Devon's top towns and villages
In terms of beautiful towns and villages Devon is probably most noted for Clovelly, a pretty harbour village with a steep, cobbled main street and more donkeys than there are cars.
There are however other hidden gems within the county, other towns and villages which deserve exploration. Think cobbled streets, art galleries, local artisans and delicious café cream teas.
This naval town has been important since Roman times with many naval expeditions sailing from its harbour. This has led to many architectural delights including St Petrock’s Church, the remains of a 15th century castle and the Butterwalk, a row of 17th century houses on granite pillars. Other structures worth noting are Agincourt House, which dates from 1671 and the Customs House of 1739. And, overlooking them all, the Royal Naval College where cadets have trained since 1905. If you fancy testing your sea legs then boats cruise around the estuary, giving holiday-makers another view of Dartmouth’s attractions.
You can’t visit Brixham without learning more about the Glorious Revolution and a certain princely gentleman, William of Orange. It was his arrival on November 5 1688 that reinvigorated the campaign to have him replace the Catholic James on the throne and marry his daughter, Mary. A stone on the quay commemorates this event. Although the oldest parts of Brixham lie on Rea Hill, a third of a mile from the sea, the area around the harbour grew as the fleet expanded. During the 19th century the fleet was the most prosperous in south Devon and the elegant houses that line the streets reflect more affluent times.
The most southerly resort in Devon, Salcombe boasts some of the most spectacular scenery along the coast. It’s popular with holiday-makers who enjoy the mild climate, and the latter has led to plants from warmer lands, including palm trees, making an appearance. Sailors are the most regular guests, mooring their yachts on the river, tacking across the estuary in their dinghies, or propping up the bar at one of the many pubs. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with an extensive waterfront and sheltered harbour, Salcombe also boasts a pleasant mix of independent shops, numerous picturesque walks along the river and a sandy beach where you can relax in the sunshine.
Set on a steep hill above the River Dart, Totnes has plenty of old-world charm and boasts an interesting mix of period buildings including several Elizabethan houses on the high street. Records suggest it may have more listed buildings than any other town. Its architectural gems include the remains of a Norman castle, the 16th century Guildhall and East Gate, an arch spanning the main street. These all indicate how wealthy the borough grew on the cloth trade. Attracted by the Bohemian lifestyle, Totnes has a large New Age community and a thriving arts scene, with musicians, painters and craftsmen all making it their home.
The north Devon coast has many hidden gems but few are as charming as Combe Martin which nestles in a picturesque valley on the western edge of Exmoor, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Approach along the coastal road and you’ll enjoy amazing views of the headlands of Great and Little Hangman as you drive down to the harbour. Combe Martin is termed a ‘classic linear settlement’ and has one of the country’s longest village streets. Its characteristic sunken lanes cut into the valley sides away from the street to the strip field system and the remains of nearby silver mines.
The largest resort in Devon, Torquay can happily claim to be Britain’s version of the French Riviera. It’s a superbly panoramic setting, with high wooded hills and views that extend right across Torbay. The resort developed mainly in the 19th century and the luxurious hotels, elegant villas, theatres, art galleries and museum reflect the aesthetics of this time. These days holiday-makers enjoy its many attractions which include glorious beaches, gardens, cliff walks and, heading further afield, Cockington Village, the Chapel of St Michael and Kent’s Cavern, one of this country’s oldest dwelling places.
Our Recommended Campsites in Devon