20 free things to do in Devon this summer

A family of two adults and two children running holding hands on the beach.

There are so many ways to enjoy a fab free family day out in Devon this summer. - Credit: English Riviera

With many families watching their budgets, KATE LORD BROWN shares 20 top free ideas for family fun this summer 

A two-way marker post on the South West Coast Path.

Summer is a great time to explore the South West Coast Path. - Credit: Becky Dickinson

1. Unique among English counties, Devon is blessed with two beautiful coastlines, and summer is a great time to explore the South West Coast Path. Beginning in Minehead and heading across Exmoor you can explore the newly designated World Surfing Reserve of North Devon.  

A Devon river dapped with sunlight under a green canopy.

Wild swimming makes a great day out for all ages. - Credit: Kate Lord Brown

2. I learnt to swim splashing around in the summer rivers of Mid Devon, and wild swimming makes a great day out for all ages, especially with a picnic from home. See here for some of the best spots across the county. 

3. Find out about foraging - Wild Food UK has a free Plant Guide where you can learn all about identifying the amazing food in our hedgerows and shorelines this summer from samphire to wild strawberries. 

4. Try volunteering - volunteers make a difference to their community, meet new people, gain skills and experience. Devon Voluntary Action has links with over 4,000 organisations. See here for ideas about opportunities across the county this summer. 

5. Getting fit this summer doesn't need an expensive gym membership - with a pair of trainers and the free NHS programme, Couch to 5k, you can be up and running through the Devon countryside in no time. The nine-week programme for total beginners guides you gently to your goal of running regularly. 

A mare and her pony.

Enjoy a behind the scenes guided tour at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary. - Credit: Mare and Foal Sanctuary

6. Meet the ponies at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, Combe Park, open days. Enjoy a behind the scenes guided tour, and find out about their life-changing Equine Assisted Learning Programme. See here to book the free events. 

7. Hike up to Dunkery Beacon, and enjoy the breathtaking views from the highest spot on Exmoor.

8. Or the Dartmoor Walking Festival is hosting a series of guided walks this summer (donation to Devon Air Ambulance, U16s free) 

9. The Bro Project works to help men's mental health. Join one of their free monthly BroGolf Driving Range Sessions at Bovey Tracey Golf Centre, Newton Abbott. See here to book this and their monthly Bench Press sessions at Seale Hayne. 

Red-facade exterior of Royal Albert Museum in Exeter.

RAMM has a programme of summer events - Credit: In Exeter

10. Check out your local museum - I always loved visiting the giraffe at RAMM when I was a child. See here to find out about their summer events (free entry).  

110. Meanwhile in Plymouth, The Box is a stunning day out - try out their mock TV studio, and visit Devon icon Guy Honeybun in the Media Lab!

12. The spectacular Dartmouth Regatta is a whole week of fun, free entertainment. Watch over 250 yachts entered for the sailing races, cheer on the road racers, enjoy live music and fireworks. Regatta Week starts August 20th 2022 - drop in to Dartmouth Visitors' Centre for more information. 

A family of cyclists standing by a modern art scuoite on the Tarka Trail cycle path.

The Tarka Trail is one of a number of amazing traffic free trails in Devon. - Credit: Neville Stanikk/VisitDevon

12. Dust off your bicycle - we are lucky to have some amazing traffic free trails in Devon. Try the 31-mile-long Meeth to Braunton stretch of the Tarka Trail.

13. We always loved the Exe Estuary Cycle Trail with the children, starting at Darts Farm. There are also free guided rides on the Wray Valley Trail

Under the canopy of a Devon forest.

Try out restorative forest bathing. - Credit: Kate Lord Brown

14. Head to the woods, and try out restorative forest bathing. Or join one of Forestry England's 'Active Forest' free guided weekly walks at Haldon Forest. Enjoy guest talks and themed walks on everything from mindfulness to fossils.

15. Unearth that craft project you've been meaning to finish and join Make Southwest for their free Wednesday Weave sessions at Riverside Mill, Bovey Tracey. The monthly sessions are for all ages and backgrounds, a chance to get together over sewing, knitting, mending and making.  

16. Explore the Barbican, Plymouth's historic old port. There's so much to see from the winding cobbled lanes to the Mayflower Steps. Then head up to Hoe Park to see the famous Smeaton's Tower lighthouse. 

The front of Buckfast Abbey.

Experience the serenity and tranquillity of Buckfast Abbey and its beautiful gardens. - Credit: Buckfast Abbey

17. To calm a stressful mind, experience the serenity and tranquillity of Buckfast Abbey and its beautiful gardens - free parking and entry.

18. Or try a free mindfulness and meditation app - I love Insight Timer

A green barge on a canal.

The Grand Western Canal stretches for over eleven miles. - Credit: Kate Lord Brown

19. Explore the Grand Western Canal - stretching for over eleven miles, it's a great day out and easy walk for the family through beautiful countryside. Keep your eye out for one of the last horse drawn barges in the country. 

20. Play on the Pier - Head to Paignton between July 23-31 for the Festival (Torbay Carnival Week), and enjoy live music, fireworks and much, much more. 

Red-bricked exterior of Exeter Library.

Exeter Library is a completely free community space. - Credit: Kate Lord Brown

Lots at the library 

"First and foremost, the library is a completely free community space," Callum Elliot-Archer of Exeter Library says. “You can use us as a place to study for an exam, meet with your friends on your lunch breaks, bring your children to play in our children's library, or find a quiet corner to read your favourite book.  

“We have public access computers that people can use completely free, and access to printing. Our teen area has recently launched and is the perfect place to hang out, browse our young adult books, or play a few games of Mario Kart on our Nintendo Switch.  

“We also have free resources available for those that wish to start up their own business, including expert 1-1s and market research programmes that would be worth thousands of pounds.  

“Our events programme is all year round, meaning you are never far away from a major event taking place within the library. We have regular Bounce and Rhyme sessions for families with young children, storytime hour, IT drop in, and job clubs.” 

Visitors to a gallery looking at the art.

Thelma Hulbert Gallery hosts an inspiring exhibition programme of contemporary art and craft. - Credit: Thelma Hubert Gallery

Great at the gallery 

Get arty - in Honiton, the Thelma Hulbert Gallery hosts an inspiring exhibition programme of contemporary art and craft, alongside a permanent collection of artist Thelma Hulbert’s work. There's a Learning Room for children to get creative and a beautiful garden perfect for picnics. Check out their website for free drop-in art activities for families.