51 reasons to visit South Devon

By Ross Purdy on August 24, 2016

Wondering whether to visit South Devon for a holiday? We’ve put together 51 reasons why coming here for your next break is an easy choice.


1. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

South Devon is an officially designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, famous for its patchwork fields, rolling hills, winding rivers and dramatic coastline. That’s why the first item on our list of reasons to visit South Devon has to be the overall beauty of our region.

The South Devon countryside

2. Artists and artisans

A magnet for artists and craftspeople from around the country and beyond, South Devon is a great place to pick up original paintings, sculptures and other works of art.

3. Motorboat hire

Thanks to companies like Dartmouth Boat Hire and Dittisham boats, you can hire a cruiser and use it to explore some of the region’s best scenery from a whole new angle. Many people come to visit South Devon every year to explore its rivers, estuaries and coastline – why not join them?

4. Beautiful beaches

Family Beach Holidays -Blackpool Sands

One of the best and more popular reasons to visit South Devon is to give yourself the chance to get to know some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, including two Blue Flag Beaches in Blackpool Sands and Bigbury-On-Sea. Find out more about the best beaches in South Devon here.

5. South Devon Chilli Farm

Spice-seekers simply have to take a trip to the South Devon Chilli Farm to find out why celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver rate their products so highly. From chilli chutney to a bewildering variety of chilli chocolate, you can enjoy it all.

south-devon-chilli-farm-1

There’s a café onsite and a show tunnel where you can find out more about how they do it.

6. The South West Coast Path

South West Coast Path

Explore some stunning stretches of the South West Coast Path on foot, for example from Dartmouth to the southern tip of Start Bay, or from Hope Cove’s beaches to Bigbury Beach.

7. Secret coves

If bustling beaches are what you’re looking for, you’ll have a wonderful time at spots like Bantham Beach and South Milton Sands. But if you’re looking for ‘secret’, secluded coves you’ll find plenty of these too – like Mattsicombe Beach and Lannacombe Beach for example. Next time you visit South Devon, make sure to stray a little from the beaten track – you’ll be amazed at the beauty spots you’ll uncover.

The beach from the Coast Path

8. Crabbing

Dartmouth and Salcombe are fantastic spots for crabbing, something that kids can enjoy for hours on end. You can pick up all the required equipment from a range of local outlets so you’ll be ready to start the hunt in no time!

9. Cream Teas

Nothing says ‘Devon’ like a traditional Cream Tea. Few people can visit South Devon without having this at least once during their stay.

Top 5 places to enjoy a traditional Devon Cream Tea

With a huge range of cafes offering this local speciality, you can have your fill of the clotted cream classic, or why not try an alternative – chilli teas at the South Devon Chilli Farm cafe and cheese teas are two we recommend. Take a look at our recommendations for places for Cream Teas in Devon here.

10. Dartington Hall and Gardens

Dartington Hall

In 1925, two idealistic aristocrats by the names of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst bought the 14th century Dartington estate, and transformed it from its neglected state to a space that welcomes musicians and artists from all over the world. Explore the estate and its stunning landscaped gardens.

11. Dartmouth Castle

Dartmouth Castle’s 600-year history began when the town’s merchants required a way to secure the growing wealth of the town from the greedy eyes of pirates and foreign invaders. Explore the castle’s evocative interior, not forgetting to look out over the beautiful Dart estuary from the building’s commanding position.

Dartmouth Castle

Find out more about Dartmouth Castle in this blog post.

12. Regattas

The importance of sailing, sea trading, fishing and the Royal Navy to South Devon are reflected in two of its most popular events: The Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta and the Salcombe Town Regatta, two of the biggest events of their kind in the south west.

13. Great fishing

South Devon is a great place for fishing, whether that’s from a chartered vessel, the banks of the Dart or Kingsbridge Estuary, the shores of Start Bay, or the harbour’s edge in Salcombe or Dartmouth.

There’s more information about fishing in South Devon here.

14. Clotted cream fudge

Local specialities don’t get much more indulgent and addictive than the Devon fudge you can pick up from independent producers like Edward’s Fudge Kitchen in Dartmouth. Find out who won our South Devon Fudge Off here.

15. Greenway

Greenway, the former home and estate of Dame Agatha Christie, sits on the bank of the beautiful River Dart. You can reach the stunningly-restored and maintained house and grounds via river cruise from Dartmouth or even by steam train from Kingswear.

A visit to Greenway - one of the most popular things to do in South Devon

Explore South Devon’s three National Trust properties in this blog article.

16. Hope Cove

Hope Cove’s beaches are two of the most scenic and characterful in South Devon, great for rockpooling and building sandcastles as well as just lying back and enjoying the vista. After a day at the beach, head back into the village to choose from its wide range of fantastic pubs and restaurants.

Hope Cove

17. Local ice cream

With two fabulous local producers of delicious handmade ice cream in the form of Salcombe Ice Cream and the Dartmouth Ice Cream Company, you’re sure to find your favourite flavour.

18. Scenic journeys

One of the best things about living in or visiting South Devon is the beautiful views you can enjoy when travelling from place to place – a far cry from a typical urban commute. The coastal road (A379) running along a stunning section of Start Bay is especially impressive.

19. The Kingswear Castle Paddle Steamer

paddle steamer

While there are plenty of river cruise options in the region, there are none quite like the traditional Paddle Steamer that leaves Dartmouth on a range of coastal and river routes. Discover more about Dartmouth boat trips here.

20. The Lighthouse at Start Point

The iconic Start Point Lighthouse, accessible via the South West Coast Path or the nearby Start Point car park, is well worth a visit in order to enjoy some of the region’s most spectacular coastal scenery.

21. The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

The Coombe Park Visitor Centre at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary in Littlehempston near Totnes is a wonderful place to learn about these magnificent animals and the good work done by this charity.

22. The microclimate

T SANDS SUNSET 3

Thanks to the famous South Devon microclimate, we usually enjoy warmer summers, milder winters and fewer days of rainfall than the UK average. The palm trees love it down here, and we’re confident you will too! What better reason to visit South Devon than to soak up the sun – without having to endure airports, ferry port queues and jet lag?

23. The Naval College

It’s impossible to visit Dartmouth without noticing the imposing Naval College that towers over the town, but did you know you can see it up close by signing up for a historical tour? Britannia Naval College Tours take place on Mondays – find out more from the Britannia Association.

24. Overbecks

Overbecks House and Gardens, the former home of the eccentric scientist and inventor, Otto Overbeck, are worth a visit for the exhibitions of art and natural history, the beautiful gardens and the fantastic views from on high.

25. Pennywell Farm

pennywell-pigs-in-pumpkin-banner-jpg

Pennywell Farm, one of the best-loved animal attractions in Devon, is a popular petting zoo in easy reach of the South Hams, just off the A38 near Buckfastleigh.

26. The Rare Breeds Farm in Totnes

Take a trip to Totnes to meet a range of pet-able critters including several species of owl, in addition to plenty of interesting farmyard animals.

27. South Devon Railway

The South Devon Railway and Dartmouth Steam Railway are great reasons to visit South Devon.

The South Devon Railway, a steam and vintage diesel service running between Totnes and Buckfastleigh via beautiful Staverton, offers a fantastic day out, with opportunities to save money on admission to Buckfast Butterflies, Dartmoor Otters and the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm.

28. Learning to sail

Going sailing for the first-time? Expert instructor Ross Crook recommends starting small.

Sailing and South Devon are traditional bedfellows and the sport of sailing remains hugely important to the character of the region. Never done it before? Why not learn to sail under expert instruction with Salcombe Dinghy Sailing? Take a look at our first time sailing tips here.

Salcombe Yawls on the waterBill ‘Scratch’ Hitchen is another friendly local sailing instructor offering expert lessons to novices and advanced learners. We asked him all about the unique Salcombe yawl in this article.

29. Salcombe crab

Salcombe crab sandwiches are a true South Devon delicacy – if you’ve never tried one before, be sure to order one next time you’re in the region.

30. Totnes Castle

The mott and bailey castle still standing proud over Totnes is a beautiful sight, but it’s the view outwards from inside the castle – giving you unbeatable views of the town and the River Dart – that will really take your breath away.

31. Pampering opportunities

Enjoy South Devon hospitality at its best with a pampering session at one of its best spas, such as Dart Marina or Dartmouth Golf and Country Club.

32. Sharpham Vineyard

Sharpham Vineyard, a pioneer of English commercial winemaking, is a fantastic place to visit to learn about the art and since of producing wine, do some tasting and perhaps pick up a few bottles. There’s also an al fresco Anchorstone café, with a menu designed to complement the wines produced at the vineyard.

33. Watersports

The Blue Flag awarded beach Blackpool Sands, near Dartmouth in South Devon

Beaches like Salcombe South Sands, Bantham Beach and South Milton Sands offer excellent opportunities for surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, whether you’re a beginner looking for tuition or an expert needing a place to hire equipment.

34. Woodlands Family Theme Park

The largest theme park of its kind in Devon, Woodlands is a favourite with kids of all ages, and has a huge indoor adventure centre for the little ones to enjoy on rainy days.

35. Yachts for charter

Several local companies offer yachts for chartering, such as Salcombe Sailing Experiences – which offer them with or without a skipper.

36. Dartmoor and Paignton Zoos

In addition to the excellent animal attractions we have in our region, sitting very close to the South Hams are two other excellent zoos. Dartmoor Zoo is the inspiration for the Hollywood film,’ We bought a zoo’, while Paignton Zoo is renowned as one of the biggest and best in the country.

37. Buckfast Butterflies

Buckfast Butterflies is a popular animal attraction within easy reach of the South Hams. Meet and learn about a variety of local and exotic butterflies and moths. Animal lovers will find plenty to keep them occupied when they visit South Devon, as you’ll see from some of the other attractions in our list.

38. Old-world pubs

The Cherub Inn - a popular Dartmouth pub

South Devon has some of the oldest and most charming pubs in the country, from the foodie Cott Inn in Dartington, which has been welcoming guests since 1320, to the tiny Cherub Inn in Dartmouth, which resides in a glorious old building dating back to 1380. Find out more about the best pubs in South Devon here.

39. Dog-friendly culture

South Devon welcomes dogs in many of its shops, cafes, pubs and beaches, while there’s no shortage of high quality holiday homes also open to dog lovers.

40. Luxury accommodation

Woodwell We

Coast & Country Cottages offers around 400 luxury holiday properties in Salcombe, Dartmouth and elsewhere in South Devon, so there are ideal options for large groups, couples, young families, friends and more.

41. Wildlife watching

There are wildlife reserves at Slapton Ley (the largest freshwater lake in the south west) and Widdecombe Ley – great for birdwatchers – while off the coast you stand a good chance of catching a glimpse of a seal, dolphin or even a basking shark.

42. Unique shops

Shopping with a South Devon twist means making the most of the unique, individual shops and galleries that decorate our towns. Whether you’re looking for designer clothes, locally produced jewellery or unique works of art, you’ll find it all here.

43. Award-winning restaurants

galley-restaurant-jpg

South Devon’s reputation as a haven for foodies grows every year. With award-winning restaurants like Mitch Tonks’ Seahorse in Dartmouth and some fantastic gastro-pubs, you’ll never be short of options – no matter what the occasion.

44. Bakeries and delis

Our towns and many of our local villages are blessed with some excellent independent bakeries and delis, like @11s in Kingsbridge, the Salcombe Bake House, Salcombe Deli and more. Find out who won our best Devon pasty award here.

45. The Dartmouth Food Festival

The annual Dartmouth Food Festival, called a top 10 UK food event by the Guardian newspaper, is a great place to learn from the masters as well as to sample some of the best cooking from the region. 21st to 23rd October 2016, when the festival’s running, is a great time to visit South Devon – but you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eateries all year round.

46. Music events

One of the 2015 Dart Music Festival's quirkier performers

Live music accompanies most of our biggest annual events, and it takes centre-stage every May when the Dart Music Festival takes place, featuring over 100 live bands and performers from a wide range of genres.

47. Woodland walks

If you’d like to take a stroll somewhere more sheltered than the bracing trails of the South West Coast Path, beautiful walks through the woods are open to you at places like Loddiswell along the old railway line, and St Andrew’s Woods near Kingsbridge.

48. Healthy living

What could be better for lowering the blood pressure and filling you with positivity than fresh air and exercise amongst the beautiful natural scenery? There are also lots of alternative health options too, from yoga to reiki, which you can enjoy in many places in the region, and especially in Totnes which is one of the best-known centres of alternative lifestyles in the country.

49. Wild swimming

Love the water but not so keen on salt or chlorine? Take a look at our article on wild swimming in South Devon here.

50. Arts and crafts

With welcoming crafts spaces like Paper Bird Island in Salcombe, the Art Café in Kingsbridge and China Blue in Totnes, you can enjoy some relaxing time with the kids, and get reacquainted with your own artistic side. Here’s more information about things to do with kids in South Devon.

Art Cafe

51. Parks and gardens

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own garden or just love discovering new parks and gardens bursting with colour and interest, you’ll find plenty of excellent gardens in South Devon to explore.

dartmouth_royal_avenue_gardens_fountain_resized

There are plenty more reasons to visit South Devon on our blog.