WESTERN DARTMOOR

 

 

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.

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 along a Dartmoor gorge

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.

 

NORTHERN DARTMOOR

 

 

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.

Details: www.drakesdartmoor.co.uk/drakestrail/pdfs/cycling-leismaps-graniteway.pdf

 

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, www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/okehampton-castle

 

 

SOUTH COAST – SALCOMBE AREA

 

 

46. 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. 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.

 

 

 

47. 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. 

 

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.

Cost: six oysters for around £9; fish mains from £8.

Locaton: 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 (01548 511209, www.pigsnose.co.uk)

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. Boat up the 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. Take a trip on one of the boats, or  on the UK’s last remaining coal-fired paddle steamer, returning home after 47 years.

Location: Dartmouth embankment, TQ6 9BH

Details: 01803 555872, www.dartmouthrailriver.co.uk

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

 

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. Take a tour of a vineyard

Award-winning Sharpham vineyard oofers regular tours.  The views of River Dart and Capability Brown-designed hillsides are spectacular. Closed winter. Book ahead.

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

 

 

WEST DEVON

 

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 SURROUNDS

 

 

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

 

 

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