For such a small country, England has an amazing diversity of scenery, history, culture—and thereby experiences for tourists. And because it’s small, with proper planning you can really see a ton in a fairly short trip.
We spent eight days in the Devon region, based in one place and exploring all sorts of different places near and far. The coast in this region is known as the “English Riviera” and quite a popular with Brits, but we didn’t see as many American tourists when we were there. It’s a perfect area to get a taste of what England has to offer!
You might also enjoy seeing the rest of our UK adventures:
(and more to come)
Within this post, I’ve focused on destinations that didn’t require a full day to see, so can be a half day or only a couple hours if you prefer. I’ve also provided a few full-day (or slightly longer, if you prefer) trips you can do in this area and are totally worth your time.
A car is definitely needed for this type of trip. While there are some buses and trains throughout England, you would be severely handicapped in trying to wind your way through smaller towns in this area without having a car of your own. One thing to consider, though, is whether you want to take a train from London to a larger town down south, then pick up your rental car there—many locals on the TripAdvisor forums advised that for us, and while we didn’t, I can see how it would be helpful.
What you’ll find in this post:
- Base: Torquay
- Babbacombe and the best Devonshire cream tea
- Cockington Village
- Wine and cheese tasting at Sharpham Estate
- Berry Pomeroy Castle in Totnes
- Powderham Castle
Full Day Trip Ideas from Devon, England
We took a handful of full-day trips that are easy to do from the area as well, and recommend all of them. All of them could be multi-day trips as well, to be able to see more (these are all long days, with the exception of Bath).
- We spent a day driving up and down the Jurassic Coast, a gorgeous day of dramatic coastal views, castles, and more.
- We did a very ambitious trip up to south Wales, which was a looooong day but we loved.
- We visited parts of Cornwall, including St. Michael’s Mount, and though the weather wasn’t gorgeous had a ball.
- A day in Bath was delightful, with the Roman Baths, totally awesome buildings, and ghost of Jane Austen everywhere.
Here’s a live Google Map of the places mentioned here. The orange ones are the full-day trips, while the blue are in the immediate vicinity of where we stayed and can be seen very easily. You can access the map itself to zoom in easily on the local ones only. These are what I’ve focused on in the rest of this post.
Torquay: a great base
We based ourselves in lovely little Torquay, a decent-sized town right on the coast. It’s big enough to have what you need (plenty of rentals, a couple supermarkets, etc.) and is really central in the area. It helps that it’s right off a main highway, for easy access to other destinations. We didn’t spend a ton of time exploring Torquay itself, but here’s a good list of things that you can do right there if you’re interested.
Also the most glorious sunsets…honestly, I couldn’t pick just one of these!
Babbacombe and Angel’s Tea Room
If you want to try the famous Devonshire cream tea—AND YOU DO—then a visit to Angel’s in adorable Babbacombe needs to be first on your list! It’s about a 5-10 minute drive from Torquay, and you’ll have to shoehorn your car in along the street with everyone else.
Once you walk through the verdant arch, you’ll enter a tiny little magical place bursting full of scones, sandwiches, clotted cream, interesting jams, and fragrant tea. It’s heaven.
Man, we ate ourselves silly, BOTH times we visited. We got the cream tea and sandwiches platter, and had a blast picking which types of scones we wanted to try. I loved them all, but I think the Bakewell scone (the special that day) won me over with its almond and cherry duo.
And then that indulgent clotted cream piled on top, with that lovely tart jam slathered on. SHEER HEAVEN.
When you roll yourself out the door of Angel’s, walk across the street to take in the gorgeous view of the coast. There’s a little public park where people chill and let their dogs play, and a walking path to get a bit closer to the ocean. It’s just peaceful and beautiful.
This cute village is about a 10 minute drive or 45-60 minute walk from Torquay, super easy to get to. It’s got a 16th-century manor house and expansive grounds, a Norman church, cottages with roofs thatched in the old time-y traditional way, and so much more.
We barely scratched the surface on our visit, but it also has all manner of arts and crafts (chocolatier, glassblowing, blacksmith, etc.), horse and carriage rides…well, you get the picture!
Isn’t this just the cutest?!
Wine tasting at Sharpham Estate
Yeah, I know…wine tasting in England?? (Trust me, I made the same face.) I won’t tell you it’s the best wine you’ve ever had, but it was a lovely (gloomy) afternoon regardless. And it was a unique experience, since wine is not something you really think of England producing.
The weird route that Google Maps took us from Torquay was heavily these one-track lanes with high hedges on either side…meeting another car was always nerve-wracking!!
Sharpham Estate is a beautiful vineyard and farm that makes wine, cheeses, and I believe even a great restaurant during the tourist season. We did a fairly basic wine tasting with some cheeses as well, and wandered around the estate to enjoy the views.
It’s too bad the day wasn’t prettier, but our big group had a fun and relaxing afternoon at Sharpham, and my roomie and I brought a couple bottles back with us (that were promptly consumed with company that night).
Berry Pomeroy Castle, in Totnes
This was an impulse stop for us, something we happened upon on our drive from Cornwall to Torquay. It’s only about 20 minutes from Torquay, so an easy thing to do with just a couple hours. We didn’t go into the castle because we’d rolled up right before closing time (and were honestly tired and wanted to get to our Airbnb), but the pics I saw online were super cool!
The castle was built between the 1500s and 1700s and meant to be a showpiece in the region. There’s a cafe too, so if you want to get a snack and grab seat on the grass to enjoy a beautiful day, who could blame you?
Exeter is definitely worth a stop on your trip, even if it’s just for lunch or a fun evening. It’s a vibrant university city full of bars, pubs, restaurants, and then sprinkled with some Roman ruins, pretty Georgian streets, and one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in England.
It makes a great half-day trip from Torquay, but we ended up catching it at the tail-end of our Jurassic Coast day instead. The skies had opened and so it was gloomy and wet, so all we really did was take in the amazing cathedral and then go grab a drink in a local pub nearby.
Exeter Cathedral is over 900 years old and a must-see in the Devon region. The Gothic front has insane amounts of carved figures, then has two Norman towers and a host of other things to see.
Also this guy…very serious.
Set in a natural harbor on the River Dart, Dartmouth is another super cute option for a few hours of your time. It’s a colorful medieval full of super narrow streets, adorable buildings, and some pretty great historic landmarks.
The harbor itself is gorgeous, but Dartmouth Castle is the big star here. Originally a castle and then adapted into an artillery fort for defense in the 15th century, it’s got loads of history and some of the best views around. A walk through the castle is definitely worth your time.
Powderham Castle is a super easy visit if you’re in the Exeter area, or something to catch as you’re headed to Bath or London. It’s a very well-preserved late medieval castle on absolutely gorgeous grounds. We were on our way to get someone to a train in Bath so didn’t have time to truly explore the castle and grounds, but wandered around a bit and then ended up having a lovely lunch at the cafe as well. Toasties, pasties, pastries, and more!
Even with all of that, I feel like we barely scratched the surface in the Devon region. We didn’t have the time or inclination for Exmoor or Dartmoor (I was in a walking cast, so they didn’t sound as fun), and we didn’t have time to get to some of the little beaches. I also would have loved to do some sailing, but we were there later in the year so it was a bit cool and a lot of the tourist things had shut down.
If you loved England, give Scotland a try:
- A Stunning 2 Days On Scotland’s Isle of Skye
- Soaking in the Serenity of Scotland’s Tiny Isle of Iona
- A Day on Scotland’s Mystical Isle of Lewis & Harris
- Scottish Highlands: Driving Glen Torridon, Applecross, & Bealach Na Ba
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