England’s Devon coastline is more wild and undeveloped than many other areas of the island. Here on England’s pointed western arm, you will find rolling farmland, historic villages, castles, national parks, dramatic rocky coastlines and peaceful beaches. Here are eight of my favorite spots on the Devon coast and Exmoor National Park.
This compact and lovely estate has a little bit of everything: a historic house open for viewing, a tea room, gardens, pastures, walks and access to a stunning section of the Devon coastline. Hartland Abbey estate is becoming a famous film location and it is fun to see spots from one’s favorite British shows, along with enjoying everything else the estate has to offer.
READ MORE: A Visit to Hartland Abbey
This car free village is perched on a cliff overlooking a small harbor on the Devon coast. It feels like you are stepping back in time among the cobbled, winding streets, the narrow houses, the donkey carts, and the picturesque sweep of the Clovely quay. This harbor is also a British film spot and was recently featured in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie.
The road to get here is not for the faint at heart, yet this remote Exmoor cove is worth the white knuckles! Once you make it down the narrow winding lane, backing up to let cars pass or wincing lest your mirrors scrape stone walls, you will find yourself at a National Trust car park and gift shop next door to the historic Hunter’s Inn. It’s about a one mile walk from the Inn, through lush undergrowth, and along a creek to the wild and wonderful pebble beach that is Heddon’s Mouth. Enjoy a drink at the Inn upon your return in true English fashion!
While technically Dunster is in Somerset, not Devon, it’s close enough to count in my book. One of the best preserved medieval towns in England, you will find winding streets, crooked houses, a historic covered Yarn market with a castle looming on the hill above. Dunster has enough to keep you busy for a full day or more with tours of the castle, family activities, gardens, a water mill, a museum, shops and restaurants.
When my family and I visited Dunster, we were able to squeeze in a visit to Selworthy on the way home, although you could easily enjoy a full day in each village. If you love thatched roof cottages, Selworthy is the place to visit! One of the most peaceful spots I have ever seen is the tiny Selworthy church, overlooking rolling pastureland. You can also enjoy a delicious tea in the delightful Periwinkle Tearoom. There are plenty of delightful country walks around Selworthy, or if you are up for a climb, the view from the Selworthy Beacon is stunning.
Thought to be the smallest, active parish church in England, this tiny church dates from the pre-Norman era. It seats only 30 people and cannot be accessed by motor vehicle. The church makes a great destination for a day hike from Porlock Wier and you can enjoy a picnic on the benches outside. The church building was also featured in the television miniseries based on Lorna Doone.
Combe Martin Beach
There are lots of charming beaches along the Devon coastline, even among all the cliffs and rocky promontories. Combe Martin is an out of the way beach where locals come to enjoy sand and water. There is a decent sized carpark and easy beach access. It’s fun to explore the old stone quay when the tide is low. In the village you can find old-fashioned pubs, a 13th century church or enjoy the Wildlife and Dinosaur museum nearby.
The fishing villages of Porlock Wier, Lynton and Lynmouth
Exmoor national park is home to so many villages with fun names! These three are rather out of the way fishing village that exude non-touristy charm. Ride the steepest water-powered railway in the world, have a pint, wander the streets or maybe go fishing?
Tips for planning your own visit
- You will need a car to make it to most of these places.
- You will need to be comfortable driving on narrow, winding roads.
- Be prepared for spats of rain any time of the year, even in summer.
- Pack layers and good walking shoes.
- You can make these stops as part of a Devon coast driving tour. Also many are accessible from the Southwest coast long distance hiking route.
- All these spots can be made as day trips from the Barnstable town area.
- The novel Lorna Doone is set in this area and mentions many of these villages by name.
- Some of the many films that were made here are Lorna Doone, The Guernsey Literary and Potoato Peal Pie Society, Sense and Sensibility and some episodes of Jeeves and Wooster.
READ MORE: How to Plan Your Itinerary