Scenic South Devon: a guide to the highlights

South Devon is gently characterised by its scenic seaside villages and charming country towns. With rolling green countryside and moorlands, South Devon is a diverse and wonderful choice for those looking for a lovely holiday in the South West. With so much to see and do, South Devon is the kind of quaint holiday destination that you’ll want to return to year after year, making memories to treasure with your family and loved ones.

Read on to discover the highlights of this stunning part of the South West, such as the best beaches and places to eat and drink in South Devon. Visit South Devon for your next holiday to make unforgettable memories.

Scenic Devon 1

Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in South Devon. We have a collection of exceptional properties in inspiring locations all across the county, from Seaton in the east to Plymouth in the west. Whether you are looking for a sea view apartment or a large townhouse for extended family, a rural pile on the moors or cosy bolthole in a lush woodland setting, we have a beautiful property for you in our collection. Many of our properties are dog-friendly too, so bring your four-legged pals along to join the adventure.

South Devon cottages

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👉Places to visit in South Devon
👉Things to do in South Devon
👉Best beaches in South Devon
👉Places to eat and drink in South Devon

Places to visit in South Devon



The jewel of the English Riviera, Brixham, brims with traditional character. An ancient fishing port, visitors can buy freshly landed fish at Brixham Market or at one of the village's many local pubs or restaurants. For those who fancy a day at the beach, several sandy beaches are close by, while there are many coastal paths to explore, including the cliff-top nature reserve Berry Head which is popular with birdwatchers. Check out the Golden Hind Museum Ship, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship from the Spanish Armada, while the Brixham Pirate Festival each spring is a riot.

Stay at: Harbour View Cottage | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog

Brixham cottages



A historian's dream, begin your visit at Exeter Cathedral, which dates back to Normans. This striking building is situated at the heart of the university city and has an impressive astronomical clock which dates back to 1484. Cathedral Green is home to some great eateries, the High Street and Princesshay Shopping Centre are both a very short walk away. Exeter is renowned for its independent arts and live music scenes. The Cavern and Exeter Phoenix regularly play host to top gigs and shows, while nearby Powderham Castle also hosts big events. The best local attractions include Crealy Adventure Park, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) and a Go Ape. The coast is a few miles away at Exmouth and Dawlish. 

Stay at: Kenniford Cider Steps | Sleeps: 4 guests

Exeter cottages



You'll be spoilt for choice for things to visit in the maritime city of Plymouth. Shoppers love the city, especially Drake Circus where you'll find all the high street favourites. See a play or catch some live music at the Plymouth Pavilions and the Theatre Royal or embark on a historical tour. Take in the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the Americas in 1620 to establish a colony. Also check out The Barbican, the city aquarium, Tinside Lido and Smeaton’s Tower on the Hoe. It's a great city to enjoy South Devon on a large scale.

Stay at: Huccaby Lodge | Sleeps: 2 guests

Plymouth cottages

Things to do in South Devon

Catch a ferry from Brixham to Torquay


View the English Riviera from the sea when you catch a ferry from Brixham Harbour to Torquay marina. There are several operators that provide a regular service across Torbay between the two resorts. It’s a great way to avoid traffic and parking fees in busy Torquay, but most of all for boat lovers, it’s a great way to spend the day. You may even catch glimpses of busy sea birds and dolphins too!

Stay at: Starboard Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog 

Go bird spotting   


The Exe Estuary is one of the best places to spot birds in Devon. There are two RSPB nature reserves: Bowling Marsh Green and Exminster Marshes along the river where you can hole up in a hide and look out for some lesser-spotted species. Observe the many sedentary and migratory birds that spend time there, keep an eye out for the lapwings, redshanks, wigeons and warblers amongst them.

Stay at: Corfu Cottage | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 2 dogs  

Ride the Burgh Island sea tractor 

Sea tractor

What’s a sea tractor? Well, you can see for yourself if you head down to Bigbury-on-Sea. Connected to the mainland by a spit of sand that gets submerged by the high tide is Burgh Island, so in order to get to and from the island, you take a ride aboard the peculiar-looking sea tractor. With huge wheels and a top-heavy appearance, the sea tractor at Burgh Island is essentially a long-wheelbase trailer with a motor and a steering wheel; such vehicles were popular in the 1930s but there are hardly any left these days. Visit the gorgeous South Sands Beach at Bigbury-on-Sea and a pub and hotel bar on Burgh Island too.

Stay at: Fairways Retreat | Sleeps: 4 guests

More things to do in Devon

Beautiful beaches in South Devon

Blackpool Sands

Blackpool Sands

One of the purest and most iconic beaches of the English Riviera, the tree-fringed Blackpool Sands has been a favourite with those that holiday around the South Hams and South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for over 100 years. With handy facilities and the sub-tropical Blackpool Gardens above the beach, this place is the perfect backdrop for a day of sun worship or sandcastle building.

Stay at: Clarence | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog



If you hanker for a day out at a traditional English seaside resort, you can’t go wrong with a stay in the underrated Sidmouth. Tall, red sandstone cliffs guard the east and west ends of the town so the beach remains the focal point with several sections of coastline linked by an esplanade and a shady park. The prom is lined with quaint cafes and places to eat, and the high street has many more places to dine. The beach at Sidmouth is pebbly so it’s a good place to collect shells and interesting looking stones with the kids.

Stay at: Regency House | Sleeps: 9 guests plus 2 dogs



If you fancy a bout of fossil hunting at a sheltered beach within a stone’s throw of a cosy pub, then Beer is the place to be. This South Devon village is a fine spot to while away a day; kids can play in the surf, you can take in the views and enjoy a pint above the beach. It’s a fun spot with something for all the family to enjoy. When the sun gets too hot, head into the Beer Quarry Caves, a man-made network of subterranean tunnels where Beer Stone was once quarried. 

Stay at: Beach Side | Sleeps: 4 guests 

More beaches in Devon

Places to eat and drink in South Devon

South Devon is a superb choice of holiday destination for the gastronomically intrepid. Whether it's gastropubs, cafes or fine dining options you’re looking for, there’s a diverse selection of places to try out.

Fine dining: The Galley Restaurant in Topsham 

The Galley - Topsham

Seafood fanatics rejoice, the Galley Restaurant in Topsham offers expectant diners Brixham crab, River Exe salmon, Exmouth Mussels and more. With the focus on quality seafood, this is one of the very best establishments in the county. The wine list is impressive too, so book ahead as the Galley gets busy during peak periods.

Stay at: Highfield | Sleeps 6 guests plus 1 dog  

Pub grub: The Bear and Blacksmith in Chillington

The Bear and Blacksmith

After a long walk in the countryside or a day at the beach, a well-earned pub meal with a pint of ale or a glass of wine is often all you need. Look no further than the winner of the Taste of the West gold medal in 2018, The Bear and Blacksmith in Chillington. Specialising in a very tasty blend of local foods, try out the gilthead bream or pork rillette. A sure hit if you are in the Brixham area.

Stay at: Four Decks | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog  

More top Devon pubs

Café: The Café at Seabreeze 


The Café at Seabreeze has a glorious view to complement the cornucopia of pancakes, scones and incredible soups on offer. Sitting on the shore at Slapton Sands, this is the ideal café for those in love with sea views. It’s a lovely spot and well worth your time if you have come for a stroll along the seafront and the nearby nature reserve.

Stay at: Ferndale Treetops View | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 2 dogs 

More top Devon restaurants

Plan your perfect South Devon holiday

Where will you stay on your holiday to South Devon? Whether you are travelling to the South West with your partner or you are planning some quality time with close family, we have self-catering holiday accommodation, large and small, to fit any occasion.

South Devon cottages



Photo credits:

  • The Galley @sweeryvine
  • The Bear and Blacksmith @amblersmith
  • Seabreeze @themanoutdoors

Posted by Ed Roberts on 27th February 2020