When friends come to stay where do you take them to experience the very best that your local area has to offer? We asked some of our regular writers for their must-do Devon holiday suggestions...


Great British Life: Simone Stanbrook-ByrneSimone Stanbrook-Byrne

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne

Walk along the Grand Western Canal Country Park from the Holcombe Rogus end – a lesser-known section – or have coffee (or a glass of wine) on the floating Duck’s Ditty café bar at the Tiverton end (this is open seasonally from May).

Follow one of the marked trails through Ashclyst Forest.

Have a picnic in the churchyard of tiny Netherexe Chapel on the Exe Valley Way, check out online when their festival services take place and join in for their harvest celebration.

Great British Life: Simone loves to take a picnic to a picnic in the churchyard of tiny Netherexe Chapel on the Exe Valley Way. Photo: Simone Stanbrook-ByrneSimone loves to take a picnic to a picnic in the churchyard of tiny Netherexe Chapel on the Exe Valley Way. Photo: Simone Stanbrook-Byrne

Look for group garden openings, when you can go behind the scenes in a host of village gardens.

Visit Bridwell for the Orangery Café and to see their roaming herds of deer.

PYO strawberries and raspberries at Thornes Farm, Cheriton Fitzpaine.

Visit Fursdon House and Gardens, a privately owned stately home near Thorverton that has been in the Fursdon family for centuries.


Great British Life: Sue CadeSue Cade

Sue Cade

The most stunning east Devon sunsets can be seen from the decking of Coldharbour Field Kitchen in Ottery St Mary whilst enjoying tasty tapas and a glass of fizz – perfect for a Friday or Saturday night evening with friends.

A Segway Safari at Escot Estate with Devon Country Pursuits is loads of fun and a chance to have a whistle stop tour of the natural environs of this historic estate.

For sea swimmers the east Devon coastline has much to offer, especially if you don’t mind stony beaches! The three B Beaches – Budleigh, Beer and Branscombe have different merits but all are family friendly and have local facilities. Be aware of Branscombe’s parking charges before you go, top tip is to park near the village hall and walk down to the beach, although you’re asked to make a donation in the well, so take some coins.

One of the best places for a dog walk is Woodbury Common; you can walk for miles. Parking at the iron age hill fort of Woodbury Castle is often really busy, so check on a map for other parking – if you turn off the main road there are plenty of other car parks. In the summer months, much of the landscape is awash with the vibrant colour combination of yellow gorse and purple heather.

Great British Life: Go for a dog walk on Woodbury Common. Photo: Leon Woods/Getty Images Go for a dog walk on Woodbury Common. Photo: Leon Woods/Getty Images

Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens nestle on clifftops between the town beach and Jacobs Ladder. These offer a lovely respite from the business of the town during the summer months, and as well as seasonal planting there’s a fascinating fossil plant theme in areas of the garden, linking to the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic eras associated with the coastline.

Otterton Mill is ideally located for walks along the River Otter where you’d be unlucky not to spot some local wildlife, and if you’re lucky, a kingfisher, otters or beaver. The mill is a lovely place to browse local crafts and enjoy a delicious Devon cream tea. Cream first!

For science buffs, the Norman Lockyer Observatory above Sidmouth provides a diverting experience. It’s a historical observatory and home to an active amateur astronomical society. Well worth a visit, it’s not open all the time but does have public events so check on the website.



Great British Life: James ChubbJames Chubb

James Chubb

Go evening beaver watching on the River Otter.

Matiscombe Sands paddle boarding with grey seals and barbecue sausages on the beach from Stokely farm shop.

Walking The Underhooken from Beer to Branscombe for beer, before returning to Beer for a refreshing snorkel.

Tram ride and wander back through Seaton Wetlands bird watching the early autumn passage of migrant birds on Black Hole Marsh lagoon.

Great British Life: Go bird watching at Seaton wetlands. Photo: Thomas Faull/Getty ImagesGo bird watching at Seaton wetlands. Photo: Thomas Faull/Getty Images

Surrounding yourself with the hypnotic churr of nightjars on Trinity Hill, the east Devon nature reserve.

Running an overnight moth trap and pouring over the contents with morning coffee, it’s like a magician pulling endless colourful rabbits from a hat!

Sitting in the Abbey Inn beer garden at Buckfastleigh with a bat detector listening to greater horseshoe bats come streaming out of the Higher Kiln Quarry.

Woodland bathing in Yarner Wood on the eastern edge of Dartmoor - sitting silently listening for the little three: wood warbler, pied flycatcher, lesser spotted woodpeckers.



Great British Life: Sharon GobleSharon Goble

Sharon Goble

One of my favourite Dartmoor days out from Exeter is brunch, lunch or tea and cake at the Cafe on the Green at Widecombe in the Moor - they always have great veggie options, daily specials, yummy cakes and welcome canine companions. On a chilly day, sit by a fire. On sunny days, the outside space overlooks the village green and church. There are plenty of tables inside out and a car park next door (take cash, it doesn't accept card payments!). Walk off your food with a hike at nearby Bonehill Rocks. If you like history, why not visit a genuine Dartmoor longhouse? Higher Uppacott in Widecombe in the Moor is one of the oldest surviving on Dartmoor.

The view of the Taw-Torridge estuary from Worlington Hill above Instow in North Devon is hard to beat. You have to earn it though as it's a steep walk up! While in Instow, treat yourself to what I reckon are the best brownies and hot chocolates in Devon (my sons agree) at Johns deli in Instow (they are also available at sister shop Johns of Appledore if you find yourself on the Torridge side).

Great British Life: Enjoy coffee and cake and a view of the green at Widecombe in the Moor. Photo: Laurence Berger/Getty IamgesEnjoy coffee and cake and a view of the green at Widecombe in the Moor. Photo: Laurence Berger/Getty Iamges

The Masonic Lodge in Gandy Street in Exeter is another recent - and surprising - discovery. I've lived in Exeter for 25 years and didn't know it was there. The intriguing Grade I-listed building dates back to the 14th century and is occasionally open to the public for tours.

The Devon and Exeter Institution is another heritage gem - a historic library in the heart of the city on Cathedral Green. There are public tours and lots of regular events, talks and workshops for adults and children, many of them free to attend.

Out of the city centre, Heavitree Pleasure Ground is a great recreational space with a kiddies’ paddling pool, tennis and basketball courts and table tennis tables. Best of all, the Heavitree Community Cafe - a sympathetic modern, timber-clad building that's a great stop-off for ice cream or something more substantial to eat. I love their cooked veggie breakfasts.

The Sea Glass Gallery is one of my favourite places to visit in Lympstone. This estuary village is easily reachable by train or bike from Exeter, cycling along the Exe Estuary Trail. The gallery is tiny but packed with artwork by local artists, much of it with a maritime influence. They do a great range of workshops too - so far, I've done lino printing and watercolours there!



Great British Life: Chrissy HarrisChrissy Harris

Chrissy Harris

From Torquay seafront, walk through Cockington Watermeadows for a pint at The Drum (or an ice-cream at Cockington Mill).

Go porpoise watching at Berry Head in Brixham. Success rates are high. You can usually see them playing about in the water if you wait there long enough. Be careful if you go with young kids, however. There’s no fence between you and the deep blue.

Small World tapas in Abbey Road, Torquay, is fab. Traditional Spanish plates mixed with new flavours in a cosy restaurant that’s buzzing with regulars who don’t mind trekking to this slightly off-beat part of town.

Walk through Torbay’s Valley of the Rocks to Maidencombe Beach, a popular spot for local sea swimmers. The café here (now Café Rio) has recently been given a new lease of life.

Bacon sarnies on the beach at Oddicombe. Walk down, grab a take-away from Three Degrees West and get the Babbacombe Cliff Railway back up if your legs are tired.

Go to Tottiford and Trenchford reservoirs, near Bovey Tracey. It’s sooo peaceful here, all year round. Take a flat, circular walk and watch the trees reflected in the water. It’s magical.

Picnic up Pew (or Pu) Tor on Dartmoor, near Tavistock. Climb to the top for a full 360-degree view over the moors and right across to Cornwall.

Great British Life: Take a walk from Broadsands beach to Churston Cove for a snorkel. Photo: Predrag Vuckovic/Getty ImagesTake a walk from Broadsands beach to Churston Cove for a snorkel. Photo: Predrag Vuckovic/Getty Images

Take a short walk from Broadsands beach in Paignton, across the headland to Elberry Cove for a swim and then on to Churston Cove for a snorkel, if you’ve got time. The tourists don’t usually get this far, so these beaches are always quieter.

TQ Beerworks Taphouse in Abbey Crescent, Torquay has great views and new age craft beers to try out while you watch the sun go down.

Take your dog on a walk through Scadson Woods to Occombe Farm in Torbay. They’ve recently had a makeover and there’s a great set of indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids, an animal trail, plus a decent farm shop and two cafés. Breakfast is particularly good.

Buy something unique at Bogey Knights, Mount Wise, Plymouth. Everything you never knew you needed ... under one roof. Fave finds have included a police riot shield and an ammunition box (excellent for storage).

Enjoy sushi at Kyowa in Ebrington Street, Plymouth. Meticulously prepared Japanese specialities in a student/bohemian strip (who knew?).

Tuck into buns, bread, coffee at the city's newest, coolest artisan bakery, The Almond Thief in Looe Street, Plymouth.



Great British Life: Su CarrollSu Carroll

Su Carroll

We always start with the best attraction on our doorstep – The Box. Once Pkymouth’s Library and Art Gallery it was transformed into a modern museum space. It starts with the wow factor – ships’ figureheads suspended from the ceiling – and takes you through life in the city from the epic explorer Robert Scott to the night life of Union Street. Kids love the life-sized mammoth and all sorts of aquatic specimens – the uglier the better!

‘Rusting piece of rubbish’ – that was the cry from a passer-by when renowned artist Antony Gormley came to visit his work Look II, on a jetty on the foreshore of Plymouth Hoe. He seemed unperturbed by the reaction. This is the man whose much-loved Angel of the North was ridiculed when first erected and is now iconic. Look II stares out to sea – next stop America – and is full of wonder and hope. I like it and I loved this artist’s connection with the sea (remember the figures on the beach in Crosby, near Liverpool?) Free to visit, head for the Hoe and look for a tall, rusting figure. Ice creams optional.

Dartmoor Prison Museum is worth the trip across Dartmoor alone. You can see why this bleak spot was the perfect choice for a jail to house Napoleonic prisoners when it opened in 1809. Today’s prison is across the road and the museum that documents more than 200 years of history is in old prison farm buildings (mercifully cool if it’s too hot for the beach!) Learn about the history, famous inmates, notorious escapes and see what prison life is like up close – go in a cell, see the prison menu, discover all about contraband and weapons.

Generations of Plymouthians have flocked to Tinside lido in the summer since 1935 to enjoy the salt water outdoor pools with the incredible view across the Sound towards the ocean. No wonder it was voted one of the top ten outdoor pools in Europe. Travel back in time at this Grade II-listed, art deco pool with its sundeck, iconic fountain and café. Look out for special events – there are outdoor screenings in summer. Watching Jaws there with the seagulls squawking overhead was quite some experience! Excellent facilities for disabled visitors too with a pool hoist.

Great British Life: Tinside lido - one of the top ten outdoor pools in Europe. Photo: Marcio Suster/Getty ImagesTinside lido - one of the top ten outdoor pools in Europe. Photo: Marcio Suster/Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that the Elizabethan House, a Tudor building, was heading for demolition in 1930s slum clearance on one of Plymouth’s cobbled Barbican streets. But local historians and campaigners saved the building to open it as a museum. After more than half a century it was looking very tired but today the three-storey former merchant’s house has benefitted from a multi-million pound refurbishment creating a more modern visitor experience. There are still the white lime-washed plaster walls, bare wooden floors and oak beams which are thought to have been salvaged from a ship, but high tech wizardry introduces you to the various residents of the Elizabethan House and narrates the story of this extraordinary building.

Who doesn’t love a steam train? Just the sound of a whistle takes me back to my childhood in the dying days of steam travel in the 1960s. Enthusiasts and volunteers recreate this golden age of steam on a Great Western Railway branchline which runs from Buckfastleigh to Totnes Riverside. At the station at Buckfastleigh you can see historic steam trains, diesel locomotives and rolling stock and there’s a lovely shop with a massive model railway. We love the children’s playground and always take a picnic and there’s plenty of free parking. Ticket deals get you a train trip, a discount at Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies or the Rare Breeds Farm at Totnes.

We are massive film fans in my family and can spend many a happy hour at the amazing Bill Douglas Cinema Museum on the Exeter University campus. Open daily and free, it houses some incredible exhibits from the early days of cinema. There is plenty of memorabilia in relation to the stars – over 1,000 items relating to Charlie Chaplin - and the largest collection of Disney resources in the UK.

Just the sight of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter cheers me. And my seven-year-old grandson, Arthur, knows this is ‘where the giraffe lives’. Gerald (that’s his name) is the thing visitors love the most, according to last summer’s Treasures of the Museum survey. A samurai sword came second and a meteorite third, demonstrating the breadth of exhibits to be found here. Massively geared up for families with some neat tricks to keep little ones occupied, including Beastie Bags and Trail Leaflets. For the grown-ups there are some impressive local exhibits including The Dawlish Hoard found by metal-detectorists which includes gold bracelets, bronze ingots and weapon fragments and nearly 23,000 Roman coins found near Seaton.