Devon is home to two national parks, preserving the area's natural beauty and providing a safe rural haven for wildlife within the many moorlands, tors and forests. Both parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor welcome thousands of visitors each year from all around the world. Exmoor National Park is situated on the North Devon coast and straddles along into the county of Somerset. It has provided the setting for several novels including the 19th-century Lorna Doone by R D Blackmore. Whereas Dartmoor National Park is located in the centre of Devon and popularly renowned among hill walkers, ramblers and other orienteering hobbyists for its Letterboxing activity. The parks are also used for many more Devon activities and leisure pursuits, including: kayaking, canoeing, cycling, fishing, climbing and horse riding. There are several settlements within the parkland of Dartmoor including Chagford, Moretonhampstead, Princetown and tourist favourites Dartmeet and Widecombe-in-the-Moor.
Other family and tourists attractions in Devon and beautiful sights to see within this South West county include: friendly farms, stately homes, beautiful gardens, train rides, caves, cottages, castles and heritage sites, zoos and wildlife parks and museums and galleries. All these and many more provide lots of 'things to do' in Devon.
Old world charm can be found within the rural communities, but the larger influential urban areas such as Exeter and Plymouth provide all the amenities and comforts that would be expected of modern day cities. The capital city of Devon, Exeter, is the home of the majestic St Peter's Cathedral, and also the county's central authority base for education, medicine, religion, commerce and culture. Plymouth, however, is Devon's largest city. Occupying a fine natural position along side the Sound, Plymouth is a city with a maritime history of great importance and still today plays a major role with its deep-water harbours.
Exeter and Plymouth, as you might anticipate, cater for nightlife and entertainment expectant visitors. Exmouth in East Devon and Barnstaple in North Devon, being larger urban areas, also lean towards offering some of these attributes. But Torbay, specifically Torquay is Devon's answer to a Mediterranean alternative with its cosmopolitan ambience and summer holiday feel. Exeter and Plymouth also provide the region with its main shopping capitals. Exeter, in particular, is drawing thousands of shoppers to its recent Princesshay shopping centre development.
South Devon is home of Torbay, which is also known in the tourist industry as the English Riviera due to its mild climate, popular beaches, and buzzing holiday season feel. It is set within the Lyme Bay area of coastline and made up from the main resort towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. Due to the mild climate, palm trees are a common feature along the Torbay coast. Torquay also has a continental feel with its style and setting amongst its many hotels and villas. Paignton has two lovely sandy beaches, a pier, a promenade and all the facilities you might expect from a popular family holiday resort and seaside town. Paignton merges into Torquay, and together, offer plenty of holiday accommodation, including hotels, guest houses and holiday parks. Brixham, another of the towns which make up this impressive stretch of coastline, is a busy and colourful fishing port with lots going on throughout the year. Trawlers, pleasure craft and yachts come and go, and stalls sell the freshly caught seafood around the harbour.
Axmouth, Beer, Branscombe, Dawlish, Dawlish Warren, Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Seaton, Sidmouth and Teignmouth are a few more of the popular Devon towns situated within Lyme Bay. Exmouth, a favourite among holidaymakers and locals, is a popular and flourishing seaside town and centre for leisure activities such as water sports and walking. One such walk, part of the South West Coast Path, starts nearby at Orcombe Point and provides spectacular panoramic views. The Point is also the start of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site stretching along the East Devon coastline towards Swanage in East Dorset.
Inland from the Jurassic Coast, in East Devon, are the towns of Axminster, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Newton Poppleford and Otterton. All but the first feature within the Otter Valley on the banks of the River Otter, which rises from the Blackdown Hills and meets with Lyme Bay at Budleigh Salterton. The ancient borough and market town of Honiton is the largest East Devon inland town. It was distinguished for hundreds of years by its Honiton lace, this along with its pottery provided the town's main industry.
North Devon is another of Devon's delightful regions: ideal for a family holiday or a short romantic cottage holiday break. Just waiting are the undulating hills, golden beaches, dramatic cliff tops and a scenery that will leave a lasting impression. People come back again and again to North Devon, revisiting childhood trips and fun days! Barnstaple, Braunton, Bideford, Combe Martin, Ilfracombe, South Molton, Lynton and Lynmouth are just some of the towns and villages within this district. With Exmoor and the Valley of The Rocks nearby, the Tarka Trail, the South West Coast Path, The Island of Lundy and the beaches of Westward Ho!, Croyde, Instow, Saunton Sands and Woolacombe, – there's plenty of memories to create.
Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Kingswear, Ivybridge, Salcombe and Totnes are some of the towns incorporated within the South Hams area of Devon. Part of Dartmoor is also included along with some of Devon's most unspoilt shoreline. Start Point, with its lighthouse, is one of the most exposed peninsulas on the English Coast and a popular attraction for visitors. Dartmouth Castle dating back to 1388 is another tourist destination in the district.
Mid and West Devon is rural, agricultural, farming countryside at its best, with a patchwork of beautiful green pastures occupied by an industry of crops and animals. With the market towns of Tiverton, Cullompton, Crediton, Hatherleigh, Holsworthy and Okehampton nearby, this is the place to enjoy a farm or cottage holiday right in the heart of Devon's roots.
All the Devon towns, cities and villages provide something different, and there's something for everyone. The industrial centres and larger urban regions provide the excitement and conveniences, whereas the rustic and rural areas provide the serenity and seclusion of getting away from it all. Wherever you stay or visit in Devon, there's always a variety of ancient history to learn or a beautiful sight to see.