It’s difficult to choose a destination for a holiday. Many of us love beaches and the seaside, the great outdoors, and cities with history and culture, but to find them all in one place is a rarity. Luckily, there’s a place just on your doorstep that serves up all the above – and more. South Devon is the perfect destination for a staycation in the UK, with places to visit and activities to take part in that will please the whole family. Here’s our 5-day itinerary of South Devon to get you started with some ideas.
Day 1 – Sun and sand
When you’re travelling some of the UK’s most spectacular coastline, you have to start at the beach. Dawlish Warren is one and a half miles of sandy perfection, offering sheltered sand dunes and peaceful, clean waters. The water is great for surfing and other sports, but there’s as much fun to be had out of the sea than in it. A traditional seaside arcade sits along the promenade, as well as karting, mini golf, rides, and cafes.
Most people spend a whole day exploring the majesty of Dawlish Warren beach, but we’re exploring the whole South Devon coastline. Take a train to Teignmouth to discover another one of the county’s beautiful seaside towns, and an essential for anyone in search of the Great British beach holiday. A traditional Victorian Pier intersects this long stretch of sand, along which you’ll find a play park, crazy golf, skate park, ice cream huts, and fish and chip shops. Hopefully you won’t be too beached out – there are more coming your way.
Day 2 – The English Riviera
From Teignmouth, you can easily catch a CrossCountry train direct to Torquay. Renowned as one of the UK’s best seaside resorts, this staycation hotspot is surrounded by beautiful beaches and countryside within the Global Geopark. Known as the birthplace of Agatha Christie, you can create your own story here by exploring its stretches of sand, dozens of water sports on offer, and stone cave tours. When you stop for lunch, be sure to try some local fish sourced from nearby Brixham.
The next stop is Paignton, another seaside town along the English Riviera. Paignton Sands will give you your last taste of sun and sand for a few days, so make sure you soak up the continental vibe that comes with the English Riviera. The promenade and wide range of activities make the town feel every bit as staycation worthy as Torquay, but that’s not all it has to offer. Paignton also has one of the best zoos in the UK, as well as one of the most ethical animal sanctuaries in the world.
Day 3 – Moving inland
If you’re all beached out from two days of sun and sand, our next stop takes you further inland to Newton Abbot. This bustling market town is packed full of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and indoor and outdoor markets, making it a great base should you want to stay in one place during your trip. Be sure to visit the outdoor market and indoor Pannier Market for a wide range of local produce and gifts from independent retailers. You can also discover a bit of greenery at Decoy Country Park, Courtnenay Park, and Bakers Park.
When you’ve seen all that Newton Abbot has to offer, Buckfastleigh is a great place to end the day. Most famous for its tonic wine, the vibrant town offers history – it was first established in the 11th century – and culture. The South Devon Steam Railway will take you to and from Totnes to discover more of what the county has to offer, while Pennywell Farm provides a great day out for the whole family, with enough miniature piglets to be shared by all.
Day 4 - The great outdoors
So far, you’ve visited beaches and historic towns, so by this point you’re probably thirsty for some outdoor activities. Dartmoor National Park offers some of the most dramatic scenery the UK has to offer, as well as a whole host of activities to get involved in. There’s more than enough to do here over a whole week, let alone a day, so we wouldn’t blame you for staying here an extra night or two.
There are the obvious things to see and do here, such as walking and cycling – as far as good trails go, we recommend Fingle Gorge or Wistmans’ Wood. But for the more adventurous at heart, spend the afternoon canoeing, climbing, or horse riding through the vast wilderness of Dartmoor. If you’re looking for a more relaxed day four of your staycation, visit some of the park’s many quaint towns and villages, or unearth some discoveries at an archaeological site – for that perfect postcard snap, make sure you take a trip to Lustleigh.
Day 5 – An historic city
Where better to end your five-day South Devon staycation than at one of the UK’s most historic cities? Plymouth is the largest city in Devon, and as such has a whole host of activities ready for you to take part in and culture to soak up. Start your day visiting The Box – a multi-million-pound hub of history, galleries, and exhibition spaces describing the life and times of Plymouth. When you’ve finished there, head across to the city centre for some mainstream shopping in Drake Circus followed by Plymouth market for the independent stores.
In the early afternoon make your way to Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park for a tour of one of the city’s most iconic attractions, which includes 865 acres of vast gardens. By this point, your feet will probably be aching from all the walking, so take a gentle stroll around The Barbican to find an independent coffee shop to relax in. There are two options for the evening: watch the sunset by the iconic Plymouth hoe or finish off your tour of the seaside at Wembury Beach – an award-winning stretch of sand.
There are plenty more free things to do in Plymouth if you want to chop and change your itinerary around.
Exploring South Devon via train is an excellent option, and CrossCountry has services across the county running from all over the country. You can buy tickets on our website or Train Tickets app, and remember to check out our cheap tickets page to see how you can save money on your travel with CrossCountry.