Unusual Things to Do in Devon

Weird & Wonderful Attractions in Devon

From medieval underground passages and walls of bleak gaols, to leaping piglets and wriggling worms, if you’re looking for an unusual day out in Devon you won’t be short of choice.

Mr Toad has picked out ten of the county’s most weird and wonderful attractions for you to experience and explore. It’s time to step into the twilight zone…

Miniature Pig Racing at Pennywell Farm

Tucked away in the idyllic South Devon countryside – where the fields and meadows gently unwind down the slopes of the Dart Valley – Pennywell Farm remains one of Devon’s most popular family attractions. Explore the lush green acres, ponds and orchards, and meet the resident animals, including the miniature pigs – the stars of the show – who don’t mind sharing a cuddle. One of the farm’s perennial crowd-pleasers is its afternoon pig racing championships when some of Pennywell’s sprightliest ‘pint-sized porkers’ race along a jump track taking their chances on ‘Bacon’s Brook’ to see which snout crosses the finishing line first. Surely one of Devon’s quirkiest gatherings.


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Riding the Burgh Island Sea Tractor

It’s one of the South Hams’ most iconic landmarks, a tidal outcrop which was once a notorious smugglers’ haunt but now provides the spectacular setting for a famous Art Deco hotel. Among the long list of famous names scribed in the hotel’s guest book are The Beatles and Sir Winston Churchill, while its glamourous décor and far-reaching ocean views provided the inspiration for two of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated crime novels. At times of low water you can walk to the island by way of the golden sandy bar, but when the tide is high, island hoppers jump aboard the hotel’s vintage sea tractor which has been transporting visitors and guests across the scenic shallows since the 1930s. The Pilchard Inn, believed to have once been a staging post for one of the bay’s most infamous rogues and smugglers, Tom Crocker, also awaits all those who make this unusual off-road tootle.


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The Legend of Jay’s Grave

It’s one of Dartmoor’s strangest mysteries; a roadside grave at the head of an old green lane near Hounds Tor that’s always adorned by freshly cut posies, only no one knows who lays them and why? Jay’s grave is believed to be the final resting place of Kitty Jay, a humble farm girl from the parish of Manaton who took her own life after being cruelly jilted by her lover and ostracised by her neighbours. Without the rites of a Christian burial, her body was buried by the roadside and according to Robert Dymond, a local historian of the time: ‘there are many such graves of suicides hereabouts, and the country folk shudder as they pass the whisht spots by night.’ During the 1960s Jay’s grave started to become a popular Dartmoor attraction, the mysterious daily appearance of freshly cut flowers at the foot of the unmarked headstone embedding this tragic tale firmly into moorland folklore.


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Blackawton Festival of Wormcharming

Now in its 35th year, the Blackawton ‘International’ Festival of Wormcharming surely wins the prize for Devon’s most eccentric event. People continue to flock from far and wide to meadows surrounding this pretty South Devon village to take part in these wriggly championships, all of them trying to surpass a record haul of 149 worms that has stood since 1986. Enter your team and devise your own wormcharming tactics, which following on from previous campaigns could be anything from magical flute playing and joyful incantations to Morris dancing and running on the spot – all kinds of jiggery-pokery goes provided it falls within the strict rule book, and that means no digging or forking within your allotted plot. Residing over the competition are the team of judges and dignitaries, which include Old Father Worm and the Grand Worm Master. Sounds like a slippery business.


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East Allington Wacky Racers

A steep South Devon lane lined by straw bales and a cavalcade of DIY go-carts nailed together in back gardens and garages, what could possibly go wrong? East Allington Wacky Racers is one of the county’s most thrilling and eccentric downhill events attracting large crowds eager to see the thrills, and sometimes spills, of this wackiest of races. A fun-filled day the whole family will enjoy. Which daredevil will lift the Luscombe Trophy and be crowned East Allington’s wackiest racer?

Dartmoor Prison Museum

It’s one of Britain’s most notorious gaols, surrounded by the rugged wilds of Dartmoor and having housed some of the country’s most dangerous criminals. The fascinating, and sometimes chilling, history of HM Prison Dartmoor has been brought to life by the prison’s museum, a place where you can delve into its two-hundred-year past which includes such bloody events as the Princetown Massacre and the daring escape and consequent manhunt of Frank ‘the Mad Axeman’ Mitchell. Head to Princetown in the heart of Dartmoor to experience this unique attraction.


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South Devon Chilli Farm

And now for something guaranteed to get you hot under the collar. Set in the rolling Devon hills on the outskirts of the pretty hilltop village of Loddiswell, the South Devon Chilli Farm is peppered by visitors all year round. Stretching over ten roaming acres and with more than 200 chilli varieties on display in the Chilli Show Tunnel, you’ll be able to follow the chilli’s journey from root to jar, including an introduction to the farm’s hottest pepper known as the Carolina Reaper; which has been measured at over two million on the Scoville heat scale!  Among the growing list of chefs to endorse the farm’s produce are Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein, while award-winning actress, Gillian Anderson, swears by its chilli chocolate, going as far as to say: ‘it was the best I’ve ever tasted’. A farm shop, café and play area all add to the charm of this unusual South Devon farmstead.


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Babbacombe Model Village & Gardens

Anyone who has ever read and enjoyed the classic tale of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift will feel right at home at our next extraordinary attraction. More than four hundred miniature buildings line the tiny highways and byways of Torbay’s Babbacombe Model Village. Set across four acres of award-winning gardens, the amazing detail and intricacy of this diminutive world will keep you captivated for hours, from the miniature model of Stonehenge to its teenie-weenie zoo, you’ll feel like a real life giant as you peer down upon the rooftops and spires. An array of architectural styles and eras are on show, including medieval, Shakespearean and Victorian places of residence for the 13,000 plus miniature characters.


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The City of Exeter’s Underground Passages

Next on our list of ‘unusuals’ is the cathedral city of Exeter and its incredible network of medieval underground passages – the only passages of their kind open to the public in the whole of Britain. Follow an expert tour guide beneath the bustling city streets and explore the weaving vaulted tunnels through the secret heart of the city. The passages were originally built to provide access for pipe maintenance but also have their own tales to tell, that of wars, sieges, plague and pestilence, all contributing to an unmissable experience.


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Kents Cavern

Another of Devon’s underground attractions can be found on the English Riviera and the prehistoric hollows known as Kents Cavern. This ancient cave system is one of the most significant Stone Age sites in Europe and once provided warmth and shelter to prehistoric tribes behind its 400-million-year-old rock formations. Marvel at the stalagmites and stalactites as you walk the guided tour to see remnants of early man alongside the bones and teeth of Ice Age beasts. Step back in time when you visit these remarkable caverns.


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Damien Hirst’s ‘Verity’

Standing sixty-six feet above the harbour walls at Ilfracombe and cast in steel and bronze, Verity is said to be a ‘modern allegory of truth and justice’. Created by British contemporary artist and cultural icon, Damien Hirst (former winner of the much-coveted Turner Prize) the sculpture has been loaned to the north Devon coastal town of Ilfracombe for twenty years. It depicts a pregnant woman standing on a stack of law books with sword aloft and holding the scales of justice. She certainly dominates the skyline above Ilfracombe pier, and for now, remains one of Devon’s most unusual open art displays.


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