So I’ve done this a bit back to front, chronologically speaking. When we went back to the UK last month I wrote all about our time in London which was totally amazing. That was actually the second part of our time there. What I haven’t yet written about is the first part of the trip which was going back to my hometown in Devon.
To be honest… I wasn’t really sure what to write about because none of it is stuff that you guys would necessarily be interested in. Ok, you might be interested in the fact that we had a wonderfully chilled out time and that we saw lots of family and friends because you’re nice people. But not much of what we did was particularly touristy because, well, I’ve done most of it before and we really weren’t there for that long.
Where and What is Devon?
Apart from being the place I grew up (see the picturesque villages category below), Devon is a county in the South West of England. You know the kicking boot part of the map of the UK? Well Devon is part of that. No not the bit at the end – that’s Cornwall (for another time) but it is right next to that.
Now there is ALOT to do in Devon for visitors and tourists so to write an exhaustive list would take me about a solid week of work and would probably be out of date almost immediately! As it is I’ve been sat here for around 90 minutes trawling the interweb and realising Just How Many Things To Do With Kids in Devon There Are!
Some things were a wonderful trip down memory lane. Others a reminder how Devon has turned from a bit of a sleepy boring place where you would go to the beach in the rain on your summer holidays into a vibrant, action packed holiday destination. With the help of the very comprehensive Visit Devon and Kids Days Out websites, a blog post from Mummy’s Travels and 2 articles from The Guardian and The Telegraph articles I’ve found plenty to keep you occupied while you are there.
Picturesque villages, towns and cities
Devon is home to many of your quinessential British places to live. From picturesque villages such as the beautiful Clovelly, to ancient stannary towns including Tavistock (big WHOOP for my hometown!), to historical cities like Exeter, it is easy to see why people flock to Devon for holidays and tourism. You can wander around at your leisure or take a tour. I found out while doing my research that you can do these amazing treasure trails all over Devon (and in the UK) such as the Spy Mission Treasure Trail – AMAZING! Exeter also has Underground Passages that you can explore and a beautiful cathedral. To be fair you could write an entire post just on things to do in Exeter!
Dartmoor and Exmoor are extraordinarily striking areas of natural beauty in the UK and I was lucky enough to grow up right next to one of them. I know going for a hike isn’t the most exciting of outings for young Things but there are loads of things besides going for a walk that you can do once you get there. We have spent a few happy days just playing by streams and on this most recent visit we also went Letterboxing which is like your original geocaching – I remember doing it when I was a kid!
There are LOADS of animal attractions dotted around Devon. There are a couple of zoos including Dartmoor Zoo and Paignton Zoo but I think you all know how I feel about animals in captivity so those aren’t places we would go. There are lots of other options that are much more animal friendly such as:
- The Donkey Sanctuary – a working farm and donkey sanctuary
- Miniature Pony Centre – a unique friendly place with a whole host of activities, including enchanting miniature ponies and foals
- National Marine Aquarium – the largest public aquarium in the UK
- Pennywell Farm – an activity park with animals, activities and rides
- The Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary – an educational and fun place where you can enjoy and learn about tropical butterflies as well as see three species of otter
There are so many activity and adventure parks to choose from
- River Dart Country Park – I remember going to this adventure park when I was a Thing! High ropes and assault courses plus climbing and swimming activities in the lake mean you’ll never be bored!
- Woodlands Family Theme Park – an absolutely massive theme and adventure park with a zoo a well!
- Woodlands Leisure Park – more of a theme park than an adventure park
- Diggerland – all rides and drives here are construction based but also offer thrills and excitement. So you can drive a dumper truck or a digger or enjoy a ride on the Dig-a-Round carousel, enjoy the view from the Skyshuttle or take a whirl in Spindizzy
- The Big Sheep – literally too many activities to even try and list, this all-weather attraction looks amazing!
- Go Ape / Tree Surfers – a couple of high ropes assault courses definitely worth checking out
National Trust / English Heritage
The National Trust and English Heritage are charitable conservation organisations that preserve and protect historic places and spaces. Between them they are responsible for almost 1000 places! Anyone can go to their many locations for an entry fee or, if you are going to go to multiple places, it is worth considering their membership options. Better still, they usually have activities planned especially in school holidays. Some of the best places to explore in Devon include:
- Lydford Gorge – a woodland trail through a gorge with a 30m waterfall, plus kids’ play area and tearoom
- Castle Drogo – a country house and castle build in the early 1900’s to designs by architect Edwin Lutyens
- Buckland Abbey – a 700-year-old house noted for its connection with Sir Richard Grenville the Younger and Sir Francis Drake
- Finch Foundry – a 19th-century water-powered forge originally used to produce agricultural and mining hand tools (at its peak produced around 400 edge tools a day)
- Saltram House – one of the best preserved examples of an early Georgian house with much of its original decor, plasterwork and furnishings
- Totnes Castle – one of the best preserved examples of a Norman motte and bailey castle in England
- Prehistoric settlements such as Merrivale
- Many beaches and other areas of natural beauty
Not owned by either the National Trust or English heritage but of a similar theme are Powderham Castle (home to the Earl and Countess of Devon and their children) and The Golden Hind (a full sized replica of one of the most iconic ships from the age of exploration sailed by Sir Francis Drake who once lived in Buckland Abbey).
Beaches and Watersports
Devon has some absolutely spectacular coastline to admire and more beaches than you could visit in an entire year. Some of the highlights include Blackpool Sands, a stunning sheltered bay boasting the acclaimed Venus Cafe. I’ve never been to this beach but I feel like I need to after all the research I have done. Woolacombe and Bigbury on Sea / Burgh Island are also really popular places to go. My absolute favourite is a bit of a personal one since we holidayed in Bude every year while I was little. Bude is a bustling seaside town with a fabulous beach and a canal where you can hire boats to row on. With a crazy golf course and some nice restaurants as well as your usual seaside fare, I love going back.
Watersports such as surfing, sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing and kayaking can all be practised throughout Devon. There are a few reservoirs and lakes such as Roadford Lake which also offer all of the above watersports. If you’re happy to pay for entry, you can also consider a waterpark like Splashdown Quay West Waterpark or Chagford Lido.
As with anywhere you always have your random things to do that don’t fit in to any category!
- The Tarka Trail is a pedestrian and cycle way in the North Devon Biosphere Reserve.
- Lundy Island – a 400 foot granite outcrop in the Bristol Channel with tremendous views of sea and mainland
- Morwellham Quay – a trip back in time to a working village, mine and craft centre
- Kents Cavern – a cave system known for archaeologic and geological features
I’ll be honest… It rains a lot in the UK and ALOT in Devon. Chances are you will get some rain during your trip! Fear not, there are plenty of indoor activities to keep little ones occupied including Kents Cavern (see above. Swimming pools are everywhere as are soft plays.
After all that activity you will have worked yourself up an appetite. Here are some of the best things to eat in Devon:
You can’t go to Devon or Cornwall without trying a Cream Teas and deciding if you are Devonian or Cornish (I don’t need to tell you what I think you should be but here’s a taster of the debate you’re about to get into). Devon Life has helpfully provided a list of the top 12 places to go for a cream tea but did leave out the lovely Two Bridges Hotel where I worked all my summer holidays through university serving around 300 cream teas a day at the time.
Clotted cream is fairly unique to Devon and Cornwall and is also worth a try. It is one of the 3 components of a cream tea but can also be served with a dessert such as a pie or a crumble.
Another thing I always try to eat when I’m at home is a proper pasty. Not to be confused with something that is pale and wan, a pasty (pronounced either pah-stee or par-stee but definitely not pay-stee) is the Westcountry’s answer to Latin America’s empanada. Once the meal of choice for miners, they were originally filled with meat and potatoes at one end and something sweet at the other with the crust being the handle for dirty hands that was tossed away at the end. Now a traditional pasty would have meat, potatoes, onions and carrots in it but these days the fancier ones range from vegetation potato and Stilton to curried chicken or lamb. Now theoretically they are from Cornwall but you can get them in Devon too and you really should try one while you’re there.
Made with clotted cream, Devon fudge is so creamy (shockingly) and just melts in your mouth. I defy anyone to tell me where you can get better fudge.
Fish and Chips
Best enjoyed sat on a bench by the sea eating it straight out of the paper wrapping, fish and ships doesn’t get more typically British!
Devon has an amazing foodie scene. If you’re feeling fancy you can check out one of the Michelin Star restaurants in the county or ensconce yourself in one of the hundreds of pubs around you.
Some Final Advice
So there you have it. I think there is enough here alone to keep you busy for a couple of months and that’s just the stuff I’ve written about! Be warned that Devon is a decent sized county and, with the exception of the A30 and the A38, the roads aren’t particularly fast, they’re windy and you have a high likelihood of getting stuck behind a tractor or some cows! Day out with the kids has an amazing map that you can use to plan your visit so that you are tackling attractions in the same area.
If you fancy travelling a little bit further to visit glorious Cornwall you HAVE to check out this post from Travel Loving Family – they had the most amazing luxury cottage which I now want to stay in!