Explore the beautiful Devon coast

Beaches, Coastal, Days out

Posted by Ed Roberts on 11th October 2021

Devon coast

Devon: a beautiful county with two unconnected coastlines.

Follow us to the stunning dual coastal lines of Devon and discover the best towns and villages to stay as well as some creative ways to explore the county and see the coast. In this guide, we’ll share our favourite beauty spots along the north and south coasts of Devon. 

The south-westerly county of Devon is an ancient green land, beautifully folded and then contorted by the calligraphy of steep-sided river valleys and verdant hillsides, and then emboldened by astonishing high moorlands. At its northern coastal fringes, you’ll find marram grass-crested sand dunes, pristine woodlands that cascade down the cliffsides, wide golden beaches for sunset worship and the irrepressible Atlantic Ocean. In the south, you have the fossil-laden beaches edged with scuffed red sandstone cliffs; the busy boats bobbing on the waters of the painterly South Devon seaside town harbours; the beguiling English Riviera and the most astonishing stretch of wild coast in the south of England.

Why not stay in a self-catering cottage in Devon?  Read on or click the button below to discover your perfect holiday home by the sea.

Coastal cottages


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North Devon beaches

Northam Burrows Country Park and Westward Ho! Beach

Westward Ho! Beach runs 3 miles northwards from the village along the hem of the low-lying Northam Burrows Country Park. A grey pebble reach runs the full length off the beach’s peripheries out to the Taw-Torridge Estuary. The sea rolls out a long way, so it’s a lovely, breezy place to talk a bracing walk, a jog, or maybe a fun jaunt with the dog (if you have one). Watch surfers and kite surfers brave the swells and marvel at the lively flocks of oystercatchers on the sands at low tide. The village end is a big hit with young families who love nothing better than a beach day full of sandcastle building and a Hocking's ice cream.

Next to the beach is the gorgeous Northam Burrows with its interesting walking trails across the common land - lookout for free-roaming horses and sheep! There’s a new visitor centre planned for 2021, so there will also be a café and modern facilities in the near future. The beach has interesting and well-documented connections to WW2 and is a military historian’s delight. Nature lovers will also be interested in the local habitats which are home to a variety of insect and plant species, making it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Stay at: Pebble House | Sleeps: 6 guests 

Westward Ho! cottages


Croyde Bay

Croyde Bay

Thought by many to be England’s finest surf beach, Croyde is a very beautiful and hugely popular holiday destination on the North Devon coast. Just around the headland from Saunton Beach and home to a protected sand dune system (prime habitat for adder colonies, so stay to the paths), this is a great destination for those that love big waves, sun worship and beach days!

The village has good pubs and cafes and is less than 1 mile inland from the beach along level pathways. After the beach, you could follow the South West Coast Path over Baggy Point to Putsborough Beach which blends into Woolacombe Beach at its northern end. This part of North Devon is home to several great beaches, which also includes Barricane Beach, Combe Martin, Lee Bay, and Hele Beach.

Stay at: Kenmaron at Croyde | Sleeps: 5 guests plus 1 dog 

Croyde cottages


Welcombe Mouth Beach

Welcombe Mouth Beach

Just inside the Devon border with Cornwall is Welcombe Mouth, which is a superb, stark beach with a waterfall, sandy stretches, rock pools and huge jagged boulders to clamber over. High above the beach on the South West Coast Path is a writer’s hut too, where you can enjoy views across the beach; it’s one heck of a climb to reach from the car park though. Take a picnic and marvel at the uncanny geology that dwarves everybody who visits; it’s a peculiar looking place, that will also satisfy beach lovers. After a few hours of enjoying the sunshine, head up to The Old Smithy Inn for a cool pint in its lovely gardens. Be aware that the beach car park is accessed via a very narrow and rocky track, so if you have a low-slung car, park in Darracott and walk down instead.

Stay at: Stoke Cottage | Sleeps: 10 guests plus 3 dogs 

Welcombe cottages


South Devon beaches

Slapton Sands

Slapton Sands

Slapton Sands is a remarkable beach which consists of a long and narrow spit of shingle that cuts between the salty sea and the freshwater lake of Slapton Ley Nature Reserve (the largest natural lake in the South West of England). It’s a unique spot with great views out over the English Channel. Look out for the Sherman tank that was once submerged in the shingle. Its restoration commemorates the 600 US servicemen in a U-boat attack during WW2; they were on a training exercise for the D-Day Landings.

The beauty at Slapton is exceptional and even though it has a sad history, a walk along the beach and around the nature reserve is thoroughly recommended. You may even see swallows, badgers, otters, foxes or even dormice (if you are very, very, very fortunate). Visit the Slapton Ley site for its programme of nature walks. 

Stay at: Curlew at Cotmore | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 2 dogs  

Slapton cottages


Blackpool Sands

Blackpool Sands near Dartmouth

Blackpool Sands near Dartmouth is a classic sandy beach in a sheltered, woodland bay. It’s simply gorgeous and needs to be seen by everybody that loves the beach. Evergreens provide a lush backdrop and create a beautiful natural barrier between the sea and the outside world. During the summer, there is a café and a spot from which to hire small watercraft including sea kayaks and paddleboards. 

Behind the beach is Blackpool Gardens; like a miniature version of Heligan in Cornwall, some forgotten gardens from the late 1800s were restored to their former glory by the landowners in the early 2000s. The restoration includes a lovely collection of semi-tropical plants. The gently winding paths slope around the gardens to some excellent viewing spots like The Captain’s Seat and the Crow’s Nest which are great for taking in the panoramas across Start Bay. The gardens are open daily between the beginning of April and the end of September. 

Stay at: West Combe Cottage | Sleeps: 10 guests plus 1 dog 

Dartmouth cottages


Burgh Island

Burgh Island and Bigbury-on-Sea

Burgh Island is an iconic South Devon beach and landmark. The small island, which is cut off by the tide each cycle, is connected by a wide spit of sand. Burgh Island is an oblique hill with the impressive white edifice, the Burgh Island Hotel taking pride of place at its base. The Pilchard Inn, next door, is a superb place to enjoy a pint on the promenade. When the waters rise, you can see the waves roll in from both sides of the beach, which create a cool optical illusion. You can also walk to the summit of the hill and soak in the grand views back the mainland and Bigbury-on-Sea Beach.

One particular curiosity is the sea tractor that ferries passengers back and forth to the island when the sea rolls in. It’s a peculiar vehicle with an elevated chassis and large wheels. Bigbury-on-Sea Beach is one of the best and only places to come to for serious surfing action; it also attracts literary fans, as it is thought that Agatha Christie was inspired by the island’s hotel location enough to write ‘And Then There Were None.’

If you're really looking to make the most of your time by the sea on your next holiday, our guide to Devon's unbelievable beaches will show you even more stunning stretches of sand to visit.

Stay in: East Delvers | Sleeps: 4 guests + 2 dogs

Bigbury cottages


North Devon coastal towns and villages

Clovelly

Clovelly

The fully conserved fishing village of Clovelly is a place of ornate beauty and with its steep cobbled streets, white-washed cottages and friendly donkeys, it’s a must-see if you are visiting the North Devon coast. The harbour is characterised by its arching stone wall and The Red Lion pub. A shingle beach acts as a haul out for the small fishing fleet that is based there, specialising in herring! Cars are kept out of the main part of the village, so you can only reach the seafront on foot, sat on a donkey’s back, or by private boat charter.

High above Clovelly is the Hobby Drive, which is a gently ascending trail (that makes up part of the South West Coast Path). In the winter months, you can see all across the bay through the bare trees, and in the summer it is one of the best and easiest green walks on the North Coast. Clovelly has a visitor centre too where you can buy themed gifts as mementoes of your visit.

Stay in: Elm Cottage | Sleeps: 2 guests 

Clovelly cottages


Woolacombe

Woolacombe is a charming seaside town with a gigantic, wide and sandy beach. A laidback vibe imbues the town with a holiday feel all year round. As you drive down to Woolacombe, you can feel the excitement rise as the ocean opens out ahead of you. Lundy sits out in the bay and the wide skies promise a fantastic holiday lies in wait for you at the bottom of the hill. The small town centre is really geared up to welcome visitors with a procession of great eateries, a state-of-the-art cinema – The Neo.

Summertime means curry on the beach at Barricane at the north end of Woolacombe Beach. The beach is one of North Devon’s most loved and is a major draw for surfers and day-trippers alike. Hike around Mortehoe Point for even greater views across to South Wales and the Bristol Channel. At the southern end of Woolacombe Beach, it merges into Putsborough Beach. The beach and the wild dune system is the setting for one of the toughest beach runs in the UK, the Woolacombe 10K.

Stay at: Breakers | Sleeps: 4 guests 

Woolacombe cottages


Lynmouth

Lynton and Lynmouth

Lynton and Lynmouth is a remarkable duo of small towns have earned the nickname ‘Little Switzerland’ – and this is very apt considering the delightful illusion of being amidst an Alpine setting. Lynmouth is at sea level, at the head of the fast West Lyn and the East Lyn rivers as they flow down from the rent heights of Exmoor, through Watersmeet or Glen Lyn Gorge and out into the Bristol Channel.

Kayakers enjoy the challenge of negotiating the torrents through the mossy boulder-strewn river course - it looks like dangerous fun! Glen Lyn Gorge is a very pleasant diversion if you love water gardens. Wander along the seafront lawns with an ice cream and then take the water propelled cliff car up the rock to Lynton, which offers visitors unrivalled views down the coast.

Stay at: Lynhurst | Sleeps: 22 guests plus 2 dogs  

Lynton and Lynmouth cottages


South Devon coastal towns and villages

Torquay

Torquay

Torquay is the hub of the English Riviera, with commanding views across Tor Bay. The town centre is characterised by its long palm tree-lined promenade, its boardwalk, stunning marina and the stylish Victorian buildings at the waterfront. The Riviera stretches 22 miles, made up of craggy cliffs, sheltered bays and sandy beaches. And Torquay has always been central to those that come to Devon seeking a sunny holiday.

Walk the Agatha Christie Mile, go underground to Kent’s Caverns and pay a visit to the historic Berry Pomeroy Castle. Torquay is a brilliant place for dining too, as the choices are endless. Stop in at the town’s oldest pub, The Hole in the Wall, for a pint of Devon ale or cider! Take a boat trip across the bay to Brixham or Paignton - it’s fun!

Stay at: Torquay's Stable Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 3 dogs

Torquay cottages


Brixham

Brixham

Brixham is a popular seaside resort with all the trappings of a traditional fishing village, except it’s a town. Centring around a gorgeous harbour, where you can visit a life-size replica of the Golden Hind and investigate the wonderful array of atmospheric cafes and restaurants which line Brixham’s narrow byways. For budding historians, visit the Brixham Heritage Centre; wayfarers will be glad that they went exploring on Berry Head and along the South West Coast Path. Take a ferry ride to some of the other towns at the edge of Tor Bay, like Teignmouth, Torquay and Paignton.

Stay in: Sandy Bottom Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests  

Brixham cottages


Discover Devon

Devon's two stunning coastlines are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what this glorious county has to offer. For even more inspiration, check out our guides to both North Devon and South Devon, as well as the best places to stay across Devon.

Enjoy your holiday in a coastal holiday cottage in Devon. We have a wide and varied collection of holiday accommodation along the coasts of North Devon and South Devon. So, if you are planning a coastal holiday with your loved one for a romantic break, or an escape with family and friends to a large property with sea views, we have the perfect self-catering holiday cottage by the coast in Devon, just for you.

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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.