With its verdant meadows, winding country lanes and cosy thatched cottages, Devon has long been idealized as a vision of a pre-industrial, “authentic” England. In fact much of the county is now inhabited largely by retired folk and urban refugees, but there is still tranquillity and sugar-free charm to be found here, from moorland villages to quiet coves on the cliff-hung coastline.
Reminders of Devon’s leading role in the country’s maritime history are never far away, particularly in the two cities of Exeter and Plymouth. These days it’s the yachties who take advantage of the numerous creeks and bays, especially on Devon’s southern coast, where ports such as Dartmouth and Salcombe are awash with amateur sailors. Landlubbers flock to the sandy beaches and seaside resorts, of which Torquay, on the south coast, and Ilfracombe, on the north, are the busiest. The most attractive are those which have preserved traces of their nineteenth-century elegance, such as Sidmouth, in east Devon. Inland, the county is characterized by swards of lush pasture and a scattering of sheltered villages, the population dropping to almost zero on Dartmoor, the wildest and bleakest of the West’s moors.