Devon has two National Parks :
Dartmoor and part of Exmoor.
The county has a lush patchwork of fields threaded with narrow country lanes which typifies pastoral England more than probably any other county. To the north the county has a rugged dramatic coastline of towering cliffs and to the south, a mass of wondrous meandering sea inlets and picturesque estuaries. Central Devon is essentially a land of small farmers where English traditions remain in abundance. Roughly 30 per cent of Devon's visitors head to Torbay, the area known as the English Riviera. The seaside towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham offer many attractions but the rest of Devon has many other fine things to see and do.
There are numerous villages including those around Buckland-in-the-Moor
which are renowned for wonderful clusters of thatched cottages. Clovelly
is very picturesque, although you now have to pay to walk the steep cobbled streets down
to the picturesque harbour.
The Fat Badgers guide wouldn't be
complete without mention of Beer. The
village of Beer was home to Jack Rattenbury - one of Devons most famous smugglers. The
village is picturesque with a stream running down the main street towards the shingle
beach where fishing boats are pulled out of the surf by a range of motor winches at the
top of the beach.
Southwest Devon, mostly a national park, 956 sq. km
/ 369 sq. miles in area. Over half the region is around 300 m / 1,000 ft above sea level,
making it the highest and largest of the moorland areas in Southwest England. The moor is
noted for its wild aspect and the tors, rugged blocks of bear granite, which crown its
loftier points. The highest are Yes Tor, rising to 619 m / 2,030 ft ; and High
which climbs to 621 m / 2,039 ft. At Princetown, 11 km / 7 miles east of
Dartmoor Prison, a high-security long-term institution. The region provides grazing for
sheep, cattle, and Dartmoor ponies, a semi-wild breed probably descended from animals
turned out on the moor in the Dark Ages. Dartmoor was the setting for Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the
The slopes beneath the granite tors are covered by gorse and heather, and the low-lying
areas are characterised by broad tracts of dark peat and bog with bright green grass. The
region has no natural lakes, but Devon's chief rivers, including the Dart, the
Tavy, the Plym, the Avon, and the Erme, have their sources on the moor. Eight reservoirs have been
constructed, covering a total 209 ha / 516 acres. The main areas of broad-leaved woodland, mainly oak,
lie in deep valleys at the southern edge of the moorland, such as the Dart and the Teign
valleys. Originally oak and birch forest covered all but the very highest reaches of the
moor, but only three ancient upland copses of oak trees survive at Black Tor
Copse, and Wistman's Wood. The valley woodlands were managed as coppice until the 20th century, being
used for building, fuel, and other local purposes, but these woods are no longer
generating naturally because of grazing pressure and lack of management. Tree preservation
orders now cover over 1,100 ha / 2,500 acres, and the Forestry Commission manages 1,740 ha
/ 4,300 acres of conifer plantations. Extensive evidence of the region's prehistoric
occupation includes stone rows, cairns, and the remains of hillfort settlements of the
Bronze and Iron ages. Buckfast Abbey, completed in 1938, occupies the site of an
11th-century abbey near Buckfastleigh, in the Southeast region of
Ministry of Defence artillery range lies in the northern part of the moor to the south of
Okehampton. Dartmoor Prison was opened in 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars, initially for
the confinement of French prisoners-of-war.
Parts of Devon, particularly
Dartmoor, are rich in prehistoric remains. It was one of
the last counties to be conquered by the Saxons, and became one of the wealthiest parts of
England, with an economy based on farming, fishing, mining, and the tin and woollen
trades. There was also a large overseas trade also; however, this began to decline during
the 17th century.
Exmoor is thinly populated and remains isolated by relatively poor
road connections. The principal
settlements are the twin coastal resort towns of Lynton and
Lynmouth in the north and Dulverton in the Southeast; the resort town of
Minehead lies just outside the national park to the Northeast. The moor provides grazing
for Exmoor ponies, horned Exmoor sheep, and about 1,000 wild red deer. It is also the
habitat of grouse, hawks, and falcons. Prehistoric remains, including early stone circles
and barrows (burial mounds), are mainly located around the edge of the moor, settlement of
the moor occurring around 1800 to 1500 BC. Iron Age hillforts include Shoulsbarrow Castle.
Exmoor is the setting for R D Blackmore's romance Lorna Doone (1869).
set amidst impressive cliff scenery, with hills inland, is the largest seaside resort in
north Devon and once the fourth port of Britain. Facilities include a pier, museum, and
public gardens; and it is an occasional point of departure for Lundy Island by passenger
ferry. From the 14th to 16th centuries Ilfracombe was an important trading port.
Ilfracombe developed as a resort in the early 19th century and grew rapidly after the
arrival of the railway in 1874.
Lundy Island. Rocky, granite island at the entrance to
the Bristol Channel,19 km / 12 miles Northwest of Hartland Point. Formerly used by pirates
and privateers as a lair, it is now the site of a bird sanctuary and the first British
Marine Nature Reserve (1986). It has Bronze and Iron Age field systems, which can be
traced by their boundaries which stand up above the surface. The land is used mainly as
pasture for sheep and goats, and the island has large breeding colonies of sea birds,
including puffins and peregrines, and a thriving population of grey seals. At the northern
and southern extremities are lighthouses, and there are the remains of the 13th-century
Marisco Castle. The island was bought by the Landmark Trust in 1969. The population
increases significantly during the summer tourist season. Visitors are mostly based in
local, restored buildings, including the old lighthouse. Contact with the Devon mainland
is mainly by ferry to Bideford or Ilfracombe.
Plymouth and Plymouth Sound, a spacious
bay which has a breakwater over 1 km / 0.6 miles in length across the entrance.
Dominating the city are the ramparts of the 17th-century citadel, built to guard the
harbour soon after the long sieges when Plymouth successfully withstood Royalist attacks
during the Civil War. The Eddystone Rocks lighthouse is 22 km / 14 miles to the
Devonport dockyard is used for the refitting of commissioned and the
stripping of decommissioned nuclear submarines The naval explorer James Cook led his first (1768-71) and third
(1776-79) Pacific voyages from Plymouth. The English fleet set sail from to do battle with
the Spanish Armada from Plymouth and a century later the Pilgrim Fathers left for the New
World. The city of Plymouth rises north of the Hoe headland where tradition has it that
the explorer Francis Drake finished his game of bowls as the Spanish Armada approached in 1588.
Hoe, an esplanade overlooking Plymouth Sound, has many monuments including
a statue of Sir Francis Drake. The Mayflower Pilgrims sailed from there to North America
in 1620. Smeaton's Tower lighthouse sits proudly at the front of the Hoe, moved from
Eddystone Rocks when the new lighthouse was erected in 1882.
Salcombe has a mild climate, and due to one of the
country's finest natural harbours, is a popular yachting centre. Small craft can explore
nearly 2,000 acres of tidal creeks. On hot sunny days, Salcombe is a wonderful English hillside town
to visit with narrow streets and many good pubs and restaurants.
Lydford Gorge has dramatic walks around waterfalls and overhanging woods.
The south Devon
coastline has an impressive range of cliffs which makes for ideal walking along the South
Coast Path. At the foot of these cliffs are an array of sandy beaches alternating with
sloping shingle banks. the cliffs themselves vary between sandstone and chalk.
The east coast
area is littered with picturesque Devon villages. Branscombe
village with the wonderful Mason's Arms is filled with thatched cottages, a thatched
smithy and St. Winifred's 12th century
church which has a triple decker pulpit. Access to the sea at Branscombe Mouth, owned by
the National Trust, is via a narrow lane from the village which passes the 14th century
Great Seaside farm and ends in a pay & display car park next to a thatched cafe which
overlooks the sea.
Carpet making started here in 1755 with an eye to Turkish designs.
Georgian-flavoured town, the largest in north Devon. Wool making and wharves once made
this a prosperous merchants' port.
Has literary (Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho!) and wartime (Armada) connections and is a
quiet place off-season.
A small pleasant hillside town with a fine mainly 15th-century church.
Once a centre both of the tin and wool trade. Nearby is Castle Drogo, the 20th-century
'medieval' home of grocery magnate Julius Drewe, designed by Lutyens.
Crusade ships anchored here en route to the Holy Land. This naval town's formidable 15th
century castle could rake the estuary with cannon shot and the river could be closed off
with a massive chain.
Busy market town with fine local potteries and local cider companies.
Once a most fashionable 19th-century resort with Regency-style seaside architecture with
its creams and whites and mass of wrought-iron balconies.
Quiet fishing village 'discovered' during the Napoleonic Wars and favoured by European
royalty well before the Hello! era. Grand and glamorous. Nearby Kent's Cavern, a reminder
of an earlier Ice Age.
Coastal resort in north Devon, 7 miles from Ilfracombe. It has 3 miles of sands, and Barricane beach by
Morte Bay has many shells. Potter's Hill, overlooking Morte Bay, and the headlands of Morte Point and Baggy
Point are owned by the National Trust.
Mortehoe, to the north of Woolacombe, has an Early English Gothic church with interesting
carving. Near Mortehoe is the Bull Point lighthouse; a red light is reflected onto the Morte Stone,
where there are dangerous currents.
During World War II, Woolacombe Bay was the site of preparations for the D-day landings because it
resembled the French coastline.
The castellated Watermouth castle built in 1825 overlooks a long and narrow inlet where streams flow down from the north Devon hills. The castle is home to various exhibitions many revolving around smuggling. The castle dungeons and the Great Hall are well worth a visit.
The estuary forms a delightful and sheltered inlet from the sea which is very popular with small boats and yacht's which are served by the local yacht club. Watermouth was used to test the ' pipeline under the sea' known as 'Pluto' which supplied fuel to the Allies after the D-Day landings during the Second World War.
Market town on the River Exe,
14 miles northeast of Exeter. Textile manufacture is the chief industry. The
restored Tiverton Castle (begun in 1066) includes two original towers and a 14th-century gateway.
Blundell's School, where R D Blackmore, author of the 1869 novel Lorna Doone, was a pupil, was
founded here in 1604. St Peter's church has the richly carved 16th-century Greenway Chapel.
Hartland Point in north Devon, 12 miles southwest of Bideford can be reached via country lanes from the village of Hartland on the B3248. The cliffs rise to 325 ft high and offer spectacular coastal scenery whether walking along the coastal path on the clifftops or around the many small coves along the shoreline. The lighthouse at Hartland Point has one of the strongest beams of any lighthouse around Britain's coast. The Atlantic Ocean has battered this part of Devon's coast creating impressive gale lashed scenery. A couple of miles down the coast at Hartland Quay, there is a small car park with access to the shore and small harbour which was created by
Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and
Sir John Hawkins.
Powderham Castle, Exeter.
Arlington Court, North Devon
Bickleigh Castle, Tiverton.
Avenue Cottage Gardens, Totnes.
Bayard's Cove Fort, Dartmouth.
Bicton Park Gardens, Salterton.
Bowden House, Totnes.
Buckfast Abbey, Buckfastleigh.
Buckland Abbey, Yelverton.
Cadhay, Ottery St. Mary.