A week camping in... East Devon
With miles of magnificent coastline and acres of gorgeous countryside, east Devon is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
It boasts part of the Jurassic coastline, a UNESCO World Heritage site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
And on top of that there are loads of great attractions for all ages and interests. Put it all together and you have a fantastic holiday destination.
East Devon’s coast is blessed with secluded coves and vast stretches of beach, both sandy and pebbled. The best in the area include Exmouth, Branscombe, Budleigh Salterton and Ladram Bay with its amazing red sandstone cliffs.
The South West Coast Path winds its way along the coastline and there are numerous short sections that you can tackle.
From Exmouth to Lyme Regis on the Devon-Dorset border, this part of the Jurassic Coast has 185 million years of fascinating history to explore. Its World Heritage status was bestowed by UNESCO because of its abundance of prehistoric remains and there are great fossil-hunting spots all along the coast.
Inland, the East Devon countryside is heavenly, and much of the landscape is protected as an AONB. There are a number of picturesque valleys and charming villages to explore, either on foot or on two wheels.
The recently constructed Exe Estuary Trail is a 26-mile-long cycle route which runs from Dawlish to Exmouth, passing through towns, villages and the city of Exeter.
On the Devon/Somerset border, the Blackdown Hills AONB has bucketloads of history to discover as well as lovely countryside and wildlife.
There are plenty of great days out at the area’s many attractions, including World of Country Life, the Donkey Sanctuary and the Seaton Tramway. Further down the coast is pretty Torquay on the English Riviera, with its photogenic harbour and big wheel.
Here's how to spend seven days in east Devon
DAY 1: A DAY AT THE BEACH
With so many great beaches around this coast, you’re certain to find one that meets your needs. If you’re staying at Ladram Bay, the holiday park’s private beach has plenty going on to keep you amused all day – or longer!
Paddleboards can be hired on the beach and the calm waters of the bay make it a perfect spot to practice your balancing skills. Alternatively, hire a motorboat or a kayak and head out into the bay, taking in the stunning views of the coast. You could, of course, simply relax with a good book on a deckchair or try a spot of rockpooling.
DAY 2: A WALK BACK IN TIME
One of our favourite walks in east Devon is the four-mile circular route that starts and ends at the seaside town of Budleigh Salterton. The 250 million-year-old red sandstone cliffs give the coastal stretch a spectacular backdrop. But there’s much to enjoy away from the shoreline, too.
Follow the path through the woods in the direction of Exmouth where the surrounding trees and hedges are home to an abundance of wildlife, from dormice and adders to foxes and badgers.
Eventually you join the South West Coast Path but before heading along the cliffs back towards Budleigh Salterton, take a quick look at the remains of the West Down Beacon, a signal station that warned of enemy vessels encroaching during the Napoleonic Wars.
DAY 3: FUN FOR KIDS – OLD AND YOUNG!
World of Country Life is a great day out whatever your age. It’s certainly not just for kids, although there’s plenty on offer if you want to keep youngsters occupied, including soft play areas, the pirate ship play area and a go-kart track.
For animal lovers, there’s farm petting areas, the Deer Train Safari – where you can hand-feed the red deer herd out in the paddock – and birds of prey flying displays. For older visitors, the Exhibition Hall is packed full of memorabilia from yesteryear including working farm machinery and an indoor Victorian street complete with cottage, dairy and pub.
There is also a fantastic collection of vintage cars including vehicles used on Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge as well as the Reg Imray Motorcycle Collection.
A la Ronde is a 16-sided Georgian home in Exmouth, an odd mixture of country cottage and Byzantine styles. It was intended to showcase curios collected by Jane Parminter and her cousin, Mary, during a grand European tour.
DAY 4: MEET THE DONKEYS
We love the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary; its charity efforts are most impressive and it’s a wonderful day out for everyone.
The charity was founded in 1969 by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen and is the largest of its kind in Europe, devoted to helping improve the lives of donkeys all over the world.
There are over 500 donkeys at Slade Farm who are left to graze peacefully across the site and it makes a truly lovely location for a family picnic in the sunshine.
Admission to the sanctuary is free and visitors can explore the five walking trails that guide you around the sanctuary grounds, before stopping to pet the main yard donkeys in the stables.
You can adopt one of the donkeys for just £3 a month and help the charity carry on its brilliant work around the world.
DAY 5: GO EAST
The market town of Honiton’s fame and fortune lies in the lace industry; lace is still made and sold here but on a much smaller scale than at the height of its production.
The town’s lace heritage is on display at Allhallows Museum. Honiton is also known as one of the best places to buy antiques in the South West – tap into your inner Tim Wonnacott and hunt down a bargain or two. The genteel resorts of Seaton and Sidmouth are a delightful attraction of this region.
From Seaton you can take a traditional tram inland to explore the Seaton Marshes Nature Reserve, where you can observe wading birds in winter, and dragonflies and butterflies in summer.
DAY 6: CITY LIFE
Exeter is full of great character and ancient history. Dating back to the Roman era, the Exeter city walls surround the city centre and Gothic Exeter Cathedral is magnificent (you can do open-top tours).
Exeter Castle, a Norman landmark, overlooks leafy Northernhay and Rougemont Gardens. To their west, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery displays fine art and costumes.
There are vaulted, medieval underground passages snaking beneath the city, too. The historic Exeter Quayside is popular with locals and tourists alike and a great place to while away a bit of time on a sunny day.
DAY 7: HEAD TO THE MOORS
For a change of scenery, visit Dartmoor National Park, just beyond Exeter. It’s home to the highest point in southern England – the 2,037ft High Willhays – and a beautiful and wild area to explore. A three-hour wildlife safari is a great way to discover this dramatic landscape.
OUR PICK TO VISIT IN EAST DEVON
The East Devon Way is the perfect way to discover the East Devon Area of Natural Beauty. The 38-mile footpath spans the area from Exmouth to Lyme Regis and alongside some pretty villages with thatched cottages; there are a few ups and downs along the route.
You can download a map of the way from eastdevonway.org.uk
WHERE TO EAT IN EAST DEVON
The River Exe Café
A unique restaurant on a custom-built barge that floats offshore in the Exe Estuary. To reach it you need to catch a water taxi or take your own boat, but it’s well worth the effort.
The locally sourced food is delicious and the views are amazing. If you’re staying at Ladram Bay, we’d also recommend the park’s award-winning Pebbles Restaurant or sample fresh lobster or crab from the fishermen’s shack on the beach.
WHAT TO SEE IN EAST DEVON
South West Coast Path
World Of Country Life
West Down Lane, Sandy Bay, Exmouth, Devon EX8 5BY
The Donkey Sanctuary
Slade House Farm, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 0NU
1 The Cloisters, Exeter, Devon EX1 1HS
Exmoor Wildlife Safaris