Devon is a county in the west of England with a sweeping Atlantic coastline, rolling hills, and many quaint market towns and villages that haven’t changed much in hundreds of years. In this article, we will discover the best seaside towns in Devon, Devon villages, and a lot more!
There are so many beautiful towns in Devon that you won’t want to miss as you explore this incredible region of the UK. Whether you are looking for a quick romantic UK getaway, or you want great beaches like those in St Ives, you’ll find plenty of great spots around Devon to enjoy.
Where is Devon?
Devon is located in the UK’s west country, between Dorset and Somerset to the east and Cornwall to the west. It benefits from two coastlines (the rugged north Atlantic coastline and the more serene southern coast).
The county is easily reachable from the rest of the UK via the M5 or A30. The city of Exeter acts as the hub for trains and buses from London and the rest of the UK with travel time around four hours by car and three by train.
Why Visit Devon?
Devon is packed to the rafters with interesting things to do from surfing, swimming and kayaking to horse riding, castles, museums and stately homes. The west country is famed for its dairy and enjoying a cream tea in one of the Devon seaside towns is a must for any visitor!
For nature lovers there are many parks and wildlife reserves where you can spot migratory birds and sealife including seals, dolphins and even whales if you are lucky! Dartmoor is a haven for adventure seekers and you can find many activities from orienteering and survival training to trekking and camping.
For families, check out one of the many Devon seaside resorts which host a range of activities for kids and adults alike.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in and discover the most beautiful towns and villages in Devon!
Most Beautiful Towns in Devon
There are so many beautiful towns in Devon. Work your way down either coastline and you are bound to discover little villages in Devon that barely see tourists.
Some are well worth going out of your way for. These are our absolute favourite towns in Devon that we think you’ll love, too.
The resort town of Torquay on Devon’s south coast, known as the English Riviera, is a haven for nature lovers and foodies alike. Torquay is one of the best seaside towns in Devon thanks to miles of beautiful, sandy beaches, an old fishing harbour, a modern marina and some of the best eateries in the country.
Explore the nearby caves, coves and rock pools, take a boat trip along the riviera, relax under the palm trees and sample the freshest seafood Devon has to offer. Torre Abbey Sands is the main town beach and the perfect place for swimming, body boarding or enjoying an ice cream in one of the mildest parts of the UK!
Beautiful Torquay has been wowing visitors for centuries and it is easy to see why!
Where to stay in Torquay: Abbey Sands Hotel is a perfect mid-range hotel with several room options depending on how many people are traveling together. There is an outdoor pool for summer visitors, a gym, and a restaurant for on-site breakfast with a few. You’re less than a 5-minutes walk to the beach and right in the downtown area. Rooms start at £120 per night. Book a stay at Abbey Sands Hotel here.
If the name doesn’t give it away, Dartmouth sits at the mouth of the River Dart on Devon’s south coast. The town has a quaint harbour and picturesque river views. There are ancient churches, castle ruins, museums and plenty of parklands.
The town has a wide selection of traditional pubs, tea rooms and restaurants to suit all budgets. Dartmouth is popular year-round thanks to its old-world charm and laid-back feel, but summer is the best time to visit as there are many scenic walks from the town and along the coast. There is even a small beach a couple of miles from the centre of town.
Where to stay in Dartmouth: Located right along the quay, the Royal Castle Hotel is a well-located hotel with beautiful rooms and a wonderful pub and restaurant on-site. Rooms start at a reasonable £130 per night. Book a stay at the Royal Castle Hotel here.
Branscombe is a Devon village on the Jurassic Coastline, so called for the number of ancient fossils that can be found on the beaches here. The village sits in a valley and winds its way down to the sea and a beautiful stretch of coastline.
Branscombe has a pebble beach, rather than a sandy one, so it’s not the place for sunbathing and swimming, but perfect for exploring rock pools and looking for fossils. This stretch of coastline forms part of the South West Coast Path and it’s possible to walk to nearby Beer or Sidmouth.
The Jurassic Coast is a national park and UNESCO world heritage site (England’s first) and is a must-visit place for lovers of nature and those with an interest in the history of our planet.
Where to stay in Branscombe: The Masons Arms is a 14th-century property with a pub and beautiful rooms all in one place. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the beach where you can enjoy Branscombe’s Jurassic Coastline. Even if you don’t choose to stay here, head in for lunch or a pint, the food and drinks on offer are fantastic. Rooms start at £130 per night. Book a stay at the Masons Arms here.
The Devon Coastal town of Exmouth sits on the River Ex which winds its way northwest to Exeter, Devon’s County Town (actually it’s a city). Exmouth has a two-mile stretch of sandy beach, which unlike Branscombe, is perfect for sunbathing, swimming and other water-borne activities.
This charming Devon seaside town is packed with boutique shops, brightly coloured houses more reminiscent of Scandinavia than Britain, a wonderful assortment of cafes, tea rooms, pubs and restaurants, many overlooking the beach. One of the most fun things to do in Exmouth is to take a cruise on the River Ex!
Where to stay in Exmouth: The Summerwind Guesthouse is the sort of place you visit once and makes you want to spend every summer holiday back in Exmouth. The family-run B&B is a well-located right in the middle of Exmouth’s town. Rooms are comfortable and decorated to make you feel like you’re at the beach. Rooms start at £110 per night. Book a stay at the Summerwind Guesthouse here.
Dawlish is one of the best seaside towns in Devon thanks to its beautiful stretch of sandy coastline, nature reserve, dramatic cliffs and blue flag beach a stone’s throw from the centre of town. The Great Western Mainline runs a few feet from the sea here on its way to Exeter and on blustery days the train gets covered in spray from the waves, making it a great way to arrive in the town.
Exploring the red sandstone cliffs, coves and sea stacks by boat is one of the highlights of a trip to Dawlish and the best way to take in the stunning scenery on offer. The town itself is an ancient fishing town dating back to Roman times, but came into its own as a resort for Victorian holidaymakers.
Where to stay in Dawlish: Langstone Cliff Hotel is the perfect escape for those that want to be completely surrounded by nature. Surrounded by acres of woodland, the Langston Cliff Hotel has an indoor pool, a restaurant, family rooms, a game room, a children’s play area, and a huge outdoor area for dining or relaxing. It’s also only a 5-minute walk to the beach. Rooms start at £90 per night. Book a stay at Langstone Cliff Hotel here.
We move inland now to Credit, a charming market town seven miles north of Exeter. Crediton is worth a visit in its own right for its quaint town centre of listed buildings and weekly markets, but it’s also a great starting point to explore both Exmoor and Dartmoor national parks.
The town was the birthplace of St Boniface, and home to Holy Cross church, one of the finest pieces of Norman architecture in Britain. The high street is filled with old book stores, second-hand shops and cafes. Crediton farmers market operates on the first and third Saturday of each month. Here you can find a wide selection of local produce from cheeses and meats to desserts.
Where to stay in Crediton: If you want to stay right in the middle of this beautiful little Devon village, the Hillside Bed and Breakfast is a great option. It’s a family-run B&B with gorgeous little rooms and an amazing cooked breakfast. Sue will take great care of you on your trip to Crediton. Rooms start at £50 per night. Book a stay at Hillside Bed and Breakfast here.
For those really wanting to sink their teeth into Dartmoor, then Okehampton is one of the best towns in Devon as it is within easy reach (even walkable). Okehampton is a beautiful, small town with a castle, woodland, river and lots of small, independent shops.
From Okehampton, it’s only 2.5 miles to the village of Belstone (see below for more) which sits on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. Okehampton is a great place to base yourself for day trips onto Dartmoor and you can pick up all the supplies you need in town.
Where to stay in Okehampton: This tiny little village in Devon doesn’t have a ton of hotel options, but the White Hart Hotel is a surprisingly good option despite also being the home of the local Wetherspoons. The rooms are modern and well-decorated. The whole hotel is incredibly clean, and you know you’ll be able to get a cheap and delicious breakfast each morning. Rooms start at £80 per night. Book a stay at White Hart Hotel here.
A little insider knowledge here, as I have been visiting the gorgeous village of Belstone for over 30 years. The village is perched right on the edge of Dartmoor with spectacular views up to many of the tors (hilltops) and surrounding scenery.
The village itself is almost entirely made of locally quarried stone and slate; including the cottages, pub and church. There is a tiny village green where wild horses sometimes come and graze and the village has barely changed in centuries.
From the village, it’s an easy walk down to the fast-flowing River Tor where you can spend the day walking or just relaxing in some of the finest nature the UK has to offer. In the evening be sure to head back up to the Tors Inn for a pint and a hearty meal!
Where to stay in Belstone: The Tors is really one of the only options in Belston since it really is just a tiny little strip of homes. It’s where the town pub is and where you’ll want to stay if you want to walk straight into Dartmoor in the morning. Fear not, though. It is a really wonderful pub hotel with clean and comfortable rooms with a wonderful breakfast included each morning. Rooms start at £115, but there is a two-night minimum stay required. Book a stay at the Tors here.
If you really want to get right up into the moors, then be sure to pay a visit to Princetown. The town is dominated by the bleak and foreboding Dartmoor Prison, no doubt located in one of the most inhospitable parts of the country to make escape more difficult. Although still a working prison, there is a museum and visitor centre well worth a visit for those with a morbid curiosity.
Princetown is also home to the Dartmoor National Park Visitors Centre which is a great place to start any trip onto the moors. The Old Duchy Hotel in the town is where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned his classic tale The Hound of the Baskervilles!
Where to stay in Princetown: There are a few little B&B options in Princetown, but the best value for money comes from the Duchy House Bed and Breakfast. Rooms start as low as £70 per night and include breakfast each morning. The hotel is a fantastic base for exploring the Devon countryside. Book a stay at Duchy House here.
One of the most beautiful towns in Devon has to be Barnstaple which sits on the river Taw 10km inland from the north Devon coastline. Barnstaple is in a good location with quick and easy links to Dartmoor, Exmoor and the beaches of north Devon.
The town was given its charter by Anglo Saxon king Aethlestan, grandson of Alfred the Great, so the town has a history dating back over a thousand years! Be sure to visit the clock tower in the centre of town, the beautiful gothic St Anne’s Chapel and the earthworks that are what’s left of the Norman castle.
The Barnstaple Heritage Centre offers a unique look at the history of the area with plenty of hands-on experiences for the whole family. A great day out for those visiting the town.
Where to stay in Barnstaple: The Imperial is a 4-star hotel with a very affordable price tag. Rooms start just under £100 per night and include a fantastic breakfast each morning. If you are feeling very fancy while in Barnstable, be sure to make a reservation at the restaurant for dinner. There are rooms with a view over the river and it’s located right in the centre of town, making walking around a great option for exploring Barnstaple. Book a stay at The Imperial Hotel here.
The town of Woolacombe is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe (voted the best beach in the UK and sixth-best in Europe). The beach is a three-mile stretch of golden sands perfect for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing.
The coast path is perfect for birdwatching, seal spotting, and taking in the crisp, Atlantic air. Woolacombe is a Devon seaside resort with a host of pubs and restaurants perfect for enjoying some of the local delicacies on a summer’s evening after a day at the beach.
Where to stay in Woolacombe: For total luxury, Woolacombe is home not only to one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, but one of the best hotels in the UK. The Watersmeet Hotel is a 4-star hotel with incredible views over Woolacombe Bay. You feel like you’re at the edge of the earth, but with luxurious amenities that also make you feel utterly relaxed. This is the perfect option for a romantic couples getaway to Devon. Rooms start at £200 per night. Book a stay at Watersmeet Hotel here.
A little farter up the coast is the larger Devon town of Ilfracombe, which is another popular holiday resort on the north Devon coast. Ilfracombe really is one of the most beautiful towns in Devon thanks to its picturesque harbour, old-world cottages, rugged coast path and sandy beaches.
Ilfracombe has had a working harbour since at least the 12th Century and today is no different. You can sit and watch the fishing boats and pleasure cruises come and go and even venture off on a fishing trip of your own, take a sea safari or take a trip to Lundy Island, a protected nature reserve 40 miles off the coast.
The town is packed with bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants and is a lively place throughout the year. Ilfracombe is home to St Nicholas Chapel which houses the oldest working lighthouse in the UK. There is also a 20-metre tall Damien Hurst sculpture on the edge of the harbour and plenty of shops selling local arts, crafts and foods.
Where to stay in Ilfracombe: The Harcourt Hotel is a fantastic option for your summer family holiday to this cute town in Devon. Close to the beach, bright rooms with plenty of space for relaxing both inside and out. It’s dog friendly and a full English breakfast is included each morning. Rooms start at a very affordable £55 per night. Book a stay at Harcourt Hotel here.
The picturesque village of Clovelly clings to a 400-foot cliffside above the Atlantic and was once owned by the Queen of England. Although the village is now private property to ensure its protection, it is possible to visit year-round.
The cobbled streets wind down the cliff to the harbour, and donkeys replace cars as the main mode of transport. The village includes beautiful gardens, traditional fishing cottages and the rustic Red Lion Inn where you can spend the night or feast on fresh, locally caught lobster in the restaurant!
There is a charge for entering Clovelly and adults must pay £8.50 and children £4.95. You can book tickets on the official website.
Where to stay in Clovelly: Clovelly isn’t the most affordable town in Devon for hotels, but the New Inn Clovelly is a good option with clean and comfortable rooms in a quiet and beautiful setting. You’ll be right in the centre of town and you can start walking along the cliffside right from the front door of the hotel. Rooms start at £110 per night. Book a stay at the New Inn Clovelly here.
Is Devon Worth Visiting?
So, now you know about the best towns in Devon and some of the beautiful Devon villages, what’s stopping you? With some of the finest areas of outstanding natural beauty in the country including the Jurassic Coast and Dartmoor National Park, no trip to England is complete without experiencing this part of the west country.