See & Do
Featured in the Domesday Book of 1086, the rural village of Zeal Monachorum is surrounded by acres of open farmland, as winding footpaths lead you past pretty, traditional cottages and through wildlife-steeped woods. On a clear day, you can even enjoy distant views of Dartmoor. Zeal Monachorum has its own fishing lake. Five pound per person to fish or free just to walk around, it’s a beautifully serene spot to sit and watch nature. If you’re lucky, you might see the resident Kingfisher.
Mid Devon is known for its rolling hills and beautiful countryside, with the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty waiting to be explored. Miles of public footpaths at your doorstep, get lost on a winding track and see where you end up – you are never far from home. Bordering Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks you are spoilt for choice. Mid Devon has 11 rivers of which the Culm, Creedy, Exe and Yeo are the most significant.
Things To Do
Rugged moorland and quaint villages make up this exquisite South West region. There’s always the opportunity for adventure in Mid Devon, whether that’s out exploring the dramatic national park or having fun at one of the many attractions throughout the area. If you prefer a little peace and quiet on your holidays, no worries, as there are always idyllic gardens and cosy corners where you can enjoy serene holiday moments.
Families are well catered for with tons of outdoor spaces where children can get close to wildlife or get sporty, enjoy theme parks or dine out in family-friendly pubs - from country parks and reserves and elegant country manors with activities for kids to the Diggerland Theme Park where youngsters can get a thrill on Stack Attack.
Get up close to some beautiful birds at Yarak Birds of Prey where you can book a unique holiday experience handling and flying hawks, owls, falcons and eagles. Groups, families and holidaymakers of all ages can have a wild time on The Bear Trail assault course – be prepared to get muddy! Take a ride on the train and journey across this extraordinary landscape with Devon Railway Centre.
Did you know you could paddleboard in Dartmoor? People often think of the stunning coastline when considering a water sports holiday, but Mid Devon has lots of opportunities you may not expect. Consider heading to this breath-taking national park if you’re a lover of kayaking, canoeing, white-water rafting or wild swimming.
Ride the surf or wander the beaches: Perfectly situated in Mid Devon offers accessibility to both coasts all within approximately 45 minutes driving to many beautiful spots - Bude, Ilfracombe, Staunton Sands and Croyd to the west and north; Exmouth, Torquay and Paington to the East and The Tamar Valley and Plymouth to the South. A perfect way to spend the day and then come home to The Hidden Chapel, the perfect sanctuary after a busy day.
With so much stunning natural landscape to explore why go anywhere else!
Where to Visit
Make a trip to one or two of these scenic country towns and areas of interest during your time in beautiful Devon; visiting the rural landscape is a must during your holiday to the South West.
Take in the dramatic moorland of Dartmoor National Park and explore the ancient streets in the cathedral city of Exeter. Pop into Cullompton for a taste of Devonian history, then relax by the riverside in waterfront Topsham. Where will you go first?
Experience our picture postcard Devon lanes and explore the wide range of attractions Mid Devon has to offer.
Whether you are looking to spend time with the family, creating some childhood memories, planning to have a quick get away with your partner or celebrating with friends, you will be spoilt for choice for things to do in Mid Devon.
Embrace the beautiful scenery, relax, get back to nature, walk the dog, eat out and jump in those muddy puddles! There is something for everyone in Mid Devon.
Proclaiming itself to be ‘The Gateway to the Moor’, beautiful Bovey Tracey is a great place to start when seeking a place to visit in Devon.
House of Marbles is a fun, FREE attraction to visit where kids will have a great time trying the different marble runs while adults may be interested in the elegant glassworks. Explore the wonderful estate of Parke, where woodlands, gardens, even a pond and beehives, offer a magical taste of what Dartmoor’s landscape has to offer.
Local's tip: Use this quaint market town as a base for exploring Dartmoor as you’re just 5 miles from iconic Haytor Rocks, and the Dartmoor Cycle Route passes right by the town.
Just 9 miles out of Exeter, the town of Crediton offers a rural holiday setting within reach of all the vibrancy of the city.
Make the most of the tranquillity of this quaint market town, wandering the high street and countryside before enjoying a day trip into the cathedral city. Uncover its long history during a town walk, tee-off at the parkland golf course, or head off on a river cruise along the wildlife-rich River Exe.
Local's tip: Pop along to the weekly farmer’s market that takes place every Saturday and pick up some tasty fresh produce to cook up one evening.
Within 3 miles of this bustling market town, you’ll find family favourite, Diggerland Theme Park, while the scenic walkers' destination of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is 10 miles away. Affectionately known by locals as ‘Cully’, this town also offers a wealth of intriguing history from the grand Killerton Estate to the wool museum. Friendly pubs and cafes offer places to sit and relax after busy days exploring the local area.
Local's tip: Head to the unassuming Pony & Trap for a drink – a traditional pub that has won awards for its real ales.
Venturing across this breath-taking moorland, climbing tors and gazing out over endless views, Dartmoor is just the place for walkers and explorers. The iconic Haytor Rocks should be your first stop before you visit the crashing waterfalls of Becky Falls.
Besides the rugged beauty of this part of Mid Devon, you may be pleased to find that there are plenty of fun attractions to entertain adult groups and children on their holidays. Dartmoor Zoo, Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary and Castle Drogo are all popular places to visit among holidaymakers in this fantastic national park.
Local's tip: Dartmoor’s best, worst kept secret has to be Froggintor Quarry, an old pit filled with clear water. It’s a delightful place for a picnic and can be used for wild swimming but be careful as it’s often shrouded in the famous Dartmoor fog and mist, making this region potentially treacherous.
With a magnificent cathedral at its heart, the River Exe running through the centre, and fantastic shopping centre to browse, this ancient city is a wonderful holiday destination.
It feels a million miles away from the atmospheric countryside which usually draws people to the South West, however, Exeter does enjoy a range of attractions including the Underground Passages, Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery and, of course, Exeter Cathedral.
Local's tip: Wander down Gandy Street, rumoured to be J. K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
Set on the banks of the River Tavy, this idyllic town offers the working village of Morwellham to discover, a peaceful riverside walk for when you fancy stretching your legs, as well as two National Trust properties within the local area: Buckland Abbey and Cotehele.
If you enjoy exploring, ensure you walk Brent Tor where you can take in breath-taking views from St Michael’s Church.
Local's tip: There are plenty of delightful cafes in Tavistock, but drop by Trudy Scrumptious for a range of sweets treats and artisan ice creams – great for children!
Venture into historic Tiverton Castle, investigate Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life and browse the independent shops in the Pannier Market where a farmer’s market is also held once a month.
Pretty National Trust-owned Knightshayes Court and Gardens is set on the outskirts of this busy Devon hub, and Tiverton even offers the opportunity for you to head 15 miles north to Exmoor National Park or 21 miles up the M5 to Taunton.
Local's tip: The Grand Western Canal Country Park is a unique outdoor day out with barge trips, cafes, a playpark, boats for hire, and even a gift shop.
South of Devon’s cathedral city of Exeter, Topsham is a pretty waterfront town wonderfully located for days into the city, down to the coast, or simply relaxing amidst beautiful countryside.
The real reason people visit this scenic waterside town though, is the stunning estuary that flanks the Town.
RSPB Bowling Green Marsh is to the south of the town and there are a couple of delightful pubs and a museum beside the water’s edge – dine out and enjoy wonderful river views.
Local's tip: If you enjoy birdwatching, stop by the Lookout Hide to see what birdlife you can spot. The area’s known for their migrating birds including waders, ducks and geese.
Coldharbour Mill Working Wool Museum and Country Par
A visit to Coldharbour Mill is a rare chance to step back in time and experience the sights and smells of a traditional factory from the impressive chimney that dominates the village of Uffculme right through to the unique smell of wool and oil. Many of the exhibits are interactive and the factory floor is largely unchanged since Victorian times with line shafting carrying power around the factory.
National Trust - Killerton
Would you give away your family home for your political beliefs? Sir Richard Acland did just that with his Killerton Estate in the heart of Devon, when he gave it to the Trust in 1944. Today you’ll find a welcoming Georgian house set in 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) of working farmland, woods, parkland, cottages and orchards. There’s plenty of calm space in the glorious garden, beautiful year-round with rhododendrons, magnolias, champion trees and formal lawns. You can explore winding paths, climb an extinct volcano, discover an Iron Age hill fort and take in distant views towards Dartmoor.
National Trust - Castle Drogo
High above the ancient woodlands of the Teign Gorge stands Castle Drogo. Inspired by the rugged Dartmoor tors that surround it, the castle was designed and built by renowned 20th-century architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Outside the Lutyens designed garden is colourful in all seasons, and there are miles of pathways to explore in the Teign Gorge from along the bubbling river to Wooston hillfort, high above the gorge.
National Trust - Knightshayes
With one of the finest gardens in the South West, Knightshayes, outside Tiverton, is a masterpiece of architectural planting, home to one of the most outstanding botanical collections in the country. Amongst champion trees and rare plants, including some first introductions to this country, there are hidden glades and pathways leading to discover far-reaching views of the Exe valley. John and Joyce, the last members of the family to live at Knightshayes, were dedicated amateur gardeners, who were responsible for the creation of the unique Garden in the Wood and were awarded RHS Victoria Medals for their contributions to horticulture.
The Gothic Revival house at Knightshayes is a rare example of the genius of William Burges, whose opulent designs have inspired extremes of opinion, even amongst the family who commissioned them. Started in 1869, the house was home to three generations of the Heathcoat Amory family, and underwent many changes over the next century as the family adapted it to suit their tastes, before being handed to the National Trust in 1972. Alongside this, the restored walled garden merges full productivity with aesthetic appeal and is an excellent example of a restored Victorian kitchen garden. Providing the Stables café with fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis, it’s considered to be an exemplar of its kind within the National Trust. The old Stable block is also home to Visitor Reception, and a large plant centre and shop.
Beyond the house and gardens, 300 acres of parkland and woodland await. Home to Exmoor horn sheep, wild red deer, and an adventure playground, it’s the perfect place to explore and run off some energy. Dogs are welcome on leads throughout the parkland, and off lead in the woodland and any enclosed field without livestock.
Other National Trust properties in Devon
Arlington Court near Barnstaple,
Buckland Abbey - Yelverton,
Greenway House - Dartmouth,
Killerton House near Exeter,
Saltram - Plymouth.
The Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the Devon and Somerset border, is a real hidden gem. Unspoilt by mass tourism, it is a beautiful landscape of steep valleys, forest and farmland, laced with rivers and streams. The area offers excellent cycling, walking and riding and there is plenty of history to interest visitors, from the Iron Age to World War Two. The hills are dotted with pretty villages, where a warm welcome and good food are always on offer.
It is wonderful countryside for walking, riding and cycling, particularly as it is home to many wildflower species including orchids, violets, and primroses, and a number of less common mammals and birds such as dormice, otters, and nightjars. The flower rich grassland is ablaze with butterflies in summer, while the autumn colour of the woodlands is an amazing sight.
To the north the land rises steeply in a dramatic wooded scarp, while to the south it forms a plateau, deeply dissected by valleys. On top of the plateau lie open windswept spaces, while in the valleys picturesque chertstone, cob, and thatched buildings cluster in villages and hamlets, surrounded by a patchwork of small enclosed fields, and accessed down narrow winding lanes with tall hedgerows.
Another favourite Blackdown Hills' beauty spot is Iron Age Hembury Fort surrounded by great earthwork ramparts. Hembury's massive beeches with gnarled twisting roots preside over well-worn tracks leading to the summit, which in late spring is carpeted with a sea of bluebells. The Blackdown Hills is also famed for its community of high quality food producers, and tracking some of these down to sample their delicious produce is another Blackdown delight.
Bear Town is a unique role play experience for children set in an immersive town setting, unlike anything else on offer in the South West. Bear Town encourages children to ‘Learn Through Play’.
At Bear Town is a young children can try a host of “grown up” jobs, from vets and mechanics to firefighters and hairdressers. At Bear Town there are no rules on imagination, children will be encouraged to let their imagination run wild and be who they want to be.
The Sculpture School
The Sculpture School is recognised as Britain’s leading centre for mastering the art of realist figurative sculpture. Situated in a purpose-built studio space, all the courses are held in a sanctuary of calm respite, perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about sculpture or to just lose themselves in the inspirational tranquillity of the area.
There are a number of different courses on offer at the Sculpture School, all of which are conducted with a student-centred, fresh approach lasting four days. They are suitable for anyone, whether you are a beginner, have some experience or are a professional sculptor.
Devon Railway Centre
The Devon Railway Centre is in the village of Bickleigh in Mid Devon, at the former Cadeleigh railway station on the closed Great Western Railway branch from Exeter to Dulverton, also known as the Exe Valley Railway. The Centre operates a 2-foot narrow gauge passenger railway and has the largest narrow-gauge collection in the South West. There is also a 7 ¹⁄₄-inch gauge miniature railway and a model railway at the Centre. The original Victorian station has been restored.
Grand Western Canal
The canal had its origins in various plans, going back to 1796, to link the Bristol Channel and the English Channel by a canal, bypassing Lands End. An additional purpose of the canal was the supply of limestone and coal to lime kilns along with the removal of the resulting quicklime, which was used as a fertiliser and for building houses. This intended canal-link was never completed as planned, as the coming of the railways removed the need for its existence. Construction was in two phases. A level section, from Tiverton to Lowdwells on the Devon/Somerset border, opened in 1814, and was capable of carrying broad-beam barges, carrying up to 40 tons. The Somerset section, suitable for tub boats opened in 1839. It included an inclined plane and seven boat lifts, the earliest lifts to see commercial service in the UK. The lifts predated the Anderton Boat Lift by nearly 40 years. The 11 miles of Devon section remains open, allowing navigation and, despite various threats to its future, and is now a designated country park and local nature reserve.