Devon as a destination. It doesn’t matter if you come for a mini-break out of season or for a family holiday in the height of summer, you’ll be truly spoiled for choice. You’ll have over a hundred beaches to laze on, some of which have Blue Flag Status for their access and facilities. Others, which might take a little more work to get to, will have nothing but you and the dog. There are towns and villages too, from thatched hamlets to busy market towns, seaside resorts and lively ports. All you have to do is choose what suits you best.
As for things to do, there’s no shortage of decisions to be made here too. If the weather’s right, head for the coast and catch a wave, walk the coast path in search of new strands, explore coves and inlets by kayak, sail in the safety of the estuary or cycle by the side of it. On days when it’s not so bright you’ll still find plenty: lots of our favourite attractions are great for getting out of the weather, especially if you’re travelling with little ones.
Devon is blessed with a great climate for growing so it’s no wonder it’s fast becoming famous for food and hospitality, with local chefs taking pride in using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients whenever possible. But don’t panic if all you crave is fish and chips by the sea or a dollop of clotted cream on your scone: we’ll never give it up as long as there are cows in our fields and fish in the sea. Bon appetite!
Food and Drink
If you are buying produce to eat in your holiday accommodation then the Pannier Markets in Bideford, Barnstaple, South Molton and Torrington are great places to begin. Side by side with cheese and game specialists you’ll often find locals selling a surplus stock from their fields. It’s the best stuff! You’ll also find local butchers, grocers, bakers and delis where you can find everything from Appledore speciality, laver (seaweed) to local salt marsh lamb from Braunton Burrows and Ruby Red beef from Ruby Country.
Watch out for farmers’ markets in Bideford and Hartland and all around the region as it’s where you’ll pick up some ‘fresh from the field’ goodies with all the goodness locked within. If you are thirsty then you could do worse than pick up a pint of Devon ale. There are more and more microbreweries around the county now brewing small batches of brilliantly different beers. One of the very best is Exmoor Gold, a world famous golden ale that’s been knocking the socks off drinkers all over the world with its fruity notes and golden colour.
As you would expect from a region with great produce, there are some cracking restaurants and cafes in North Devon where you can get the very best of the best for when you don’t feel like staying in your holiday cottage. Braunton has a few of the favourites in the form of Squires fish and chips whilst The George takes top prize for their authentic Thai. They recently opened another restaurant in Westward Ho!
Barnstaple, being the larger town, has all the usual favourites and a few of the fast food outlets as well as Liloco’s for tapas, Claytons for good English fare and the Fulham for excellent Chinese. There are a number of great bars in town too. Further afield you can always expect good things from The Old Smithy at Welcombe, The Rock at Georgeham and the Chichester Arms in Bishop’s Tawton. Woolacombe has its fair share of great eateries, with nc@ex34 taking top prize for Devon restaurants in the Taste of Devon Awards. That’s some accolade. Hot on their heels comes the eccentric but highly recommended Mortehoe Shellfish with great seafood. For a laid back atmosphere and views try the popular Red Barn.
Northam near Appledore is an unlikely setting for one of the area’s best eateries, the oddly named Memories. The chef is a fisherman and cooks what he catches so you know it’s always going to be a great choice. If it’s a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake you are after then Fremington is a great place to go. The Quay Café serves freshly made goodies, coffees, teas and ice-creams to hungry walkers and cyclists using the adjacent Tarka Trail. If they are too busy you could always carry on until you get to East Yarde, some 20 miles further on, where the wonderfully quirky Yarde Orchard Café serves fresh everything. For snacks with a sea view you’d be hard pressed to beat Tea on the Green at Westward Ho!. The sarnies are the stuff of legend.
For more inspiration, please see here to visit our food and drink section.