10 of the best places to stay in Devon

Coastal

Posted by Clare Willcocks on 23rd September 2021

A harbour at sunset

Devon is one of the UK’s largest counties and is positively brimming with holiday-worthy destinations! There are so many, in fact, that deciding on where to stay in Devon can be quite a conundrum.

Should you head for the north or south coast for a spectacular seaside break? Should you escape to the country for some rest, relaxation and rambling on Dartmoor or Exmoor? Or should you focus your holiday around the bright lights of one of the county’s two cities?

If the destination really doesn’t matter and you’re simply dreaming of spending blissful days in your perfect holiday cottage, click the button below.

All Devon cottages


A view of Appledore from Instow

Appledore - best for watching the world go by

Perched on the confluence of the rivers Taw and Torridge as they flow out into the open sea, Appledore is a gorgeous little fishing and shipbuilding village in North Devon. Charming narrow lanes lined with brightly coloured cottages and a modest treasure trove of independent shops and cafes provide the perfect distraction for an afternoon stroll.

Running along the riverfront, the quayside forms a pleasant promenade which is best enjoyed with ice cream or fresh fish and chips in hand. On a fine day, there’s little more relaxing than sitting on one of the many benches which line the quay to appreciate the glorious view over the water towards the village of Instow, opposite.

Highlights

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A narrow path down to Croyde Beach

Croyde - best for surfing

The beach at Croyde speaks for itself – a swathe of golden sand, backed by dunes and flanked by the beaches of Woolacombe and Saunton which together form a surfing mecca. The pretty village with its thatched cottages, welcoming pubs and collection of surf shops retains an authentic olde-worlde vibe.

Croyde is the most sheltered of the trio of beaches, so it is as good for beginner surfers as it is for the seasoned locals who head out into the waves, even in the depths of winter. Family friendly, with seasonal lifeguards and plenty to keep children entertained, it’s the sort of place you’d want to hole up all summer and live out a ‘Famous Five’ style existence. See here for more action-packed activities in Devon.

Highlights

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Windswept and beautiful Dartmoor

Dartmoor - best for rambling

The romantic landscapes of Dartmoor entice many visitors to wander their scenic tors, but surprisingly, if you choose some of the less trodden routes, you’re likely to see not another soul. There are so many well-explored trails to choose from, taking in scenery that ranges from enchanting granite tors to historic castle ruins. Those who enjoy the thrill of the hunt will love searching for letterboxes (small boxes with visitor books and stamps) which are hidden in nooks and crannies across the moors.

It's not all wilderness and nature though, even if that is a big part of it! There are also fantastic attractions, including Dartmoor Zoo, Pennywell Farm and the River Dart Country Park to name but a few. There’s a broad range of activities on offer too, with horse-riding, cycling and fishing among the most popular. Discover more about outdoor Devon here.

Highlights

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Clifftops on Exmoor looking out to sea

Exmoor - best for cliff-top walks

There are many spectacular walking routes that criss-cross the wild landscapes of Exmoor, including the Coleridge Way and the Two Moors Way, but one of the most magnificent experiences is hiking along the moorland section of the South West Coast Path. It’s difficult to explain the awe-inspiring views with words, but the panoramas speak for themselves as you skirt around the dizzying cliffs around Combe Martin and Valley of Rocks. Explore more of Devon's coast here.

Inland, Tarr Steps is one of Exmoor’s most iconic features – an ancient stone clapper bridge, the largest of its kind. There’s a pleasant circular walk around here, through the woodland and along the River Barle.

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Ilfracombe Beach and town

Ilfracombe - best for family fun

The little North Devon town of Ilfracombe, put on the map for many when Damien Hirst’s controversial sculpture Verity was set on the harbourside, is also a great destination for a family holiday. Attracting visitors since Victorian times, the unique Tunnels Beaches are reached via tunnels carved through the rock, and the tidal pool is a great place to splash around with the kids.

By the harbourside, Ilfracombe Aquarium is another interesting attraction for families, focusing on the aquatic wonders around North Devon. Just outside of town is Watermouth Castle, arguably the most eccentric family attraction you’ll ever visit, but hours of fun nonetheless. Add to that many other sandy beaches nearby, a host of family-friendly eateries and boat trips from the harbour, and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect family holiday! If you're stuck for days out with the kids in Devon, we've got you covered.

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Plymouth Hoe, outdoor pool and lighthouse

Plymouth - best for shopping

Plymouth is Devon’s largest city and is packed with high street brands, boutique shops, and quirky market stalls. It’s the perfect destination if you’re planning to mix hitting the shops with soaking up some of Devon’s heritage and visiting some of the county’s top attractions. Drake Circus shopping centre is home to over 70 of the UK’s top brands and is a good place to start before heading out into the city centre. The treasure trove that is Plymouth Market and West End should also be on your hit list, while Royal William Yard, the Barbican and Sutton Market offer upmarket boutiques, galleries and gifts alongside a wealth of eateries to suit every taste.

And when you’re not shopping? Take advantage of Plymouth’s wide range of attractions, including meeting some weird and wonderful sea creatures at the National Marine Aquarium; taking a stroll on Hoe Park and admiring the Smeaton’s Tower Lighthouse; wandering around the house and grounds of elegant Mount Edgecumbe; and enjoying all manner of live theatre, comedy and music at the Theatre Royal and Plymouth Pavilions. Find out more about scenic South Devon here.

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Rowboat on a beach with azure water behind

Salcombe - best for water sports

One glance at the ultramarine water lapping Salcombe’s sugar-sand beaches and you’ll be reaching for your swimming gear and running to the water’s edge. While the town itself is undeniably beautiful, it is the stunning scenery around the Kingsbridge Estuary that makes Salcombe a draw for water sports enthusiasts. From beach days frolicking in the crystal blue sea to setting sail, hopping in a kayak, catching the surf or gliding along on a paddleboard – there is no end to the water-based activities.

Salcombe’s own golden stretches, South Sands and North Sands, are both exemplary family beaches, while across the estuary there’s East Portlemouth, and nearby Bigbury and Bantham offer yet more choice of beaches. When you’re not on the water, you can spend hours exploring the town's plentiful bounty of boutiques and galleries, not to mention indulging in some delicious local seafood at one of the many eateries.

Highlights

  • Ferry trip to East Portlemouth
  • Overbecks – subtropical gardens of Otto Overbeck
  • Winking Prawn – Enjoy a pre- or post-water sports meal

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Small boats on a shingle beach

Sidmouth - best for seaside nostalgia

Sidmouth has been a favourite holiday destination since the Victorian era, with Queen Victoria herself holidaying here as a child. Sprawling along a pleasant seafront promenade, flanked by dramatic red cliffs and boasting beautiful gardens, clifftop walks and a characterful town, it’s a place to relax and enjoy the simple seaside pleasures which have delighted generations. Go rock pooling and swimming; have a picnic in the charming Connaught Gardens; take a hike along the dramatic coastline and have an ice cream while wandering along the scenic promenade.

These gentle pursuits are sure to work up an appetite, and your taste buds will be more than satisfied by the selection of eateries on offer in Sidmouth. Delicious local seafood, hearty pub meals, Sunday lunch, coffee and homemade cake and world food options mean that you could eat every day at a different establishment! As if that wasn’t enough, Sidmouth has an epic calendar of events, from the famous Folk Festival to Sidmouth Regatta.

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Torquay Harbour

Torquay - best for evenings out

It’s not hard to see why the area around Torquay is known as the English Riviera. Luxurious yachts bob in its glittering harbour, elegant eateries sit at the end of an attractive promenade, and people spend lazy summer days enjoying the gardens and beaches. There are numerous attractions to keep you busy during the day in this part of Devon, but it’s the evenings when Torquay really comes into its own.

Whatever your idea of the perfect evening, you can be sure that you’ll find it in this South Devon seaside resort. Watch a nationally acclaimed production at the Princess Theatre, enjoy a competitive game of bowling, or head off on a sunset cruise around the bay. Eat out in a restaurant with a view, or indulge in the ultimate dining experience at the town’s very own Michelin-starred restaurant, The Elephant. When everyone else is turning in for bed, Torquay’s bars and clubs come alive, providing entertainment into the small hours.

Highlights

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The pebble and sand beach at Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! - best for days out

Many people fondly remember visiting Westward Ho! in their childhood, and it will hold the same special place in the hearts of families who visit today. The long, pebble-backed sandy beach has seasonal lifeguarded sections (check before entering the water), and the sea pool amongst the craggy rocks at the south end of the promenade is an idyllic spot for a dip from mid to low tide. You're never too old to learn to surf so start making waves at the North Devon Surf School.

When you’re not making the most of the beach, Westward Ho! offers a central base for the fantastic attractions nearby. Families will love The BIG Sheep (2 miles), The Milky Way Adventure Park (9.5 miles) and Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park (23 miles), while green-fingered visitors will feel right at home at RHS Garden Rosemoor (11 miles). If you're travelling without kids and have brought your plus fours, head on down to the Royal North Devon Golf Club, where visitors are welcome. For lunch and a lovely walk, head to the Pierhouse and then walk towards Abbotsham Cliffs, past Seafield House, known to the locals as The Haunted House!

Enjoy wandering around the local towns and villages including Appledore, Bideford, Instow and Clovelly – there’s more than enough to fill a couple of weeks' itineraries!

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View our top 10 places to stay in Devon on a map


 


If you’ve already decided where you’d like to stay, take a look at our collection of holiday cottages in Devon.

Retreat to Devon

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.