What is the nicest part of Devon?

What is the nicest part of Devon?

Wherever you go on the UK island you will find parts that are hidden secrets, to most of us, and you would probably find it almost impossible to pick out anywhere where you could label it as the nicest part.

Here, in Devon, we have our share of hidden coves and villages that are waiting to be discovered. Here too we would find it difficult to select a favourite that could be labelled as the nicest part of Devon.

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So, let’s look at a selection of well-appreciated parts of Devon and leave it for you to decide: what is the nicest part of Devon?

We could pick any of the place from, almost, any part of Devon and display it as a nice place to visit. So, let’s look at some examples of places which are referred to, by some, as being among their favourite parts of Devon.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

Most visitors who come to Devon go away with memories of the beaches. So, let’s look at some of the nicest examples of those. Beginning with:

  • East Portlemouth beaches

East Portlemouth is a small village found on the South Devon coast. It is to one side of the Kingsbridge estuary which makes up part of, what’s known as, the South Hams of Devon.

East Portlemouth tends to be a place that doesn’t see crowds of visitors. This makes it a peaceful and quiet part of Devon. Ideal if you want to get away from the crowds. This isn’t to say that there’s nothing here to attract the visitor. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty.

There is a secluded beach which would be attractive to families with young children. The beach is dog friendly but visitors are requested to take all the usual precautions.

There is a local ferry service that will take you to Salcombe and back again. This is a useful way to explore the area. Along the coastline there are a number of coves which are waiting for the visitor to explore. Added to this there are National Trust walks which include the East Portlemouth to Gara pathway, from this you can appreciate some of the nicest views of the South Devon coastline and you will have a chance to see the Fort Charles ruins; the remains of an artillery castle which was built by order of Henry VIII in the 1540s.

  • The village of Beer

To the east of the South Devon coastline you will find the small coastal village of Beer. The village didn’t get its name from the concept of drinking. The word beer is derived from some old English language. The Village was originally known as Bearu which meant ‘grove’. This is with reference to the type of woodland that surrounded the village at the time. This part of the South Devon coastline falls into the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. The Heritage Site continues on Eastward beyond Devon, into Dorset.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

One of the attractions of Beer Village is the history of it being a smugglers cove. There are caves along the cliffs which were used for hiding contraband products. Beer has a long history of being a fishing village and is, to this day, a busy fishing port, known for its catches of mackerel. There is no harbour. The  fishing boats are small enough to be winched up onto the beach. Most of the fish is sold locally.

The beach at beer is, mainly, made up of pebbles and is a little steep. But it’s a cove that’s tucked away between the high chalky cliffs that are characteristic of the local coastline. This made it more suitable for local fishermen to operate in weather conditions that would be difficult to work in elsewhere along the coast.

  • Dartmouth

If you visit the area known as the South Hams of Devon, you really need to to seek out Dartmouth. Dartmouth has a full maritime heritage. It’s a harbour town with a number of attractions in Dartmouth or local to it. It’s also known for a variety of popular festivals throughout the year. The two main attractions at Dartmouth, away from its maritime history, are the river and the Dartmouth steam railway.

The River Dart is being described as a watersports playground where you can do a spot of sailing or paddle boarding. There are boat trips and fairies which will take you to nearby towns including Totnes Salcombe and Torquay or you can just stay on the boat and ride around and look at the view.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

One of the nicest experiences that people have when they visit Dartmouth is to take a trip on the steam train that shuttles between Dartmouth and Kingswear. It provides an opportunity to appreciate the spectacular Devon countryside

  • Woolacombe

If you are looking for a long beach for a long walk on flat sands, you will find that Woolacombe Bay has one of the nicest and best beaches in the country. The beach at Woolacombe is 3 miles long and when you’ve walked from one end to the other, you can explore the sand-dunes that lead to wherever, inland.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

Woolacombe has an impressive display of beach-huts. There are 70 of them on the beach. These are available for use from the last week of May  through to the first week of September. If you want to make use of the beach huts you need to book in advance. To do this you need to contact the Parkin Estates company who own the beach huts. Each beach hut has a couple of deck chairs, 2 patio chairs, a table and a screen that can be used as a windbreak.

Woolacombe beach allows dogs throughout the year but there are some restrictions. From the month of May to October, dog walkers are asked to only venture into the designated, signposted dog-walking zones.

  • Saunton Sands

Saunton Sands is another favourite long beach on the North Devon coast. It’s even longer than Woolacombe beach, stretching out at three-and-a-half miles. There is also a much more extensive area of sand dunes that are among the largest around the British Isles. This is known as Braunton Burrows.

What is the nicest part of Devon?
Image: GDelhey


It will come as no surprise to those who visit Braunton Burrows that it’s designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. It is also a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) biosphere reserve. The dune area spreads out to cover approximately 1000 hectares. The Burrows are privately owned but the public are permitted and welcome to explore it.

Dogs are allowed on the Burrows but owners are requested to keep them under strict control because there are likely to be a range of ground nesting birds and, in some places, there may be grazing farm animals which prefer not to be disturbed.

  • Mortehoe

Mortehoe is another of North Devon’s hidden secrets. Set back from the rugged North Devon coastline, Mortehoe Village is within easy reach of a selection of very sandy beaches that are ideal bucket and spade territory.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

Mortehoe is about a mile away from Woolacombe Beach. If you like walking, there are plenty of paths you can take around Mortehoe which will take you out into the Devon countryside.

The nearest beach to Mortehoe is known as Grunta Beach. It’s about half a kilometre from the village and dogs are allowed. Another beach along the coastline is known as Barricane Beach. This is another cove that’s hidden away and it’s about a mile from mortehoe.

When you look at these small coves tucked away in the North Devon coastline, you can imagine how this area was used by smugglers. This is one of many places along the North Devon and South Devon coastline where smugglers could operate with relative impunity.

When you’re in Mortehoe, be sure to check out the food and drink facilities. There’s a couple of good pubs and a beach cafe, all of which are worth a visit.

  • Combe Martin

You will find Combe Martin on the North Devon coast, about 4 miles east of Ilfracombe. The village is in a sheltered valley on the edge of the Exmoor National Park. The coastal scenery around Combe Martin is another attraction in the area. Traditionally this has been a fishing port with a small harbour. These days there are more pleasure boats than fishing boats.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

There is a significant beach of golden sands which becomes more of an expanse when the tide goes out. There is an extensive range of footpaths and bridleways that take you along the coastline as well  as inland. Both of which are an ideal way of appreciating the North Devon countryside.

Combe Martin appears to be a long spread out village. Some say that it has the longest street of any village in the country. It finds its way along the valley to the sea for more than 2 miles.

The history associated with Combe Martin is rather intriguing. There is the story of the pack of cards inn. This was built in 1626 by George Ley. This was following a significant win when playing cards. He was so excited about the win that he decided to build a pub in the shape of a pack of cards in a pile. The building has 52 to windows, each one representing a card in the pack.

Then there’s the other story about the church of St Peter, which can be found about a mile inland. At the southern door there is a sanctuary ring. Fleeing criminals could apparently hold this ring which allowed them to escape arrest and imprisonment but they had to confess their crimes and ensure that they left the country. This arrangement came to an end in the 17th century.

There are many stories about things that happened and the goings on, especially in North Devon. In some parts you may hear stories about witchcraft. You mustn’t be surprised at what you hear when you get talking to some of the people here in Devon.

  • Croyde bay

You will find Croyde Bay between the expanse of Woolacombe Bay to the North and Saunton Sands to the South. If you get the chance, you must visit all three of these beaches to appreciate the splendour of all the beaches on the North Devon coastline.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

Whenever anyone speaks of the beaches around North Devon, much can be rightly made of the quality of surfing. Many will tell you that the North Devon coastline beaches are the surfing-capital of the region. When we look at Croyde Bay, here is another one. The waves that come in from the Atlantic onto the beaches around the North Devon coastline, do provide ideal conditions for surfing.

If surfing isn’t your thing, the sands at Croyde Bay make an ideal bucket and spade territory and there are many attractive walks that you can take in the area which are mainly managed by the National Trust.

  • Appledore

Appledore, in the estuary of the river Torridge on the North Devon Coast, is the base for the Appledore shipyard. There is a long tradition of Shipbuilding at Appledore. The original yard was founded in 1855. Over the years it has endured mixed Fortunes, with the yard changing ownership on a number of occasions.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

Currently the shipyard is, again, under new ownership following a short dormant period.

Beyond the important shipbuilding history, Appledore has plenty to offer the visiting tourist. Historically this was a fishing village with typical narrow streets made up of colourful fisherman’s cottages.

The village is set back from the North Devon coastline, in a position where it can see the joining of the two rivers, the river Torridge from the South connecting with the river Taw from the North, which then head out to sea.

During the holiday season, there are ferry trips from Appledore across the river Torridge to Instow.

Along with other interests associated with Appledore’s maritime heritage there is the North Devon Maritime Museum. The museum is in a Georgian building which is grade 2 listed and was, throughout history, the residence of many ship owners.

As you would expect the museum displays many exhibits associated with Appledore’s maritime history, including accounts of Viking raids and WWll beach landing exercises that took place on the North Devon coast.

There’s a range of cafes, restaurants and pubs which are popular for their high-quality seafood cuisine. You can sample everything, including salmon, bass, cod, cockles and mussels. All of which will have been freshly caught from the river estuary or somewhere around the Devon coastline.

A good time to visit maybe when Appledore is having an arts festival where you can see a wide range of crafts. There is the Appledore Book Festival which attracts interest from across the UK. On top of this there is the annual Appledore to Instow Regatta which involves a fleet of competing gig-boat crews. This is always quite a spectacle.

  • Clovelly

Clovelly is another small Harbour village on the North coast of Devon, near Torridge. The village is stuck on top of a 400ft cliff. There is a very steep, cobbled main street which Clovelly is famous for. This leads down to the Harbour.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

The village is privately owned with the same family being custodians for 300 years. Clovelly village is a high maintenance establishment.

Because of the attraction that Clovelly Village offers, there are a tremendous number of visitors every year. This inflicts wear and tear which needs to be attended to. It takes considerable resources to maintain the standard that visitors expect to see. This is why there is an entry fee to be able to go into the village.

The main street of Clovelly, being very steep and narrow, is inaccessible to modern vehicles and can only be used by pedestrians. Because vehicles can’t access the main street, sledges are regularly used to transport items that need to be delivered, for example shopping that needs to be carried to the houses where people live near the harbour, is loaded onto small sledges and dragged along over the cobbles.

Clovelly Village can be an expensive place to visit but most people agree that the experience of visiting this enchanting village on the North Devon coast is well worthwhile.

  • Lynmouth

You will find Lynmouth on the North Devon coast to the east of Combe Martin. If you find your way to Lynmouth from the West, having investigated the other parts of North Devon, you will be well placed to explore Exmoor. Lynmouth is on the edge of the moor but there’s a steep hill to descend to be able to get at it.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

Another steep hill is the funicular railway that joins sea-level Lynmouth with the village of Lynton which is 500 feet above. The cliff railway is water powered and is one of the steepest and longest railways of its type in the world. This is one of many attractions that Devon can be proud of.

  • Ilfracombe

On the North coast of Devon, facing the Bristol Channel, is Ilfracombe. Ilfracombe is west of the Combe Martin beaches and is being described as a cosmopolitan coastal town. With a fishing harbour being overlooked by  high cliffs, which are typical of the rugged North Devon coastline, Ilfracombe is a favourite destination.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

Apart from beach facilities, there are a number of attractions for the visitor. There are scenic walks and routes for cyclists. There is an award-winning aquarium and cliff tunnels which were established in the Victorian period.

Damien Hirst has helped to put this part of Devon on the map, with his contribution of a statue known as ‘Verity’. This together with a range of art galleries, is making Ilfracombe something of a centre of culture.

  • Hele Bay

Between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin, you will find a small village called Hele Bay which is tucked away on the North Devon coastline between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin. Hele Bay is on the route that makes up the Southwest coast path. The actual village of heel is just inland from the Hele Bay Beach. It would make an interesting walk along the rugged North Devon coastline, if you take in Ilfracombe, Hele Bay and Combe Martin.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

The beach at Hele Bay is good for bathing and has been appreciated as such since the Victorian era. There is plenty of sand on the beach but there is also a shingle area with rock pools. If you spend some time looking around, you may find, what used to be, smugglers’ caves.

In the right conditions, Hele Bay is suitable for canoeing.

  • Widecombe-In-The-Moor

Going inland into the South Hams of Devon and on to Dartmoor National Park, there are many places which are worth visiting but one place stands out and that is Widecombe in the Moor. If you can manage a trip to Devon around the second Tuesday in September, you may be able to take part in the annual Widecombe Fair. This is a traditional, classical agricultural fair. You will see displays of rural crafts, the dog show and horse jumping.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

When you’re there, you won’t be able to miss the Church of st. Pancras. It has a 120 ft Tower that overlooks the village green. The church is known as the cathedral of the moors. Widecombe in the Moor is one of the most famous villages in Devon. There is a folk song ” Widecombe Fair ” that tells the story of Tom Pearce and the unfortunate death of his horse at the famous fair.

  • Cockington

Staying in the South Hams of Devon, near Torquay, there’s a place called  Cockington. The big attraction here is the range of thatched cottages with walls built from cob and stone. Cob is a material made up of mud, straw, horse hair and anything else that would help to bind the material together  to make a solid construction of a wall.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

There are many examples of this type of building throughout Devon and many would argue that the nicest of all can be found at Cockington village. Taking a walk through the village is like stepping back in time. There are cottages here that date back to the 16th century, with much of the village being mentioned in the Domesday Book.

  • Bigbury-on-sea and Burgh Island

One of the most enchanting and nicest parts of Devon, for me, has to be Bigbury-on-Sea on the South coast. The beach at Bigbury Bay is the biggest stretch of sand on the south coast of Devon. At Bigbury you will see everything you would expect to see at a traditional fishing village.

What is the nicest part of Devon?

You will find all the facilities needed for beach activities including water sports such as kayaking, paddle-boarding and, of course, surfing.

There is one thing that makes Bigbury-on-Sea a little more special. Part of the beach extends out into the sea to a strip of land that becomes an island when the tide comes in. This is Burgh Island. Apart from a hotel and a couple of private dwellings, the island has not been overdeveloped. This has allowed it to remain as a natural habitat for an interesting range of flora and fauna.

It is undisturbed enough to be a nesting ground and home for a strong population of seabirds. The island, together with the rest of the area around Bigbury-on-Sea, has a network of footpaths that attract ramblers from all over the UK.

There is a connection with Agatha Christie at the island. It was effectively used as a filming location for a TV adaptation of “Evil Under the Sun “, one of the stories from the Poirot series. Burgh Island has also been used as a film location for some of the Miss Marple stories including “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side” and “Nemesis”. 

At low tide you can easily walk the 250 metre distance across the sandy beach to the island but when the tide comes in Burgh Island becomes surrounded by sea water. It is, of course, accessible by boat but there is a unique feature that is used to ensure pedestrian access to and fro. This is the famous Burgh Island sea tractor. This is a specially designed, raised vehicle which can travel through shallow-water.

The sea-tractor will carry around 20 passengers, comfortably, on the journey, either way. If you were thinking of making the journey across to Burgh island on your next visit to Devon, be aware that the sea tractor can only travel when the weather conditions are favourable.

Image sources: Dartmoor | Devon lanes | Dartmouth boats | Beach surfer | Beer Village | Sign to Mortehoe | Combe Martin | Croyde Beach | Appledore | Clovelly | Lynmouth | Ilfracombe | Hele Bay | Widecombe-in-the-Moor | Cockington | Burgh Island

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