The Play List
75 Things To Do During Your Stay
Please check opening times before you set off: many attractions close over the winter and shops in small towns, such as Topsham, close on Sundays.
NORTH BOVEY AND AROUND
1. Walk to Bovey Castle
Ok, so it’s not actually a castle, but what Bovey Castle lacks in heritage, it makes up for with sheer quantity of facilities and sweeping views. Set on a private sporting estate up the river from North Bovey, this luxury hotel has an 18-hole championship golf course, indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, fly-fishing lake, croquet lawn and archery arena. Huge stone fireplaces, soaring ceilings, ornate panelling and squishy sofas make it one of the most comfortable places in Dartmoor to whirl away a lazy afternoon. As a guest of Moorland View, you have complimentary membership, with 10% off what you spend. Don’t bother having dinner there; our guests say the Ring of Bells is much better value. The cream teas, though, are fabulous. The 20-minute walk, along the river, across old stone bridges and through woodlands, is beautiful. Location: Off the Moretonhampstead-Princetown road, TQ13 8RE. Details: 01647 445000, www.boveycastle.com
2. Eat, drink and be merry at the Ring of Bells
Our very own village pub has one of the best reputations in Dartmoor for its food. This is rural Dartmoor, so you’ll be rubbing shoulders with sheep shearers, mole catchers and farriers. Location: North Bovey village. Contact: 01647 440 375, www.ringofbells.net
3. Climb a Dartmoor tor
For a heady shot of invigorating country air and instant perspective on your surroundings, take a brisk walk up Easdon Tor, the hill you see from the main bedroom window in the cottage. From the top you’ll see 360-degree views of Dartmoor, and be kept company by wild Dartmoor ponies who come here to graze. Location: North Bovey.
4. Have a picnic
With idyllic views of North Bovey and the surrounding countryside, our top field makes a great picnic spot in spring and summer, when the fields brim with wildflowers. The surrounding land belongs to our neighbour, Sue, who trains racehorses so you may see her stallions in the fields. A picnic rug and hamper is in the living room cupboard. Beware, it's a steep climb! Location: North Bovey.
5. Shoot clay pigeons
Local farmer Chris Conley runs private clay pigeon shoots all year round, with game shoots from November to January. If Chris is booked, try Ashcombe Adventure Centre on 01626 866766, ashcombeadventure.co.uk. Location: North Bovey. Details: 01647 221349, www.dartmoorshooting.co.uk.
6. Go hawking
Bovey Castle has a free hawking display every morning at 10am - well worth getting out of bed for. If you've always fancied yourself as a falconer, Dartmoor Hawking's Experience Day provides the chance to handle these powerful birds. Their Owl Experience is a tamer,hands-on introduction to birds of prey. Location: North Bovey. Details: 01647 433640, www.dartmoorhawking.co.uk.
7. Take a guided walk
Qualified Dartmoor guide and North Bovey resident, Debbie Jenkins, offers private hikes along old pack-horse tracks to ancient remains, stone circles, tin mines and tors. She’ll give you a history of Dartmoor as you go and point out hard-to-spot wildlife. Cost: £12 per hour (minimum two hours); £45 for a half-day, £80 a day. Details: 01647 440053.
8. Follow in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes
The jumble of boulders that make up Hound Tor, on the road to Widecombe, provides one of the most easily accessible and expansive viewpoints in Dartmoor. Supposedly the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s moorland classic, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the tor is a gentle, half-mile walk from the car park along grassy paths and dells. Look out for ‘letterboxes’ – Tupperware boxes hidden by grown-up treasure trailers – hidden between the crevices. At the top, you can see the rocky peaks of several other tors, as well as Widecombe-in-the-Moor and Bowerman's Nose. Just southeast of the tor, are the remains of a medieval village. Location: Off the Moreton-Widecombe road.
9. Dine at a two Michelin-starred restaurant
Just one of a handful of restaurants in England to have two Michelin stars, Gidleigh Park is a grand Tudor-style country manor hotel, set in 107 acres of Dartmoor woodland outside Chagford. Headed by Michael Caines (of culinary, not cinematic, fame), creative menus are delivered with pin sharp accuracy, and there’s a 50-page wine list to choose from. Well worth the £100+ price tag. Work up an appetite with a walk around the grounds. You can walk from the cottage in a couple of hours if you’re feeling fit. Location: Near Chagford, TQ13 8HH. Details: 01647 432367; www.gidleigh.com
10. Stock up in Chagford
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 Best Cellars for a small, but perfectly formed wine selection. The town has half-day closing on Wednesday afternoons. Worth trying for dinner is 22 Mill Street (01647 432 244, www.22millst.com).
11. Take a road trip
There’s no better way to blow away the cobwebs than with a drive across the high moor. The circuit to Widecombe, Buckland and around to Ashburton takes in 14th century churches, clusters of granite and thatched cottages, gurgling brooks and ancient bridges.
12. Drink Dartmoor ale straight from the cask
With flagstone floors, open fires and Dartmoor and Butcombe Best Bitter poured straight from the barrel, the Rugglestone, a Grade-II building in remote Widecombe, is the moor-dwellers’ choice. The rudimentary bar is tiny, providing plenty of opportunity to join in on the old boys’ conversations. The two restaurants - one of which has an open log fire – are more spacious, and outside, over a small bridge, is a large sheltered garden with picnic tables and fabulous views. Location: Widecombe-in-the-Moor, TQ13 7TF. Details: 01364 621327; www.rugglestoneinn.co.uk
13. Visit a Bronze Age village
One of the most complete examples of the moor’s prehistoric settlements, Grimspound is a stone enclosure littered with the leavings of 24 Bronze Age hut circles. First settled about 1300 BC, the village’s stone perimeter wall is thought to have stood at 1.7 metres high in places. The roundhouses were made from double granite walls with a rubble infill - a technique still used in dry-stone walling. The eerie setting was the model for the prehistoric hut inwhich Sherlock Holmes spent the night in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Free, and open all year round. Location: 6 miles SW of Moretonhampstead, off the B3212.
14. Take a tour of Britain’s last castle
Lutyens-designed Castle Drogo is a quasi-mediaeval granite castle that was the last to be built in Britain. Inside is Drewe's remarkable collection of venerable artefacts, such as 17th-century tapestries. The views of the Teign Gorge and Dartmoor are magnificent, and there’s a stunning walk along Fingle Gorge from the grounds (see below). Location: Drewsteignton, EX6 6PB. Details: 01647 433306; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-castledrogo.
15. Walk a Dartmoor gorge
A fairytale castle, oak-lined gorge, ancient stone bridge and traditional pub, this two-hour round trip is classic Dartmoor. Hunter’s Path runs higher up the valley, while Fisherman’s Path traces the spectacular wooded riverbank path, where kingfishers and woodpeckers dart between shaded pools, and trout, salmon and otters frolic in deep, clear waters. The small rocky beaches are perfect places for picnics and toe-dipping. Look out for glimpses of Prestonbury Castle Iron Age hill fort on the other side of the valley. At the bottom of the gorge is the age-old Fingle bridge, which has recessed buttresses for packhorses to pass. Behind it is Fingle Bridge Inn, which serves a mean cream tea and has a pretty terrace overlooking the river. In spring, the woodlands here are carpeted with bluebells and daffodils. Location: Park at Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton, EX6 6PB. Details: 01647 433306; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-castledrogo. 01647 281287; www.finglebridgeinn.com
16. Take in a view
Haytor is one of Devon’s most famous views: on a clear day you can see the coast, the Teign estuary, the moors and rolling countryside in between. The Rock Inn in Haytor Vale is a good option for food afterwards. Location: just outside Haytor Vale. Details: 01364 661305; www.rock-inn.co.uk
17. Buy local produce at a farm shop
Ullacombe Farm Shop, on the way to Haytor, sells plenty of locally made produce, from chilli chocolate to cheeses. There’s also a teashop selling superb farmhouse cakes. Location: en route to Haytor. Details: 01364 661341, www.ullacombefarm.co.uk.
18. Visit a picture-perfect thatched village
North Bovey is our favourite Dartmoor village for obvious reasons, but thatched Lustleigh, tucked away in a wooden cleave, comes a close second. It’s a rural idyll, completed by a 13th century church, cricket pitch, communal apple orchard, tea room, village shop and a friendly pub, The Cleave. The three-hour walk there from the cottage is one of our favourites (see below).
19. Walk to Lustleigh
Strike out for the beautiful two-hour walk from North Bovey to Lustleigh, taking in gorgeous views, a Roman fort and the magical woodland glen of Lustleigh Cleave, with its two-story high boulders. To top things off there’s a pub at the end, The Cleave (check ahead for opening times). Set off down the road that passes the pub via Barnecourt, and then either walk via Foxworthy or over Hunter’s Tor. Don’t forget to take the Ordnance Survey map. Book a taxi back if you’re not up to the return walk (book ahead).
20. Dine at the White Horse, Moretonhampstead
Heralded as a ‘genuine slice of foodie heaven’ by the Michelin guide, the White Horse is one of our best local restaurants. Brixham crab, lobster, scallops and wild Cornish sea bass are favourites, as is Moreton lamb, Devon Ruby beef and locally reared rare breed pork. The pizzas are the best we’ve ever tasted. and their summer brunches, served from 10am in the summer, are to die for, with classics such as Eggs Florentine, and Churros, Mediterrean Frittatas. It’s all served up in a lovely contemporary setting, and there’s a pretty walled courtyard for dining al fresco on long summer evenings. Location: Moretonhampstead. Details: 01647 440242, www.whitehorsedevon.co.uk
21. Buy local pottery
The Devon Guild of Craftsmen is the largest contemporary crafts centre in the South West, displaying beautiful pieces in an idyllic riverside setting. Location: Newton Abbot, TQ13 9AF. Details: 01626 832223, www.crafts.org.uk.
With clear, dark nights, Dartmoor is a fantastic place to view the night sky, with the Milky Way often clearly visible. Grab a picnic rug (there’s one in the cupboard in the living room), torch, blanket and bottle of wine and head to the top of Hound Tor, one of the most atmospheric and easily accessible spots to stargaze. Location: Off the Moreton-Widecombe road.
23. Go butterfly spotting
A two-mile stretch of woodland that runs along the River Teign from Clifford Bridge to Steps Bridge, Dunsford Nature Reserve has 20 species of butterfly including the rare pearl-bordered, high-brown and silver-washed fritillaries. Look out for woodland birds, as well as wagtails and dippers and the occasional kingfisher. The river walk is also wonderful for spring flowers. Location: nearest postcode is EX6 7EG. The Steps Bridge entrance to Dunsford is on the B3212 Exeter to Moretonhampstead road about 3 miles) from Moretonhampstead. Park in the Dartmoor National Park car park. The reserve entrance near Steps Bridge itself, on the Exeter side of the bridge. Details: www.devonwildlifetrust.org/reserve/Dunsford
24. Horse ride across the moor
Shilstone Rocks Stables, in Widecombe in the Moor, is the most safety conscious stable around, and offers hacks in small groups tailored to experience. Also very good, and slightly cheaper, is Babeny stables, who do two-hour hacks for £30. Details: 01364 621281, www.dartmoorstables.com); 01364 631 296, www.babenystables.co.uk.
25. Swim in a stream-fed pool (15 mins away)
Just a ten-minute drive from North Bovey, this pool can't be far from heaven. Swallows nest in the changing rooms and dive-bomb the swimmers, and with the sound of the river Teign running past stepping stones, it's as relaxed as a swimming pool gets. It’s river fed, so is chilly. Location: Rushford, Chagford TQ13 8DA. Details: 01647 432929 , www.chagfordpool.co.uk
26. Fish for your supper
Dartmoor is renowned for its sparkling clean rivers teeming wild brown trout, sea trout and salmon. If you have a licence, stretches of the East and West Dart Rivers may be fished on the purchase of a Duchy of Cornwall permit, available at the post office at Postbridge. Fingle Bridge is another beautiful spot; the Fingle Bridge Inn sells daily permits (01647 281287, www.finglebridgeinn.com). Dartmoor also hosts stunning lakes and reservoirs surrounded by towering tors. Information is available from the South West Lakes Trust on 01837 871565. www.swlakestrust.org.uk. Bovey Castle runs private fishing lessons.
27. Drink at the Nobody Inn
An entire wall of this traditional 17th century is given over to its collection of 240 whiskies and spirits, while another room houses the 250-strong wine collection. ‘Nuff said. Location: Doddiscombsleigh EX6 7PS. Details: 01647 252 394; www.nobodyinn.co.uk
ASHBURTON AND AROUND
28. Hunt for antiques
Dubbed the gateway to the moor, Ashburton is an elegant town whose fortunes were founded on cloth and mining. It is one of Dartmoor’s four stannary towns, where tin was bought to be taxed – and its fine slate-hung frontages house a well-to-do selection of antique shops, delis, cafes and restaurants. Most notable of the latter is the Agaric Restaurant, the Fish Deli and Ashburton Deli.
29. Eat in a field kitchen
Food doesn’t get fresher or more local than at Riverford Field Kitchen, the organic farm that is home to the famous veg box scheme. Enormous bowls of hearty homespun fayre is served up on long tables in a wonderfully convivial atmosphere. Booking is essential. Price: £19.90 for a two-course lunch; £26.50 for a three-course dinner. Location: Wash Farm, Buckfastleigh, TQ11 0JU. Details: 01803 762059; www.riverford.co.uk.
30. Learn to cook
Housed in one of Ashburton’s many grand merchant's houses, the town’s famous cookery school runs short cookery classes in fish and seafood, bread, and "gastro pub" style food. One of the founders has been promoting organic food since the 1980s. Location: Ashburton, TQ13 7LG. Details: 01364 652784, www.ashburtoncookeryschool.co.uk.
31. Go canoeing or kayaking
The River Dart is the most popular canoeing destination in the national park and the white water is considered by many canoeing enthusiasts to be amongst the best mid-grade runs in the west. The River Dart Country Park runs guided excursions. Location: Ashburton. TQ13 7NP. Details: 01364 652511, www.riverdart.co.uk.
32. Swim in The Dart at Spitchwick
The leafy setting, the clean water (that brown colour is healthy peat) and the sheer fun of Spitchwick justifies its popularity. There’s a gorgeous swimming and picnic spot with a high corner pool, a deep, tranquil lower corner pool for serious swimmers; and a cliff for daredevil jumpers. It can get busy on a hot day as families gather to picnic on the common, and parking can be a problem - get there early for a space, or walk the half-mile from the car park at New Bridge. Location: Near Holne. From the A38 take the Ashburton Pear Tree exit and head for Princetown/River Dart Country Park. Go past the Country Park and keep going along the lane. Cross Holne Bridge and keep going. You'll come to New Bridge. Cross that and follow the road on for about 1/2 mile along level with the river. The road starts going up hill and then into a left hairpin bend, there's a tiny lane coming off this bend. Go down this lane and park in the car park on the left. Walk down to the river from there.
33. Take to the skies
Take a hot air balloon flight over beautiful Dartmoor, or down to the south coast with local company Aerosauraus. A group ride from either Ivybridge or Exeter (both half an hour's drive away) costs £125 per person, and has a maximum of 16 other passengers. Flights are twice daily. Location: Ivybridge or Exeter. Details: 01404 823102, www.ballooning.co.uk
34. Wander around Tavistock
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. Check out the farmers’ market (01822 820360, www.tavistockfarmersmarket.com) which fills elegant Bedford Square on the second and fourth Saturday of every month. Take an umbrella; it always seems to rain here!
35. Have a romantic tête-à-tête in Grade-1 listed gardens
Built in 1812 as the holiday home for the Duchess of Bedford, Georgiana Russell, this is a wildly romantic verdantly-gardened Eden between Dartmoor and Exmoor. Wander around hotel’s romantic Grade-1 listed gardens, with shell houses, grottos and hidden glades for a romantic tête-à-tête. Have a cream tea while you're there (see below). Location: Milton Abbot, near Tavistock, PL19 0PQ. Details: 01822 870 000; www.hotelendsleigh.com
36. Indulge in a cream tea
Devon is the home of the cream tea; no visit would be complete without one. Our favourite is served up at The Endsleigh (see above) for its supersized offerings and sublime setting. Just-baked scones are served up with help-yourself quenelles of thick, clotted cream and gloopy strawberry jam, alongside fragrant loose-leaf tea in bone china cups. The wood-panelled drawing room has log fires and views of the Tamar Valley. Location: Milton Abbot, near Tavistock, PL19 0PQ. Details: 01822 870 000; www.hotelendsleigh.com
37. Leaf peep
Set in the ruins of a 16th century vicarage, the Acer glade at The Garden House is one of the best spots in the UK to see Autumn colour. Location: Buckland Monachorum, Yelverton, near Tavistock, PL20 7LQ. Details: 01822 854769; www.thegardenhouse.org.uk
38. Walk to a waterfall
The 90-foot White Lady waterfall at Lydford Gorge near Tavistock is a gushing torrent enclosed by a thickly wooded ravine. Look out for kingfishers and grey herons waiting patiently for fish and listen for the drumming of great spotted woodpeckers. Location: Lydford, near Tavistock, EX20 4BH. Details: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lydford-gorge
39. Dine at the Dartmoor Inn at Lydford
On the fringe of Dartmoor and a stone's throw from one of the National Trust's prettiest walks to Lydford Gorge (see above), the Dartmoor Inn is the perfect blend of olde worlde pub-meets-contemporary diner. Sunday lunch features all the traditional favourites with a modern twist. Desserts are not to be missed either, and come with a helping of seriously good clotted cream. Book ahead. Location: Lydford, near Tavistock EX20 4AY. Details: 01822 820221, www.dartmoorinn.com.
40. Go to jail
The Mad Axeman, Frank Mitchell and the Acid Bath Murderer were all inmates at Dartmoor Prison, a grim, gothic jail in the mist-wreathed Dartmoor town of Princetown. Once a byword for the most violent offenders, the prison – now Category C – has a museum for the macabre-minded, featuring makeshift weapons and confiscated escape gear. Most shocking is a razor mounted on the tip of a toothbrush and vicious knuckle-dusters made of six-inch nails. Most amusing is the time-honoured classic of knotted bed sheets, once used in an escape attempt. Also on display are leather-belted tunics, which were used for restraint, and a fading photo of a "mad cupboard", in which deranged prisoners were locked and doused with freezing water. Location: Princetown, PL20 6RR. Details: 01822 322130; www.dartmoor-prison.co.uk.
41. Visit an ancient dwarf oak forest
Wistman’s Wood is a vestige of the prehistoric dwarf oak trees that used to cover Dartmoor. Here, moss-covered, boulder-strewn woodland floor is dotted with stunted oaks furred with mosses and lichen. The easy one-hour walk starts from the Two Bridges Hotel, near Princetown. Check out the ordnance survey map in the living room drawer for details. Location: Park at Two Bridges Hotel, near Princetown, PL20 6SW
42. Climb to a 13th century church
The tiny parish church of The Church of St Michel de Rupe ("Saint Michael of the Rock"), sitting atop Brent Tor, is one of the cutest you’ll ever see, and the views are spectacular. Around the Tor are Iron Age earthworks, the remnants of a hill fort.
43. Learn about the Dartmoor of yesteryear
Housed in a former granary, Okehampton's Museum of Dartmoor Life is a great starting point for history buffs. Fronted by a Victorian cobbled yard, it’s home to three floors of exhibits charting the social history of the moor from prehistoric times. Location: Okehampton, EX20 1HQ. Details: 01837 52295, www.museumofdartmoorlife.eclipse.co.uk.
44. Cycle The Granite Way
Skirting the edge of Dartmoor, this 11-mile traffic-free track running from Okehampton to Lydford gives views of Okehampton Castle, Meldon Viaduct, Meldon Lake, Exmoor, Bodmin Moor and, of course, Dartmoor. The Dartmoor Inn (see 39), a wonderful gastro pub, is perfectly sited at the end of the trail for a rewarding feast.
45. Get spooked at an ancient castle
An impressive Norman stronghold laid waste by Henry VIII, and one of the largest castle ruins in the south west, Okehampton Castle is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Ask about the haunted nightlife. Closed winter. Location: Okehampton, EX20 1JA Details: 01837 52844.
SOUTH COAST – SALCOMBE AREA
46. Visit Salcombe
Undeniably pretty, the pastel coloured houses, steep streets and sandy coves of this boating town attract ‘up country’ yachtie visitors in their hundreds in the summer.
47. Bask on the beach
It’s hard to choose from the array of beauties on the south coast, but Mill Bay, a quick ferry ride across the water from Salcombe, tops our list for being seaweed-free and warmed by the sun all day. In the summer, it gets busy, so take an Ordnance Survey map to walk to quieter coves further up the coast, or hire a tender boat from town. Black Cove, west of East Prawle, is a local's secret, reached via a steep path, and it's by far the prettiest beach in Devon. Further west along the coast, at Bantham beach, wetsuits outnumber bikinis on south Devon’s only surf beach. Look out for stand-up paddle surfers, a quirky new take on the sport. Lannacombe Sands is a local secret. This small, sandy horseshoe cove near Kingsbridge, is at the end of a long dirt track and only has space for six cars, so get there before 10am and you’ll be assured a spot, even in the height of summer. North east along the coast from Salcombe, nestled below wooded cliffs, is Blackpool Sands, a mile-long, privately owned sweep of shingle. By day, swimmers can practise their dives from a floating dock; at sunset, the café serves beach BBQs. Beware, it attracts families in their droves during the school holidays. For a beach with history, Slapton Sands is the place to go. More than 600 US servicemen were killed on this three-mile stretch of shingle when German E-boats attacked their D-day rehearsals. A Sherman tank on the sand commemorates them.
48. Walk the South West Coastal Path
Britain’s longest footpath traces the north and south coasts of Devon, offering easy access to wild and windswept cliffs, secluded sandy coves and tiny hamlets. The three-hour walk from Bolt Tail, near Hope Cove, to Bolt Head, near Salcombe, is our favourite, offering perfect beaches and jagged headlands. For a longer walk, start further up the coast at Bantham, and stop off at The Beach House (www.beachhousedevon.com) at South Milton Sands for lunch en route (see 51).
49. Drink in an old pirate’s island haunt
The Pilchard Inn is a creaky, weather-beaten smugglers inn dating from 1336 oozing with swashbuckling history: ask about the pirates’ escape tunnel. Getting there is all part of the fun. Perched on the tiny, tidal outcrop of Burgh Island, surrounded by sandy beaches and choppy seas, it’s cut off from the mainland twice a day so you’ll need to consult a tide table when planning your visit. When the seas have parted, it’s a short walk across the spit. When the waters start coming in, a high-sided ‘sea tractor’ ferries passengers. Location: Bigbury on Sea, TQ7 4BG. Details: 01548 810514, www.burghisland.com/subpages/pilchard.html
50. Have Sunday dinner at art deco Burgh Island
This vintage art deco hotel is perched atop a privately owned island just off the south Devon coast, and is much as it was when Winston Churchill, Noel Coward and Agatha Christie beat a path to its door in its 1930s heyday. Non-residents can only dine there on Sundays. Booking essential. Location: Burgh Island, Bigbury on Sea TQ7 4BG. Details: 01548 810514, www.burghisland.com.
51. Hang ten
Discovery Surf School offer lessons for beginners through to advanced surfers from their base in Bigbury-On-Sea all year round. A two-hour beginner lesson is £38. Location: Bigbury-on-Sea, TQ7 4AR. Details: 07813 639 622, www.discoverysurf.com.
52. Eat crispy squid at The Beach House
This weather-beaten clapboard shack overlooking the dramatic sea arch of Thurlestone is right on the beach, making it a perfect pit stop for a coastal walk. Crab cakes, crispy squid and bacon sandwiches are served up on rustic wooden tables in an amiable atmosphere. Check ahead for opening times. Price: Mains from £8. Location: South Milton Sands. TQ7 3JY. Details: 01548 561144; www.beachhousedevon.com.
53. Shuck oysters
Don’t be put off by the garish décor at this former oyster farm: the freshness of the oysters at The Oyster Shack is famous. Handpicked from the River Avon less than half a mile away, the meaty molluscs are served with a huge selection of mouth-watering sauces. Non-oyster fans can choose from other cooked-to-perfection fish dishes. Cost: six oysters for around £9; fish mains from £8. Location: Bigbury, TQ7 4BE. Details: 01548 810876; www.oystershack.co.uk.
54. Eat at The Millbrook
Probably the only place in Devon where pigs’ trotter patties and escargots appear on the same menu, this cosy pub is old school Devon meets French auberge. On a babbling brook and close to a tranquil creek, it’s accessible by boat from Salcombe so, in summer, yachtie crowds come and go with the tides. There’s live gypsy Jazz every Sunday and fish barbecues in the summer. Price: From £12 for three courses. Location: South Pool, near Kingsbridge, TQ7 2RW. Details: 01548 531 581; www.millbrookinnsouthpool.co.uk.
55. Drink at the Pigs Nose, East Prawl
South west of Salcombe, on a beautiful stretch of coastal path, is this whitewashed smuggler’s inn. Run by a delightfully eccentric music manager, its played host to The Animals, The Yardbirds, the Boomtown Rats and Curiosity Killed the Cat, and still stages regular acts. The knitting corner is for customers who prefer a quieter pint. Location: East Prawl, TQ7 2BY. Details: 01548 511209, www.pigsnoseinn.co.uk
SOUTH COAST – DARTMOUTH AREA
56. Visit Dartmouth
Dartmouth is a gem of a town, with ancient narrow streets, boutique shops, art galleries and delicatessens. A cobbled market place has colourful stalls and farmers markets supplying local produce.
57. Eat fish and chips by the sea
Serving one of the best fish and chips in Devon, the Rock Fish Grill is a stylish beach shack-style takeaway and restaurant on Dartmouth’s harbour run by celebrity chef Mitch Tonks. The menu includes locally-landed scallops and oysters, along with classics such as jellied eels, cockles, cracked crab and potted shrimp. Price: Fish and chips from £9. Location: Dartmouth TQ6 9BH. Details: 01803 832800; www.rockfishgrill.co.uk.
58. Go on a picnic boat on the River Dart
Winding its way from Dartmoor to the port of Dartmouth on the South Devon coast, the Dart is grown-up’s playground in the summer, with yachts and pleasure boats plying between beaches, historic sites, villages and vineyards. For a picnic with a difference, hire a private boat up the Dart. You can stop off in little bays to go crabbing, or take a vineyard tour at Sharpham. There’s cover in case of bad weather. Price: A one-hour trip for two with champagne and dressed lobster is £165. Longer trips available. Location: Dartmouth to Dittisham, or Totnes to Sharpham. Details: 07968 752625, www.thepicnicboat.co.uk. Alternatively, take a trip on the UK’s last remaining coal-fired paddle steamer. Location: Dartmouth embankment, TQ6 9BH. Details: 01803 555872, www.dartmouthrailriver.co.uk
59. Go sea kayaking
New sea kayak outfit Sea Kayak Devon run trips to otherwise-inaccessible coves and caves along the south coast. Watch out for seals trying to hitch a lift! Location: Dartmouth. Details: 01392 580535, www.seakayakdevon.co.uk
60. Visit Agatha Christie’s home
Agatha Christie’s private holiday home on the River Dart is much as it was when the crime writer stayed here seeking inspiration for her books. First editions line the shelves, along with family photos and collections of botanical china and archaeological finds. Even if you’re not a fan, the house is worth a visit for its beautiful setting on the River Dart and gardens: don’t miss the peach house, winery and fernery. You can drive, but the most scenic way to arrive is by ferry from Dartmouth. Closed winter. Location: Greenway, Galmpton, near Dartmouth, TQ5 0ES. Details: 01803 842382, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway
61. Visit Totnes
Known for its laid-back hippie scene, Totnes is a smaller, more manageable centre than Exeter. A fantastic cheese shop, Riverford organic farm shop and a bevy of tea rooms are among the bonuses for shoppers, while the town’s castle ruins and city ramparts will satisfy history-lovers.
62. Sip Devonshire wine in a vineyard
This terrace café on the slopes of the award-winning Sharpham vineyard is made for lazy afternoon wine-tastings. It’s right next to the winery, so you can see – and smell – all the oak-barrelled action. Views are of the River Dart and Capability Brown-designed hillsides. Closed winter. Book ahead. Wine tours available. Location: Near Totnes, TQ9 7UT. Details: 01803 732178, www.sharpham.com
63. Enjoy a waterside tipple
A waterside pub makes summer complete, and we defy you not to fall in love with the 17th-century Waterman’s Arms, overlooking tinkling Bow Creek, near Tuckenhay. Hidden away at the bottom of a steep valley, the streamside tables are perfect for savouring a pint of the fine Palmer’s Copper Ale. The lunches, sourced from local suppliers and served under an outdoor awning, attract foodies from as far away as Exeter and Plymouth. Another enticing option is the Maltsters Arms (01803 732350; tuckenhay.com) in Tuckenhay. On the River Dart, it has its own jetty and is big on open fires in winter and guest beers all year round. Location: Ashprington, near Totnes, Devon, TQ9 7EG. Details: 01803 732214, www.thewatermansarms.net
64. Noss Mayo
A 20-mile drive west of Salcombe, Noss Mayo and nearby Newton Ferrers could be its disinherited, but quieter, sibling, with pretty estuary views, narrow streets and the same boaty culture. Our favourite spot for a drink is the Ship Inn 01752 872387; www.nossmayo.com). This two-storey inn has a sun terrace on the banks of the Yealm estuary. Nautical memorabilia on show includes searchlights, torpedos and a huge ship’s bell for chiming last orders.
65. The Royal William Bakery, Plymouth
One of Plymouth’s newest openings, this bakery-cum-café in a former brewery is the twin of the famous Town Mill Bakery in Lyme Regis. Sociable dining on long rustic wooden tables, wholesome help-yourself plates of vegetarian food, and beaten-up metallic plates give it a pleasantly ‘peasant’ atmosphere. The bread-making timetable, showing what time loaves are fresh out of the oven, is a lovely touch. Closed Mondays. Price: £5 per plate. Location: Royal William Yard, Plymouth PL1 3RP. Details: 01752 252333; www.royalwilliambakery.com.
66. Visit a stately home
The National Trust property of Saltram House may look familiar: it was used as the Dashwoods’ pad in Ang Lee’s film of Sense and Sensibility. The grand Georgian façade has a Robert Adam interior with original Chippendale furniture, Wedgwood China and portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Location: Plympton, near Plymouth, PL7 1UH. Details: 01752 333503, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/saltram/
67. River Cottage Canteen, Plymouth
Sited in a Grade I-listed cooperage on the peninsula of Plymouths’ newly renovated Royal William Yard, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s latest venture serves fresh and seasonal produce from a 30-mile radius. The décor is a tasteful mix of rustic and industrial chic, and the open kitchen with wood-fired oven is pure theatre. The on-site shop champions UK farm produce. Closed Mondays. Price: mains from £8. Location: Royal William Yard Plymouth PL1 3QQ. Details: 01752 252702; www.rivercottage.net/canteens/plymouth.
68. Try stand-up paddle surfing
Try stand-up paddle surfing down the river Avon from Aveton Gifford all the way to the river mouth at Bigbury - about three miles. It's a great way to see scenery and wildlife - herons, ducks and kingfisher upstream, waders, gulls and oystercatchers. There's a walking route if you don't fancy getting wet. Location: Plymouth PL9 7HP. Details: 01752 255999, www.reactivewatersports.co.uk.
69. Go rock pooling
Bill Oddie’s favourite beach for rock pooling, Wembury, a south coast spot near Plymouth, has a marine information centre that runs summertime rock pool rambles. Location: Wembury. Details: www.devonwildlifetrust.org/wembury-marine-centre/
EXETER AND AROUND
70. Take a city break
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. Good places to eat include the Abode in Cathedral Place, and Jack in the Green, 01404 822240,www.jackinthegreen.uk.com) in Rockbeare, just outside Exeter.
71. Visit Topsham
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 at 35 High Street (01392 873465), which are consistently voted the best in Devon – quite an achievement in the county that is the undisputed home of the cream tea. Many shops close on Sundays.
72. Drink in a traditional ale house
One of England’s last traditional ale houses, little has changed at The Bridge Inn for centuries: faded bunting from George V’s 1911 coronation still hangs in the tiny bar. With up to 10 ales poured straight from the cask, this ‘museum-with-beer’ is a must for ale connoisseurs. Location: Topsham EX3 0QQ. Details: 01392 873862, www.cheffers.co.uk/bridge.html
73. Stock up at a farm shop
Described as being ‘Selfridges’ food hall in the middle of a farm’, Darts Farm has done so much to promote regional produce it's something of a legend in the south-west. Come here for your shop, a three-course meal or just a takeaway. A favourite is the Fish Shed, a restaurant, fishmonger and take-out place rolled into one: the fish will have been caught that day. Location: Clyst St George, near Topsham, Exeter EX3 0QH. Details: 01392 878200, www.dartsfarm.co.uk
74. See how the other half live
One of the oldest family seats in Devon, the imposing edifice of Powderham Castle, set in its own deer park, belongs to the Earl of Devon. Added to and altered repeatedly over its six hundred year history, tours take in the medieval core, neo-classical areas and the Victorian kitchen. Location: Kenton, near (ish) Topsham, EX6 8JQ Details: 01626 890243, www.powderham.co.uk.
75. River Exe café
Our favourite alternative-eats venue, at least on a sunny day, is the new River Exe Café a floating shed-cum-pontoon moored off Exmouth. Serving seafood dropped off by passing fishing boats, the sea-to-plate interval can be as little as five minutes. Get there on the new Topsham to Exmouth cycle path, then catch a water taxi to the café. Closed winter. Booking essential. Location: water taxi leaves from Exmouth marina, EX8 1DU. Details: 07761 116103, www.riverexecafe.com