Devon Sights and Tourist Attractions

To make sure that you make the most of all the landmarks and sights that there are to see in Devon, we have compiled this list of some of the best. There is something here for the whole family, whether it’s going for an adventurous walk through the glorious National Parks or exploring how life used to be in Victorian times. If that wasn’t enough to whet your palette then how about a stunning castle or a fascinating little seaside village? There are so many things to do in Devon that you will not have any problem filling up your days with fun.

Devon Dartmoor
Devon Dartmoor
© Jonathan Camp / Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Devon Jurassic Coast
Devon Jurassic Coast
© @sage_solar / Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Nature of Devon

Dartmoor National Park

National Parks are Britain’s breathing spaces, and they really are wonders to behold, with just 15 of them in the whole country. ‘Is there one in Devon?!’ I hear you cry, well no, there’s not. No, not one, but two – yes, two! Devon is graced with two of England’s most beautiful areas of outstanding natural beauty, Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, both among the country’s greatest attractions and most beloved locales. Many small and fascinating hamlets, villages and towns are to be found on the fringes of both National Parks, and indeed both of them are within driving distance of nearby urban centres (with Dartmoor reachable from Exeter and Exmoor about 30 minutes by car from Barnstaple). This means, then, whether you’re enjoying traditional life in a small-town setting for a week, or are calling Exeter or Plymouth your new home for the week, you have no excuse not to come and experience the country’s most incredible landscapes, right on your doorstep!

The beautiful and dramatic wooded valleys and cleaves are a wonderful surprise for many first time visitors, who will find themselves surrounded by wild ponies, impressive tors and two, not-so-common, English mountains. There is a seemingly endless amount of walking routes, 450 miles in fact, catering for all tastes and abilities. For those with a bit more energy, there is also an abundance of cycle paths allowing you to pedal till your tires bleed rubber.

Lydford Gorge and Waterfall

Fancy an adventure into the heart of Devon and doing something completely different? Then head to Lydford Gorge in Tavistock and experience the spectacular 30m natural waterfall, and the deepest gorge in South West England. The Whitelady Waterfall, as she is known, is one of the highest of them all in the whole country, and really is a wonder to behold. Just close your eyes and imagine it, the sound of water toppling off of the edge of a cliff, gracefully free-falling to earth and splash landing into a rock pool with such serenity that you’ll wish you could fall asleep to these splendid sounds every evening.

The Whitelady is not the only sensational site for you to enjoy, it is merely the icing on the cake. To reach the icing means a refreshing stroll through the enchanting forest, where you’ll see wild garlic, mushrooms and much more rich wildlife. Clearly marked walking paths and guide marks make sure that you get to see all the best flora and fauna there is to see, before being enticed by the echo of the waterfall. The river you follow twists and turns, the lush oak-wooded steep-sided Lyd leads you on a wondrous journey through the woods. And what better to top this magical experience off than with some mythical tales, which you will learn all about during your trek. Have fun!

Kents Cavern

A rainy day in the English summer? As ridiculous as the thought may be, it is always good to have a plan B. On this note, there is no better place to dodge the drizzle than Kents prehistoric caves, located in Torquay and open all year – they are as diverse in their history as they are in their appeal. The caves are one of the few places in England that are designated as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and yet still open to the public. There are not many places in the country, even in the world, where you can experience the remains of prehistoric activity and society so up-close and personal.

The oldest modern human fossil found in north-western Europe is a jawbone, discovered at the cavern, which is believed to be a mind-boggling 41,000 years old. The striking tales of yesteryear don’t stop there, and more recently the dark meandering caves served as a spark of genius for local legend, Agatha Christie. Nowadays the caves are exceedingly popular with families, visitors can spend a thrilling two and a half hours enjoying an insightful guided tour, exploring the caves, and there is even an alternative for the kids if they get a little tired of the details – activities and quests galore!

Bantham Beach

The beach, the coast, the seashore, the ocean front, or perhaps the never-ending blue. Whatever you want to call it, the seaside is indeed Britain’s favourite day out. Luckily for all Devonians (and tourists too) one of the country’s premiere family and surfing beaches is located in Bantham, south Devon. Perfectly situated for those staying in the Salcome and Kingsbridge areas, the whole family will enjoy a day out on the luxurious sandy shores. Little and big kids can build sandcastles, explore rock pools, and bury younger siblings to their heart’s delight. Those looking for more of a tranquil time can just kick back and relax on the beach, enjoying the stunning scenery and panoramic views over Bigbury Bay and the glorious Burgh Island. With lots of parking space available, you don’t have to worry about getting there and bringing all your beach equipment – surfboards and other sports equipment are welcome. At low tide, it is possible to walk over to Burgh Island on foot and explore the island on foot, ready to walk back to the mainland before the tide comes in, something you won’t find in many other places! The alluring scenery will more than likely induce you to venture into it, and we’d recommend following the enchanting South West Coast Path to Thurlestone Sands/South Milton Sands (Beach).

Castles in Devon

Powderham Castle

Looking to live like an aristocrat for a day, at just a fraction of the price and without any ridiculous hair-dos? Well a trip to Powderham Castle will do the trick. The 18th Earl and Countess of Devon welcome you to their magnificently sprawling country estate, topped off by its cherry on the cake – an opulent 14th century castle situated in the middle of the grounds that you’re free to explore and enjoy.

You’re free to roam the lush gardens and guided tours of the castle are extensive, interesting and engaging. The tour really is a treat and gives you the chance to stroll through the grand dining room, admire Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation robe, and listen to fascinating stories of the countless counts and countesses who have resided within its walls. Though the tour really brings the place to life, highlighting the mix of contemporary and more ancient history that these four walls have been home to, you’re free to explore alone in peace and quiet contemplation – though children especially are fond of the fun and fascinating tour!

There’s even no need to worry if your young ones get a bit tired of the history lesson, as you can promise them they’ll be rewarded with a visit to the secret garden, the play fort or even the petting zoo, where they can hug lambs, chicks and kids (baby goats, not other children, although there are no rules against it).

A La Ronde

A La Ronde is one of the country's most unique and intriguing houses. Set in a beautiful location, surrounded by the river and surrounding countryside, equipped with one of Devon's best tea rooms, A La Ronde is a wonderful activity for all the family. Full of personal history left behind by the owners, as well as their curiosities and heirlooms, A La Ronde is fascinating not just in architectural terms, but also in a personal manner.

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral is one of the most important and impressive cathedrals in the United Kingdom. It is the central point of Exeter City, and welcomes people of all backgrounds through its door. You can enjoy a walk around by yourselves or a superb guided tour. Many tours, including the free 'Red Coat' tours ran by the city council, feature the Cathedral in their line-up, however it is always worth returning with a little more free time to drink in everything the cathedral has to offer.

Arlington Court

Arlington Court is a National Trust-recognized estate that lies five miles northeast of Barnstaple. Both the estate and the grounds are open to the public, as well as the on-site carriage museum ran by the National Trust. Visitors can take horse-drawn carriages throughout the grounds which is sure to keep both adults and children captivated.    

Tiverton Castle

This thousand year old castle is one of England's best preserved and is an absolute must-see whilst on holiday in Devon. Built by Henry I, it was once called home by the mighty Earls of Devon and was also besieged during the English Civil War by General Fairfax. History buffs will feel right at home.

Bradley Manor

Bradley Manor is an extraordinary medieval manor house, located delightfully in a serene landscape of forests and fields and only five minutes awaz from the bustling town of Newton Abbot. Owned by the National Trust, Bradley Manor is open to the public, allowing visitors the chance to experience one of the world's best preserved medieval manor houses.       

Places to visit in Devon

Morwellham Quay

Modern life can be a bit too fast sometimes, and it can’t have been too long since you yearned for for a little nostalgia, right? Morwellham Quay, located amidst the towering cliffs of Tavistock, is indeed your key back to the past, an award winning World Heritage site which aims to keep the past alive for everybody.

Like to get your hands dirty on holiday? Then this is perfect, as you’ll have the opportunity to interact with a working Victorian farm, railway, copper mine, heavy horses and a historic port. The mine railway is a highlight for most visitors, which will transport you along the River Tamar before taking you deep underground into a colossal copper mine. You’ll be expertly guided through the land that time forgot by the living history team, who will certainly make sure you make the most of your day out. Children are especially welcome and well catered for on-site and grandparents are sure to love the tour, so make sure to bring the whole family!

So take a trip into the heart of Devon and indulge yourself in the serene countryside, in the company of the tranquil countryside, the singing birds and the trees. If you feel like getting away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world, this is a great place to do so.

Clovelly Village

Fancy a trip to the northern tip of Devon? You soon will. Clovelly Village is a spectacular and gorgeous place that feels almost otherworldly. It maintains so much of its tradition that it has an atmosphere almost unimaginable in many other parts of the world, even other parts of the country. Settled quietly on the northern coast of Devon and nestled in woodland, Clovelly is a retreat from the world and all its troubles and an entrance into a beautiful new locale unlike any you will have experienced before. A hidden gem nestled peacefully on the coast, Clovelly Village is a treasure trove of unique and beautiful experiences in itself. Come and experience the true peace and quiet of country living here in one of the nation’s most beautiful and tranquil locations, or just add it to your itinerary for a great chill-out day in the middle of an action holiday – either way you’ll be pining to come back soon.

You may have to pinch yourself a couple of times as you could get lost in the feeling that you are walking through a children’s fairy tale. Although small, this place has had its fair share of famous visitors, including Charles Dickens and the Spanish Armada. So head on down to this lovely little location, and take in some air so fresh that your lungs may well tingle with joy.

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