The small rural village of Belstone is well located for exploring the wild beauty of Dartmoor, as well as the picturesque countryside of North Devon.
Sitting on the northern boundary of Dartmoor National Park, Belstone is a small rural village that is extremely well located for exploring the nearby rugged moorland, as well as the stunning countryside of North Devon. Keen walkers will find that Belstone is a great base due to the many trails and walks available from the village.
The Tors Inn, in Belstone, is a highly regarded pub and restaurant serving good food and drink. The village is also renowned for its ancient stocks, medieval church and riding stables, and is only 2 miles from the A30 which offers easy access into Cornwall and the rest of the West Country.
The nearby town of Okehampton is home to some interesting shops, good pubs and restaurants and an outdoor activities centre. Okehampton is also the place to find the Dartmoor Railway, a unique dining experience where you can enjoy fine dining or afternoon tea while taking in the stunning local scenery by train.
Lydford Gorge National Trust is just a 20-minute drive away, and home to a spectacular river, woodland, and the deepest gorge in the South West with a 30 metre waterfall. The cathedral city of Exeter is a 30-minute drive in the other direction, offering excellent shopping and dining, and the underground passages that make for a fascinating all-weather activity.
High Willhays, the highest point on Dartmoor, is an easy morning walk from Belstone, and the area is well-known for letterboxing - where you search the many tors and ancient dwellings for small boxes containing a stamp and a visitor’s book to record your discovery. Cranmere Pool, where the oldest known letterbox (dating back to 1854) can be found, is a 6-mile walk from the village, so pack some sandwiches and a compass and get out exploring!
A holiday cottage in Belstone provides a tranquil base from which to explore the wild beauty of Dartmoor and picturesque North Devon countryside.
For those looking to bring a little extra excitement to their South Devon holiday, Go Ape in Exeter, with its views over Dartmoor National Park, is something of an adventure playground. Complete with zip wires and tree top adventures – you may be interested to know that it’s the first of its kind in the South West. Leap off Tarzan swings and tackle the high ropes in one of the most beautiful forests in the country or head off on a bike or walk and enjoy the scenery. Think tunnels, bridges and ropes, all suitable for guests aged 10 years of age and over and a minimum of 1.4 metres tall. Anyone aged 16 and over is able to supervise themselves, but younger children will need to be accompanied by an adult. Some attractions have other age and weight restrictions so for full details take a peek at the website. Prices start at £18 for ‘Mini Tarzans’ and go up to £45 per person depending on your activity.
Europe’s first Clip ‘n Climb climbing centre is one of those activities that welcomes guests of all ages and is a fantastic opportunity to learn, face and overcome the physical and mental challenges of climbing in a safe environment. It also makes for a wonderful rainy day activity when you’re on holiday in South Devon. Climb commando style in the Jungle Gym, reach new heights on the Skyscraper, take the speed climbing challenge or sign up for the Leap of Faith. The centre welcomes families, birthday parties and school trips as well as individuals. Kit is provided along with a safety briefing. Sessions last for 90 minutes, and you’re advised to wear comfortable clothing and trainers, but avoid heels, sandals and open toed shoes. Children must be at least four years old to participate.
In an exceptionally beautiful attraction, Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies is a friendly place to visit for the whole family while you’re on holiday in South Devon. Learn about tropical butterflies in their specially designed habitat, feel the rainforest atmosphere, and see the butterflies’ life cycle unfold. Over at the Otter Sanctuary there are three species of otter to see including the native British otter, the Asian short clawed otter, and the North American river otter. The sanctuary is also home to terrapins, leafcutter ants, and reptiles with lots of events available to see throughout the year, including feeding time with the otters! It is located just outside the southern border of Dartmoor National Park between Exeter and Plymouth, there’s free parking, a café, picnic areas and lots to see and learn, all while supporting the wonderful work of a team who strive to preserve the wildlife of the planet and ensure sustainable breeding and rehabilitation of otters and butterflies. Opening times are seasonal to keep an eye on the website for more information.
A wonderfully traditional West Country attraction, The South Devon Railway (SDR) is a seven-mile former branch of the Great Western Railway from 1872. Running through the valley of the River Dart from Buckfastleigh to Totnes you can board a steam train with heritage rolling stock whatever the weather and whatever age you are. Dogs are welcome on the train for a nominal charge and seasonal charges vary. Step up the luxury on a dining train, or for really special occasions there are options to drive a train for a day or hire one for private events. While you’re there, other attractions close by include the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm and Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies, to really make a day of it.
Offering indoor and outdoor rock climbing in Devon and Cornwall, Dart Rock Climbing Centre in Buckfastleigh offers a friendly and encouraging environment to practice a skill you have already mastered, or to learn something new while you’re there. The 10-metre high climbing centre offers a diverse range of routes on four climbing walls, training boards, teaching areas and in the classroom so that you get the most out of your session, and caters to beginners, experienced climbers, families and groups. The centre is open daily but with some restrictions for private classes at the weekends and prices vary according to your requirements. Remember to wear comfortable and practical clothing and trainers.
A stunning 12th century former monastery and manor house now a popular hotel, bar and restaurant. There are plenty of places to eat and drink with a choice of two bars and two restaurants along with a large terrace and garden with fantastic views. Choose from a lunch or evening menu with daily specials along with coffees and afternoon cream teas.
Exmouth Beach is a bustling two mile stretch of golden sand at the mouth of the Exe Estuary backed by a promenade of shops and restaurants. Old meets new here, with traditional seaside donkey rides, swing boats and crazy golf alongside volley ball courts and a huge selection of modern watersports including jet skis, kite surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and windsurfing.
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet you can find that here too at the far end of the beach, where there are also some rock pools for children to explore. Exmouth is known as the gateway to the Jurassic Coast and its cliffs are teaming with fossils and geological finds. The coastline is also part of the South West Coast Path with the beach and surrounding cliffs providing some excellent long and short walks.
Dogs are welcome all year on parts of the beach and on the main beach from October to the end of April. Dog bins are provided.
Three miles south of Bude, Widemouth Bay Beach is a long, open bay that’s popular with families and surfers, while at low tide there are hundreds of rock pools to explore. It’s a wonderful place to learn to surf or body board thanks to fantastic conditions and lots of local surf schools in the surrounding area. There’s free parking at both ends of the bay as well as viewing points. Dogs are welcome throughout the year on the south section of the beach, otherwise known as Black Rock, but on the northern part there are seasonal dog bans. It has a wild feel to it, which adds to its appeal, and there is lifeguard cover in the summer, but nonetheless do be careful when swimming.
Less the five minutes on foot from the centre of Bude, Summerleaze Beach is an easy beach to get to and enjoy for the whole day. There’s a river flanking the sandy beach and it’s sheltered by a breakwater, making it popular with families and surfers. You can book beach huts daily or weekly, and adding to its charm is a part man-made/part natural salt water sea pool to swim in at the foot of the cliff, that’s been welcoming swimmers since it opened in 1930. There’s lifeguard cover in the summer months, dogs need to be kept on leads from May to September, and there are toilets and disabled toilets close by as well as an RNLI shop, sandy play area, a beach café, and a large car park that leads directly to the sand dunes.
In an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Wonwell is a sandy beach on the east shore of the Erme river which joins Mothecombe at low tide. It affords visitors a large expanse to explore and is accessed via a woodland path from the road which takes about 10 minutes.
Alternatively, there is a slipway from the road to the shore of the river and at low tide you can walk along the edge to the beach itself, so make sure you get your timings right to make the most of this one.
Parking is limited at Wonwell Beach so keep that in mind when you’re heading over. Road parking allows for around 20 cars depending on their size and there aren’t really any facilities around, although there are toilets nearby. This does mean you need to be prepared if you’re heading there for the best part of the day, but also makes for a very peaceful experience whether it’s lounging about on the sand with a picnic in the summer, or a stroll in the cooler months, simply taking in the atmosphere.
Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round so it’s the perfect place to take them for a run around. Something to be careful of – do keep an eye on the tide to avoid getting cut off when it comes in and getting very wet en route back to dry land!
One of South Devon’s quieter beaches, Mothecombe is a large and unspoiled, privately owned stretch of sand that’s open every day, all year round. Having won an award from the Marine Conservation Society for its clean sea and sand, you can be assured that relaxing here and pottering about in the water is going to be a happy, healthy and pleasant experience for all in this sheltered corner of Devon. For those wanting to try out water sports, Mothecombe offers the ideal conditions for windsurfing, kayaking, body boarding and generally enjoying the water, particularly for beginners as it’s a comparatively gentle environment in which to give it a go. Given its pristine nature, it will probably come as no surprise that dogs are not allowed on the beach in high season, so keep an eye out for signs for more information, but best to steer clear with furry friends from May to September. There is a car park from which you can access the beach down a narrow path, so it’s not ideal for wheelchair users, but is otherwise conveniently close by. There’s also a tea house in the car park for drinks and snacks and there are toilets nearby as well, so pending the tides you can spend a good day here enjoying the natural scenery and all the fun that it brings with it, whether that’s for the whole family, on a romantic afternoon in the summer sun, or simply enjoying the peace and quiet of this less populated park of the coastline.