The South West of England is a great place to go on holiday. It has everything from sandy beaches and lovely countryside to theme parks and ancient underground passages, as well as some of the best food in the country. Here are 7 things you'll love about it.

South West England is a great place to go on holiday

The South West is a great destination for families with its often pristine beaches, stunning scenery, safe environment and plenty of outdoor activities available during any time of year. There’s also plenty to do when looking indoors in the area including visiting castles, theme parks or exploring ancient underground passages - all of which provide hours of fun for kids and adults alike!

Devon boasts not one, but two national parks: Dartmoor National Park and Exmoor National Park. Cornwall has Bodmin moor in the middle of which is the famous Jamaica Inn. The Tamar Valley, The Quantock Hills and Blackdown Hills are all areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty where you can see some of the most stunning countryside.

The region has a varied cuisine that ranges from traditional fish & chips through tasty Thai dishes to authentic Italian pizza finished off with locally made ice cream. It is also known for a number of delicacies such as cream teas, pasties, the more highly spiced white pudding and have you heard of Stargazy Pie?

Do you know the difference between a Devon cream tea and a Cornish cream tea? Read on to find out.

With plenty of accommodation options available, visitors can choose to stay in a luxurious hotel, countryside B&B, self-catering cottage, or take advantage of camping and caravanning opportunities.

Travelling around the South West is easy with a well-connected road and rail network; making day trips to explore further afield very feasible.

Festivals and events taking place throughout the year mean there’s never a dull moment in the South West, with music and literature events on offer alongside food festivals celebrating local produce and not forgetting very popular destinations such as The Devon County Show and The Royal Cornwall show.

The South West has some of Britain’s most striking coastline that includes traditional coastal towns and fishing villages as well as beauty spots such as harbour views and rocky coves. Along the South coast, you will find the Jurassic Coast where to this day you can search out fossilised remains of ancient creatures. Along the North coast, you will find The Atlantic Highway which links some of the UK's best surfing beaches.

There are also many castles to visit including the iconic Corfe Castle, the UK's youngest castle: Castle Drogo, and we cannot possibly leave out the legendary castle of King Arthur: Tintagel Castle.

However long you book for, there is always more to see and do, so you will just have to come back again!

Here are 7 things you'll love about The South West 

The beaches

The South West is famously known for its beautiful beaches, and it's easy to see why. The golden sands of the region are great for relaxing in the sun and building sandcastles. There are also plenty of watersports available to try out, such as bodyboarding and windsurfing (if you're feeling active).

What's more, the beaches in this area are often very secluded, so you can have a bit of privacy away from the crowds.

The best surfing beaches are on the North coast as the waves build as they come across the Atlantic. Beaches on the South coast tend to be a little calmer and Dawlish Warren for example is a site of special scientific interest where you will be able to see a wide variety of native and migratory birds.

Blackpool Sands Beach

The countryside is picturesque

Head inland and the countryside is just as lovely. With hills, forests and rolling pastures everywhere you look, it would be a crime to not take some gorgeous photos. Although there are plenty of places in The South West where you can see nature at its finest, one of the most popular regions to do this is Dartmoor National Park; a fantastic area of outstanding natural beauty. Dartmoor is 368 square miles (954 square km) of rugged landscape. See our blog A Dozen things to do on Dartmoor.

Haytor Rocks

There are plenty of things to do in the area

The South West is home to wildly different terrain - from the lush, green countryside to wild moorland and rugged coastline.

For outdoor pursuits, the region boasts miles of beaches ideal for swimming and sunbathing, as well as rolling hills perfect for exploring on foot or bike.

Local water sports enthusiasts will enjoy the coastal waters off the North Cornwall Coast where there are plenty of activities to try including surfing, sailing and windsurfing. The South West is also a great destination for walkers with a string of National Trust properties offering a wealth of history and beauty to explore. And when it comes to culture, there’s plenty on offer from festivals celebrating everything from wild animal art to sacred hill chants.

With so many things to do, the South West is a top destination for all the family.

On top of the array of countryside attractions, there’s plenty on offer when looking indoors in the area too with castles, ancient monuments and underground passages in abundance. If you need a dose of adrenaline, then there are treetop adventure courses and a number of theme parks. Have you ever ridden a Segway through the forest? Now's your chance!

https://goape.co.uk/locations/haldon/tree-top-challenge

The region’s well-connected road and rail network means you can get to wherever you need to.

Festivals and events taking place throughout the year mean there’s never a dull moment, with music and literature events on offer alongside food festivals celebrating local produce, craft fairs with makers proudly showing their wares.

If you just want to relax and take it easy, there are many pretty villages, market towns, and beautiful cities such as Bath with its Roman baths to visit.

If you want to stretch your legs and view our idyllic countryside or get out on your bike, there is every type of terrain you could wish for.

The food is amazing

Foodies will love the South West

The South West is famous for its food, and with good reason. The region has a huge variety of different dishes to try, from freshly caught seafood, traditional pub grub served in pubs with roaring fires to very high-end cuisine. There are a number of award-winning restaurants in the area, so you're sure to find something to your taste. And if you're cooking the food yourself, you can shop for fresh produce at one of the many farmers' markets or farm shops.

Dartmouth Food Festival Montage

There are numerous food and drink festivals throughout the year.

It's a great place to relax

The South West is a great place to escape from the stresses of day-to-day life. Whether you want to find peace and quiet in the countryside, or if you prefer soaking up culture and history, there's something for everybody. There are also plenty of things like yoga retreats and mindfulness courses available in this beautiful region if you're looking to relax and recharge.

So, if you're looking for a relaxing holiday this year, the South West should definitely be on your list. With stunning scenery, plenty of things to do and some of the best food in the country, you won't be disappointed!

There are lots of historical landmarks to explore

There are 53 castles across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, with 19 of them found in Devon and the majority open to the public.

If you want ancient history, then there are outlines of settlements still visible in parts of Dartmoor and the tors themselves (the granite outcrops such as Haytor and Hound Tor) would have stood as they are today for hundreds of thousands of years. You don't need to travel to Stonehenge for ancient stone circles as you will find the Bronze age Grey Wethers Stone Circles under the shadow of Sittaford Tor and Nine Maidens Stone Circle near Belstone on the Northern fringe of Dartmoor. They're not as big, but size isn't everything - and you try lifting them!

If you want even older, the Jurassic Coast stretches from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, a distance of 96 miles. It spans 185 million years of geological history. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site and was the first wholly natural World Heritage Site to be designated in the United Kingdom.

There are many magnificent properties and stately homes dotted throughout the South West. There's even a house that moved in Exeter

The locals are friendly and welcoming.

One of the best things about holidaying in the South West is that the locals are so friendly and welcoming. They're always happy to chat and recommend the best places to eat, drink and explore.

Clovelly Harbour

But where to stay?

Again you are spoilt for choice with holiday cottages, holiday apartments, holiday rentals, hotels, camping and glamping all on offer. You will also find that many are dog friendly and will allow pets.

Staying in self catering cottages gives you flexibility and allows you to feel at home away from home. There is a wide range of cottages in South West England and you'll find them in some of the most beautiful locations. Whether you're looking for a traditional thatched cottage in the heart of the countryside to enjoy with your partner; a beachfront property with stunning sea views to entertain the children; a charming cottage in an historic town or village for a romantic getaway; or a modern apartment in the heart of a city to enjoy the nightlife, you will find something to suit your taste.

Don't forget that many properties will be listed on Airbnb as well as Booking.com, vrbo and Expedia but they will also have their own book direct sites and very often you will be able to avoid booking fees by going direct.

Devon Cream Tea or Cornish Cream Tea

Did you know the difference?

They both consist of scones served with lashings of clotted cream and jam (jelly if you're American) alongside a pot of tea. The difference is the order in which the cream or jam is applied to the sliced scone. In Devon it is cream first then jam working on the basis that the cream is taking the place of butter. In Cornwall the cream is piled on top of the jam.

I doubt you'd get lynched for getting it wrong. I can't promise though!

https://www.devonheaven.co.uk/blogs/news/16504740-devon-vs-cornwall-cream-teas

Now that holidays are back on the agenda after a year at looking at the same familiar walls, we recommend you visit the charming city of Exeter, the county town of Devon and its foremost city.

Situated on the River Exe, this ancient city dates back to Roman times and is dotted with beautiful historical buildings. Its city walls and gothic central cathedral are remnants of a rich history, but not only does Exeter have several incredible sites to visit, it also offers fun activities for young and old alike!

If you are not sure what to prioritize when visiting this ancient English gem, then read on to find out our recommended list of Top 10 Things To Do in Exeter!

1. Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral boasts stunning gothic architecture and is one of the oldest and most beautiful Cathedrals in England. Situated in the city centre, just off the main shopping street, the Anglican cathedral is arguably Exeter’s most prominent architectural building and serves as the seat of the Bishop of Exeter.

The Cathedral ceiling is the World's longest continuous stone vault at 96 metres (315 feet). 

When exploring the cathedral interiors you will find a unique Minstrels’ Gallery, a 15th-century Astronomical Clock, and much more. Cap your visit off by enjoying a light lunch or English tea at the Cathedral Café.  

Tickets for adults are £7.50 and £5.00 for students and senior citizens. Children under 18 are free if accompanied by an adult. Exeter Cathedral is open Monday to Wednesday from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm, from Thursday to Saturday from 10:00 am – 9:00 pm and on Sundays from 11:00 am – 5.00 pm. Read more about the Cathedral here.

2. Exeter Quay

Exeter Quay, or Exeter Quayside, is located alongside the River Exe and the Exeter Ship Canal. As a port, it dates back to 1381 for ships to unload their cargoes of goods from overseas. In the late 17th century the Quay was expanded but after the introduction of railways, its use declined.

Today, the Quayside is an area for leisure that includes the Exe cable-crossing ferry, also known as Butts Ferry. It is a great destination for local events and activities. The Quay hosts the annual Dragon Boat Racing, canoe shows and races, Exeter Street Food Night Markets, Quayside Red Coat Guided Tours, and the Inside Outside Summer Craft Fair. Exeter Quay is an excellent place to enjoy one of the many waterfront gastropubs for lunch, dinner or drinks by the river.

Learn more about the Quayside here

rammuseum.org.uk

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) is the largest museum and art gallery in Exeter. The building itself is a beautiful Gothic Revival building of local New Red Sandstone which has, over the course of time, undergone several extensions. It was founded in 1868 and holds over one million objects in various categories, such as zoology, anthropology, fine art, archaeology, and geology.

Entry to RAMM is free and it is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Learn more about RAMM here

4. Underground Passages

Snaking around the mysterious underground of the city is a web of interconnected passages. Initially built for clean drinking water to pass through pipes from natural springs outside the walled city into the city itself, the Underground Passages are now open for visitors to explore. Ever since the 1930s, the city has offered guided tours through the lit passages and it should be noted that Exeter is the only city in the UK to have these types of underground passages.

Before visitors embark on a tour through the fascinating tunnels, they visit an interpretation centre that offers some historical background and information on the place. The underground tour itself takes about 25 minutes and tickets are £7.50 for adults and £4.50 for children.

Find out more about the Underground Passages here.

5. Exeter Northcott Theatre

Situated on the Streatham Campus of the University of Exeter, the Northcott Theatre first opened in 1967 and is the city’s flagship theatre. It promises to “make events that entertain, provoke, and inspire so that people can connect and share moments they'll never forget”.

Watch a local, national or student production, and enjoy an afternoon or evening of family, music or comedic entertainment. And while there, take a stroll and explore the beauty of the University of Exeter grounds, they are well worth it!

Learn more about the Northcott Theatre here

6. Rougemont Castle

Rougemont Castle, the historic castle of Exeter, is situated in the northern corner of the city walls and is also known as Exeter Castle.  It dates back to 1068 and was built by William the Conqueror two years after the Norman Invasion of England. An outer bailey was added in the 12th century.

Shakespeare mentions the Castle in his play Richard III, in which the king visits Exeter in 1483. The Castle once served as the County Court and this was where three Devon Witches, the last ones in England, were tried and convicted for witchcraft and later executed.

Learn more about Rougemont Castle here.

7. Northernhay Gardens

Northernhay Gardens, located on the northern side of Exeter Castle, is the oldest public open space in England. The Gardens were originally laid out in 1612 so that city residents could enjoy nature and the outdoors. The site sometimes hosts art exhibits, such as the 2016 memorial to the Dead killed during the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916). The art installation had one figure for each of the more than 72,000 allied servicemen who died on the first day of the Battle and who have no known grave.

Find out more about Northernhay Gardens here.

8. Exeter Racecourse

Horseracing is a truly English pastime. Be sure not to miss out on experiencing a live horse race!

The Exeter Racecourse is a thoroughbred horse racing venue, which locals know as the Haldon Racecourse since it is situated atop the Haldon Hills.

Enjoy an award-winning meal for lunch while following the excitement of the races through the windows of the course-facing restaurant and, not that we normally advocate gambling, why not place a bet?

Learn more about the Racecourse here

9. Darts Farm

You will find Darts Farm on the outskirts of Topsham. At its heart, it is a working farm but it is the farm shop which is the draw nowadays.

A shopping destination with an Aladdin’s Cave food hall filled with artisan produce.

There are Master Butchers selling the finest meats, a fish shed selling freshly caught fish and shellfish, as well as hand-picked specialist retailers such as Aga, Fired Earth and Cotswold Outdoor.

There is plenty to do there for adults and children alike.

Find out more about Darts Farm here

10. Local Cider Tasting

You have probably done a wine tasting before, but have you ever taken part in a cider tasting session? Don’t leave Exeter without indulging in Devon’s iconic drink, and what better way than to sample several different ciders?

The Stable in Exeter offers cider tasting sessions. You can sample their 60-minute ‘Strictly Cider’ session at £15 per head, learn about the cider-making process, regions, history, ingredients and expert ways of tasting the varying levels of acidity, tannins, and blends. You will be able to try ten of their best ciders, all introduced to you by their very own Cider Master.

If you want to enjoy the tasting session with food, take part in their ‘Cider and Supper’ session, which adds handmade pizzas, cheese, crackers, and bread at £22.50 per head.

Find out more about The Stable and their cider tasting sessions here.

That rounds off our list of 10 things to do in Exeter. There are still plenty of things we've not mentioned. 

Stay in our central Exeter apartment and 8 of these 10 suggestions will be within walking distance.

Why not book a few nights away with us - try these suggestions, and tell us what others we should add.

Dartmoor is famous for its rugged beauty, its numerous tors (the rocky outcrops), miles of open spaces as well as some notable areas of woodland.

The iconic moss-caked trees of Wistman’s Wood appear in many photos of the National Park.

It is a vast area and visitors can find it challenging to plan a trip to Dartmoor. So here is our list of the dozen recommended things to do when visiting.

The air is so clean and fresh up on the moor. If you are used to city living, you will feel like a weight has been lifted from your chest. You will probably sleep very soundly that night!


One small step or one giant leap?

1. A walk down memory lane at Okehampton Castle – the largest castle ruin in Devon

The barbican as viewed from the east. Dan Spencer

Okehampton Castle is an historical motte and bailey castle was begun in the late eleventh century. Beautifully capturing a life once lived, the castle has charmed many historical admirers. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spent time here as well as in Princetown. Some say that Hound Tor and this castle may have inspired the “Hound of the Baskervilles” novel featuring the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. More recently Dr Dan Spencer visited it and wrote this blog

The Chapel and Priest’s Lodging as viewed from the south. Dan Spencer

Journey back to the fourteenth-century when the Castle was converted into a magnificent residence by the Earl of Devon. Imagine the great feasts that visitors enjoyed then or immerse yourself in a beautiful walk through the once adjoining 1,700 acres of deer parks. Okehampton Castle is the perfect afternoon walk for your weekend getaway.

2. Learn about bygone lives at the Museum of Dartmoor Life

The Museum of Dartmoor Life. Tim Sandles

Okehampton was once a prosperous town in the late-Victorian/Edwardian era. Life then is now perfectly preserved at the Museum of Dartmoor Life in Okehampton. It is a relatively small museum, but it has an extensive story to tell. You can journey through Dartmoor’s history since the Bronze Age via the 3-floor myriad of artefacts and interactive displays showing the town’s traditional industries such as glassmaking, quarrying, agriculture, mining, and rural crafts.

Museum staff and volunteers provide informative explanations for people of all ages. A free pass gives you the chance to revisit the museum multiple times throughout the year.  It is museums like this which have fuelled the love for Dartmoor in people like Tim Sandles. Tim wrote an extensive blog on the wonders that the Museum of Dartmoor Life has to offers.

3. Admire art in nature at Stone Lane Gardens

A short drive from Okehampton is Stone Lane Gardens. A combination of Art and Conservation in tranquil 5-acre woodland, the garden is home to various rare trees notably, the National Collections of Birch and Alder trees.

A creation of Kenneth and June Ashburner, the garden has expanded to house open-air sculptures and an annual exhibition. In 1995 it was awarded “National Collection” status and in 2015 it was awarded “Scientific Status” for the Birch collection. In 2019, Stone Lane Gardens became an RHS Partner Garden.

Stone Lane Gardens is well praised for the beautiful selections of unique birch trees, including the rare and endangered Mingelion Birch from the Caucasus. Beautifully captured by Malc & Jude Mollart in their blog post on a walk-in Stone Lane Gardens, we highly recommend this peaceful garden as a pleasant woodland wander.

4. Taste a pint of ale at The Nobody Inn at Doddiscombsleigh

Towards the East of Dartmoor is a charming 16th-century inn in the village of Doddiscombsleigh. Visitors and locals alike have trusted the inn for years for the fresh local produce and especially their extensive selection of more than 250 wines, 240 whiskies and excellent ales such as Jail Ale (brewed at Princetown on Dartmoor).

Authentic décor and plenty of character aside, the inn has received the “Best Restaurant” award in 2019/2020 by Food & Drink Devon as well as “UK Inn of the Year” by The Good Hotel Guide in 2017.

The Nobody Inn Website

5. Sip tea at Primrose Tea Rooms

Solo Sophie

After a long walk on the Moor, Primrose Tea Rooms in Lustleigh is the place to go for a welcoming afternoon tea. Many visitors have fallen in love with the various homemade treats: cakes, rolls and fruit scones are accompanied by the best cream tea one could wish for.

The shop’s wide bay windows are the perfect spot to watch the world go by, as recommended by Sophie Nadeau writing as Solo Sophie. This is just one of the many must-visit spots that she has found when visiting Lustleigh – which we think is possibly the prettiest village on Dartmoor.

6. Guided Pony Walk

Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Gallery

Experience the wonders of Dartmoor in the safe and capable hand and under the guidance of qualified Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Guides. 

They will take you on a free walk at Bellever and show you the flora, fauna, history, archaeology, wildlife and especially ponies of Dartmoor.

Dogs on leads are allowed. All walks have to be pre-booked

Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust

7. Walk llamas at Dartmoor Alpaca & Llama Walks

Dartmoor Alpaca & Llama Walks started as a small family farm of Alpacas. As the farm grew, they introduced llamas and eventually, llama walks on the Moor and now a llama walking business.  

The farm offers various walks during which you can admire the beauty of Dartmoor National Park. You can choose from, amongst others, the Hot Choc Walk, Cream Tea Walk, and the Lunch Walk with lunch or refreshments.  The Meet & Greet sessions are tailored for people who do not want to walk but want to learn about alpacas and llamas.

The walks are a fun experience for couples, as well as friends and families alike, which etched a permanent grin on the faces of all Mags Nixon’s family members, as shared in details on her Llama Walking In Devon blog.

8. Walk your dog at Wistman’s Wood from Two Bridges Hotel

Wistman's Wood. Portia Crossley

Wistman’s Wood is on the Western slopes of the River Dart valley and it is famous for its eerily beautiful moss-covered tangled old oak trees. The 3.5 hectares of dwarf woods mesmerise visitors with their mystical intertwining trees layered with spongy moss and more than 100 types of lichen wrapped around granite boulders. Along the way local sheep, ponies and cattle greet trekkers as they pass.

To start the walk, park at The Two Bridges Hotel, then head in the direction of Wistman’s Wood, through the Tors before coming back to the Hotel for a refreshing afternoon tea and a delicious pint of Jail Ale which would have been brewed just a couple of miles away in Princetown. A walk here has been described in detail by a Devon-based photographer Portia Crossley when she visited with her husband Reuben and their four-legged friend Ia.

TripAdvisor says that a visit to Wildwood Art Gallery is the Number One thing to do in Horrabridge. The independent gallery was established in 2016 by artist Cheri Hunston with the work of like-minded artists in focus.

The Gallery’s wide variety of artworks from traditional, post-war investment art to modern and contemporary fine art in various mediums and textiles will keep you thoroughly engaged. The primary focus is Dartmoor, the Southwest and British wildlife. There is also a good selection of jewellery, ceramics and crafts from local artists and artisans.  

https://www.wildwoodartsdartmoor.co.uk/

10. Explore the wild at Tamar Trails Centre

Serious Outdoor Skills

Tamar Trails Centre in the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a place for outdoor lovers to learn, explore and have fun. In an area of steep wooded valleys, a slow-flowing river and overgrown riverbanks, visitors to the Tamar Trails can explore the old transport systems of canals and tramways, which are all part of the Tamar’s rich mining history and heritage.

You are spoilt for choice with exciting activities, from walking, running, horse riding, cycling, studying wildlife and the natural world to tree-surfing, shooting archery, canoeing, downhill mountain biking and indoor climbing. The River Tamar scenery is stunning. Experienced and adventurous souls can even go on a unique 3-day canoe expedition on the River Tamar, as shared in the Serious Outdoor Skills blog.

11. Haytor, Hound Tor and Jay’s Grave

No list of things to do on Dartmoor would be complete without including a visit to a Tor or two. There are two easily accessible Tors on the Eastern side of Dartmoor: Haytor and Hound Tor.

Haytor is predominantly two large solid granite mounds that thousands of people have been able to climb to the top of over the years as steps and footholds have been carved into the locations which otherwise might be tricky. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction from the top of the taller one.

Having conquered Haytor, you should hop back into the car and drive the short distance over to Hound Tor.

Houndtor

Hound Tor, as mentioned earlier, may have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when writing “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. By comparison to Haytor, Hound Tor is much more spread out with individual, intricate granite structures. Again, you can climb up and on to the Tor.

Another great photo opportunity!

Beyond the Tor is the ancient settlement. All that is visible now is the outline of the buildings which once stood. The walls are now no more than a few feet tall. All we can think is that it must have been a cold, hard existence! Emma took a walk around Hound Tor and the medieval village. Her blog is here.

Jay's Grave

As it is so close to where you are likely to have parked, it is worth mentioning the sad tale of Kitty Jay whose burial place is less than a mile away.

You can read various accounts of her unfortunately short life and her unassuming burial location which has drawn so many visitors over the years partly because of the myth surrounding the fact that there are always fresh flowers placed carefully on her grave and nobody knows who leaves them.

The legend of Kitty Jay

12. Lydford Gorge

At Lydford Gorge, there are various walks you can take totalling about 3.5 miles. The Gorge is beautiful, surrounded by lush greenery, birds, insects, and other wildlife.

The River Lyd captured the River Burn 450,000 years ago, which changed the course of the Lyd and in the process, Whitelady Waterfall was formed.

Whitelady is over 28 metres tall.

Lydford Gorge

There are plenty of things to do on Dartmoor to meet all kinds of needs, especially for those who enjoy good food, excellent drinks, and many interesting walks in the green woodland.

Walking Books have a huge selection of books and guides which you can check out for further inspiration.

Whatever you do though, if you are out walking on Dartmoor, you should always make sure you have appropriate clothing as the weather can change in an instant. Take a charged mobile telephone, and if you can lay your hands on one, an old-fashioned compass.

If you visit Dartmoor, why not book to stay at our Devon holiday cottages or city apartment?

Our convenient locations and full self-catering facilities will bring you that much-deserved rest after all the fun yet tiring explorations the Moor has to offer. Enjoy your time on Dartmoor with The Extra Mile Accommodation.

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