When you think about taking day trips around the UK, it’s fair to say places such as London, the Cotswolds, Yorkshire Dales and Lake District will spring to mind. But there is something quite magical about South-West England that we would argue should entice visitors just as much as any of those aforementioned locations. For locals and visitors alike, experiencing the best days out in Devon will lead to a collection of amazing locations that may never have been on their radar but will likely lead to a return visit in the future.
We have been fortunate to visit the county of Devon on several occasions, exploring both the best things to do in South Devon and also heading to the north coast to explore the beautiful seaside resort of Ilfracombe. But the beauty of Devon is that there is so much more and we decided to put together a collection of what we think are the best days out in this part of England.
Whether you are visiting on holiday or live in the immediate vicinity, Devon is a county with pretty much everything. From the historic Buckfast Abbey to the gorgeous South-West coastal path in Ilfracombe that will immediately remind you of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, Devon offers perhaps the most eclectic blend of natural and man-made experiences that deserves to attract visitors from all across the globe.
Best Days Out in Devon
Let’s take a look at Devon’s best day trips, all of which you can reach within a maximum of 2-3 hours if you are staying in the county. For those in the neighboring counties of Somerset, Dorset and Cornwall, many of these will be feasible trips while further afield, there is easy accessibility to Devonshire towns from London and beyond thanks to the national and local train service.
If you are looking to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the coast or perhaps explore one of the UK’s remaining active fishing ports, Devon is the place to visit. Although this is by no means an exhaustive lists of places worth visiting, this is certainly a great start to finding out why we have quickly fallen in love with this part of England.
A collection of vibrant coastal towns, quaint villages and nature’s finest can be found throughout Devon and the aforementioned locations offer a blend across this beautiful county.
Let’s start with perhaps the most infamous location in Devon, the beautiful coastal town of Torquay located in the heart of the well-reputed region known as the English Riviera. Just a short drive from the city of Exeter, Torquay is the perfect town to visit regardless of your preference.
From an eclectic blend of high-street shops to the beautiful harbor home to a diverse array of high-value yachts, Torquay epitomizes everything there is to love about Devon if you are looking to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the county. Torre Abbey Museum and Living Coasts are two of the more popular attractions for all the family to enjoy but regardless of your taste, Torquay is a vibrant town with something for all ages to experience.
Hop on the local ferry that crosses the bay to the nearby coastal towns of Brixham, Teignmouth or Dartmouth, or take a stroll along the coast before arriving at Abbey Park to enjoy crown green bowling, pitch and putt golf or just relax on a beautiful summer’s day with your favorite ice cream. Remember, Devon is home to some of the best ice cream anywhere in the UK!
Just a short drive from Torquay is the smaller town of Babbacombe but this is another seaside resort that is well worth visiting if you are ready to experience some of the best views in Devon. As you stroll along the promenade, you cannot help but fall in love with the spectacular panoramic views across the bay. When the sun is out, Babbacombe is perhaps the most breathtaking locations in South Devon to enjoy epic scenery (though I am sure a few other spots would argue otherwise).
The beauty of visiting Babbacombe is that there is plenty to do in a small area. Pay a visit to the iconic Babbacombe Model Village, frequently renowned as one of the best attractions for all the family to enjoy in the Torbay area.
A short walk from here will lead you to one of the best cafes in the area, the Cliff Railway Cafe. Grab a quick bite to eat before venturing down the historic railway to Oddicombe Beach. This funicular railway has been in operation since 1926 and is still a thriving attraction for visitors and locals alike.
After admiring the gorgeous bay, return to the summit before taking a walk along the prom and enjoying yet another delicious cafe – Babbacombe Bay Cafe. Offering some of the best food in Devon, this cafe has a diverse menu of breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea to choose from.
When it comes to fishing, there are not many places in England that embrace this more than the South Devonshire town of Brixham. Whether you choose to visit Brixham by car or our preferred method of boat (via the Torquay to Brixham ferry option), you immediately notice the harbor that epitomizes everything there is to love about this town.
Watch local fishermen going about their day to day activities in order to find the “catch of the day” or hop on the iconic Golden Hind to take a tour of one of two full-sized replicas of Sir Francis Drake’s vessel. If you enjoy a little retail therapy, Brixham is home to a collection of local shops where you can find everything from produce to perfectly manicured crafts to Devon’s piece de resistance – fudge!
Berry Head National Nature Reserve is an internationally acclaimed heritage site and can be found at the southern tip of Tor Bay. Just a short walk from Brixham harbor, this is a great place to enjoy yet more epic views of the bay while also exploring history in the area.
When you hear the term “English Riviera”, it’s a fair assumption that you will immediately think about the iconic French Riviera, with the gorgeous beaches, beautiful scenes across the Mediterranean and more. Although Devon’s equivalent is a little less appealing when it comes to the pristine sandy beaches, the quintessential town of Dartmouth offers a harbor area that is comparable to some of those iconic French ports.
A collection of gorgeous yachts, fishing vessels and more can be found docked inside Dartmouth harbor, waiting to venture along the River Dart or head out to sea. The quirky cobblestone streets that make up the heart and soul of Dartmouth are a historic reflection on this beautiful town. Embrace the history and heritage of the town by visiting the likes of Dartmouth Castle and the Brittania Naval College.
Dartmouth is another location that can be reached either by car or the more intriguing route via the car ferry. It’s on this ferry where you can truly appreciate the beauty of the harbor as you approach the town and admire the breathtaking scene surrounding it.
As we established earlier, Devon offers an eclectic blend of day trip options, including the ability to get away from the hustle and bustle of city (or even town) life by visiting places such as Dartmoor National Park. If you love hiking, exploring waterfalls and discovering historic hidden gems, there are not many places more spectacular than Dartmoor.
With wild, open moorlands and river valleys waiting to be explored, Dartmoor is home to a diverse population of wildlife that is every nature photographer’s paradise. At 368 square miles, there is a lot to see in Dartmoor, so whether you are an avid hiker ready to hit some of the best trails in South-West England or simply ready to explore some iconic spots across this national park, we strongly recommend spending some time in one of the Visitor’s Centers to learn all about this beautiful paradise.
Walking, cycling, canoeing, climbing, camping and even geocaching are all activities that you will enjoy in Dartmoor National Park. The beauty of this region is that even though you may feel like you are away from most civilization, the reality is that you are just a short drive from nearby towns such as Torquay, Plymouth and Exeter. It’s the perfect location to enjoy a day trip to explore the inherent beauty of Devon’s gateway to nature!
Let’s venture to the north coast of Devon to explore the beautiful coastal town of Ilfracombe. Although we are focusing most of our attention on South Devon, this should take nothing away from the beauty throughout the northern half of the county. Ilfracombe is undoubtedly at the heart and soul of this part of the county and after visiting here during our recent visit to Devon, we can well and truly attest that this is a place you will not want to miss out on.
When you think about the perfect day trip location, Ilfracombe is perhaps one of the best spots in Devon. Offering just enough to fill a full day, experiencing the best things to do in Ilfracombe encompasses exploring epic attractions, visiting delicious restaurants, and of course, exploring a beautiful harbor where you can enjoy another day trip to nearby Lundy Island.
From the award-winning Ilfracombe Aquarium to the Chapel of St. Nicholas, and from the spectacular South-West Coastal Path to a collection of cafes where you can indulge in stereotypical Devon cream teas, Ilfracombe is home to everything all the family needs to experience a day trip to remember.
If you love stumbling across hidden gems, take a trip to Dawlish, home of the black swans. That’s right, Dawlish is the perfect coastal civil parish to visit to experience something you don’t see every day – a collection of black swans that can be seen relaxing in “The Brook”, a small river that wanders through the heart of this town and flows into the sea.
Just like many of the neighboring towns that can lay claim to something infamous, Dawlish embraces the iconic black swan and regardless of which shop you visit, you won’t be too far away from being able to purchase a souvenir representing this animal. Dawlish is undoubtedly the type of place where you will visit and immediately feel relaxed, with the sights and sounds of this town unlike anywhere else in region.
Ready to embrace more nature in the area? Head over to Dawlish Warren, just a short drive from the heartbeat of the town to experience gorgeous beaches and a nature reserve home to a myriad of diverse bird species – a birdwatcher’s paradise for sure!
Ready to visit the largest town in Devon? Head to the south coast and visit Plymouth, a vibrant location offering everything you would expect in a larger British metropolis yet still maintaining the Devonshire local feel throughout the town. The bustling, vibrant character associated with Plymouth can be seen but when you hear about the maritime history associated with this town, it’s no surprise to see everything on display that embraces this heritage.
Plymouth is an iconic location for many reasons, none more so than this being the start of many historic sailing/yachting events. For the foodies out there, Plymouth is a cuisine haven, with seafood at the forefront of many of the best restaurants here. Head over to the Plymouth Gin Distillery to take a tour of this plant before sampling one or two glasses of this fine beverage.
The National Marine Aquarium has a collection of diverse sea-life, while the nearby Barbican is a cultural hotspot that is well worth visiting.
Take a moment to think about an idyllic, quintessential English village…now take a look at the collection of pictures below…Welcome to Cockington, Devon! If ever there was a location in Devon that epitomizes this stereotype, Cockington is definitely the place to visit. In the heart of this small village is Cockington Court, a 16th century historic manor house that is surrounded by acres upon acres of beautiful country park.
A collection of tea gardens can be found scattered throughout the village and although you may not spend a full day in Cockington, there are not many places in Devon worth visiting to experience a stereotypical cream tea more than this historic village.
Just a few miles outside of Torquay, Cockington is the perfect place to visit prior to or after your visit to the nearby coastal town. It’s one of those places that once you visit, you won’t regret it and you will likely be wanting a return visit, if only to see those idyllic thatch cottages.
The historic market town of Totnes is one of the quirkiest places worth visiting in Devon. Before venturing into this town, why not visit the breathtaking Buckfast Abbey in nearby Buckfastleigh. A working monastery, this historic attraction dates back to the 11th century when an abbey was first constructed on these sacred grounds. Today, this is home to a collection of self-sufficient Benedictine monks that welcome visitors from all across the globe.
After a quick visit to Buckfastleigh, head into Totnes to walk up the main street admiring the beautiful architecture and exploring the popular open-air market that is one of the highlight attractions here. Local goods, produce and souvenirs can be purchased here and it’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular markets throughout Devon.
At the top of the main street, take a short walk to Totnes Castle, one of the best remaining examples of a Norman motte and bailey castle left standing in England. A self-guided tour can lead you to the very top of this castle where you can enjoy 360-degree views of the surrounding region and beyond.
Devon is a county that you cannot afford to miss out on when you are ready to explore England. For those that are reading this and already live in the immediate vicinity of Devon, you should be prepared to take some epic day trips because each and every one of these locations is an amazing experience.
Whatever type of traveler you are, there is something in Devon waiting to satisfy your needs. This is just a small collection of amazing day trips that we have been fortunate enough to take but the beauty of Devon is that there is so much more. We didn’t even mention the spectacular Canonteign Falls, one of the highest natural falls in the UK, the historic city of Exeter or many other places…the list is endless but you just have to let spontaneity take over when you are in Devon and start exploring.
With untouched countryside, rugged yet breathtaking coastal paths and much more, Devon is a natural paradise waiting to be discovered. Combine this with a collection of quintessential towns and villages and you are presented with a county that is more than just home to decadent fudge and delicious cream teas. But don’t forget to sample that clotted cream because it’s just as good as the stereotype suggests!