Defined by their extensive coastlines and seafaring traditions, attractive countryside and gorgeous gardens due to the warmer southern climate, the two glorious neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall couldn’t be more different in character. Cornwall’s 300 or more beaches and seaside hotspots are major drawcards, especially in the summer school holidays. The Atlantic-facing north coast is the surfing and beach mecca stretching from Bude to beyond St Ives and including Widemouth Bay, Polzeath, Trevone (near picture-perfect Padstow, stronghold of chef Rick Stein), Constantine Bay and Newquay. Tintagel’s fortified site is here and Boscastle with its man-made rock harbour.
The south and west Cornish coasts face the English Channel with tiny coves, fishing villages and wide bays. Falmouth is a favourite destination, a busy port with all the trimmings – a great centre for sailing, it has restaurants, shops and galleries, access to cliff walks, gardens and with Pendennis Castle nearby. St Michael’s Mount castle stands proud in Mount Bay reached across a causeway at low tide. Porthcurno is picture perfect, overlooked by the outdoor Minack Theatre.
Land’s End is the rocky southernmost tip.The lovely Isles of Scilly lie beyond, top holiday boating spots and home to the famed Trescoe Gardens. Cornwall’s gardens include Caerhays Castle and Gardens, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden project, futuristic ‘biomes’ with plants from around the world.
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Devon also boasts beautiful coastlines and its broader interior has the granite moorland and signature ‘tors’ (prominent weathered rock formations) of Dartmoor National Park at its heart. Dartmouth and Plymouth are two naval bases – the latter is also a ferry terminal with routes to France and Spain. The centrally located capital of Exeter is a university city with historic areas of cobbled streets and plenty of shopping, cafe/bars and dining.
Totnes is an arts capital with a mind of its own – the winding High Street is lined with tiny shops and galleries. This is a centre for exploring east Dartmoor and East Devon, now a UNESCO World Heritage site for its position on the Jurassic Coast. Exmouth, Sidmouth, Seaton and Branscombe are some of its coastal towns and villages, with Axminster, Broadclyst and areas of beautiful wooded valleys inland.
Tavistock in West Devon is a thriving and inviting market town on the south-west edge of Dartmoor. Its history dates back hundred of years to its roots as an ancient ‘stannary’ or tin-marketing town. Tavistock makes a great base for exploring the edge of Dartmoor and a host of neighbouring villages, gardens and more; it also boasts a ‘pannier’ market, covered markets granted by Royal Charter in 1105 and in constant use ever since.
Barnstaple, the hub of North Devon, also has a pannier market, voted in the top ten markets in the country. North Devon has wide beaches such as Saunton Sands, Croyde Beach and sheltered Watermouth Bay, a top spot for boats to moor as people come to discover the marine life here created by the area’s ecosytem. Beautiful Exmoor features rolling hills, Lynton and Lynmouth perched on the coast, Dulverton Castle and the village port of Porlock.