Perched high on Dartmoor, with stunning views of the moors, the Teign Estuary and the coast beyond, Haytor is an exceptionally scenic spot for a relaxing Dartmoor holiday.
As one of Dartmoor’s most iconic landmarks, Haytor and the surrounding area make a magical base for anyone looking for a truly rural escape. The tor itself is Dartmoor’s biggest, and draws visitors year-round to climb the granite outcrops which offer wonderful views of sweeping moorland, rolling countryside, the beautiful Teign Estuary, and the stunning coastline beyond.
Easily accessible from Devon’s major through-road, Haytor provides great access to nearby Exeter (with its Cathedral, theatres, shops and restaurants), the rest of the moor, and some spectacular coastline. Explore the vast wild beauty of the moor on foot, bike or horseback, or simply relax and soak up the peaceful tranquillity of the picturesque setting.
On Dartmoor, a friendly pub, country house or restaurant is never too far away. Haytor itself enjoys a great moorland café bar and a traditional Dartmoor Inn, whilst just a few miles away you can explore delightful villages such as Widecombe-in-the-Moor, home to the fantastic Rugglestone Inn which is everything a Dartmoor pub restaurant should be.
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.
If you have spent any time in South Devon before, chances are you’ve heard of Pennywell Farm. A petting zoo taken to another level, you can visit with the family for piggy cuddles, egg collecting, goat milking, bottle feeding orphan lambs, seed planting for home grown souvenirs, treasure hunts, pond dipping, pony pampering and deer feeding amongst other things from 10am to 5pm seven days a week. There are a variety of ticket options available and children under the age of three go for free. There’s a number of options for eating while you’re there from the coffee cabin, to Henny Penny café, ice creams and picnic tables in the summer. They have won numerous awards and for anyone on holiday with the dog they have a kennel on site which is free of charge while you potter about – just remember to bring their bed and water bowl.
The Coker Brown School of Riding is based in Torbryan near Newton Abbott and has indoor as well as outdoor schools, offering riding lessons and hacking for all ages and abilities. There are no age restrictions so tiny tots are welcome alongside more experienced riders, and in the school holidays they host pony days too. You can book private, semi private, group and party sessions while you’re on holiday in South Devon, all under the talented and watchful guidance of Charlotte Coker-Brown. Prices start at £20, you do have to book in advance, and remember to wear sensible clothing!
A family run country house hotel surrounded by beautiful countryside with two places to eat - the fine dining restaurant offering an inspirational menu using fresh local produce, along with The Blue Tiger Inn offering a bistro style menu and cream teas in a more relaxed atmosphere.
A fabulous little farm shop and cafe. We stopped here for lunch when we arrived and breakfast during the week. We picked up all our meat from the onsite butcher, but there seemed less choice in the shop compared with our visit last year.
A good place to stop off for refreshments after enjoying the lovely walks in the area, this traditional Dartmoor pub serves good quality British cuisine along with a wide selection of local beers and ciders. The pub is full of character with exposed beams, flagstones and cosy wood burner and is dog and family friendly.
A traditional Dartmoor Inn in a beautiful location with a homely atmosphere and pretty beer garden where farm animals roam. The bar is stocked with real ales, farm cider and a comprehensive wine list, and the home-cooked menu is made up of quality locally-sourced produce.
Rugglestone InnWidecombe in the Moor, Newton Abbot TQ13 7TF (T: 01364 621327)
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.
A picturesque two mile pebble beach backed partly with cliffs, with plenty of space and lovely clean clear water. Along the esplanade there are beach cafes and a car park and it is only a short wander into the village for toilets, shops and pubs. Care should be taken swimming towards the eastern end of the beach where there can be strong currents due to the River Otter, and there are no lifeguard facilities.
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!
Roughly one kilometre (20 minutes depending on your pace) from the National Trust car park at Ringmore, and with a selection of footpaths to get to it, Ayrmer Cove is a quiet secluded beach on the South West Coast Path.
For anyone on holiday in South Devon it’s a peaceful place to sit and contemplate the natural scenery amongst the shingle, pebbles and rock pools, admiring the cliffs. It makes for a beautiful destination to walk to from Ringmore itself, which is a small village (population 230) with views towards the cove itself as well as Bigbury Bay – it makes for a wonderful holiday cottage destination in South Devon as well as a place to visit as part of your day.
Walking to the beach allows you to discover the surrounding woodland, wildlife and history of the area – taking in old smugglers’ routes and hedgerows that have been in situ since the 1800s.
It is a little tricky to get to so it’s not ideal for wheelchairs, and there aren’t any toilets or facilities at the beach itself so if you want to stay for a little while don’t forget to take snacks or a picnic if the weather is right. This is all about enjoying the environment that’s such a proud part of the National Trust – it’s everything a holiday in Devon is about, and yes, dogs are permitted all year round and will very much enjoy the walk!
Between Dartmouth and Slapton, Blackpool Sands is a beautiful shingle bay on the South West Coast Path, surrounded by evergreens and pine trees. It really is a treasure of a beach to visit while you’re in the area. Award-winning, the privately owned, blue flag beach boasts a sense of being in the Mediterranean on a good day in the summer, although a good jumper never goes amiss in this part of the world! You will no doubt not be surprised to hear that it is in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, however it also boasts ample facilities and things to do. There are showers, toilets and disabled facilities, as well as paddle board, kayak and wetsuit hire available for those wishing to earn their visit to The Venus Beach Café, where light bites and refreshments are served. The Venus Shop also sells all the bits and pieces you might want for fun and games on the beach if you have forgotten them or are in need of extra buckets and spades. The water at Blackpool Sands is known for being clean and clear and tested by the Environment Agency, and lifeguards are on hand in the summer (July to September) so there’s every reason to pop in for a dip. However, dogs are not allowed on the beach in the high season (12th March to 30th October) so keep the walking for the cooler months. There is parking available at the beach with seasonal charges, and you can find out more information on those from the Blackpool Sands information line on 01803 771800. This beach is easy to get to and quite literally fun and games for the whole family, as well as a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year to take in the view!