If your image of Devon is cream teas and donkey rides, prepare to be surprised. The seaside resorts of the English Riviera are still there, complete with tea pavilions and broad golden sands, but you’ll also find Roman ruins, Michelin-starred restaurants and one of Britain’s wildest national parks. Take a short break to Exeter from Aberdeen Airport and see a new side to the English seaside.
Still enclosed by sections of its Roman walls, Exeter is Devon’s capital of history and culture. The Romans came to conquer, but their fortress city was abandoned for 270 years before the Saxons settled on the same spot. The foundations of Exeter's imposing cathedral were laid in 1050, but the current building – a masterpiece of medieval architecture – ‘only’ dates from the 14th century. Uncover more history in the ruins of RougemontCastle, where the last witch trial in England was held in the 1680s.
Gateway to the moors
When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was looking for a setting for The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dartmoor was the obvious choice. This windswept moorland is one of Britain’s wildest quarters, studded with lonely standing stones and dramatic rocky tors. Today, DartmoorNational Park is a playground for cyclists, hikers and climbers, with a fantastic network of signposted walking and cycling trails. Finish your ramble in a country pub with a well-deserved pint of Scrumpy, Devon’s beloved cloudy cider.
From the city to the seaside
There is something quintessentially English about the Devon seaside. Cream teas are still a way of life in English Riviera resorts such as Ilfracombe, Torquay and Paignton, though standards of catering have moved on since the days of Faulty Towers. Today’s holidaymakers can enjoy gourmet dinners at such esteemed restaurants as Michelin-starred The Elephant in Torquay (3-4 Beacon Terrace) and The Quay in Ilfracombe (11 the Quay), decorated with artworks from co-owner Damien Hirst.