A trip to the English Riviera is a great weekend getaway from London. We decided to head to the county of Devon to explore the seaside towns, coastal terrain, and local fare and ales. We took a ~2.5 hour hour train from London to Exeter, then rented a car from Exeter and headed to the quaint town of Babbacombe, near Torquay. From there, we drove south along the coast and stopped at various towns, taking in the scenic views, colorful architecture, and fresh seafood. You can also hike on the SW Coast Path that runs along the coast and through most of the main towns in Devon.
Top Things to do in Devon
The Riviera Rail
This scenic railway that runs along the coast, from Exeter Central to Paignton, with tickets starting at £7.80 round-trip off peak. This is a great way to see the coastal towns without requiring a car.
Tips: Dogs are welcome on the train!
Dawlish is a seaside resort town in Devon, characterized by the Dawlish Water (The Brook) and a lush park called the Dawlish Lawn. Walk over to the water and walk along the path that runs adjacent to the train tracks.
Tips: Stop into Gays Creamery for a Devon pasty! (See photo below).
Babbacombe is a quaint town with two beaches, Babbacombe Beach and Oddicombe Beach, that can be seen from the cliff top green. From Babbacombe Beach, you can take a nice walk along the SW Coast Path along the water then grab the Babbacombe Cliff Railway, a funicular to bring you back to the top.
Brixham is a small fishing village full of colorful architecture surrounding the harbor. There is a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship Golden Hind, the ship that circumnavigated the globe from 1577-1580.
Tips: Drive along King Street for a great picture of Brixham harbor.
Dartmouth is a tourist town situated adjacent to the River Dart. There are some nice shops and pubs in this town and an abundance of boats in the Dartmouth Harbor and Marina.
Tips: If driving along the coast to Dartmouth, you will likely need to take the ferry across from Kingswear. The ferry runs at least every 15 minutes and costs £1.50/adult and £0.50/child each way.
(Kingsbridge) Start Point Lighthouse
The Start Point Lighthouse is known for its loud foghorn and was built in 1836 in a gothic style. The walk from the car park is a very pleasant walk along the water, with gorgeous views of the coastline. This is also part of the South West Coast Path (indicated by an acorn symbol).
Tips: Beware that the roads to get to the lighthouse are narrow roads carved through the vegetation that are only about one car widths wide.
Salcombe is a resort town in Devon with a long waterfront and naturally sheltered harbor, near the Kingsbridge estuary. Head over to the Salcombe North Sands for a nice protected beach area.
Tips: Stop at The Winking Prawn for some fresh seafood and ice cream whilst sitting outdoors in the nice sea breeze.
From Salcombe, head over to Hope Cove, a small seaside village in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Beauty. The homes in this town are idyllic cottages with thatched roofs and colorful gardens.
On our way back to Babbacombe, we decided to make a stop at Buckfast Abbey in Buckfastleigh, a tranquil abbey that forms part of a present day Benedictine monastery. The abbey itself is beautiful and the gardens create a very peaceful atmosphere for an afternoon visit.
Tips: Head into the gift shop and purchase some Buckfast Tonic Wine, a caffeinated fortified wine (think Four Loko on steroids, but invented by monks in 1880!).
We had some time before our train back to London so we stopped at the Powderham Castle in Exeter, right near the River Exe. This fortified castle is full of lavish antiques, dating back to the 14th century, surrounded by a large park and garden, including a deer park.
Tips: Enjoy a nice cream tea and scone on the patio at the little cafe in the courtyard.
Food and Drink in Devon
The Cary Arms, Babbacombe
This upscale gastropub boasts beautiful views of the ocean along Babbacombe Beach. It is the perfect place to enjoy a local ale or glass of rose and watch the sun go down. The fish and chips are also delicious! Call ahead to reserve a table with a nice view outside.
Gays Creamery, Dawlish
This farm shop in Dawlish sells dozens of different types of Devon pasties, sausage rolls, and homemade ice cream along with various fine foods.
Local Devon pubs: Be sure to stop into various pubs throughout Devon and order the local ales - some of them can only be found in Devon!
Where to Stay in Devon
Babbacombe Bay Hotel
This quaint hotel has gorgeous views of the ocean and spacious rooms with breakfast included. Head up to the roof terrace for great views of the town and the coast.