Best places to visit in Devon

Clovelly

Located in the South West of England, Devon is a popular UK staycation destination for Brits and offers a strong pull for international visitors too. It’s easy to see why. With its towering white cliffs, sandy beaches, and rugged moorland, Devon is a haven of natural beauty.

Wander around the picture-perfect waterside towns, go hiking in the National Parks, or get your surfboard at the ready and enjoy the world-renowned surf breaks. From the quaint charm of sleepy fishing villages to the glamour of the English Riviera, Devon has something for everyone.

With so much to see and do across both North Devon and South Devon, it can be difficult to know where to start. Whether you’re after a romantic getaway, a family-friendly staycation, or a more adrenaline-fuelled escape, here are the best places to visit in Devon.

Places to visit in North Devon

From charming fishing villages to a vast National Park, here are the best places to visit in North Devon.

Appledore

Appledore is a historic fishing village steeped in tradition, where visitors can wander narrow cobbled streets lined with pastel-coloured cottages. Defined by its slower pace of life, it is a welcome shift from the chaos of modern life. Appledore is utterly charming and extremely Instagrammable!

With its dramatic estuary, the village was an important shipbuilding centre. The North Devon Maritime Museum is a must-visit to learn about the village’s fascinating maritime heritage, and is located in a Grade II listed Georgian building. Discover the pretty quay filled with a combination of quaint fishing boats and more luxury yachts. 

Appledore is a village of creativity with a strong art scene that includes regular arts festivals, crafts shows, and a world-renowned literary festival. Try some of the fresh local produce in one of the many eateries, and be sure to indulge in the village’s famous ice cream. 

The relatively quiet sandy beaches provide an idyllic treat for families, couples, and solo travellers alike. For some fun outdoor activities, head to Skern Lodge, where you’ll find high ropes courses, climbing walls, kayaking, rafting, and surfing. Families will also enjoy The Big Sheep adventure park, where you can pet animals and enjoy fun rides – oh, and there’s sheep racing too! For a seafaring adventure, take a boat or fishing trip from the quay; the Appledore-Instow Ferry transports passengers to the picturesque village of Instow.

Appledore

Barnstaple

The largest town in North Devon, Barnstaple is an ancient market town situated on the River Taw. Dating back to 930 AD, it is considered to be the oldest borough in the UK. Barnstaple is a thriving town with a lively and social feel. Visitors will find a mixture of recognisable high street brands, as well as boutique independent shops.

One of the famous attractions of Barnstaple is the historic Pannier Market, which hosts various events and markets. There are a number of local museums to explore, where you can learn more about the North Devon region. Barnstaple Museum has free admission and is certainly worth a visit. The town also holds regular arts and crafts events throughout the year.

Barnstaple is a good base to explore the scenic Tarka Trail. It also benefits from being close to the beautiful beaches of Croyde and Woolacombe.

Barnstaple

Clovelly

Clovelly is an extraordinarily picturesque harbour village in North Devon. Clinging to a 400 foot cliff, it is situated on a very steep hill which brings breathtaking views across the Bristol Channel. Believe it or not, there’s actually a small fee to enter the privately-owned village, which is testament to its popular appeal. The fee also helps the village retain its original charm and atmosphere.

Once owned by the Queen of England, Clovelly is steeped in history and holds a truly magical appeal. Wander the cobbled streets lined with charming cottages, all complete with pretty hanging baskets that overflow with fuchsias and geraniums. The main street is pedestrianised – with no cars, just donkeys and sledges, it’s no wonder it has such a unique appeal.

Clovelly has a working harbour with a 14th century quay, owing to the village’s strong maritime heritage. You learn more about the history of this unique village in a film-show at the Visitor Centre. Be sure to see the donkeys before you leave, as these are all part of the unique appeal of this pretty village.

Clovelly

Croyde

Part of the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Croyde merges traditional seaside town charm with cool surf vibes. It is one of the most popular surf spots in Devon and is commonly referred to as the surfing capital of Devon. There are plenty of places to hire surf equipment and book lessons. Or for another thrill-seeking activity, try coasteering.

The village itself is pretty, unspoilt, and carries an old-world charm. Visitors will find a vibrant atmosphere and a friendly community. There are a number of traditional Devonshire pubs, complete with thatched roofs, as well as wonderful eateries serving fresh local produce. Croyde is well set up for holidaymakers, with seafront hotels to stay in, and plenty of fun activities. Popular events include Deckchair Cinema in the summer, and the Goldcoast OceanFest in June.

A popular coastal walking trail is the National Trust’s Baggy Point, which is accessible for all ages and abilities. Enjoy stunning scenery and breathtaking views on this wonderful walk. For a more relaxing retreat, there are three beautiful sandy beaches to enjoy. Visitors can also go on a rockpool ramble.  

Croyde Coasteering

Exmoor

One of two National Parks in Devon, Exmoor National Park offers 267 square miles of breathtaking scenery. It is a landscape of high rolling moorland, ancient woodland, rocky beaches, and crystal-clear rivers. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife, including the famous Exmoor ponies and wild red deer.

Exmoor backs onto the north coast of Devon and brings a dramatic coastline of cliffs and headlands, with some of the highest cliffs in England. The National park is a perfect destination for a digital detox immersed in nature. It is perfect for long walks, with over 1,000 km of footpaths and bridleways.

Walking aside, there are plenty of other activities. Canoe along the rivers, go horse riding or pony trekking, or try game shooting. For the thrill-seekers, get the adrenaline pumping with mountain biking, white water kayaking, and rock climbing. Or for a more unique experience, try a night time star safari.

Exmoor National Park

Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe is a charming seaside town surrounded by stunning scenery, which is enjoyed by walkers and cyclists alike. Situated on North Devon’s rugged coastline, Ilfracombe offers breathtaking views across the Atlantic, along with craggy cliffs, rock pools, and sandy inlets.

The town itself features Victorian architecture and an old-fashioned feel but with a cosmopolitan edge. It has a strong cultural pull, being home to Damien Hirst’s controversial 65ft ‘Verity’ statue. Ilfracombe also hosts a number of events and festivals throughout the year, including the Grand Victorian & Steampunk Festival, the Sea Ilfracombe Maritime Festival, and the crazy South West Birdman.

Visitors can enjoy wide sandy beaches with hidden coves, as well as the unique Tunnels Beaches which are home to the famous Victorian bathing pools. The area is excellent for rock pooling, having been voted 3rd best in the UK by BBC Wildlife Magazine. For something a little more relaxing, Ilfracombe is a great spot for idyllic seaside picnics.

The area is popular with families, with plenty of kid-friendly activities on offer. These include the award-winning Ilfracombe Aquarium, the Ilfracombe Museum, Hele Corn Mill, the haunted house of Chambercombe Manor, and Larkstone Cafe and Leisure Park.

Ilfracombe

Lundy Island

Owned by the National Trust, Lundy Island lies off the coast of North Devon, where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is only three miles long and half a mile wide, but there’s a lot to see and do for such a small island. Popular activities include climbing, diving, fishing, rambling, rock pooling, and snorkelling.

Lundy Island is also an idyllic spot for walkers. There is also an abundance of wildlife to discover, including puffins and other unique seabirds. The island’s wildlife and scenery are so spectacular that they are often compared to the Galapagos.

A lot of effort has gone into preserving the island, so it feels very unspoilt. This is a big part of its draw, along with its backdrop of dramatic scenery. Lundy Island is accessed from Ilfracombe via ferry, which takes two hours each way. You can stay overnight in one of 23 self-catered holiday properties, where you’ll undoubtedly enjoy a very peaceful stay.

Lynton and Lynmouth

Lynton and Lynmouth are twin towns connected by a funicular. Cliff Railway offers beautiful views and is a must-see. Known affectionately as ‘Little Switzerland’, the towns have the feel of a fairytale Swiss village. So if you can’t make it to the Slps then this charming pocket of North Devon is a worthy substitute.

With pretty woodland, deep gorges, and inviting walking trails, this picturesque destination is the perfect location for a romantic getaway. With stunning scenery and wonderful wildlife, it is generally referred to as the walking capital of Exmoor. 

Meander around Lynmouth’s charming harbour, where boats bob up and down against a backdrop of quaint fishing cottages. Lynmouth has a pedestrian-only highstreet, which helps it retain its charm and picturesque quality. Lynton is a Victorian village that maintains an olde-worlde feel but with a modern edge. There is a fantastic array of pubs and restaurants, from traditional Devon cream to classic fish and chips.

Lynmouth Sunrise

Watermouth

Watermouth is a quaint hamlet that lies between Combe Martin and Ilfracombe. Another popular spot with walkers, Watermouth offers spectacular scenery. It’s also a great place for campers, with several pretty campsites.

The area is home to Watermouth Castle, a Victorian castle that has been turned into a fun family theme park. It also houses a museum of toys and musical instruments, making it a perfect expedition for families. The castle overlooks Watermouth Cove, a rocky inlet that epitomises the beauty of the North Devon coast. It’s a sheltered cove, which makes it the perfect spot for mooring boats.

Woolacombe

Woolacombe is generally considered to be one of the best beaches in the UK, if not Europe, having won numerous awards. It’s a very popular surfing destination and also an idyllic place for a spot of sunbathing in the summer.

Understandably for such a popular beach, it does get very overcrowded in the summer months. But although busy, the long length of the beach allows visitors to find a quieter spot. There are also a wide range of facilities, with ample parking. Lifeguards allow for a safer swimming environment, making it a great destination for families. 

Woolacombe itself is a lively, laid-back village with plenty of accommodation options. A lot of the surrounding landscape is managed by the National Trust, so it remains relatively unspoilt.

Woolacombe

Places to visit in South Devon

From the expansive moorland of Dartmoor National Park to the luxury of the English Riviera, South Devon has plenty to offer visitors. Whether it’s a walking along the dramatic Jurassic Coast, or a relaxing riverside gem in a hidden pocket of this beautiful county.

Burgh Island

Privately-owned Burgh Island is located just a few hundred metres from Bigbury-on-Sea on the South Devon coast. It is accessible via a strip of sand during low tide, while during high tide it is only reachable via a unique sea tractor. Visitors will discover perfect sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife as they explore this idyllic island.

The island is home to a luxury art-deco hotel, Burgh Island Hotel, which has been graced by many famous guests. One such guest was Agatha Christie and the island was the infamous setting of her novel, ‘And Then There Were None’. Burgh Island is also known for having previously been home to pirates and smugglers. It’s an inviting combination of the raw natural beauty of the surrounding scenery with the glamour and decadence of the island’s iconic hotel.

Burgh Island

Dartmoor

Dartmoor National Park is an expansive area of mysterious moorland in South Devon, covering 368 square miles. An enchanting area of natural beauty, it is encompassed by myths of headless horsemen and stories of beasts and ghosts. It has been an inspiration to writers for centuries, most notably influencing Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles.

The area is great for hikers, with extensive trails and various tors to climb. There are also guided tours where visitors can explore ruined castles and learn more about the rich history of Dartmoor. Discover deserted medieval farmhouses and Neolithic tombs. The park is also home to plenty of wildlife, including Dartmoor ponies and Highland cows which roam free through the wilderness.

Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of the historical towns and villages which surround the park. Aside from hiking, other activities include climbing, bouldering, horse riding, camping, canoeing, and kayaking. The park is best accessed by car, as public transport is limited.

Dartmoor National Park

Dartmouth

A pretty coastal town set on the banks of the River Dart, scenic Dartmouth boasts a rich maritime heritage. The South Devon town features historic streets and a charming harbour, set against a backdrop of rolling hills. There are a number of quirky shops, intriguing galleries, and charming craft stalls for visitors to explore.

Dartmouth is a great destination for fresh local produce, with plenty of wonderful eateries to try. From exceptional fine dining on the waterside, to traditional pubs and ice cream vendors. The town was famously a favourite holiday destination of Agatha Christie. You can even stay in her former holiday home, the Greenway National Trust Holiday Home.

With a brilliant cultural edge, the town hosts various festivals and events throughout the year. These include the Music Festival in May, Shakespeare Week in July, the Dartmouth Royal Regatta in August, and the Dartmouth Food Festival in October (not to be missed for the foodies!). On the water, Dartmouth is a popular destination for watersports, including boat trips, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, and surfing.

Outside the town itself, there are a number of footpaths to explore, which allow visitors to discover the beauty and spectacular coastal views of the surrounding countryside. Dartmouth is a great family-friendly destination, with plenty of activities for kids in this pretty area of South Devon. The included Woodlands Theme Park, crabbing on the embankment, and a chance to unravel the history and heritage of Dartmouth Castle.

Dartmouth

Dittisham

Considered to be one of Devon’s most beautiful villages, Dittisham is a bit of a hidden gem. Located in South Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it sits on the west bank of the River Dart. Dittisham is small and relatively untouched, away from the busy tourist traps of the more well-known Devon spots.

Pastel-coloured buildings and boathouses frame the pretty riverfront. It has a strong community feel with a calm, laid-back atmosphere. The village poses a welcome retreat from the chaos of modern life, and makes for the perfect relaxing riverside getaway. Yet only a 30 minute ferry away from Dartmouth, visitors can still access a more vibrant contrast to the slower pace of Dittisham village life.

For a bite to eat on the riverfront, head to the Ferryboat Inn or Anchorstone Cafe, where you’ll find delicious fresh local produce. Dittisham is a great place to learn how to sail, as well as go kayaking or paddleboarding. For families, a popular activity is crabbing off the pontoon. In fact, Dittisham is considered to be one of the best places to go crabbing in Devon.

English Riviera

The English Riviera is a 22-mile stretch of coastline in South Devon. It encompasses the Torbay area and includes the towns of Torquay, Paignton, and Brixham. The flattering name came from Victorian times when visitors likened it favourably to the French Riviera.

The area is a unique place where quaint fishing villages meet luxurious yachts. Enjoy exceptional food and drink provisions, from traditional pubs to Michelin-starred cuisine and award-winning restaurants. The English Riviera brings a touch of glamour while retaining its charming West Country appeal.

In terms of things to do, there are plenty of sandy beaches with beautiful water, many of which hold the Blue Flag for cleanliness. The English Riviera is also famed for its mild climate – an unusual attribute for England and a great pull of the area. Find some thrills with jet skiing, surfing, and sailing in Torquay. Or for some more relaxing activities, take a fishing trip or a tranquil boat cruise.

The English Riviera is very popular with families, offering a number of fun and unique attractions for kids. These include go-karting, quad bikes, and watersports for the mini adventurers. Explore the underground caves at Kents Cavern or enjoy a ride on the Babbacombe Cliff Railway. For a popular event, the area is home to the Agatha Christie festival, where visitors can enjoy fancy dress, guided tours, murder mysteries, and steamboats.

Torquay Harbour at sunset

Exeter

Exeter is a small but vibrant city with a 2,000 year history that dates back to the Roman era. It’s a university city where history and tradition meet the modern and contemporary. The stunning architecture includes an imposing Roman city wall, as well as one of the UK’s most impressive Gothic cathedrals.

Visit the Victorian displays and exhibitions at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery. Or explore the medieval subterranean tunnels as part of a guided tour. A fascinating experience but best avoided for the claustrophobic!

Exeter is also home to a pretty quayside that is located next to the River Exe. For something outdoorsy, go kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding along the river. Or, if you’d rather stay on dry land then go for a delightful stroll along the waterfront.

The city has a strong cultural pull, offering an independent arts scene, as well as being a destination for top music and sporting events. As you’d expect from any UK city, there is a wide variety of eateries, from independent cafes and bars to recognisable restaurant names.

Jurassic Coast

The Jurassic Coast is a seriously impressive natural wonder, stretching from Exmouth in Devon to Lyme Regis in Dorset. It brings 185 million years of geological history exposed in imposing cliffs, hidden caves, and coastal stacks. The Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its aesthetic, historic, and educational significance. In fact, it’s the only natural World Heritage Site in England.

The coast is a fantastic place for fossil hunting, which is fun for both adults and kids. Just make sure that you only collect loose fossils and never pick away at the cliffs. The Devon Jurassic Coastline is part of the South West Coast Path, so there are countless footpaths and trails to hike. Walking is the best way to experience all that this unique part of the country has to offer.

The Jurassic Coast starts in Exmouth on the South Coast of Devon. Here you can discover the rich red Triassic Rock and see the stacks at Ladram Bay. Sidmouth is another popular Devon spot along the Jurassic Coast. Visit Sidmouth Museum, go fossil hunting on Sidmouth’s beach, or take a boat to enjoy a unique view of the area. Families will also love the Seaton Jurassic family visitor centre, where you can learn all about the fascinating history of the area in an interactive way.

Jurassic Coast

Plymouth

Known as Britain’s Ocean City, Plymouth is a port city with a strong maritime tradition and a vibrant waterfront. Its long history stretches all the way back to the Bronze Age. Surrounded by woodland, meadows, and gardens, it is an open and attractive city.

Plymouth has a strong cultural heritage, hosting a variety of events throughout the year. These include the British Art Show, America’s Cup World Series, the Barbican Jazz and Blues Festival, and the Marine City Festival. The city is also home to one of the largest shopping centres in the South West, so it’s perfect for a spot of retail therapy.

There are a number of landmarks and historical sites to explore in and around the city. Head to Plymouth Hoe, a beautiful natural harbour. Here you can climb the iconic Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse for breathtaking views. Explore the Royal Citadel, an important coast defence site, or get a bit merry at the Plymouth Gin Distillery.

Discover the cobbled streets and 16th century architecture of The Barbican, Plymouth’s historic quarter. Or if you want to head outside of the city, there are plenty of stately homes and gardens to visit in the surrounding countryside. For families, see the deepwater fish tanks at the National Marine Aquarium, or go for a swim at Tinside Lido. 

Discover the cobbled streets and 16th century architecture of The Barbican, Plymouth’s historic quarter. Or if you want to head outside of the city, there are plenty of stately homes and gardens to visit in the surrounding countryside. For families, see the deepwater fish tanks at the National Marine Aquarium, or go for a swim at Tinside Lido. 

Plymouth

Salcombe

Salcombe is a resort town with a beautiful harbour on the south coast of Devon. Surrounded by rolling countryside, it is located within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Visitors can enjoy stunning coastal views of the golden sands and bright blue waters from the town.

South Sands and North Sands are the two beaches in the town itself, both of which are perfect for families. The beaches are a great destination for water sports, including kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, and surfing. On dry land, go for a leisurely walk to Start Point Lighthouse to be rewarded with outstanding views.

Other things to do in this pretty South Devon town include the intriguing Overbeck’s House and Gardens. Here you’ll find impressive views, along with unique art and history exhibitions. For all things nautical, pay a visit to Salcombe Maritime Museum.

Salcombe offers a wonderful selection of eateries, offering fresh seafood and local produce. You can’t leave without indulging in some decadent Salcombe Dairy ice cream, or sipping on the award-winning Salcombe gin. Visit the Salcombe Gin Distillery for the full gin experience. There are also a number of boutique shops and independent retailers to explore, along with local art galleries and quaint gift shops.

Salcombe

Totnes

A charming market town on the River Dart, Totnes is also part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The town has an eccentric edge with a noticeable artistic influence and a vibrancy that distinguishes the town from its more traditional counterparts.

There are a plethora of independent shops and retailers to explore. Totnes is particularly known for its strong green credentials, and promotion of fair trade goods and ethical products. It’s therefore no surprise that locally produced organic food is also a staple of the town. Visitors are spoilt for choice with a brilliant array of eateries. From cosy cafes and pubs to contemporary restaurants and wine bars.

In terms of things to do, pay a visit to Totnes Castle, a classic Norman Motte and Bailey castle. Or take an idyllic steam train ride through the countryside with South Devon Railway. For a spot of cheese and wine tasting in beautiful surroundings, head to Sharpham Vineyard. There is also the popular Totnes Sunday Good Food Market, which is held on the third Sunday of every month. Here, visitors can sample and buy the fantastic local produce.


It’s difficult to narrow down the best places to visit in Devon, as there is so much raw beauty to be found. Have you visited any of these places in North or South Devon? Let me know in the comments or get in touch on social media!

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