Fab ideas for an East Devon holiday

East Devon coastline.

East Devon’s Jurassic Coast has some great beaches where you might find an ancient fossil. - Credit: Visit Devon

A campaign to highlight East Devon as a holiday hotspot is in full swing. CHRISSY HARRIS looks at why this beautiful part of the county deserves to be shouted about 

Going on holiday to East Devon is something my family and I like to do regularly, despite the fact that we live in the same county. It’s only 40 minutes away from home but visiting the coast, countryside and towns in this part of Devon puts us in full tourist mode. 

We dawdle along pavements, checking out the lovely independent shops and cafes in Sidmouth, look for fossils on the beach in Seaton, eat ice creams in Exmouth or take a stroll around the park in Ottery St Mary. 

Fishing boat on a pebble beach.

Branscombe in East Devon is a lovely coastal spot. - Credit: Alex Graeme

East Devon is an ideal holiday destination but often overlooked as people hurtle past it on the M5 on the way to South Devon or Cornwall. 

“We feel that they’re missing out,” says Rob Murray, economic development manager at East Devon District Council. “We are this real hidden gem and there’s a story to be told about what we do here.” 

Earlier this year, a national campaign was launched by the Growth, Development and Prosperity team from East Devon District Council to support the area’s tourism industry by rounding up everything that’s great about this region. 

The ‘East Devonly’ campaign was developed using money from the government’s Welcome Back Fund. This provided councils across England allocations from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to encourage people back out to enjoy high street and other areas of the country, following the pandemic. 

In East Devon, digital poster advertising and websites have been used to showcase the parts of the region people might know about, such as the world-famous Jurassic Coast. But the campaign also promotes East Devon’s stunning countryside, wildlife and history, as well as the thriving food and drink scene (did you know, for instance, that there are eight vineyards here?). 

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“We wanted not just to increase the number of people coming to our coastal destinations but to diversify that footfall and get people to explore our incredible rural hinterland, our produce and our cultural and heritage assets,” says Rob, adding that visitor numbers in East Devon fell by more than 50 per cent during 2020 – a devastating blow to a place which relies heavily on tourism. “Things are getting better,” adds Rob. “Last year was a good year and we hope that 2022 will be even better.” 

Local ambassadors for the East Devonly campaign include top chef Michael Caines MBE, chef-patron of Lympstone Manor, champion Exmouth-based kite racer and watersports coach Steph Bridge and travel blogger Clare Mackenny, marketing and business manager for Andrewshayes Holiday Park in Axminster. 

Boats in a harbour in Exmouth.

Exmouth is the start of many water-based adventures. - Credit: Visit Devon

Together, they’re doing their bit to make sure East Devon gets the recognition it deserves. 

“I was born in the area and moved back in my 30s when I started a family,” says Clare Mackenney, author of the blog FlipFlops Or Wellies. “It was then that I realised how much there is to see and do.  

“East Devon is not that well known about. Most people don’t realise just how big Devon is and I think that’s part of it. It needs to change and we need to promote the fact that we are this really special corner of the county.” 

A pink tram.

Hop aboard one of Seaton Tramway’s narrow gauge heritage trams. - Credit: Josh Castree

The full East Devon experience 

Here’s how to make your most of your time in this beautiful part of the world. 

Get on your bike: Miles of National Cycle Network, open heathland and woodland trails run through the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beaty (AONB). The Buzzard Route is an 80-miles circular trip around Sidmouth, Seatoin, Axminster, Honiton and Woodbury. 

Visit a vineyard: East Devon is home to a surprising number of vineyards. You can, quite literally, take your pick of the bunch. Lily Farm near Budleigh Salterton offers regular tours throughout the summer, which includes a tasting of three still wines. 

Take the tram: Seaton Tramway’s narrow gauge heritage trams run through three miles of unspoilt countryside and two nature reserves in the Axe Valley, between Seaton, Colyford and Colyton.

Spin a yarn: Visit Axminster Heritage Centre to find out more about the town’s carpet-making history. The theme of the summer exhibition is Spinning a Yarn: The story of Sheep and Axminster. Workshops and related talks are planned. 

Go back to Tudor times: Cadhay is a historic house situated just outside Ottery St Mary. The Tudor manor house has magnificent gardens with medieval fishponds. 

The gardens and tearoom are open to the public on Friday afternoons until the end of September. 

Find fossils: East Devon’s Jurassic Coast has some great beaches where you might find an ancient fossil from our prehistoric past. East from Branscombe towards Beer Head is Hooken Beach, where could spot a bivalve shell from the Early Cretaceous period. 

Discover dinosaurs: Exmouth’s Brassed-Off Dinosaurs is a self-guided circular trail around the town, with clues to hunt and collect 11 brass rubbings of prehistoric creatures that once roamed the earth. 

Try wingsurfing: This is the art of using a handheld wing while riding a surfboard, paddleboard or other water boards without a foil. Try it at Edge Watersports, Exmouth. 

Go back to nature: Seaton Wetlands is an area of beautiful marshland and reedbeds alongside the River Axe. There are five bird hides and nearly 4km of level trails and boardwalks, suitable for wheelchair, bike and pushchairs. 

Eat award-winning fish and chips: Krispies in Exmouth was crowned the UK's best fish and chip shop at the Seafish National Fish and Chip Awards in 2019. 

Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Kelly and Tim Barnes, Krispies has built up a reputation for delicious, sustainable fish and its locally famous battered chips.   

A family rockpooling.

t’s fun for all the family in East Devon. - Credit: Visit Devon