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Heaven in Devon: the Seven Must-See Spots

The sun rises behind the fourth hole at the Royal North Devon Golf Club on May 22. (Photo: David Cannon/ Getty Images)

Devon is a spot in the United Kingdom that many overlook in favor of a trip to France or Spain, despite the incredible beauty and variety it offers. I love the place and have put together the seven best bits for any Brits considering staying closer to home this summer.

Dartmoor is a beautiful area with its incredible tours, mysterious moors and tiny villages filled with thatched roofed cottages. If you like gorgeous, natural scenery and soaking up the fresh air, then it’s difficult to find anywhere better in the United Kingdom, or Europe for that matter. There’s also some of the best canoeing in the country on the River Dart if you decide to take a slightly different mode of transport, and if you want to dry off you can even hop on a horse and gallop your way around. Magical.

Devon is home to some of the best beaches in the United Kingdom, with Woolacombe recently voted in the world’s top ten. With fantastic areas for surfing further along the coast in Croyde, as well as access to a wide variety of watersports, the more active visitor will have a field day. There are also some wonderful holiday cottages in North Devon for those who prefer to take a more relaxed approach to their break and stay away from the surf. Whichever option you take, you won’t be disappointed.

The English Riviera isn’t to be sniffed at. Brixham, Torquay and Paignton might not have quite the same ring as Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez, but it doesn’t struggle in terms of beautiful coastline and friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Each town has its own flavor, from the lively seafront bars and restaurants in Torquay to the stunning beaches of Paignton. Take your pick depending on your taste, and you can guarantee the English Riviera will deliver.

Exeter is the cultural capital of Devon and continues to thrive as both a cosmopolitan hub and a historical attraction. It is full of award-winning restaurants, a vibrant shopping scene and trendy bars to keep the student community happy. But all this is intertwined with the opportunity to take a break for a Devon Cream Tea on the Cathedral green and be transported into the past. While Exeter is the standout for this sort of experience, it is replicated across the county, with towns like Plymouth, Exmouth and Honiton all well worthy of your time.

Spending time in Exmoor makes you feel like you’ve walked into a novel. Dramatic cliffs and a rugged coastline are mixed with the growing expanse of woodland and rolling moors to provide a landscape like no other. For nature lovers it is a dream, providing home to wild deer and ponies as well as rare species of plants and birds. This style of environment is a recurring theme throughout Devon, but Exmoor really does take it to another level.

Devon is packed with beautiful, quaint villages that seem unchanged from decades ago. Clovelly is the prime example of this with cobbled streets and no cars to be seen on the way down to the small fishing harbor. Couple this with stunning sea views and friendly local folks only too keen to help you enjoy your stay.

The Tamar Valley is one of the gems of West Devon, which has been acknowledged with the accolade of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is home to a wide array of wildlife and can be explored on foot, but also by train and river for those wanting to upturn stones in every corner. And don’t worry about tiring yourself out, there are plenty of authentic local pubs and cafes to take a break and soak up the breathtaking scenery and country air.

As you can see, Devon has a huge amount to offer visitors, and this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Wherever you go in Devon you’ll stumble across spectacular scenery and little surprises around every corner. These places are all an excellent place to start, but to really get the most out of the county you need to go and explore it yourself. Watch out, though, you might find it hard to get away.

Tom Mcloughlin is a travel blogger and editor of Top Backpacking Destinations, a guide to the best places to go backpacking around the world. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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