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Set within the south west of England, Devon is a beautiful county combining stunning coastline with the wild beauty of both Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. Part of the coast is on the South West Coastal Path, so it is a perfect county for walking as well as relaxing by the beach, exploring, sightseeing or just shopping and enjoying the many restaurants and cafés on the beachfronts.
The county has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, where soft sandy coves meet rugged cliffs, and picturesque fishing villages rub shoulders with bustling seaside towns and some excellent surf. The coast attracts visitors from all over the world for the high-quality beaches and the Jurassic Coastline – it stretches from Devon to Dorset and is a World Heritage Site.
The bustling cities of Exeter and Plymouth, with their extensive range of shops, cafés, restaurants, theatres and galleries are within easy reach of most places and well worth a visit. Devon has a strong historical presence, from its Jurassic coast and maritime past to the Tudor influences in the seaside towns. It was home to the famous author, Agatha Christie, and parts of Dartmoor were used to film Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse.
The food in Devon is also superb, with fresh, succulent seafood from local fishermen appearing in abundance – and of course no visit to Devon would be complete without sampling one of the excellent Devon Cream Teas.
Tanya Oliver's guide to Devon's best beaches
Salcombe is a coastal town in a beautiful estuary within the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is believed that Lord Tennyson’s famous poem “Crossing the Bar” was inspired by a visit to this town. There is an extensive waterfront and a harbour with day sailing, yachting and watersports opportunities for those who want to get out in the estuary or on the sea. There are also popular sandy beaches called Sunny Cove, Mill Bay and Cable Cove where you can take a stroll or simply watch the world go by. The streets are full of quirky shops where you can even buy bags and jackets made of sails! It serves some of the best seafood in a range of cosy or modern restaurants and pubs. There is also an annual Yacht Club Regatta, which attracts people from all over the world.
Salcombe is one of the prettiest towns in the county, vibrant and busy, but retaining that true Devon character.
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Torquay has deservedly earned the nickname of the “English Riviera” with its continental atmosphere. There is a real energy about the town during the day and at night, with a wealth of things to do for families and couples alike, and a great base for day trips or to enjoy the vibrant coastline. A range of watersports and boat trips are available from Beacon Quay, also a bustling port, but if you prefer to keep your feet on terra firma there are vintage bus tours and a steam train to take in the sights. There is access to over 20 beaches from Torquay so you are spoilt for choice. Local fishermen supply the town’s restaurants with fresh fish every day and there is a range of seafront cafés.
Retail therapy is in abundance with lots of shops to explore, the local Princess Theatre hosts performances from touring independent production companies, and there are festivals and events on all year round. There's also a lot of local history here, from the natural caves to the Tudor influences in the town. Torquay is a town that never sleeps.
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Brixham is a picturesque fishing town with a famous fish market and some excellent beaches. Breakwater Beach is a sandy paradise that is featured in the Good Beach Guide and has a Blue Flag. Shoalstone Beach is a shingle beach with fascinating rock pools and marine life to explore, whilst Fishcombe Beach and Cove is much quieter if you want more solitude – it is only reachable by foot. Within easy reach is the Berry Head National Nature Reserve, with a long limestone promontory out into the sea, and lots of wildlife and history to explore including Napoleonic forts.
Brixham has a range of art galleries to wander around and when it is time to eat there are a variety of fish restaurants (including the excellent Beamers Seafood Restaurant), Italian restaurants and cafés. Many of these have stunning views over the coast and harbour. It's a beautiful place to visit.
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Branscombe is part of the East Devon Jurassic Coastline, and somewhere for those who like a slower pace. With beach huts, thatched cottages and working historical buildings, it is quintessentially English and lays claim to being the longest village in England – it sweeps down from the valley to the beach. Being part of the Jurassic Coast, it is an excellent place to hunt for fossils and the beach at Branscombe Mouth has rock pools to explore. Although Branscombe is a quieter place to base your holiday, within an easy radius there is much to explore and in particular, walks to enjoy along the beautiful coast with stunning views inland and out to sea.
There are many attractions and day trips available further afield including fishing for mackerel and deep-sea diving along with a range of restaurants serving quality local seafood.
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The only place in the UK with an exclamation mark officially in its name. On the north coast of Devon, this area has a three-mile long Blue Flag sandy beach backed by a pebble ridge. With excellent surf, it is popular with surfers, windsurfers and swimmers alike and all equipment can be hired at the beach. With sea bass prevalent in the seas, fishing is another popular thing to do. If you just want to spend your time relaxing however, you can hire a deckchair, sit back and enjoy the beautiful views.
It is also an excellent location to discover Exmoor National Park, where you can walk, cycle or ride ponies. North Devon has a lot to offer everyone.
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Main image by Barry Lewis
Salcombe by eGuide Travel
Torquay by heatherbell2011
Brixhham by Chris Talbot
Branscombe Glen Bowman
Westward Ho! by xlibber
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