The seaside county of Devon in southwest England is a lovely place to go for a weekend escape when one is in desperate need of sunshine and a beach. For anyone who grew up reading Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five' series, this is where I feel like all those magical adventures could come true. My godmother owns a beautiful little cottage in Sparkwell where she runs a delightful B&B and artisan bakery.
How to Get to Devon
Tucked away in the most southwestern tip of England, trains run along the coast to Plymouth which gives you access to the heart of Devon. Unlike many of the other cities and towns I visited while in the UK, you definitely need a car to explore this part of the country. You can buy train tickets at any UK railway station, or you can purchase them online from Trainline in advance (they're often more expensive last minute).
Where to Stay in Devon
I stayed at the Old Home Cottage B&B, a gorgeous little boutique bed and breakfast. The food is delightful and the hosts (my godparents!) were the most lovely and accommodating. I have nothing but good things to say about this charming little place, and that is not biased at all!
Where to Eat in Devon
We went for a drive out through the gorgeous Devon moors - very 'Famous Five'-like! We stopped for the most delicious afternoon tea of scones with Devonshire cream and jam with a stunning view in all directions of the calm, rolling hills at the picturesque Prince Hall B&B. One simply must have afternoon tea while in the moors, and I cannot recommend the hospitality and quality of Prince Hall enough.
What to See & Do in Devon
There's a reason Ben Howard wrote a song about Burgh Island. It's magical. It's exactly the place to have an adventure and it's the perfect place to spend a fairy tale afternoon. To get there from Sparkwell, we went proper old-school and navigated the way by use of a 2004 road atlas and managed to make it down to Bigbury-on-Sea in time for the hottest part of the day. The beach is only there half the day, as the tide comes in and cuts off Burgh Island to the mainland.
When we arrived however, it was jam-packed with sun-seeking families. We crossed the sandy strip to the privately owned island (complete with an expensive hotel with its own private helipad) for a beautiful walk around the whole thing. The views were indescribably beautiful and we spent a good portion of the afternoon lying among the wildflowers perched high up on the tip of the island watching the clear blue waves roll in and out. We finished our coastal adventures off with a rather spicy ginger beer.
Dartmoor National Park & Combestone Tor
As we left Burgh Island in the distance, we hopped back in the car to continue our road-atlas navigations up past Buckfastleigh into Dartmoor National Park. The most gorgeous landscapes awaited us and we crawled across the lush green moors weaving past free-roaming horses, sheep and cows. More than once we had to slam to a break to let an animal cross. We took a brief stop at Combestone Tor, a cluster of rocks in the middle of the moor providing stunning 360 views as far as the eye could see.
Cotehele House, £6 per adult
Across the bridge in Cornwall lies the gorgeous National Trust's Cotehele House where one can spend an afternoon. The grounds include a quay, the mill, various artist huts, the main house, an art gallery and spacious gardens. If you park at the quay and have a wander around there, it takes about fifteen minutes to walk along the river to the mill under the shade of lovely tall trees. The mill is in excellent condition and they still hand make flour there to sell and to bake with at the on-site restaurant. A climb up the hill across rocky ground brings you to the rather architecturally-bizarre house with staircases and hidden rooms aplenty.
Plymouth & Mayflower Museum, £3 per adult
We took a day to drive down into the main part of Plymouth to see what adventures we could find. We found the very site where the Mayflower ship set off in 1620 full of Pilgrims looking to start a new life in America; a beautiful plaque commemorates the voyage. The Mayflower Museum nearby explains the story of the ship and its passengers.