The 10 best things to do in Devon

Dartmoor National Park, Devon
Dartmoor National Park is a 365 square-mile wilderness of wild moors, and one of the best things to do in Devon - Moorefam/Moorefam

Never mind itineraries and to do lists; the best way to experience Devon is to be impulsive and do as the mood (and weather) takes you. The best of the fun is outdoors, exploring the square-jawed scenery of Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, cycling riverside trails, surfing, sailing, bird-watching on Lundy Island, and hiking the South West Coastal Path. For culture vultures, stately homes offer a taste of Devon high life, while sophisticated seaside towns such as Dartmouth run regular arts, music and food events and sailing regattas.

For further Devon inspiration, see our guides to the city's best hotels, restaurants, pubs, cream teas and beaches.

Take a hike on Britain's longest footpath

The South West Coast Path, Britain’s longest footpath, traces the both coasts of Devon, offering easy access to wild and windswept cliffs, secluded sandy coves and remote hamlets. There are occasional pubs and cafés on the path, and a regular bus network means you can dip in and out as you please. If you’re on a multi-day trip, Luggage Transfers will drop off your luggage at your accommodation each day.

Insider tip: Clovelly to Hartland Point is the most dramatic section, while Bantham to Salcombe has a string of postcard-pretty beaches. The further away you are from a car park, the more likely you are to find a cove to yourself.

Price: Free

South West Coast Path, Britain’s longest footpath traces the both coasts of Devon
South West Coast Path, Britain’s longest footpath, traces the north and south coasts of Devon

Go bird-watching on Britain’s Galapagos

Lundy Island is a three-mile long granite outcrop off Hartland Point in north Devon. It’s a marine reserve, where twitchers, divers and snorkellers get up close and personal with seals, puffins, basking sharks and seabirds. Dating from 1958, the graceful Oldenburg sails several times a week from Bideford and Ilfracombe from April to October. It has wood panelling in its comfortable saloons and a deck for fair-weather. In winter (from November to March), a helicopter service operates from Hartland Point.

Insider tip: If you want to see a particular species, drop in at the Marisco Tavern, the island's only restaurant, where locals will give you advice on where to spot it, while the pub’s reference books will help you identify local flora and fauna.

Prices: £

Lundy Island, Devon
At Lundy Island, you can get up close and personal with seals, puffins basking sharks and seabirds - BACKYARD PRODUCTIONS

Freewheel along Britain’s longest traffic-free cycle route

Following a disused railway line from Braunton to Meeth, the Tarka Trail has colourful Thomas the Tank Engine-style signal boxes and carriages on the sidings. The 180-mile route takes in ancient villages, wooded valleys, rivers and moorland, with the northerly section following the journey of Tarka the Otter, from Henry Williamson’s classic novel. Largely flat, the trail is perfect for children, with plenty of cafés en route.

Insider tip: A day-trip between Great Torrington to Meeth (11 miles) gives a good taster, with stunning Dartmoor views and a regular bus service to take you back. Bike hire is available at Great Torrington.

Prices: Free

Tarka Trail, Devon
Tarka Trail is Britain’s longest traffic-free cycle route - BACKYARD PRODUCTIONS

Stock up at a farmers’ market or farm shop

Devon’s market towns come alive at weekends with local producers selling fresh vegetables, artisan cheeses, preserves and meats on market stalls. Exeter Street Food Market is one of the best, serving up delicacies from Friday to Sunday in the city centre, while Chagford Farmers’ Fayre brings together Dartmoor’s finest producers, including Teign Valley Venison and The Dartmoor Charcuterie Company. Meanwhile, Ullacombe Farm Shop, near Haytor, sells traditional scrumpy, English wine, Dartmoor whisky, gins and vodkas, superb meat and handmade cheeses, while Dart’s Farm, near Topsham, stocks extensive ranges of Devon produce.

Insider tip: Wherever you travel and eat in Devon, look out for the 'Love the Flavour' logo on menus and in shop windows – this affiliation of food suppliers and producers is committed to quality Devon food and drink.

Prices: £

Exeter Street Food Market, Devon
Exeter Street Food Market showcases the best food talent from the south-west region

Indulge in a traditional cream tea

Don’t even think about leaving Devon without indulging in this tea-time tradition. With so many offerings, it’s hard to choose a favourite, but Hele Corn Mill, a working watermill dating from 1525, tops our list for its twice-baked scones, with their perfectly crispy crusts and pillowy centres.

Insider tip: Heated debate surrounds whether the jam or cream should go on first, but a recent study showed that the Devon approach of putting the jam on first ensures a more even spread of toppings. Find more of the best in our dedicated guide.

Prices: £

Blow away the cobwebs in Dartmoor National Park

There’s no better place in Devon to get some headspace than the wide open spaces of Dartmoor National Park, a 365 square-mile wilderness of wild moors, wooded glades, fairy-tale castles, cute villages and ancient hamlets. A walk up a Dartmoor tor – granite-topped hill – is a must. Look out for wild ponies, birds of prey, kingfishers, otters and rare butterflies.

Insider tip: Dartmoor’s single-track narrow country lanes have few passing places so don’t attempt them unless you’re confident at reversing into tight spaces. If you’re unsure, wait for the other motorist to reverse (and hope they’re better at it than you).

Prices: Free

Dartmoor National Park, Devon
There’s no better place in Devon to get some headspace than the wide open spaces of Dartmoor National Park - ANTONYSPENCER

Visit Agatha Christie’s holiday home

Agatha Christie’s private holiday home, Greenway, on the River Dart is much as it was when the crime writer stayed here to write her book. First editions line the shelves, along with family photos and collections of botanical china and archaeological finds. Even if you’re not a Christie fan, the house is worth a visit for its beautiful setting on the River Dart and gardens. Don’t miss the peach house, winery and fernery.

Insider tip: The most scenic way to get to Greenway is by ferry or steam train from Dartmouth. You can drive, but parking is limited so you’ll need to book it ahead of your arrival.

Prices: ££

Greenway, Devon
Greenway is well preserved as Agatha Christie's former holiday home

See how the other half live

Powderham Castle is one of the oldest family seats in Devon, belonging to the Earl of Devon. Set in its own deer park, it has been added to and altered repeatedly over its 600-year history. Tours take in the medieval core, neo-classical areas and the Victorian kitchen. There are beautiful rose beds and a walled garden with a Victorian glasshouse.

Insider tip: You’ll have to hunt for it, but the working blacksmith’s forge in the grounds is a highlight. Opening times vary from Powderham’s so check ahead.

Prices: ££

Powderham Castle, Devon
Powderham Castle is one of the oldest family seats in Devon

Visit a harbour town

Set on the River Dart, the harbour town of Dartmouth is a gem, with ancient narrow streets, boutique shops and stylish art galleries. Highlights include brunch at legendary café Alf Resco, a visit to Dartmouth Castle and Bayards Cove, a tour of Dartmouth Naval College, and a meal of southern European-style sharing plates at Andria.

Insider tip: Escape summer crowds with Dartmouth’s nautical equivalent of an open-top bus tour (, a scenic passenger ferry that shuttles between Dartmouth and Kingswear.

Prices: ££

Dartmouth, Devon
The harbour town of Dartmouth is lovely, with narrow streets, boutique shops and art galleries - clubfoto/clubfoto

Hang ten with the surfers

Regarded as one of the best places in the country to go surfing, Croyde Bay has gentle breaks for beginners and bigger swells for more experienced surfers. There’s a handful of local surf schools offering lessons with board and wetsuit hire included, as well as coasteering expeditions for non-surfers.

Insider tip: For a grown-up surfing break, stay at Woolacombe Bay or Saunton Sands Hotel.

Contact: Visitor's centre,
Prices: Varied

Croyde Bay, Devon
Croyde Bay provides great waves for both beginners and experienced surfers - DAVEBOLTON

How we choose

Every attraction and activity in this curated list has been tried and tested by our destination expert, to provide you with their insider perspective. We cover a range of budgets and styles, from world-class museums to family-friendly theme parks – to best suit every type of traveller. We update this list regularly to keep up with the latest openings and provide up to date recommendations.

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