A little bit of research about the best places to visit with your family, the top swimming spots, best cream teas and other action-packed adventures.
I have visited Devon many times over the years but always as a guest or visitor, never as a hardcore regular so I have snatched, pilfered and borrowed everyone else’s family haunts for this blog. It leaves me longing to go back for a cream tea, a wild swim and a tour of this vast collection of some of England’s most stunning beaches. Like Cornwall, it is crammed with an incredible choice of secret coves, windswept cliff-top views, amazing rock-pooling, crabbing, snorkelling, some of the best sea-fishing and seafood eating in the country. It is a heartland of daredevil watersports, rich in our country's most exciting history. It isn’t a wonder that families return year after year….
Snorkeling Adventures on Lundy IslandArguably the top snorkeling spot in the UK, the first area in Britain to be named a ‘marine conservation area’ is Lundy Island, just off the North Devon coast. Take the 2 hour ferry from Bideford or Ilfracombe. Look out for lobster, seals, dogfish and dolphins or stay above water to see the rare and beautiful wildlife, this island has a riveting history and fascinating geology to boot. The Marisco Tavern is the place to eat; you can also order a picnic from here and feast on delicious local produce. Join the ‘Lundy Letterbox Trail’ for an off-the-beaten track for a mini tour of the island.
Lundy Island Info: www.landmarktrust.org.uk/lundyisland
Marisco Tavern: Info on the Landmark’s trust own site.
Wild Swimming at StavertonStop off at Staverton, a jewel in Devon’s crown, not far from Totnes. Take the path downstream of the Dart, past the weir where you will find a gentle and relatively warm spot for a wild swim. There are even steps built up the trunk of an old tree making it marginally more family-friendly than most wild swimming spots. The Sea Trout Inn is a lovely spot for lunch, the head-chef has worked with Gordon Ramsay & Heston Blummenthal and is passionate about using local ingredients.
Website: The Sea Trout Inn: www.theseatroutinn.co.uk
Fabulous Rock-Pooling, Wildlife & an Assault-Course in North DevonThere is something for all ages at Combe Martin, a pretty North Devon gem with a clean, sandy beach that is great for rock-pooling. You can kayak, fish or just watch for dolphins at sunset. Over at nearby Broad Sands, if you park at the Sandy Cove Hotel and join the coastal path, there are steep steps to a beautiful, secluded beach where confident swimmers can swim in sea caves. If you are in the area for longer, take a look the Ultimate Adventure Centre where among other things such as surfing lessons, nerf wars, coasteering & mountain boarding, there is a challenging-looking assault course with ‘big balls’ to climb on, a water slide and high ropes: a real attraction for boys of all ages.
Ultimate Adventure Centre: ultimateadventurecentre.com
Sandy Cove Hotel Walks: www.sandycove-hotel.co.uk
Victorian Tidal Pools at IlfracombeFor a unique swimming experience, don’t miss the Tunnels at Ilfracombe Hand-carved in the 1800’s, there are 4 tunnels taking you through the cliffs onto secluded beaches with tidal pools. Inevitably, they are home to beautiful and rare wildlife to boot so bring your binoculars to look out for peregrine falcons & porpoise. Check the tides before you go and book ahead in busy periods.
The Tunnels: www.tunnelsbeaches.co.uk
Tide Times for the Tunnels: tides.willyweather.co.uk
Eat Out: 11thequay.co.uk (Keep your eyes peeled for Damien Hirst’s artworks adorning its walls).
Sea-Tractor Ride at Bigbury Beach, Paddleboarding & Crab LunchHead to the award-winning Bigbury Beach , a sumptuous lunch also found at where they serve crab in buckets, and take a sea-tractor ride to Burgh Island, home to a much-lauded range of flora and fauna. If you are lucky enough to be a guest at the Burgh Island Hotel, you can have access to their very own natural sea-water bathing pool, otherwise you are allowed to take a walk around the island that’s home to thousands of interesting sea-birds. End your day with drink at the 700 year old Fishermans haunt, the Pilchard Inn on the edge of the island. If you haven’t tried Stand-Up Paddleboarding before, this is the spot to try it- hire a board from ‘Discovery Surf’ and circumnavigate the crystalline waters of Burgh Island.
Oyster Shack: www.oystershack.co.uk
Burgh Island Hotel: www.burghisland.com
The Pilchard Inn: www.burghisland.com
Discovery Surf & SUP School: www.discoverysurf.com
The Magic of the River Yealm & Rockpooling for BlennySeek out the magical Noss Mayo, a beautiful, secluded village on the River Yealm. It lies at the end of the estuary just next to Newton Ferrers. There is a river ferry travelling between the 2 villages and onto the SW Coastal Path making it a superb day trip spot. From here, you can also walk to Wembury, a beach of ‘outstanding natural beauty’, very good for rock-pooling (one of the few places you may spot a ‘Blenny’ the only fish that can live out of the water). Finish back in Noss Mayo at the Ship Inn for a delicious fish and chips over-looking the Yealm. Undoubtedly one of Devon’s real gems. An alternate route could also be to take the path to privately-owned Mothecome beach (only open to the public on weds/sat & sun).
River Ferry Timetable: www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk
The Ship Inn, Noss Mayo: www.nossmayo.com
Waterfalls, Wild Swimming & Winning Fish & ChipsSomewhat more off the beaten-track is Ivybridge, a pretty spot steeped in the cloth & milling heritage of Devon, its eponymous bridge was painted by Turner, giving you some idea of the stunning countryside it resides in. There is a beautiful walk to one of Devon’s most popular wild swimming spots, the waterfalls of Ivybridge beginning with 3 woodland pools. Not for the inexperienced swimmer, it is a breath-taking sight even from land and a chance to sample some of Dartmoor’s awe-inspiring countryside. You are only a stone’s throw from Plymouth here and where the reigning champion of the 2017 the Best Fish & Chips Award; Kingfisher Fish & Chips is based in Plympton or try the recently refurbished Trehill Arms (earliest reviews have been very positive).
Fish & Chips: www.kingfisherfishandchips.co.uk
Trehill Arms, Ivybridge: www.trehillarms.co.uk
National Fireworks Championships and Bushcraft ExperiencesIt is also worth mentioning if you are in the area on 9-10th August, Plymouth Harbour is hosting the National Fireworks Championships. The ‘Outdoor Skills’ company are offering a 3 hour canoe trip to get front row seats of the evenings events so why not pack up some sausage rolls and hot chocolate and make it a memorable family night out. The same company offer moonlight canoe trips, fabulous bushcraft courses and days out for foragers and other survival skills training in the area too.
National Fireworks Championships: www.britishfireworks.co.uk
Outdoor Skills Company: www.seriousoutdoorskills.co.uk
Prehistoric Dartmoor & Wild CampingStop over for a day in Dartmoor’s National Park; the Two Moors Way boasts the Upper Erne Stone Row, one of the world’s longest stretches of prehistoric stone structures in the world. It finishes with a rock circle of 26 rocks. Stand here and be easily transported back quite simply to another era. We thought this worth a mention as Wild Camping is positively encouraged on Dartmoor and friends have recommended PILES COPSE, on the banks of the River Erne as the perfect spot. There is even a pub, the Peter Tavy Inn if you are fed up of foragers soup by then!
Two Moors Way : www.devon.gov.uk
Peter Tavy Inn: www.petertavyinn.co.uk
Prawle Point Walk & Traditional Pub GrubThere is a staggeringly beautiful walk from Prawle Point only 1hr 30mins (approx. 3 miles) overlooking this stunning stretch of the South Devon coast from the cliff-tops. Look out for the pearly white sandy cove with its luminescient waters at the pretty secluded, Moor Sands Beach. There is a rope helping you down to the beach, this may not be suitable for smaller legs but resist if you can. Nearby The Pigs Nose Inn serves tasty, traditional pub food and is popular for its busy schedule of live music in the summer months too.
Walk Info: www.nationaltrust.org.uk
The Pigs Nose Inn: www.pigsnoseinn.co.uk
A Perfect Day in SalcombeNot forgetting glorious Salcombe; Start your day at North Sands with the delicious breakfast buffet at The Winking Prawn. Next, take the ferry from the Ferry Boat Inn on Four Bay Road over to Mill Bay, a privately owned beach with golden sands and rock-pools aplenty.
The Winking Prawn: winkingprawngroup.co.uk
Ferry Details: www.southsandsferry.co.uk
Best Breakfast in Devon & Blue Flag Devon BeachesDescribed as one of the top 10 breakfasts in the UK by the Guardian recently, the Venus Café is crammed with mouth-watering, locally sourced treats on the menu. Even more appealing, it is located at one of South Devon’s most pretty, pine-fringed beaches, Blackpool Sands. A Blue Flag beach, it is a supremely clean, well-equipped (paddleboards, kayaks for hire) beach that is ideal for a family day out in South Devon.
Venus Café: www.lovingthebeach.co.uk
Blackpool Sands Info: https: www.blackpoolsands.co.uk
Quintessential Devon in DittishamAlso named as a top spot for the best English breakfast in the UK is the ‘Café Alf Resco’ in Dartmouth. A 30 minute ferry-ride from here is one of Devon’s and certainly one of England’s prettiest, most unspoilt villages; Dittisham. This is Devon at its finest: an unspoilt, picturesque, riverside village humming with life. The FerryBoat Inn is an old fashioned English pub serving exactly what the hungry hoards demand after a day’s crabbing on the nearby pontoon. 5th August is the Dittsum regatta with rowing, crabbing races and a chance to see some of the Dittisham local heroes on this quintessially british day out.
Café Al Resco: cafealfresco.co.uk
Ferry Info: greenwayferry.co.uk
Ferryboat Inn: www.ferryboatinndittisham.pub
Dittsum Regatta: www.dittisham.org.uk