With rugged Decon cliffs, hiking trails and beaches galore, a brilliant food scene and epic history, Devon is a wild and wonderful slice of England. Situated in the southwest, the county is straddled by three Celtic nations – Cornwall to the west, Wales to the north and Brittany to the south, but retains its own distinct identity.
First stop: Plymouth. Packed with Mayflower connections and seafaring history, Devon’s largest city is an ideal base for exploring the south coast. Further north, Exeter Cathedral is a worthy detour for fans of beautiful Gothic architecture and sweeping rooftop views. Watch out for the monument to John Graves Simcoe, the local man who went on to fight in the American War of Independence and found the city which eventually became Toronto.
Spare some time for Dartmoor Prison; the museum at this working facility outlines the site’s fascinating history of escaped convicts, mass riots and American prisoners of war. At Slapton Sands in Torcross, a Sherman tank stands as a memorial to Exercise Tiger, the disastrous D-Day rehearsal where over 600 American soldiers and sailors died. The tank wasn’t recovered from the ocean until 1984.
Buckfast Abbey and Buckland Abbey flank the southern edges of Dartmoor National Park. The former boasts tranquil gardens and an onsite restaurant while the latter, once owned by explorer Sir Francis Drake, has numerous estate trails to explore.
In Devon, the outdoors is always calling. Ramble through Dartmoor National Park, where D-Day soldiers trained, before taking in a portion of the World Heritage-listed Jurassic Coast, or ogling at dramatic cliff edges in Exmoor National Park.
Fancy a day at the beach? Take your pick! Choose Broadsands (on the north coast) for secret cove swimming, Woolacombe for long sandy walks or Bantham for surfing. For a taste of adventure, spot seals and seabirds or go climbing on Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel.
Bookworms will enjoy Greenway on the banks of the River Dart. The National Trust attraction was the summer home of mystery writer Agatha Christie. Today visitors can browse the grounds – highlights include the library, with its elegant frieze, and the second-hand bookstore in the old stables.
The exhibits at Exeter’s award-winning Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) span centuries of global events, with plenty of Devonshire history to boot.
From the super fresh fish to the scrumpiest of ciders, there’s no shortage of delectable delights in Devon. Try fantastic seafood at The Elephant in Torquay – the county’s most affordable Michelin star restaurant – or opt for a casual crab lunch at the Oyster Shack in Bigbury. Devon is famed for its cream tea (put cream on your scone first, followed by jam – the order is hotly contested in neighbouring Cornwall); pick from a wide selection of teas and sweet treats at Taylors in Ashburton, a quirky tearoom on the edge of Dartmoor National Park.
In the mood for something a little stronger? Tour the oldest working gin distillery in England, Plymouth Gin, or sample fantastic local wine and cheese at Sharpham Vineyard and Dairy in Totnes.
Credit - Ian Woolcock
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