Let’s zoom back from Exeter and talk about Devon itself.. Also known as Devonshire, it’s a county located in South West England, and Exeter serves as its county town. What you’ll find there is a wide variety of rocky ancient landscapes – the county even lends its name to the Devonian geologic period. Devon’s location in the middle of the South West peninsula means that it has not one, but two picturesque coasts, and it’s all worth seeing.
Devon’s south coast on the English Channel, often called the Jurassic Coast, is a landmark recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage List. Stretching from Orcombe Point near Exmouth as far as Old Harry Rocks in Dorset county, it earns its name from its magnificent cliffs. These stone walls are truly ancient – they formed over 180 million years, in the Triassic, Cretaceous, and yes, Jurassic periods. It’s no wonder they’re popular with tourists, as they are themselves a wonder to behold – a humbling sight that will put into perspective how massive and how old the Earth we all walk on really is.
If you would like to experience the outdoors fully while you’re there, there’s an extensive network of campsites available on the Jurassic Coast. We also recommend looking up some information about fossil collecting, so you can bring home a really unique souvenir – free of charge!
Dartmoor National Park
The Dartmoor National Park is a moorland park in southern Devon, stretching nearly a thousand square kilometers (or about 230 acres) between Exeter and Plymouth on the Cornish peninsula. This granite plateau is rich in both sights and history, but its moors and bogs are as treacherous as they are fascinating. On a bad day, heavy mist can make it impossible to see more than a few meters ahead, so make sure to check the weather before heading to Dartmoor. A good map will be even important here, because off the trail the terrain can be very dangerous to traverse.
So what’s there to see that will make such a daunting trip worthwhile? In the classic Sherlock Holmes novel, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of Dartmoor’s “spirit of the moor”, its “vastness” and its “grim charm” owed to the many prehistoric sites: standing stones, “huge monoliths […] supposed to have marked [the prehistoric people’s] temples”, and “grey stone huts against the scarred hillsides”. According to Doyle, visiting Dartmoor means “[leaving] all traces of modern England behind you” and becoming “conscious everywhere of the homes and the work of the prehistoric people.” Some of the earliest humans lived here, and traces of their culture – stone circles, longstones, cairns and more – make it impossible not to be amazed by the history of mankind.
It is worth noting that, unusually for a national park, over half of Dartmoor is privately owned, mostly by the Duke of Cornwall. Although most of it is still open to the public, some areas belong to the Ministry of Defence and may not be accessible while military training takes place there.
This magnificent coastal fortress looking over the English Channel was built under threat of a French attack on the Dartmouth harbor in the 14th century – and it saw service as late as the Second World War! Now it’s open to anyone interested in the 500 years of military history it represents. There’s a lot of antique wartime gear to see in a castle that was in use for over half a millennium – the Gun Tower, chain defence systems, battlements, gun-loops, rifle-loops, murder-holes… even the ticket office is housed in what used to be a coastal gun disguised as a medieval tower. Those less inclined towards stories of war, fortifications and artillery – or just tired after hearing about all of it – may want to visit Saint Petrox Church located within the castle complex, have lunch in a riverside tea room, or have a picnic nearby if the weather’s fine – the surrounding area and the river Dart itself are quite picturesque.
If you want to see what Devon has to offer, there’s no better place to make the starting point of your travels than Exeter – and no better place to stay in Exeter than in our Isca House. Check out our serviced apartment now!