Quite different in character from other areas of Devon, East Devon has a timeless charm about it, and no shortage of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Whilst the coast offers some of the more obvious appeal, inland you’ll find beautiful scenery, interesting market towns, charming villages with traditional thatched cottages, and plenty of room in not just one, but two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
One of the East Devon coastline’s most important aspects is that it makes up a key part of the UNESCO designated Jurassic Coast, a 90 mile stretch of geologically important coastline which runs from the town of Exmouth into the neighbouring county of Dorset. One community after another sits nestled along this coastline, each with their own identity and well worth exploration.
The area is largely unspoilt by overdevelopment, and a great way to explore it is on foot, either using the South West Coast Path, or along one of the many inland trails, including the East Devon Way, a 40 mile trail that winds its way through the untouched landscape, passing through eight villages and crossing five rivers. For lovers of peace, quiet, and plenty to see and do, East Devon is the ideal destination.
Two charming and pretty communities await the traveller as they wind their way along the narrow roads near the East Devon coast. The villages of Beer, and its smaller neighbour, Branscombe, are worth visiting in part just for the pleasure of walking or driving through them, such is the inviting look of the old buildings with their displays of colourful flowers. And at the bottom of each respective village’s valley, attractive and unspoilt beaches await.
Well known for its long beach with its fat, round pebbles that were formed millions of years ago, as they tumbled down rivers from long since gone mountains, Budleigh Salterton has a gentle character about it that makes it appealing to those seeking a certain old world charm. A good range of accommodation, shops, galleries, and eateries, however, ensure that it’s moved with the times, and makes for an appealing destination for the visitor.
A small fishing village until the early 18th Century, Exmouth, as its name suggests, lies at the mouth of the River Exe. Thanks to its position with splendid sandy beaches and beautiful surrounding coastal scenery, the village eventually became one of the earliest seaside resorts in Devon, and these days offers all the facilities that a visitor is looking for when taking their classic English beach holiday.
Once a major stopping place on the great Roman road, Fosse Way, which ran from Lincoln to Exeter, Honiton these days is an attractive market town that many a visitor will stop at as they journey into the southwest of England. Famous for its Honiton lace, this industry was first brought to the town by Flemish immigrants in the 16th century, and reinvigorated by Queen Victoria in the 19th century when she insisted on wearing Honiton lace on her wedding day!
A small town, but fascinating none the less, Ottery St Mary is a delightful place to visit for an array of different reasons. Aside from the generally nice aesthetic of this ancient town, with narrow streets and elegant Georgian buildings, there is the magnificent 14th Century church, the unique Tar Barrels in November, and the nearby Cadhay Manor, one of the finest manor houses in the country.
Like so many of the resorts on the south coast of England, Sidmouth benefitted greatly from the Napoleonic wars of the late 18th and early 19th Century which denied the leisured classes access to their favourite resorts on the continent. It grew from an obscure fishing village into the grand and stylish resort that it is today, with handsome Georgian buildings, beautifully cared for parks, its broad pebbly beach, all backed by its dramatic red sandstone cliffs.