Discover the best of the Devonshire Coast and Dartmoor on this unforgettable tour. Embrace the rich history of the area entwined with its natural beauty on visits to Hartland and Buckfast Abbey, the South Devon Steam Railway, the Beautiful Gardens at RHS Rosemoor and the famously steep cobbled street of Clovelly. Not forgetting local artisans, with their skillfully made glass and wine.
There’s just so much to discover in Devon; From the stunning ancient landscapes of Dartmoor and Exmoor National parks, to the beautiful coastal villages and towns of Dartmouth, Lynton, Lymouth, and the village of Clovelly, where no cars are allowed, experience travel as it used to be on the South Devon Steam Railway and tread in the footsteps of the past when we visit famous Buckfast Abbey which is still an active monastery, as well as historic Hartland Abbey and magnificent RHS Rosemoor. We also learn more about the skilled artisans of the area, with a visit to the UK’s last remaining glass workshop at Dartington Crystal, a wine tasting and tour of a local vineyard. We stay in Barnstaple charmingly situated along the banks of the river Taw, an ancient and still thriving market town now the ‘capital’ of North Devon and the perfect base to explore from.
Whether you prefer to make your own way to your four-star hotel or have our Travel Concierge help with arrangements, our tour begins in the charming North Devon town of Barnstaple. The afternoon check in allows you to make yourself acquainted with your homely surroundings; a country house style hotel along the River Taw which provides the perfect base for exploring the Devonshire Coast and Dartmoor. After plenty of time to explore the local shops and historic pannier market, tonight dinner is included in the award-winning AA rosette restaurant.
After breakfast, our exploration of North Devon begins. We hug the coastal path on our journey, driving out towards the sea and passing Croyde and Woolacombe bay before arriving at our destination of Lynton and Lynmouth. Nestled where Exmoor meets the sea, these picturesque villages are connected by the cliff railway the highest and steepest fully water powered Victorian railway in the world.
Despite these connections and proximity, the two villages have their own distinct appeal. Perched at the top, lively Lynton is a Victorian village with plenty of character, whereas Lynmouth has a more romantic appeal, with rows of charming fishing cottages clustering around the pretty harbour.
There’s plenty of time to explore these pretty villages, with beautiful walk that starts nearby. The walk begins in Lynmouth, where you can amble along a series of wooden and stone bridges to former fishing lodge and National Trust owned Watersmeet. The lodge stands at the bottom of a deep gorge and is situated at the confluence of the East Lyn and Hoar Oak rivers. There’s be plenty of beautiful British wildlife and birds to be seen along the river as well as ancient woodland.
Next, we hop over the border to Somerset, leaving Lynton behind and continuing our journey through the national park to Porlock. As we drive through Exmoor, some of the most remote and beautiful moorland will come into view. Be sure to look out for the beautiful Exmoor ponies, rare birds and deer and even highland cattle!
There’s even more in store to round up a wonderful first day, as we conclude with a visit to RHS Rosemoor Gardens. Found in a sheltered valley between the Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks, the enchanting 65-acre garden offers year-round interest, blending a mix of formal and informal planting to stunning effect. After taking in the fabulous seasonal display, we return to our base in Barnstaple.
Many people will have heard of the charming village of Clovelly, with its famously steep streets which are pleasingly pedestrianised. This morning we step back in time with a visit to it’s beautiful cobbled streets. Clinging to a 400ft cliff, the only traffic you’ll find are donkeys and sledges making their way up and down to the 14th-century quay past the plentiful independent shops and cafes.
After time to explore the village and visitors centre, it’s onward to Hartland Abbey and Gardens. Built in the 12th century, it was the last Abbey in the country to be dissolved by Henry VIII, who gifted it to the Sergeant of his Wine Cellar at Hampton Court, Mr. William Abbott. It is now a stunningly preserved stately home, where Abbott’s descendants still live to this day. Bursting with colour and culture, Hartland Abbey boasts an impressive art collection and an archive of ancient documents along the Alhambra corridor and beyond. Masterpieces include the likes of Reynolds, Gainsborough, Hudson, Ramsey and even Kneller’s portrait of Sir William Stukeley, who saved Stonehenge for the nation. The journey through history doesn’t stop here, with the unmissable Gothic library, the walled garden, bog garden and Victorian fernery created by Gertrude Jekyll all waiting to be explored. Some might even recognise the award-winning scenery from film and TV, having featured in Pride and Prejudice, The Night Manager and episodes of Gardeners World.
Our next stop will demonstrate one of the local skills of the area as we heard to Dartington Crystal. The art of glassmaking takes years to perfect, so what better place to appreciate the talents by visiting the UK’s last remaining glass workshop. After hearing the story of glass making in the visitors centre, we’ll take the overhead walkways which allow us to see the skilled crafts people at work.
Today our exploration of Devon takes us in a different direction, as we head south through Dartmoor National Park. Our destination is the fascinating Buckfast Abbey, home to a working community of Benedictine monks. Originally founded by King Canute before William the Conqueror arrived, like Hartland, it remained an abbey until Henry the VIII dissolved the monasteries. Centuries later, a group of exiled French monks brought the life and soul of Buckfast Abbey back to life. The special site truly has an incredible history, which we learn more about today, with plenty of time to wander the award-winning gardens.
Our next stop may be the highlight for some, as we board the South Devon Steam railway we'll notice that the stations have been restored to their former glory. We board at Buckfast leigh and the line runs along the stunning valley of the river Dart. Once we reach Totnes and disembark, our journey continues along the river Dart, as we take the historic paddle steamer to the pretty town of Dartmouth. (On some occasions the trip may operate in reverse).
Fans of detective novelist Agatha Christie might recognise the area as inspiration for her best-selling crime literature. For this part of Devon, being a favourite of hers, was where she often resided in a boathouse along the river. We round off a fantastic day with a visit to one of Devon’s premier vineyards to taste the locally produced wine, before returning to the hotel for our final dinner.
After breakfast, we return home with fond memories of the Devonshire coast and Dartmoor.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
On a range of tours we are delighted to offer the option to travel in a small group of up to 25 people.
You’ll enjoy the same sociable atmosphere of a typical Riviera Travel holiday - but with a smaller number of travellers and a touch more exclusivity.
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We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.