- Not to be confused with Devon (Alberta).
Devon (also known, far less commonly, as "Devonshire") is a large county in England's West Country, bordered to the west by Cornwall and to the east by Dorset and Somerset. Uniquely amongst English counties, Devon has two separate coastlines: to the south, on the English Channel and to the north, on the Celtic Sea and Bristol Channel. These are studded with resort towns, harbours and (more recently) surfing beaches. Devon is also home to two national parks - Dartmoor and Exmoor and includes the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel/Celtic Sea.
For purposes of Wikivoyage, Devon is divided into six regions. These regions do not map onto administrative areas, but rather onto areas which, from the point of view of the tourist, are homogeneous. These six area are:
- Exeter is Devon’s county town. It dates back to Roman times, has a cathedral, a university and in Medieval times was one of the principal cities of England.
- Plymouth is the largest city in Devon. It has historic ties with the Royal Navy and is the largest naval base in Western Europe.
- Dartmoor National Park is an upland in the south-western part of Devon, much of which is a national park. It is a popular hiking area. During the winter Dartmoor can be bleak. Many small towns and villages are nestled around the perimeter of the moor and make excellent bases for exploring the moor.
- English Riviera and South Devon covers the coastal belt between Exeter and Plymouth. It has numerous river inlets and on account of its microclimate, the Torbay area has become a popular holiday area.
- North Devon covers the area west of the River Exe that lies between Dartmoor and the Bristol Channel. It is largely farming area with market towns and a number of holiday resorts on the north coast. Part of Exmoor lies within the region.
- East Devon covers the area of Devon that lies east of the River Exe and is bounded in the south by Lyme Bay. It hosts a number of holiday resorts while its inland towns are traditional English market towns, often with a specialised industry.
Cities, towns and villages
- 3 Barnstaple
- 4 Exmouth
- 5 Newton Abbot
- 6 Tiverton
- 7 Torquay – the nexus of the Riviera, immortalised in Fawlty Towers, this harbour-side town contrasts brilliantly white buildings with sparkling blue sea
- 1 Dartmoor National Park is a swathe of moorland across the centre of the county.
- 2 Exmoor National Park has great scenery. Most of the parks in Somerset.
- 3 Lundy is an island wildlife reserve.
The name "Devon" derives from the Celtic people who inhabited the southwest of Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, the Dumnonii. Devon's flag is green, with a black and white cross.
Devon has produced tin, copper and other metals throughout its history. Tin was found in the granite of Dartmoor, and copper in the areas around the moor. In the eighteenth century, Devon Great Consols mine (near Tavistock) was believed to be the largest copper mine in the world.
Devonport, now part of Plymouth, has a long association with the Royal Navy: it was here in 1588 that Sir Francis Drake "finished his game of bowls" before taking the fleet out to defeat the Spanish Armada. Today Devonport is the largest naval base in Western Europe.
Devon has the highest coastline in southern England and Wales on its Exmoor seaboard. The "hob-backed" hills of the Exmoor National Park tumble down to the coast on Devon's Bristol Channel coast, culminating at the awesome "Great Hangman", a 318 m (1043 ft) hill with a cliff-face of 250 m (820 ft), while the "Little Hangman" has a cliff-face of 218 m (716 ft). The best way to see these cliffs is from a boat trip from Ilfracombe or (occasionally) Lynmouth or Swansea; the ferry service from Penarth in South Wales to Ilfracombe also passes by this massive coastline (see below).
Devon's Hartland point is the south-west limit of the Bristol Channel; in other words, where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic ocean. The northern limit is St Anne's Head in Pembrokeshire, 48 mi (77 km) from Hartland Point.
Many of the rocks that make up Devon are exceptional geological specimens consisting of the geological period between 416 million years ago and 360 million years ago. It was in homage to this that the period was called the Devonian.
Devon's Geological Sites include:
- The western Jurassic Coast, fossil-rich chalk, clay, and limestone, Great Britain's only natural UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Dawlish Sea Wall, fine examples of wind blown 'Young Red Sandstone' deposits with Langstone rock, a 250 million year old Conglomerate rock
- Exeter Castle is situated on an old volcano; volcanic rocks were used in the construction of the Roman buildings. There are some very fine exposures of limestone in Torquay.
Along with its nearby neighbours of North Cornwall and the Gower Peninsula, North Devon's magnificently curved Bideford Bay is one of the top surfing attractions in the UK, mainly because just like Cornwall and Gower, Bideford Bay faces westward into the vast Atlantic Ocean. The main surf areas are the white-sand beaches of Woolacombe, Putsborough, Croyde, Saunton and Westward Ho!, one of few place names in the world to contain an exclamation mark. Croyde in particular is rated as one of the best breaks in the West Country, as at low tide it boasts fast, hollow waves - just like Fistral or Langland's Bay Crab Island. Be warned however - in the summer Croyde gets extremely congested (both beach and village) and the car parking prices can seem unreasonable in the extreme. Fortunately, nearby Woolacombe and Saunton offer plenty of parking spaces and beach space.
The larger towns and cities in Devon have small but developing lesbian and gay communities, notably in Plymouth, Torquay and Exeter. Plymouth and Exeter have annual Pride events. In the more rural areas of Devon homophobia can be common and discretion is advised.
The Devon County Council Site has more information on Devon's geology and visiting its geological sites.
Exeter has two main train stations serving the city centre, St. Davids (where most long-distance services call,) and Central. Central, unsurprisingly, is closer to the centre, but the two are within a short walk of one another.
If visiting from Cornwall, the railway will take you across the Royal Albert Bridge from Saltash (in Cornwall) into Devon. When crossing this bridge, you will enjoy marvelous views of the River Tamar, which it crosses.
If visiting from the south, the railway line between London (Waterloo) and Exeter via Salisbury will transport you into east Devon, with connections with other parts of Devon at Exeter (St Davids station).
If visiting from Somerset and places north of London and Bristol, the Great Western Main Line will take you to Tiverton Parkway station (a short drive from Tiverton itself) and then to Exeter. It will then carry on to Newton Abbot (where the line to Torquay and Paignton diverges from the main line) to Plymouth and then to Cornwall.
There are also trains from the Scottish Lowlands and Northern England to Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance.
The M5 is the only motorway to enter Devon. Coming from Bristol from the north-east, it terminates in Exeter, where it continues on as the A38 towards Plymouth and into Cornwall. It also branches off north at Exeter onto the A30 which serves North Devon via Okehampton and then carries on into Cornwall.
The M5 can get very congested during the popular holiday periods and it only takes an accident to bring the whole route to a standstill. If you are travelling to Devon by car it is recommended that you travel either early in the morning or later at night to avoid the holiday build up.
.There are also National Express services from London stopping at Honiton Road Park & Ride as well as Exeter City Centre before continuing to Plymouth. Flixbus also operate services to Exeter and Plymouth City Centres.
A park and ride service is available, see National Park and Ride Directory.
Poole in Dorset is 80 mi (130 km) by road from Exeter, and receives Brittany Ferries from Cherbourg (France) and Condor Ferries from Saint Helier (Jersey). The other English Channel ferry ports are within a few hours' drive of Devon.
1 Exeter Airport (EXT IATA) has regular scheduled direct flights from Aberdeen, Alicante, Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Jersey, Málaga, and Newcastle. A greater variety of international flights operates in summer, but these are mostly aimed at jetting locals to the Med.
Many roads particularly in the south such as Blackpool (not to be confused with Blackpool in the north) and around Torcross are very narrow, and can be quite long and windy. It's highly adviced to plan your route particularly if travelling in a motor home or SUV, as many directions given by a satnav will direct travellers along such roads. It is quite doable in a small van, but anything bigger will likely be impossible.
- Dorset and East Devon Coast. More commonly known as the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site
- Lundy Island, an island in the Bristol Channel, an important conservation site with England's only statutory Marine Nature Reserve
- Buckfast Abbey, Buckfastleigh.
- Devon's Crealy Great Adventure Park, Crealy Great Adventure Park, Sidmouth Road, Exeter, EX5 1DR, ☏ . Great family days out at Devon's top theme park. The park also has a counterpart located in Cornwall.
- Fly Fishing, ☏ . The rivers around Devon have Trout, Sea Trout and Salmon. Guides can provide equipment & instruction on fly fishing for all experience levels. For Dartmoor and South Devon there is Flyfishing Devon.
- North Devon Coastal Road. (A39/A399/A3123: Bridgwater-Lynton-Ilfracombe/Woolacombe-Bideford-Clovelly, not all of these are in Devon but all are on the same road) A delightful driving route if touring Devon by car. Takes in the old towns and well-known hairpins at Porlock and Lynton, the golden sands at Woolacombe, and the pedestrianised village of Clovelly.
- Go Cycling: Cycle the Devon Coast to Coast cycle route, 99 miles from Ilfracombe to Plymouth including the Tarka Trail and Drake’s Trail. Or family cycle rides such as along the River Exe from Exeter or the Stover Trail from Newton Abbot or the Tarka Trail from Barnstaple. Or road cycle routes around Dartmoor and mountain bike routes over it!
- South Devon Crab is regarded as some of the best in the world and its stocks are plentiful and sustainably fished. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants, cafes and pubs to try this local produce.
- The cream tea, involving scones, jam and clotted cream, is a local speciality which is thought to have originated from Tavistock over a thousand years ago (although neighbouring counties also claim it); in many countries, however, this combination is known as Devonshire Tea. It is also popular in Cornwall with the only real difference being the order in which it is spread. In Devon the preferred method is cream first then the jam, whereas in Cornwall it is the other way around. Another variation is for the scone to be replaced by a split round, or split, a yeasted bun.
- Hocking's Ice Cream, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Seasonal, March to October only.. Visitors to north Devon can enjoy the region's traditional ice cream, sold from the signature cream and maroon coloured vans on Bideford Quay, Appledore Quay, Torrington Commons, Westward Ho!, Northam Burrows and Ilfracombe seafront. Traditionally only available in vanilla, more flavours are now available from a special van now just selling the flavoured ices. Don't forget the dollop of clotted cream on top!
- The pasty, a filled pastry case differing from a pie in that it is made by placing the filling on a flat pastry shape, usually a circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. The result is a raised semicircular package. The traditional pasty is filled with beef, sliced potato, turnip or swede (also known as a rutabaga) and onion and then baked. The origins of the pasty are hotly contested between Devon and Cornwall with both sides claiming the fame. Either way, the pasty is a traditional West Country recipe and is worth trying if you are visiting.
Food Drink Devon is a very useful resource for foodies visiting Devon.
- Cider: Really traditional Devon scrumpy (scrumpy being the name for farm cider) looks like bright orange juice with bits of apple floating in it. It is made using Devon apples, cider mills and cider presses. Traditionally, scrumpy was made using the wind fall apples. They would be bruised, and not suitable for eating or cooking. However a windfall apple is just right for scrumpy, they would not be quite ripe, so would be sharper and drier. They would have impurities from the ground, which helped fermentation. Scrumpy tends to be quite strong in alcohol and requires a certain degree of caution if you aren't used to drinking it (it can act as a laxative).
- Beer: Devon is very well served for microbreweries with 29 breweries that were active in the county. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has details of breweries in South Devon, North Devon and Exeter and East Devon.
- Gin: Plymouth Original Strength Gin is 41.2% alcohol by volume. It has a distinctively different, slightly less dry flavour than the much more commonly available London Dry Gin, as it contains a higher than usual proportion of root ingredients, which bring a more 'earthy' feel to the gin, as well as a smoother juniper hit. There is also a 'navy strength' variety available which is 57% alcohol by volume (100° English proof), being the traditional strength demanded by the British Royal Navy as this was the proof that would not prevent gunpowder from igniting, should it be compromised by spilled spirit
- Wine: Sharpham vineyard is near Paignton.
Devon is a very safe place to live and visit. Crime levels are well below the average for England in part a reflection of Devon's rural population distribution. However, there are some impoverished areas of some towns where crime is more common. Occasionally, outsiders can attract attention in local pubs, but this is no worse than in other areas of the country.