Guide To Holidaying In Devon
A guide by Julia Buckley
You'd be right in thinking there's a lot of cream in Devon. Whether it's teas, rice or even the cream of UK countryside, Devon is rich enough to satisfy all tastes.
And while it's often overshadowed in the bathing stakes by its trendier neighbour Cornwall, you'd be foolish to ignore Devon's coastline. This year, a record 13 of its pristine beaches have been awarded blue flag status.
Devon towns are just as wholesome. Plymouth boasts great shopping facilities, though the town architecture is nothing to write home about, having been rebuilt after bomb damage during the Second World War.
To see what it used to be like, and to get a breath of sea air into the bargain, head out onto the Hoe, where Francis Drake continued his famous game of bowls in the face of the Spanish Armada. There are still plenty of ships to be watched - although nowadays they're more likely to be of the cross channel ferry variety than a warship.
There's also an art deco lido and a seawater swimming pool on the Hoe, as well as the Plymouth Dome - a family-orientated step back in time to visit the town's history.
Pretty Exeter combines high street shops with independent boutiques, and its stunning 850-year-old cathedral alone merits a visit. Tavistock, on the edge of Dartmoor, was recently named the UK's best market town. Don't miss the regular farmers markets, open air French markets, award-winning grocers Crebers and the delicious Country Cheese Shop behind the pannier market.
Totnes is the eco-capital of Devon. A haven for vegetarians and organic foodies, it houses a myriad of farm shops, delis and even a shop selling non-leather shoes - as well as a hill-top castle. Ten minute's drive away is the Dartington Centre- a collective of craft shops, with a Cranks vegetarian restaurant tacked onto the side.
For history lovers, Devon's crammed full of castles and National Trust houses. Exeter's Powderham Castle, birthplace of the Earls of Devon, is home to a pair of pensioner tortoises. Rather less romantically, Tiverton castle was a Civil War stronghold, and Okehampton has an intact Norman fortress.
But the jewel in Devon's crown is undoubtedly its landscape. In Dartmoor and Exmoor it has two national parks and 3,500 miles of footpaths winding through untamed natural beauty. The prosperous South Hams area, renowned for its food and drink, is all rolling hills and wooded river valleys, but has some gems of beaches thrown in, including Mothecombe- two sandy coves, one private, one public, with shallow waters for bathing and rock pools for children.
Nature has been a major part of Devon, right from the beginning of time. Head to Orcombe Point, near Exmouth, for the start of the Jurassic Coast trail - a 95-mile stretch of coastline stretching down to Dorset, taking your through 185 million years of history. England's first natural World Heritage Site, and dating from the Jurassic period, you'll be walking in what was dinosaur country - witnessed by the fossils galore and the dinosaur footprints at Durlston Bay in Dorset.
If modern nature's more your thing, hitch a ride on the Seaton Tramway, which runs birdwatching trips along the River Axe estuary in East Devon; or jump aboard the Tamar Valley Line, a 14-mile railway skirting the Tamar estuary between Devon and Cornwall, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But if you like a bit of luxury with your nature, you won't find better than Burgh Island, moored off the South Devon coast. Separated from the sands of Bigbury-on-Sea by a 200m causeway, it's a step back in time to the 1930s. The Burgh Island Hotel is an art deco pile beloved of Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Noel Coward and Wallis Simpson. A quick trip around the island only takes 20 minutes, so then you'll have plenty of time to pretend you're in a Miss Marple novel. You'll never want to hit the mainland again.
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