The ruggedly beautiful county of Devon is the perfect destination for nature lovers. Boasting bucolic countryside, rolling hills, enchanting woodland and great swathes of wild, untouched coast, there are plenty of stunning landscapes to explore in this picturesque county.
Keen walkers will be able to pick up the South West Coast Path, which at 630 miles is England’s longest National Trail. The coastal path begins in Somerset and skirts all the way along the north coast of Devon, down and around the tip of Cornwall, before coming back up on the south coast of Devon and finishing off in Dorset.
If you prefer your walks to be a little bit shorter, and to maybe feature a castle or two, a browse around the shops and a nice sit down at the local pub, then you’ve also come to the right county. As well as beautiful landscapes, Devon is also brimming with lovely medieval towns, vibrant seaside hamlets and, of course, plenty of cosy pubs.
Whatever type of walker you happen to be, a relaxing getaway to the beautiful county of Devon definitely won’t disappoint! If you see somewhere you like, start your next adventure with one of our Devon holiday cottages. If you’ve left everything a little late, worry not, just check out on of our last-minute Devon cottages.
The best short walks in Devon
Teign Gorge Circuit
Time: Two and a half hours
Distance: Four miles
One of the most famous walks in Dartmoor National Park, a trip to Devon just wouldn’t be complete without exploring the Teign Gorge Circuit. This great circular walk takes in the dramatic views of the steep Teign Gorge and the towering Castle Drogo – the last castle to be built in England.
The start point is Castle Drogo carpark, which is owned and run by the National Trust, and from here you take the Hunters Path down to Fingle Bridge. At Fingle Bridge there are some gorgeous meadows where you can stop for a picnic, or else call in at the Fingle Bridge Inn for a pint and bite to eat.
Back in the Iron Age, this whole area of woodland was once a bustling epicentre of noisy timber production and stealthy hunting parties. Over the years, the number of ancient oak trees has dwindled, but now the National Trust and the Woodland Trust are working together to restore Fingle Woods back to its age-old roots. This is one of the largest woodland restoration projects in the whole of the UK, so keep an eye out for it whilst you’re there.
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Top tip: Remember to leave a couple of hours to explore Castle Drogo itself, as it’s well worth a visit!
Lynton & Valley of the Rocks
Time: Two hours
Distance: Three miles
Another fantastic circular walk, the Lynton & Valley of the Rocks route takes in all the windswept beauty of Exmoor National Park – which stretches between North Devon and Somerset.
To make this walk a little different (and to interest any less enthusiastic walkers in the group), you can begin in Lynmouth and take the funicular cliff railway up 500 feet to Lynton. Built-in 1888, this is the UK’s only fully water-powered railway and is completely eco-friendly.
Once you are out of the funicular, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the pretty town of Lynton before crossing the cliff railway bridge and joining the South West Coast Path. The views from the bridge are particularly spectacular, so make sure you stop here for a picture break.
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Top tip: the path is mainly concrete, apart from a small section of short grass, so it’s ideal if you don’t want to get your feet muddy or else have members in the group who would struggle with uneven, rough terrain.
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The best long walks in Devon
Dart Valley Trail
Time: Eight hours
Distance: 16 miles
The beautiful Dart Valley Trail is one of South Devon’s most popular routes, following the tranquil River Dart from Totnes all the way to Dartmouth Harbour – where the river meets the sea. The route will see you pass through ancient woodland, with plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife along the way.
If you’re planning on doing the full trail in just one day, then you will need to sustain a brisk walking pace the whole time. If you’d prefer a more leisurely ramble, then you can consider breaking the walk down into individual sections and taking them a day at a time.
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Top tip: it’s best to wear proper hiking boots or waterproof shoes, as the path is always close to the river and can thus be waterlogged at points
Two Castles Trail
Time: 11 hours
Distance: 24 miles
One for the history buffs, the Two Castles Trail is a 24-mile walk between the medieval castles of Okehampton and Launceston. Beginning at the western side of Devon and finishing just past the Cornish border, this path takes you through vast stretches of rolling countryside, full of myth and legend.
Marvel at the variety of landscapes – from arid moorland to lush river valleys and dappled woodland, you’ll pass through one beautiful scene straight into another. From the ancient remains of the largest castle in Devon, the route takes you through long-forgotten battlegrounds and past Iron Age hill forts, finishing at the ancient capital of Cornwall, where another medieval ruin awaits.
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Top tip: as even the hardiest hikers will pale at the prospect of a 24-mile day, the walk can very easily be broken down into manageable sections, depending on your experience and fitness levels.
Looking for a castle-filled getaway? Here’s our blog on 10 of the best UK castles
The best coastal walks in Devon
Devon Cliffs to Exmouth
Time: Two hours
Distance: Three and a half miles
Logically, the majority of the coastal walking routes in Devon will cross over or run parallel to the South West Coast Path, which snakes around the entire peninsula. If you’re looking for a particularly nice part of the route, especially one suitable for families, then this small section in East Devon really does tick all the boxes.
As well as the relatively flat and easy surfaces, younger hikers will also love the history of the path: much of it has been formed from the path the coast guards would patrol along when on the lookout for smugglers. Up until about 100 years ago, the path was regularly monitored by the local authorities, who needed to look down into every bay and cove and check for contrabandists lurking in the shadows.
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Top tip: although the gradient of this walk is more family-friendly, it should be remembered that, as with the majority of coastal walks in the area, there will be unfenced clifftops so please do bear the safety of children and dogs in mind.
East Portlemouth to Gara Rock
Time: Two hours
Distance: Four miles
Starting at the scenic Salcombe Estuary, the path takes you past the ruins of Salcombe Castle, otherwise known as Fort Charles. Originally thought to have been built to defend the area from French and Spanish pirates, the fort was the last Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War and was famously besieged for over 5 months.
From Sunny Cove to Gara Rock, there’s plenty of pristine sandy beaches en route, perfect for a relaxing picnic and some time spent basking in the sun and enjoying the fantastic views – so make sure you factor this into your timings.
There’s also a lovely restaurant at Gara Rock (called Gara Rock Restaurant), with phenomenal sea views and delicious lunch and afternoon tea offerings.
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Top tip: this walk is particularly good for dogs, as many of the beaches it passes by are dog-friendly.
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The best winter walks in Devon
Countisbury figure-of-eight walk
Time: Two hours
Distance: Three miles
Lovely at any time of the year, the Countisbury figure-of-eight 3 mile walk is a particularly great choice if you’re looking for a relaxing winter stroll in Devon.
Beginning at the National Trust car park in the hamlet of Countisbury, this circular route covers a variety of terrains and landscapes and offers walkers the rare opportunity to traverse across the bottom of a Devon combe (a steep, narrow valley) without having to wade through water.
When you reach the head of the valley and climb up out of it, you’ll be rewarded by amazing panoramic views, stretching out across the Bristol Channel and back towards Wind Hill and Myrtleberry North hill forts.
Finally, the walk will also take you along Trilly Ridge, where there are more spectacular 360° views, before finishing back at the carpark in Countisbury.
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Top tip: in the winter the rivers are likely to be fuller, so bear this in mind when walking along the riverside section.
Wildlife & Forts of Berry Head
Time: One hour
Distance: One and a half miles
A lovely place to walk on a winter’s day in Devon, Berry Head Nature Reserve is home to the area’s most important wildlife site and contains many rare species of plants, as well as being home to a variety of wildlife – keep your eyes open and you might spot the herd of goats which were brought in to help keep invasive species of plants at bay.
Halfway round the route you’ll be rewarded by the sight of Berry Head Lighthouse, which is Britain’s smallest and highest lighthouse. Take advantage of the amazing clifftop views here and spend some time looking out towards the ocean – you may well be able to spot some porpoises and dolphins out there in the waves, or even a whale if you’re really lucky!
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Top tip: as most of the path is surfaced and level, this is a great option for families with prams or wheelchairs – just be careful of any slipperiness in the winter months. Please also be aware that the cliffs around the last part of the headland are unfenced, so keep a close eye on children and dogs.