The best things to do this summer in Devon mostly have an old-school style to them. The South England county has an old-fashioned air to it, but one that can still be very much enjoyed today. After all, a beautiful beach is just as popular now as it was in the Victorian era, and Devon has some of the best in Britain.

    Devon is very well known for its beautiful countryside and rural communities, which you can more easily explore in summer. There’s no shortage of fantastic hikes, bikes and even heritage train rides that give you fabulous photos of England’s green and pleasant land. Take a look at our list and you’ll find some more tips on how to make the most of your summer in Devon.

    1

    Torquay

    Enjoy the English Riviera

    Torquay is one of the largest towns in Devon and the main hub of the English Riviera – a combination that makes it one of the county’s more popular destination. The marina is at the heart of the town, with a wide range of restaurants, shops, and things to do around it – and you can take fishing trips and pleasure cruises around the south coast, of course.

    Fun things to do on a summer day in Torquay include lazing on a beach, riding the English Riviera Wheel and relaxing in the Princess Gardens or the Royal Terrace Gardens. If you need a break from the sun, the Torquay Museum is excellent, and the Kents Cavern is spectacular.

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    2

    Dartmoor National Park

    Explore one of England’s most iconic moorlands

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    Dartmoor National Park is strikingly beautiful for its vast swathes of rolling moorland. Somewhat infamous for its changeable weather and heavy mists, it’s got an air of mystery to it that made it the ideal setting for Sherlock Holmes’ encounter with the Hound of the Baskervilles.

    Visit in summer and you can be fairly well assured that no ethereal canines are going to bother you. Instead, you can enjoy exploring 386 square miles of lush countryside on horseback or hiking trails. You can even try your hand at canoeing or bouldering. There are several visitor centres where you can learn more about the moorland and its history, too.

    Location: High Moorland Visitor Centre, Princetown, Yelverton, Devon, PL20 6QF, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1626 832093

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    3

    Devon beaches

    Discover some of Britain’s favourite sandy shores

    The beaches of Devon have been named as some of the best in Britain year after year, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only do many have lovely soft sand and picturesque seas, but they are also usually easy to get to and have plenty of facilities available to keep everyone happy throughout the day.

    Among the top choices are Woolacombe Beach and the nearby Barricane Beach on Devon’s north coast, both of which are great for surfers. If you’d rather enjoy calmer seas, you might like Bigbury-on-Sea Beach or the slightly pebbly Ladram Bay.

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    4

    Lynton and Lynmouth

    Devon’s most popular seaside villages

    The twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth are located in a beautiful green valley close to the heritage coast of Exmoor National Park. This stunning setting has given the area a reputation as England’s own Little Switzerland – a title that the charming villages certainly live up to.

    Lynton is positioned up on the cliff, overlooking the sea and the old fishermen’s cottages that line Lynmouth harbour. Of course, the steep-sided valley creates a bit of a challenge for those looking to get from one to the other, but a ride on the historic cliff railway makes such journeys both fun and easy.

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    5

    Tarka Trail

    Follow the webbed footprints of an iconic otter

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    The Tarka Trail is a 163-mile-long walking route around North Devon that’s based on the 1927 novel Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson. The much-loved work follows the often-challenging life of Tarka in and around the Taw and Torridge rivers. The trail doesn’t exactly follow every step Tarka took but does give you more of an idea of what his environment was like.

    Varying from easy to challenging, the Tarka Trail comes in the form of 2 loops centred on Barnstaple, creating a rough figure 8. One loop goes north, passing through Exmoor and following the North Devon coast. The second heads south to the edge of Dartmoor and passes through Bideford, where you’ll find a cute statue of Tarka. The route is well signposted and passes beautiful wooded valleys, viaducts and a few small towns and villages.

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    6

    Westward Ho!

    The only village in England with an exclamation mark in its official name

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    There’s probably no road sign more excited to greet you than that of Westward Ho! The seaside village takes its name from a very successful novel by Charles Kingsley, published in 1855 and set in Bideford, which is about 3.5 miles inland. Westward Ho! the village was founded 10 years after the book came out, making it a relatively new place.

    Nowadays, the Victorian-era village is known for more than its literary associations. The beach is the main attraction, being long, clean, and sandy, though it is backed by a pebble ridge. The sea here is excellent for surfing, too. The village itself contains a couple of nice old churches and borders the North Devon Coast AONB.

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    7

    Seaton Tramway

    Ride through the countryside in old-school style

    The Seaton Tramway is a narrow-gauge electric tram that runs for 3 miles through the Axe Valley in East Devon. While 2-ft-9-in-gauge trams date from as far back as 1904, the line itself only opened in 1970, running from Colyton to the final stop just over the road from Seaton Beach.

    Given that the Seaton Tramway won’t carry you especially far nor particularly quickly, it really is a ride just for the joy of it. The line passes by the Seaton Wetlands and a surprising amount of open countryside alongside the River Axe, which you can enjoy from the old-fashioned comfort of the classic trams. On certain days, you can learn to drive the tram yourself for an additional fee.

    Location: Tramway, Harbour Rd, Seaton EX12 2TB, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1297 20375

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    8

    Greenway House

    Explore the former home of Agatha Christie

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    Greenway House is a Grade II-listed country estate that was built around 1780 in Galmpton, near Brixham. The building and its gardens are certainly charming, but their most iconic feature is the fact that they were once the home of Agatha Christie – one of the most famous crime writers in history. It's a charming place to visit during the summer in Devon. 

    Christie and her husband bought the house in 1938 and lived here until their deaths in the 1970s. The house and its grounds inspired locations from a number of Christie’s famous thrillers and was even used as the filming location for the TV version of one of them. Take a look around the estate and see if you can spot the inspirations for important parts of Five Little Pigs, Towards Zero and Dead Man’s Folly.

    Location: Galmpton, Greenway Rd, Kingswear, Brixham TQ5 0ES, UK

    Open: Daily from 10.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1803 842382

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    9

    Lundy Island

    England’s own Galapagos Island

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    Just getting to the 3-mile-long Lundy Island is an experience worth enjoying, but the journey also takes you to a diverse range of activities and attractions. Relatively isolated about 11 miles off the North Devon coast, Lundy has been compared to the Galapagos Islands because of its animal inhabitants as well as its rugged beauty. The island has been home to about 4,000 years of human history, which includes 42 scheduled monuments and several listed buildings.

    Getting to Lundy Island involves sailing on the MS Oldenburg – a beautiful old ferry built in Germany in 1958, featuring everything you would expect of classic luxury vessels. Of course, because of its age, it also takes 2 hours to make the crossing from Bideford or Ilfracombe.

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    10

    North Devon Show

    See every facet of rural Devon life in one day

    The North Devon Show is one of the largest and most popular agricultural shows in the southwest of England. It runs for just a single day every August and has done since 1966. Its current home is Umberleigh Barton Farm, amid the gently rolling countryside just south of Barnstaple.

    While a farming show might sound like quite a niche festival, it features a fairground, stalls, games, classes, live music, and lots more across its 50-acre site. There’s an extensive range of food options available, too, making the show a great place to get a true taste of Devon.

    Location: Umberleigh Barton, Umberleigh, Devon EX37 9DX, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1769 573852

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    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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