When it comes to enjoying some much-needed family time, Devon is the perfect place. Rolling fields give way to awe-inspiring cliffs which lead to stunning, sandy beaches… it’s got everything you need and more to entertain the masses on your Devon family holiday.
Where are the most picturesque villages? But what is there to do on the moors? And where are the best family days out in Devon?
We’ve given ourselves the tough task of narrowing down the best places to go, along with some of the best family accommodation in Devon:
A perfect go-to as a family, come rain or shine. There are great play facilities on the village green, with play equipment for both toddlers and older children surrounded by a cluster of shops and restaurants. A must-eat in North Devon, you will find a couple of Hocking’s ice cream vans in the area too, one of which sells flavoured ice cream – the only Hocking’s van to do so!
The village is set against the spectacular, dramatic expanse of the sea, and the pebble-ridged beach is one of the region’s most popular and family-friendly. A footpath towards Abbotsham Cliffs is within easy reach and, although not buggy friendly, it’s great if you’ve kids who are happy to walk or go in a backpack.
If the sun’s out, enjoy go-karting or crazy golf. If it’s raining, head to the arcades armed with 2p coins, or seek refuge at Tea On The Green where a selection of tantalising cakes await you. If it’s food you’re after, head to the Waterfront, which has its own play area or have handmade pizza at Pig and Olive’s Pizza On The Pebbles Ridge Cafe.
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With two beautiful, green, rolling moors covering more than 500 square miles of Devon, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to expansive sections of land to explore. Exmoor is exquisite, with its forested glens, sheer cliffs and hidden coves along the Bristol Channel coast, but what of Dartmoor?
We’ll start at Spitchwick, marked as Deeper Marsh/Spitchwick Common on maps, where you’ll find a picturesque bend in the River Dart with a flat, grassy area, perfect for picnics in the summer. The river is great for swimming in the warmer months, but fair warning – it’s one of the few parts of Dartmoor that does get busy in the summer months, and parking is limited.
If you fancy something a little more active, there’s also plenty to get involved with. CAReFREE DARTMOOR offer explorations of Dartmoor National Park on foot or on a top-quality electric bike; Tree Surfers near Tavistock has rope bridges, zip lines, walkways and death drops to challenge and excite; and Cholwell Riding provides escorted rides and riding lessons on the moor. You can also visit the last castle ever built in England – Castle Drogo, situated high above the Teign Gorge, which was constructed between 1911 and 1930.
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With walks around the coast and the popular quay, a stretch of the legs is one of many reasons to visit Ilfracombe, family in tow. The harbour, in particular, is a great spot to visit, with plenty of fantastic shops, ice cream parlours and restaurants catering for your every want and need, while Damien Hirst’s statue Verity stands proud, overlooking everything.
If it’s activities you’re looking for, you’re well in luck. Ilfracombe has an Aquarium, mini golf, and amusements, while the duck pond in Bicclescombe Park and crabbing in the many rock pools get you close up with nature. The historic Tunnels Beaches are also worth a visit – walk through hand-carved tunnels, which date from the 1820s, to access one of North Devon’s most beautiful stretches of coastline.
If you fancy using the town as your base, then regular boats leave for the wonderful island of Lundy during the busier points of the year, while there are loads of awesome family events taking place throughout the year. Birdman, which takes place in August, sees wannabe aviators launch themselves off the pier in the hope of “flying”. The beer festivals always cater for children with entertainment aplenty, while the Mini Rally and the Victorian Festival offer something a little different.
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The English Riviera
There’s too much to talk about in the gorgeous part of South Devon to narrow it down to just one location! Take Brixham for starters – a beautiful little town set around a stunning harbour, with lots of sweet shops, fish and chip shops, and a beach that doubles up as another great place for crabbing!
From the blue of the sea to the green of the land at Cockington. Just outside of Torquay, you’ll find a lovely big green area for children to run around, lots of pretty, thatched houses, little craft shops, cafés, glass blowing and horses – plenty to keep everyone occupied. It’s also just half-a-mile from Torquay, where 22 beaches are within easy reach.
There are some great Devon attractions for families in the vicinity, too. The kids can feel like they’re giants at Babbacombe Model Village, and there are four-acres of miniature village and railway, also to be discovered on the outskirts of Torquay. Paignton is home to Splashdown, Britain’s largest outdoor water park, a steam railway, plenty of amusements and arcades, and one of the region’s top attractions; Paignton Zoo. Here you’ll find thousands of animals, including giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, lions and monkeys – perfect for little ones to get up close and personal with natural wonders.
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Instow and Appledore
Separated by the River Torridge, the two beautiful villages of Instow and Appledore (pictured) are magnificent places to spend time with the family, and for different reasons.
We’ll start at Instow where, at low tide, the beach is the perfect place for young families with a dog, as there’s a large stretch of sand to explore. It also overlooks the picturesque estuary, perfect for parents to simply breathe and take in the views. Enjoy a saunter around the sand dunes before a hop, skip and jump to a nearby ice cream van for a cooling snack, the Glorious Oyster shack for something slightly bigger, or Johns of Instow for tea and cake.
A short journey away is Appledore, North Devon’s hot spot for crabbing. Cast a line over the quayside or at the top of the slipway, where you can also – in season – grab the ferry between Appledore and Instow, or meander through Irsha Street towards the Lifeboat Station and explore the rockpool at low tide. On a balmy summers evening, there’s nothing better than devouring fish and chips from Sylvester’s while sitting on a bench looking across the estuary. The Flame Factory is also a wonderful family-friendly restaurant and brings wood-fired pizza, flame-grilled burgers and rare bred Clovelly Longhorn steaks to the historic quay.