Devon is the darling of SouthWest beloved of many a staycationer, and with good reason, this gorgeous county offers a huge variety of scenery including mysterious misty moors, storybook habour villages, long stretches of gorgeous sandy beaches backed by towering, fossil cliffs, upscale yachting havens, affluent seaside resort towns, miles of lush meadows crisscrossed with winding country lanes and pretty thatched cottages. From here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Devon, England…
1. Torquay – a very popular seaside resort town set on the English Channel
Say to someone that you’ve been to Devon, chances are you’ll be asked ‘Torquay?’ The place has a strong association with all things Devon.
Torquay occupies a niche between ‘typical British seaside’ and something ever so slightly classy. You’ll find a genteel Victorian undercurrent running alongside a bit of typical fishing town character.
There’s a pier to walk along, and a popular sandy beach offering sticks of rock, and food kiosks. If Poirot or Ms Marple is your thing then you are in luck.
The author Agatha Christie was born nearby and there is an ‘Agatha Christie mile walk’ you can embark upon, taking in the same sights that influenced her, count the blue plaques as you go.
Our hotel choice in Torquay – South Sands Beach House
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2. Beer and Lyme Bay – a beautiful Devon village surrounded by white chalk cliffs
Beer is a gorgeous seaside town to visit in Devon. Here white houses sit side by side with little fisherman’s cottages constructed from local stone and flint.
If angling is your thing the town is famous for its mackerel fishing, or if you prefer your catch to come to you there’s plenty of restaurants serving the finest fruits of the sea.
Lyme Bay is part of the Jurassic coast and a UNESCO world heritage site, so head down to the beach and admire the red layers of sandstone rocks and cliffs crafted by millions of years of geological activity. Maybe you’ll find a fossil or two.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay in Beer and Lyme Bay – The Margarets
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3. Dartmouth – one of South Devon’s most popular and enchanting towns
If you are visiting and want to get a real taste of a nautical lifestyle in Devon then you won’t go far wrong with Dartmouth.
Located at the mouth of the River Dart (the clue is in the name) this charming town is rich in more ways than one. Culturally it is one of England’s iconic ports, with all the trimmings.
The infrastructure is such that you will see little fishing boats rubbing shoulders with the odd superyacht. If you want to head inland you’ll find countless ‘indie’ shops, pastel-coloured houses, and perhaps a cafe or two to rest your weary feet.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay in Dartmouth – The Glasshouse
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4. Dartmoor Moors – one of the UK’s last great wildernesses and one of the best places to visit in Devon
Dartmoor moors are not just a windswept tundra of heather, oh no. They are interesting, truly. Whether you want to just have a wander or love discovering remnants of iron age villages you can spend a day here easily.
There are druid monuments and obelisks dotted around (think Stonehenge but smaller). Regardless of the time of year, Dartmoor occupies a vast space so is never, ever, busy. For peace, tranquillity, and solitude, look no further.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay in Dartmoor – Bovey Castle
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Our visit to Dartmoor in Devon and Cornwall…
5. Clovelly – a very picturesque ancient fishing village to explore in Devon
See? Lovely… But make sure you take some sturdy footwear as the village is located on a mega steep hill.
Once you’ve got your breath back admire the multicoloured cottages that sandwich the main road that leads up from the harbour, feel free to stop in on numerous halfway houses for a traditional Devon tea.
If you are already at the harbour, why not fortify yourself for the walk back up at one of three quayside pubs?
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay near Clovelly – Atlantic House
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6. Bantham Beach – one of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in Devon
Clean as a whistle, that’s Bantham Beach. With gentle tides, expanses of flat rippling sand, and warm shallow water, Bantham makes for a fab day out and is definitely one of the best places to visit in Devon.
As a fairly large beach, you should have all the space you need, it’s dog friendly too so you can bring your four-legged friends as well.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay near Bantham Beach – Brightham House Boutique Bed & Breakfast
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7. Salcombe – a beautiful coastal town which is one of the prettiest places to visit in Devon
Coastal views, rolling greenery, and a beautiful estuary. Salcombe is simply lovely.
The water is relatively shallow and calm, and the estuary and sandy beach looks more like something you would see in the Mediterranean than the UK.
Have fun playing in the water, visit one of several mariners pubs or indulge your taste buds in an alfresco restaurant whilst taking in views of the sea and surrounding area.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay in Salcombe – Gara Rock
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8. Lynmouth Harbour and Lynton – a pretty small town set in an area known as England’s Little Switzerland
Lynton is often lovingly referred to as ‘little Switzerland’, whilst you won’t find mountains, what you will find as a whopping great hill, on which the town sits.
Fortunately, if you just haven’t got it in you to hike down to Lynmouth Harbour there is an iconic and famous cliff railway that will ferry you down (and more importantly back up).
The nearby beach isn’t particularly bather friendly, but with walks and views to die for, located above the town, it would probably be time wasted, when you could be enjoying much more active pursuits.
Of an evening the town has a great deal in the way of excellent restaurants, which is only a good thing, as if you have conquered the hill you’ll be starving.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay in Lynton – Bayview Tower
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9. Combesgate Beach and Woolacombe – two of the most gorgeous beaches to visit in Devon
Easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Devon, Combesgate beach has rock pools, and lots of them.
Combesgate beach has topography especially suited to displaying treasures of the deep, especially at low tide. Have a competition to see who can see the most starfish or just chase each other with bits of seaweed.
A bit further down, Woolacombe has an award-winning beach, with three miles of golden flat sand. If you like a bit of surf, then at certain tide states, it provides an excellent venue to wet your board.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay in Woolacombe – a cozy beachside apartment
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10. Blackpool Sands – a stunning beach located in a sheltered bay near Dartmouth
Blackpool Sands is a bit unique in the fact that it is privately owned and managed. Given the correct weather conditions, it actually looks like something you might find in the Caribbean.
All the convenience and fun with none of the hassle of flying. If you don’t like sand you are in luck, as the beach is covered in fine shale.
It isn’t the biggest beach, but as a result, it tends not to get too busy as tourists head to the more well-known areas, with quiet coves at either end it offers a much more sedate experience for a day out.
To book, check prices or dates for Villa 1, Estura
11. Appledore – a small fishing village which is a beautiful gem to explore in Devon
Aside from aesthetics, Appledore has quite a bit going on. For centuries its main export was the building of ships, and the effects of this are still visible to this day (boats are still built there to this day).
If you want to remain all nautical there is a prominent yacht club, why not put on your Sunday best and go for one or two afternoon ‘refreshments’.
If you like exploring then definitely pay Appledore a visit. A labyrinth of cobbled streets give way to courtyards, whitewashed houses, and hanging baskets.
Explore handmade jewellery and craft stores, or relax whilst sampling some freshly caught catch of the day in one of the local restaurants.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay in Appledore – Shoreline
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12. Slapton Sands and Torcross – a beautiful pebble beach that stretched for almost two miles
Slapton Sands isn’t just a beach (and it’s pebbly, talk about false advertising). It also has a few extra bits making it well worth a visit.
Whilst you can sunbathe and swim in relative comfort, you can also go a bit ‘natural’ as well (no not in ‘that’ way)…There are several species of rare birds and the odd wildflower found in the nearby nature reserve.
If you like your military history, Slapton sands was used to practice the Normandy landings, with quite catastrophic consequences.
Head south and you’ll find the tiny village of Torcross, located on a thin peninsula between the beach and a freshwater lake. It makes the ideal place to stay if you want to explore the surrounding area.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay near Slapton Sands – Coach House Cottage
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13. Branscombe – a pretty village which is part of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
First we give you hills, and then we give you the longest village in the UK (don’t worry we aren’t trying to tell you anything… you do enjoy walking though right?) Home to a number of national trust properties and historic buildings you can get a real feel for the past here.
The countryside surrounding the village provides a pleasant afternoon ramble as you mix greenery with the occasional thatched cottage adorned lovingly with hanging baskets.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay near Branscombe – Pottery Barn
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14. Croyde – a magical location to explore with superb sandy beaches and spectacular scenery
A Mecca for UK surfers, Croyde mixes a bit of the old with a bit of the new. Thatched country pubs serving roast dinners during the day give way to local bands and a younger ‘cooler’ crowd in the evening.
When the sun is out expect it to get busy with camper-vans and everyone arriving to see what the fuss is all about.
Whilst it has been criticised in recent years for turning a bit more commercial, if you time your visit right you can still experience a hint of the wild charm that once enticed people to this wide and expansive beach.
Our choice for a beautiful place to stay in Croyde – Perrymans Cottage Georgeham
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15. Brixham – a stunningly beautiful harbourside town to explore in Devon
Located slap bang in the heart of the English Riviera, Brixham is a must-see.
There’s an exquisite harbour complete with fishing boats, and fortunately for you, day charters, so you can see the surrounding coast whilst catching the sun (or if you are like us, burning your nose).
Brixham, in particular, has an affinity with pirates so if you want an organised tour head on down to the heritage museum, or if you want to create your own adventure pop down to the nearby beach and see if you can find a smugglers cove.
If it’s a rainy day, the harbour is home to a full-size replica of the Golden Hind, the famous vessel that was used extensively by Sir Francis Drake.
16. Bigbury-on-Sea – a popular and very beautiful family beach
On the opposite side to Bantham beach you’ll find a wider area. This is Bigbury on Sea.
The water around the beach is shallow, so it’s good for paddling. Behind the beach is a series of eateries and cafes offering various fare.
We recommend the surf n’ turf, which in likelihood has been locally caught (well the surf bit anyway, we’re not sure about the ‘turf’).
17. Saunton Sands – a gorgeous beach nestled on Devon’s golden coast
Play hide and seek amongst the dunes before sprinting into the sea to cool down. If you are not feeling that energetic then there’s plenty of facilities to make your day at the beach your own.
Hire a deckchair (knotted hanky on the head optional), sit in a beach hut or try your hand at surfing…You don’t even need to bring a board as there are several kiosks located along the beach that will happily rent you one. A real beauty spot to explore in Devon!
18. Ilfracombe – a stunning and popular Devon seaside resort
For an all-inclusive seaside break look no further. Looking Northwards, on a clear day you might just spot Wales.
The town of Ilfracombe sits on a bit of a peninsula, so regardless of which way you walk, you’ll probably end up at the sea. Victoriana is rife in this town with promenades, adorable manicured gardens, and maybe even the odd iron-railed arcade.
Visit the tunnelled beach and gain a glimpse into history, as you see a very Victorian solution to how to keep boys and girls properly separated on their jollies.
If you want to go further back in time Watermouth Castle is well worth a visit. Watch knights fight in re-enactments or take a stroll down the hill to the picturesque Watermouth Cove.
19. Burgh Island – a beautiful tidal island on the coast of South Devon
Burgh island sits sandwiched between Bigbury-on-Sea and Bantham Beach. If you are at Bantham then it’s well worth taking the ‘sea tractor’ over to the island (depending on the time and weather).
Think of a bus on stilts and you’ll have got the general gist, as you splash your way through the waves to arrive on an island housing a hotel, a small cafe, and a pub.
You can walk around the island but there are private areas, so watch your step. For a full day start with a lazy morning on Bantham beach, then head over to Burgh Island, enjoy lunch and then recline into a sedentary position whilst topping up your tan at Bigbury on Sea.
20. Exeter – a pretty cathedral city which is one of the best places to visit in Devon
Exeter is a small city that feels much larger. It has been at the heart of British naval dominance for the best part of 600 years.
Within its walls, you will find magnificent Georgian, Victorian (and even Elizabethan) architecture. Splendid parks are dotted throughout the city which aren’t at all spoiled by the usual high street fare.
There are numerous hotels, guest rooms, and other options, so if you are looking for a base to start your Devonshire exploration here is as good an option as any.
Even if you aren’t staying, there’s a fair bit to see (more than a day’s worth certainly). Head to the cathedral, make your way to the quayside or go and watch a show at the theatre.
21. Sidmouth – a beautiful Devon coastal town with a regency feel
Sidmouth shares many features (and a coastline) with Branscombe and Beer, in fact, if you are so inclined you can walk the famous South West Coast path to reach either.
If you like noisy things with big ears and soft noses, there’s a Donkey Sanctuary located in Sidmouth with 500 rescue donkeys.
If you really want to get out of town there are coastal walks which will take you above the town where you’ll be afforded magnificent views or the red sandstone cliffs, the lovely mix of the sand and shingle beach and the sparkly blue water.
22. Exmouth – a charming port town and seaside resort
Exmouth (taking its name from the nearby river Exe) isn’t far from Exeter and sits at the very start of the Jurassic Coast. It has a beach that is popular with watersport enthusiasts so if standing on a board and whizzing along the waves floats your boat, here is the place to do it.
Heading inland the town is rich in architecture spanning several centuries, and features a pleasant indoor market, offering locally crafted items and home-grown delicacies for you to sample.
For the geologists out there, Exmouth is home to a rather interesting feature. The valley of the rocks is one of the UK’s only dry valleys.
The river Exe used to flow through this valley during the last ice age, however, once a giant glacier melted, the river’s path diverted, leaving this scenic ‘U’ shaped valley, we aren’t too sure where the goats came from, but they are fun to watch too.
23. Dittisham – one of the most attractive villages in South Devon
Enjoying the water doesn’t have to mean being at the beach. We want you to close your eyes and imagine a village bathed in golden sunlight, bells are ringing in the background and boats bob and sway rhythmically along a wide riverbank.
Got it? Good, as we were actually describing Dittisham.
This sleepy village is located on the estuarial banks of the River Dart is a fantastic place to visit in Devon. If you are here for a few days visit the former home of Agatha Christie at Greenway, have a look round the house or stop for an afternoon tea in the gardens.
There are plenty of sweet little holiday cottages in Dittisham and due to its proximity to several of other attractions, it makes a great base for those liking a bit of peace and quiet.
24. Shaldon – an idyllic little fishing village known for its quaint thatched cottages
Shaldon is a pleasantly old-fashioned village occupying a prominent spot on the mouth of the River Teign. It’s a bit quieter than some of our other suggestions, so prepare to relax a bit.
It boasts authenticity as an example of a working coastal town and it still relies partly on the fishing industry to ensure its survival.
If you want a bit of excitement on your journey down to the sand, head to Teignmouth beach, which is accessed by a genuine smugglers tunnel. A gorgeous place to explore in Devon!
25. Haldon Forest Park – a beautiful expanse of 3,500 acres of woodland perfect for outdoor activities
Let’s get away from the seaside for a minute. Haldon Forest Park is an area overflowing with lush greenery, pine trees, and trails.
Cycle, run, jog or just amble through leaf-laden boulevards of natural beauty. If the sun is shining take a picnic and sit in gladed areas whilst enjoying your lunch.
There are maps and designated routes tailored to cater for all levels of physical ability and depending on which you take you may be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding area. Stunning.
We also have posts on…
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My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my rescued Greek street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Laos, California and the surreally beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.