- An Elizabethan eyeful
- South Devon meadows
- Grandly gardened moorland manor
- Rugged, rocky Dartmoor
- Fairy-tale fishing lodge
- Unspoilt Devonshire woodland
- Site for sore eyes
- Cathedral city
- East London goes west
- Windswept moor’s edge
- Updated Georgian abode
- Charming Chillington village
- Pastures, parks and promenades
- Country life
- Cream tea by the sea
Devon is the stuff of childhood dreams. Sun-kissed beaches and quiet little coves hark back to a time when all you needed for a day of unbridled pleasure was a bucket and spade, acres of sand and the promise of an ice-cream before bed.
Today, surf’s up for a new generation of coastal devotees, keen to rediscover rural delights without abandoning urban expectations. And not just on the beach, either: Dartmoor, in all its ruggedly spartan glory, provides the county with a dramatic, windswept heart (perfect for walking, riding and cycling) that’s serviced by a swathe of picturesque villages. Gastronomically, Devon punches well above its weight, with clotted‑cream teas and a rich pantry of home‑grown produce – all readily proffered by an ever‑spreading spate of fine new restaurants keen to make the most of the fact that, on every level, Devon delivers.
Dartmoor is the home of letterboxing. No, it doesn’t involve carparks: this bizarre ‘sport’ mixes orienteering with grown‑up treasure hunt, and is based on messages left in ‘letterboxes’ dotted around the moors. Each one contains a visitors’ book, an inked stamp to prove you’ve found it, and clues to the whereabouts of the next one. Some granite ‘letterboxes’ date from the 1830s; modern ones are likely to be old Army ammunition tins (www.dartmoorletterboxing.org).
- Even at train stations, it can be hard to find a cab, so book your pick‑ups ahead. Plymouth Taxis (+44 (0)1752 606060) is a licensed fleet of wheelchair‑friendly London cabs. In Tavistock, try Jay Cars (+44 (0)7860 298808).
- Tipping culture
- About 10–15 per cent is appreciated.
- Packing tips
- If you’ve got one, a wetsuit is handy for braving the bracing English Channel waters, whether you’re surfing the waves or just swimming. Otherwise, general outdoorsy gear is likely to serve you well.
- Recommended reads
- Read Arthur Conan Doyle’s spine-chiller The Hound of the Baskervilles then head for Dartmoor and see if you don’t get a bit scared... Poet Alice Oswald’s award-winning Dart creates a rich narrative around the Devon river. Agatha Christie’s page-turning whodunnit Evil Under the Sun is set in a Noël Coward-esque hotel, based on Burgh Island.
- Regional specialities
- Don’t come expecting to count calories: you’re in clotted cream’s heartland. With a cream tea on every menu, settle all jam‑or‑dairy‑on‑first arguments with the trivial knowledge that, in Devon, the white stuff goes on first (it’s the other way round in Cornwall). Thanks to the mild climate, Devon’s cup runneth over with vineyards; embark on your own Sideways‑style wine‑tasting trail – go to www.visitdevon.com to see suggested itineraries. The region’s local seafood is also excellent.
- Pound sterling (£).
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the UK: +44.
- Do go/don't go
- Think twice about the seaside resorts during school holidays unless you really really love kids.
Don't go home without...
… imbibing some local cider. Countryman Ciders, located in a 15th-century stable block in Tavistock (+44 (0)1822 870226), has an amazing array of apple-based ales to try before you buy.