Devon Holiday Planning Guide
One of England’s favorite summer vacation destinations, Devon features two very different coastlines, both of which are packed with white sandy beaches known for their turquoise waters and ideal surfing conditions. Numerous resort towns and sheltered harbors provide lots of holiday options, many of which have retained their old-world appeal in the face of modernization and attract tourists from all over the country and across the globe. Get away from the tourist crowds by venturing deeper into the region’s countryside, which is dotted with sleepy villages and sweeping green pastures. Devon’s country inns and traditional pubs are well-known for offering holidays that include hearty regional cuisine, plus, they charm their guests with quintessential Devonian hospitality and good humor.
Places to Visit in DevonPlymouth
: One of the most popular destinations in the county, Plymouth is generally considered the cultural center of Devon and makes a good base for a family holiday in this region. The lively mix of theater, galleries, and live music draw in visitors of all ages. Torquay
: This seaside town serves as a point of entry to the English Riviera, a region with no shortage of things to do. Torquay’s maritime history runs deep, and the location offers up a huge range of adventurous outdoor activities to try. Exeter
: This town dates back to Roman times and bares this proudly, with over 70 percent of an ancient wall still standing in the charming town center. Close to the spectacular UNESCO sites of the Devon countryside, Exeter is a great choice for mixing an urban beat with quietly impressive natural wonders. Exmouth
: With stretches of sandy beach, shopping opportunities in local boutiques, nature reserves, extreme water sports, and bird watching, Exmouth offers something for everyone on a trip to Devon. Dartmouth
: Dartmouth’s winding streets and busy markets beautifully complement the south Devon town’s penchant for adventure activities like sailing, fishing, wakeboarding, or kayaking.Paignton
: By day, Paignton offers up great activities for families and children as well as those looking for an active holiday; by night, the city’s center transforms into a bustling hub of gourmet restaurants and packed bars offering incredible views of the sea.
Things to Do in Devon
Popular Devon Tourist AttractionsPaignton Zoo Environmental Park
: With education as the main goal at Paignton Zoo, this part-zoo, part-botanic garden is a fantastic outing for animal-lovers to view and learn about over 300 species of mammals, reptiles, and birds.Babbacombe Model Village
: Although Babbacombe Model Village is fictional, the inspiration behind this small-scale version of England comes from iconic landmarks like Stonehenge, so expect castles, English pastures, and windmills in the miniature world. Plymouth Hoe
: A public space known to locals as simply the Hoe, Plymouth Hoe offers visitors spectacular views of the sound, the island, and Mount Edgcumbe and frequently holds events like fireworks competitions or boat races. Kents Cavern
: A guided tour through the underground chambers of Kents Cavern will transport you back to the Stone Age, when prehistoric humans made their homes among the stalagmites and stalactites deep beneath the surface.Woolacombe Beach
: Devon has no shortage of beaches, but the numerous awards held by Woolacombe Beach justify its spot as one of the nicest bits of beach in the United Kingdom, with reliable waves that attract surfers and soft sand for the more relaxed travelers. The Big Sheep
: Guaranteed to keep the kids happy on your family trip to Devon, the Big Sheep features funny and interactive animal games starring sheep, border collies, and horses.The Donkey Sanctuary
: With over 500 donkeys calling Donkey Sanctuary home, children and adults alike will enjoy exploring the five walking trails and spotting the sanctuary’s inhabitants in their fields. Cockington Court
: This massive nature park houses a historic village complete with straw-thatched huts within the gardens, as well as a manor house and craft studios. Living Coasts
: Visit the South American fur seals, African penguins, sea ducks, pied avocet, black-necked stilts, redshanks, and puffins who find themselves at home at Living Coasts, a small wildlife conservatory for coastal creatures.Devon's Crealy Great Adventure Park
: The more than 60 attractions at Crealy Adventure Park are all themed around farm animals, giving this amusement park a fun feel for young kids and animal-lovers.
Planning a Devon Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Devon with Kids
With calm beaches and tons of outdoor activities, Plymouth makes your trip to Devon a great family getaway. Visit Plymouth
to enjoy a mix of kid-friendly cultural attractions as well as the best of what the region as to offer: a huge outdoor playground for the kids to run around in. Paignton
is another great town to include in your Devon itinerary with kids, thanks to its popular zoo and its sandy beaches on the English Riviera.
If your little ones are outdoor adventurers, take them to Exmouth
, where scenic hikes take you to some amazing lookout points along the coast with goats to spot along the way.
You really can’t go wrong basing your family in any of the cities in Devon, especially if you find accommodation in any of the coastal towns with easy access to family-friendly beaches.
Things to Do in Devon with Kids
The coastal cliffs and enticing beaches are one way to enjoy your Devon holiday with kids. Visiting animal attractions galore is another. The county is home to more than its fair share of wildlife sanctuaries, zoos, and animal-themed tourist attractions. Take the kids to Yaraks Birds Of Prey Falconry Centre
to enjoy entertaining and educational shows about birds of prey and to get close to the impressive creatures. At Dartmoor Zoological Park
, you’ll experience more than a commercial zoo. Here, children will see the passion it takes to care for exciting animals like lions, bears, and wolves.
Delight the kids with a trip to the Miniature Pony Centre
, where the highlight will most definitely be a pony ride. You and the kids can enter the pony’s enclosure to pet the ponies from inside, and you can also pet the goats in their paddock. It’s easy to pass a day getting to know the 65 ponies and donkeys at the center. There are often young foals as well, which are a treat to watch as they stumble about.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Devon
Home to family-friendly beaches, on a trip to Devon be sure to pack your beach essentials, such as sunscreen and sun clothes. To keep everyone entertained on the beach, invest in some beach toys like boogie boards or snorkeling masks.
You’ll enjoy the incredible coastal cliffs and panoramic views of the sea, but take care and remember to stay far back from the edges.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Devon
Cuisine of Devon
The food in Devon resembles much of what you’ll find across the rest of the country. The county has always been a fertile agricultural land, so you’ll find lots of local fresh fruits and vegetables. Although not reflected in the name, cornish pasties are just as popular in Devon as they are in Cornwall. Pasties are warm, thick pastries filled with various kinds of meat, potatoes, and vegetables. This is also a nice place to try local fish and chips, which is a dish you’ll find anywhere in the country, but is especially tasty in Devon where the fish comes straight from the neighboring sea. Also, be sure to try some Devon ice cream, which is enjoyed around the country for its rich creamy taste.
Shopping in Devon
You’ll find an impressive number of shops dedicated to local artists and local work in Devon. You’ll also find big brand names on many cities’ high streets, but the emphasis is really on independent boutiques. Duck into a small, locally run shop to find local crafts and gifts like handmade jewellery and clothing or furniture created from local driftwood.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Devon
History of Devon
Devon was one of the first parts of the country that was settled around the end of the last ice age. The region's roots can be traced back to Roman times, with physical traces left behind in the form of Roman city walls and stone circles similar to Stonehenge. The oldest inhabited part of the county is Kents Cavern
, which is also one of the earliest places in England known to have been inhabited by modern humans. If history interests you, this is definitely one to include in your Devon itinerary. In Dartmoor National Park
, you’ll discover the remains of some of the oldest buildings in the country, as well as hundreds of ancient Neolithic sites such as burial mounds, stone rows, stone circles, and ancient settlements.
The Romans left the area around 426 CE, and the region remained an independent kingdom for several centuries until it was plagued by a series of invasions by Anglo-Saxons that eventually led to settlement in the area and inclusion in early England.
The county has long been an agricultural heartland of England. During the world wars, Devon’s seaside location meant that its naval ports played an integral role in the wars. Both Plymouth
suffered extensive damage from bombing during the wars, with much of the cities needing to be reconstructed afterward. Memorials to soldiers killed here dot the area.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, tourism surged along the English Riviera, with a huge number of holiday homes built in seaside towns, and rapid urbanization. Farming and fishing has declined slightly in economic importance, but they remain major industries in addition to tourism.
Landscape of Devon
Lush fields and dramatic coastlines characterise Devon's geography. The region is well-known as a destination for outdoor activities and for its impressive national parks. Explore Dartmoor National Park
to enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and climbing. If wildlife interests you, keep your eyes peeled for rare species of birds and butterflies, as well as native Dartmoor ponies.Exmoor National Park
also offers visitors a chance to appreciate the landscape of Devon. The sprawling natural area has just about every type of landscape imaginable, from open moorland and dense woods to tall sea cliffs and incredible views of the coastline.
Holidays & Festivals in Devon
Devon is home to some unique festivals throughout the year. You’ll find cultural events centered around music, theatre, literature, sports, and comedy. As a rich agricultural region, the county also hosts many food festivals with an emphasis on local ingredients.
Devon Travel Tips
Climate of Devon
Devon’s climate is oceanic, with cool winters and warm summers. Rain falls year-round so no matter what time of the year you plan your Devon holiday, you’ll likely encounter some drizzle. The coast is tempered by the ocean, with slightly cooler temperatures and more precipitation than the towns and cities inland.
Transportation in Devon
As the third largest county in the country, Devon offers various transportation options for its visitors. Hiring a car is the easiest way to get around and see as much of the region as you'd like. National rail services link most cities and towns, and buses service much of the county as well. Although more affordable, buses take a lot longer to cover the same distance as the efficient train system.
Language of Devon
Celtic was widely spoken in the region until around the Middle Ages, but hasn’t managed to survive as a spoken language in modern times.