Heading to Devon, UK? Don't overlook these places of natural beauty and local charm, says our Devon-born writer
Devon's rugged coastline, wild national parks and slow pace of life make the area a firm favourite among both British and overseas travellers.
Despite the large number of tourists – or 'grockels', as the locals call them – Devon's sleepy coastal villages and moorland landscapes are both picturesque and characterful. Here are five unmissable locations just waiting to be explored...
Best for: Local quirkiness
The locals joke that Totnes is twinned with Narnia – not too much of a stretch of imagination when you wander the town's bustling high street, spying the 'new age' crowd and quirky artisan shops. Nestled on the south eastern edge of Dartmoor National Park, this wonderfully individual town has become well known for championing independent traders.
People here are passionate about supporting the local economy – even introducing their own currency, the Totnes Pound, which is used widely throughout the town in an attempt to stop money drifting out of the local area. The town is a great base for exploring Dartmoor and the nearby River Dart.
Make it happen: Take the train. The line between Exeter and Newton Abbot is lauded as one of the most scenic routes in the UK. The track slithers along the River Exe before hugging the coastline between Dawlish and Teignmouth. The line then completes its 13-mile trip along the water by following the River Teign into Newton Abbot.
Insider secret: Two miles outside of Totnes you'll find the village of Dartington. The village shares the same ethos of Totnes, striving to promote local products and sustainable living. Dartington Hall is home to a host of individual craft shops, locally-sourced products, and community events such as the Apple & Cider Weekend (27-28 Sept).
Image: Totnes Castle (supplied: vuonline.co.uk)
Best for: Wildlife, getting off the grid
Lundy Island is only12 miles off the north coast of Devon, but this rugged island feels far removed from mainland UK. With just one pub, the cosy Marisco Tavern, one shop and a handful of inhabitants, this unspoilt outcrop offers visitors the chance to distance themselves from modern life – the Marisco even bans you from using your mobile phone.
The island's cliffs are a haven not only for puffins, but also for climbers who tackle the 60 rock faces and later boast of their accomplishments in the Marisco's Climbers' Log Book. Puffins are not the only draw for twitchers; the island attracts migrating birds between March and June and again between August and November.
Make it happen: Take a ferry or helicopter. From the end of March until the end of October the MS Oldenburg makes several trips a week to the towns of Ilfracombe and Bideford (£62 return for adults, £30.50 return for children under 16, £11 for infants under four. £35/£18/£6 for day returns). In winter months, a helicopter service (£105 return for adults, £55.50 for children under 16 and £11 for infants under two) operates from Hartland Point – 20 miles west of Bideford.
Insider secrets: Get even further off the grid. One of the few things that Lundy has ample choice of is accommodation. Each of the island's 23 overnight options are as characterful as they are remote. Tibbetts cottage is as remote as it gets. Situated 1 ¾ miles from the village, Tibbetts is the ultimate countryside retreat. You won't find any televisions or telephones in your accommodation, and electricity is turned off between midnight and 6am.
Image: Puffins, Lundy Island (supplied: James Wright)
Best for: Walking and cream teas
These twin towns, tucked away on the northern edge of Exmoor National Park, allow visitors to explore an area of Devon far removed from the beach-seeking grockels. Lynmouth, as the name suggests, lies at the mouth of the West and East Lyn river, whilst Lynton is perched on a cliff several hundred feet above.
The cliffs surrounding Lynmouth harbour may look daunting to climb but thanks to a water-powered cliff railway, that dates back to 1890, you can easily reach the summit to enjoy coastal panoramas and hiking trails.
Make it happen: Take the car. Cruise across the winding lanes of Exmoor taking in the sights of one of Britain's most underrated national parks.
Insider secrets: From Lynmouth you can explore one of Britain's deepest river gorges at Watersmeet. The wooded walk, full of pools, waterfalls and ancient woodland, must include a pit stop at Watersmeet House. Dating back to 1832, this National Trust tea room sits at the bottom of the gorge where the East Lyn meets the Hoar Oak Water. Its cream teas are scrumptious.
Image: Valley of Rocks, Lynton (supplied: Lynton and Lynmouth Tourist Information Centre)
Best for: Countryside escape
The streets of this quaint seaside village are filled with local craft shops, tea rooms and restaurants (have lunch at The Quay – try the Exmoor trout or the seafood pot). The village hosts a wide variety of events throughout year including the summer Appledore & Instow Regatta and the autumn Appledore Book Festival.
The sleepy fishing village is perfectly positioned to allow you to explore north Devon's stunning coastal landscapes including Saunton Sands, the three miles of pristine sand at Woolacombe Beach, and the surfers' paradise of Croyde Bay.
Make it happen: Take the car. Sample the sights of Exmoor before swinging along the north Devon coast to explore the region's arresting coastal scenery.
Insider secret: The World Championship Crabbing Contest held during the Appledore & Instow Regatta attracts almost one hundred teams to compete for the crab-catching crown. You may need to be a skilled crab whisperer to beat the locals, though, as this year's winners caught 164 crustaceans.
Best for: Moorland walks
Nestled in the north eastern region of Dartmoor, Chagford allows visitors to easily explore Dartmoor National Park and the nearby River Teign. Chagford Common and Fernworthy Reservoir are two of the most scenic walks in an area surrounded by natural beauty. The town is home to typically Devonian pubs filled with locally sourced food as well as ales and cider. The Globe, Ring O Bells and the 13th century Three Crowns, which is said to be haunted, are three favourite locations amongst locals.
Make it happen: Chagford is easy enough to locate by car from the A382, and for a small town there are accommodation options to suit any budget. Highbury Bed & Breakfast is particularly endearing.
Insider secret: Whiddons Eatery. This family run restaurant, located in a thatched building dating back to the 16th century, transports you to a bygone age with its low beams, fireplace and stone-clad walls.