The south west of the UK blessed with a warm sea and a mild climate has been the country’s natural summertime destination for around 200 years, ever since the railways brought holidaymakers through Somerset and Devon to Cornwall. Traditional beach holidays are still just as popular, but today surfers enjoy the crashing rollers of the Atlantic Ocean at places such as Polzeath in Cornwall or Croyde Bay and Woolacome on Devon’s north coast.
Devon has a north coast and a south coast; the North Devon Coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that stretches from its border with Somerset at Exmoor to the Cornish border near Bude. The South Devon Coast which is known as the English Riviera is also an AONB stretches from Seaton to Plymouth on the River Tamar. These two very different coastlines offer a vast range of experiences on a vacation to the West Country.
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Torbay is the heart of the English Riviera and is made up of the three seaside towns of Paignton, Torquay and Brixham. Torquay is the largest of the three and has been a popular holiday resort since Victorian times. The crime novelist Agatha Christie was born in Torquay and many of her books are set in and around the town. Every year in September to coincide with her birthday Torquay hosts the International Agatha Christie Festival. Fans can also follow the Agatha Christie Mile through the town taking in the places and locations that were important in her life and inspired her writing. Torquay will always also be associated with the popular television series, Fawlty Towers starring John Cleese.
Paignton with its beautiful sandy beach, pier, promenade and colourful beach huts is the quintessential English seaside resort. From the train station you can take a trip on a steam train along the beautiful coastline to one of the most attractive towns in the West Country, Dartmouth. In Dartmouth you can then take a river boat to visit Agatha Christie’s house, Greenway which is now owned by the National Trust. Brixham is a fishing town with a beautiful harbourside and a great place to sample some of the freshest and delicious seafood. The town has a history filled with smugglers and pirates and during the year Pirate Days are held with amusements and entertainment for all the family.
Pay a visit to A la Ronde, Exmouth on a trip along the south coast of Devon, this quirky, sixteen sided 18thC house belonged to cousins, Mary and Jane Parminter who took a 10-year Grand Tour at the end of the 18th C. They came back inspired by Italian church architecture and set about creating their own octagonal basilica of a house. They then decorated it inside with feathers, shells, seaweed and mementoes from their travels. This splendid eccentric folly is now owned by the National Trust.
Burgh Island is a tiny island off the south Devon coast at Bigbury-on-Sea, famous for its Art Deco hotel which inspired Agatha Christie to write ‘And Then There Were None’ and ‘Evil Under The Sun’, it was also used as a filming location for a television adaptation of her novels. Other famous guests to stay at the hotel have included Noel Coward, the Beatles, the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson. It is also said that Sir Winston Churchill met Eisenhower here in the build up to the D-Day landings.
Lundy Island is situated 11 miles off the north coast of Devon in the Bristol Channel. This remarkable island which is 3 miles long is a haven for wildlife and birds. Lundy is managed and protected by the Landmark Trust and the National Trust together. You can take a day trip by boat from Bideford or Ilfracombe to explore the cliff tops, go bird watching – Lundy is home to many colonies of seabirds including puffins and Manx shearwaters. There is also a spectacular range of wildflowers that grow on this unique island. Lundy has many buildings and monuments of national importance, including remains of a Bronze Age settlement, a Medieval castle, a Georgian lighthouse and a Victorian church.
Braunton Burrows on the north coast of Devon comprises of four miles of sand dunes, it is one of the largest sand dunes in the UK. The dunes and the surrounding coast have a rich diversity of wildlife and plant life, with over 470 species of flowers, the area is so ecologically important that the 7700 acres were designated Britain’s first UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast has beautiful sandy beaches, fine Victorian houses and hotels built around a tiny harbour. The town is built round a number of distinctive hills and has steep and narrow streets. On Lantern Hill overlooking the harbour is the 14th C St Nicholas Chapel which is England’s oldest working lighthouse.
Lynton and Lynmouth are unique picturesque towns on Devon’s north coast. This part of the coast is in the Exmoor National Park, a beautiful wild landscape that has panoramic views, miles of footpaths and an abundance of wildlife including wild red deer and the famous Exmoor ponies that graze on the moors. Lynton perches on the cliffs and Lynmouth with its picturesque harbour lies directly on the shores below, a unique Victorian cliff railway powered by water and gravity connects the two villages.
The Great British Coastline – Group Travel & Bespoke Individual Luxury Tours