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South West: North & South Devon & Cornwall highlights

During this idyllic six-day tour you’ll explore some of the most beautiful coastlines in all of England. From the legend of King Arthur to world class museums, superb food, historical gems and the show-stopping Eden Project, this itinerary has it all and explores some of the lesser known areas of the south west. 

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Day 1

Teignmouth and Torbay

Starting from Exeter, cycle along the Exeter Canal and along the coast to Starcross for views of the Exe estuary. Visit Powderham Castle, a fortified manor house with a deer park and views over the estuary.

Alternatively, take the train from Exeter to Dawlish for a there-and-back again trip – this is one of the most scenic coastal train routes in the country – at some points it feels as if you could dip your hand in the sea from the window!

Stop at Dawlish for lunch and admire the deep red clays of the Devon coast. Spend the afternoon in Teignmouth where you could try paddle-boarding. Continue to Torbay where you can explore pretty Brixham harbour or visit the prehistoric caves of Kent’s Cavern. Visit Brixham Fish Market, now England’s largest fish market, and enjoy seafood as fresh as it gets.

Day 2

Kingsbridge, Dartmouth and Salcombe

Driving through some of the most beautiful Devonshire scenery, visit Dartmouth Castle, a historic fortress with stunning views along the estuary.

Wander along Salcombe’s high street and waterfront, taking in the bustle of the Kingsbridge estuary. Take the tiny passenger ferry across to East Portlemouth or explore the Kingsbridge estuary on a boat tour all the way out to the towering cliffs at Bolt Head.

Then head for the National Trust’s Overbecks House and Gardens – chiselled out of cliff ledges but so sheltered that the microclimate has supported a delectable subtropical garden. The house has a quirky collection of inventions and offers the chance of a Devonshire cream tea.

Overnight in Kingsbridge or Salcombe.

Day 3

Eden Project

Spend most of the day at the incredible Eden Project, the dramatic global garden built in a former quarry, its tropical biome housing the largest indoor rainforest in the world. 

You’ll see giant palms from southeast Asia and stunning proteas and other wildflowers from South Africa. It’s a rainforest, so it can be hot!

Later in the day, explore the delightful beach of  Porthpean and admire the square-rigged sailing ship in the dock of the neighbouring village of Charlestown.

Overnight in Charlestown

Day 4

Tintagel into North Devon

Head north to explore the history, myths and scintillating scenery of Tintagel Castle. Its links with the legend of King Arthur are disputed by historians – you decide!

Then cross the border into Devon and the village of Clovelly where picturesque houses line the steep cobbled street winding down to a pretty fishing harbour. Visit Braunton Burrows, England’s largest sand dune system rising to 100ft high. Stand among these magical shifting sand dunes and the only sound is the muffled crash of waves on to the beach. Somewhere, buried deep beneath your feet is an ancient chapel! Then stand, watch or join surfers in action on one of North Devon’s unspoilt beaches at Saunton Sands, Croyde Bay or Woolacombe.

Overnight in Ilfracombe or Barnstaple.

Day 5

Exmoor Coast

Spend today exploring the wilderness coast of Exmoor National Park, where romantic moors and wooded valleys tumble headlong into the sea. Exmoor straddles North Devon and West Somerset and the high coastal drama is breath-taking at any time of year.

Start in the village of Combe Martin with the option of climbing up to Great Hangman, where the back of the hill forms the highest sea cliff in England. Enjoy the alpine scenery of Valley of Rocks where feral goats keep you company. Then drop down to the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth steeped in Victorian history and connected by a water-powered cliff railway. Visit St Bueno’s, arguably England’s smallest church.

The Exmoor coast is home to around 20 food producers, so travel to pretty Porlock Weir and pick up some oysters, buy some local cheese and bread in Porlock itself then take a hike up Selworthy beacon for coastal views you will never forget. Visit the clutch of olde-worlde pubs in Porlock.

Stay overnight at one of the charming hotels in Porlock or Porlock Weir.

Day 6

Somerset Coast

Explore Minehead, picking up food from its delis and bakers for a picnic lunch. Take a trip on the West Somerset Railway from Minehead to the ancient harbour town of Watchet.

Marvel at the spectacular limestone rock formations at Kilve before venturing on to Burnham and its unusual lighthouse on stilts.

Make time to explore the vast emptiness of Steart Marshes, where the River Parrett flows into the Bristol Channel. It’s a haunting wonderland of birdsong explored along accessible pathways where you will discover that mud can be magnificent!

Enjoy the towering coastal peninsula of Brean Down and nearby extensive beaches.

 6 days, 6 nights 

Two trains an hour from London to Exeter (3hrs); four trains an hour from London to Bristol; several trains a day to Penzance and St Ives. 

Several coaches a day from central London to Exeter (4hrs30) and Bristol (3 hours) Local bus services from Exeter serve Salcombe and Kingsbridge.