Divine Devon Towns and Villages
From divine Dartmoor villages to sun-soaked sailing towns, we round up our favourite places to visit in Dartmoor and South Devon.
This pretty stannary town is crammed with cafes, tea rooms, farm shops and delis. Check out Blacks for great light lunches and local farm produce, Moorland Dairy for delicious local ice-cream and Jaded Palates for a handpicked wine selection. Half-day closing on Wednesday afternoons.
Dubbed the gateway to the moor, Ashburton is an elegant town whose fine slate-hung frontages house a well-to-do selection of delis, cafes and restaurants, most notably the Agaric Restaurant, the Fish Deli and Ashburton Deli. It's also a great place to stock up on antiques.
Tavistock is the birthplace of Sir Francis Drake, and the UK's best market town according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England. What marks it out is its food. Country Cheeses showcases hundreds of the West Country's finest, and Crebers Delicatessen are both award winners. The farmers’ market fills elegant Bedford Square on the second and fourth Saturday of every month.
Widecombe in the Moor
This remote 13th century village (above) is one of the moor's most picturesque. It has a lovely church, National Trust shop selling super-soft wool blankets and the tiny Rugglestone Inn, which has flagstone floors, open fires and Dartmoor and Butcombe Best Bitter poured straight from the barrel.
Buckland in the Moor
This hamlet is one of the most irresistibly pretty in the county, with a gorgeous scattering of thatched cottages and an ancient church. Stroll the hill above Buckland to find the ten commandments carved into an exposed rock.
Everywhere you turn in the little village of Lustleigh you’re offered a postcard perfect view, from the ancient church to thatched cottages to the rolling hills of the surrounding Wrey Valley. Afternoon tea at the Primrose tea rooms offers all the scones, cream and loose-leaf tea your heart could desire. The village is famous for its show, and for lively May Day celebrations.
Undeniably pretty, this naval town on Devon's south coast is a gem, with ancient narrow streets, boutique shops, art galleries and delicatessens. A cobbled market place has colourful stalls and farmers markets supplying local produce. The county town of Dartmouth sits pretty on the River Dart estuary, and features a medieval castle, a museum housed in a 1640s merchant home, and a National Trust property – Agatha Christie’s home and walled garden Greenway. There’s no shortage of things to do in Dartmouth, including browsing its galleries, shopping in the one-off boutiques and eating the acclaimed seafood and local produce.
Salcombe is a gem of a town, with ancient narrow streets, pastel-coloured houses, boutique shops, art galleries, delicatessens and a bay bobbing with fishing boats. It’s a popular sailing destination, too, with ‘up-country’ yachtie visitors flock here in their hundreds in the summer. Island Street gives a taste of artisanal Salcombe – here you’ll find boat builders and art galleries, and even live lobster and crab on sale alongside buckets and spades, wetsuits, fishing tackle and chandlers. It’s also the home of local favourite Salcombe Dairy Ice Cream. You can strike out here for some of the outlying beaches, accessible from the South West Coastal Path, which runs through it.
Exeter, Devon’s congenial capital, has a fine Norman cathedral, a flourishing university, pretty Georgian streets, a few Roman ruins and a 14th century network of underground passages. The quayside has been attractively renovated, with antique and craft shops, cafés and pubs.
The estuary-side town of Topsham is a delight: its narrow lanes wind towards the harbour, which is ringed with restaurants, pubs and antique shops. Other attractions include an appealing run of 18th-century Dutch-style gabled houses, a long riverside strand, huge antiques market on the quayside and the frilly Georgian Tea Rooms which are consistently voted the best in Devon.
Tumbling down to the sea, this little fishing village makes for an idyllic day trip. A hundred boats dock daily at the famous fish market, and marine treats are a must for your lunch menu here: try the oysters, cockles and clams at harbourfront Claws, or get takeaway fish n chips at Rockfish by the market.