Region Focus – South Devon and Cornwall Part 1 #adeoontheroad
After exploring North Devon Coast and Exmoor National Park with Luke back in August 2022 (link to that blog post here), it was time for me to go further south! Back in October ’22, together with another colleague Darryl, I had the pleasure of travelling to the stunning county of Cornwall in the South West England. On our way there, we stopped in various points in the neighbouring South Devon, before discovering the true treasures of Cornwall.
Leaving the Welsh capital, Cardiff, we travelled south to Exeter for our overnight accommodation. Offering many places to stay – from luxurious or quirky hotels to elegant guest houses or traditional inns – the city is a great base for this part of England.
Situated on the River Exe, Exeter is the second biggest city of Devon, after Plymouth. Established in Roman times, it expanded during the Middle Ages thanks to its focus point – the impressive Exeter Cathedral dating back to 1050s. With nearly a thousand years of history, awe-inspiring architectural features and rich interiors, the church is a must-see. Other landmarks of Exeter include Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery with an extensive collection of inspirational exhibitions and various displays; the 14th century Underground Passage tunnels; city walls and the ruins of Rougemont Castle; and the historic area of Exeter Quayside. For leisure, you can shop in the busy Gandy Street, squeeze into one of the narrowest streets of the world at Parliament Street or relax in city’s many gardens and parks.
After a good night’s sleep and a solid English breakfast, we took a scenic route south and headed towards the Dartmoor National Park; a vast and open green moorland with deep valleys, moorlands, rivers and rock formations. Rich in diverse fauna and flora, home to rare species and rich in granite used in the regions architecture, Dartmoor is recognised as one of the most interesting and scenic landscapes of Britain.
Driving through its tranquil panoramas, we were not only surprised by the amount of sheep and cows in the fields, but also amazed with seeing the famous wild ponies! As we walked towards the Haytor Rock formation, we were accompanied by a couple of these cute creatures.
The Haytor ponies are mostly used to the presence of people and are friendly here, as this is a very popular destination within the area, however please remember that they are, after all, wild animals. They may bite, they may kick and they may transmit diseases. Though petting them is not recommended by wildlife experts, I know that it is hard to resist when a pony approaches you… And I know some of you may be tempted, and to those, please remember to remain careful and slow when they approach you, disinfect your hands after touching them and most importantly, please do not feed them. Perhaps during your adventures in Dartmoor, you will be able to get some up-close pictures yourself – just like we did! They are truly adorable.
Haytor itself is a large granite free-standing rock covered in lichens and mosses. Accessible on-foot from one side, it can also be climbed with proper climber equipment from the steeper, opposite side. Once you’re on top, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views for the National Park and can even spot the South Devon Coast. Though windy, it was definitely worth taking the time and stretch to reach this little peak to see the faraway horizon and the whole area from a different perspective.
After our mini hike, we set off towards charming Postbridge and Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Both of those pretty destinations can be seen within couple hours and are ideal for a little lunch break, hike or even a picnic.
Postbridge was perfect for a photo-stop by the Clapper Bridge and a quick visit to the National Park Visitor Centre with a wealth of information on the archaeology, history and nature of the area. If we had more time, Postbridge and Bellever area would be great for a trail hike amongst the archaeological landscape.
Widecombe-in-the-Moor however, welcomed us with its picturesque church & cemetery, two horse-drawn carriages passing by and a craft market held every Thursday (we were lucky!). That was a true step-back in time. Everything slowed down and I felt like I would never have to leave this place. After buying some goods from the market and getting to know the church’s story about “The Great Thunderstorm” of 1638, we set on a further journey towards Tavistock; the historic market town, a birthplace of Sir Francis Drake and a believed place of origin of the famous British Cream Tea!
All markets, including the one in Widecombe, are highly recognised by locals and visitors, making it a village or town’s main attraction. We managed to see Tavistock’s Pannier Market and found out later that it has been held daily for over 900 continuous years (except on Sundays). Pannier Market is proudly representing crafters, artists, designers and entrepreneurs of the area. You can find true gems here, including original art pieces, hand-crafted items and memorabilia, iron and wood works, pottery, jewellery, photographs and of course delicious home-made food products. The other popular market held fortnightly on Saturdays is strictly dedicated to the farm and agricultural produce – from fruits and vegetables, through meats, cheeses and liqueurs, to honey, jams, compotes and chutneys – the fantastic range won’t leave you hungry!
I am sure you will even be able to find strawberry jams – perfect for scones and one of the main ingredients of the famous Cream Tea. Believed to originate from the very town of Tavistock, it is a typical treat of South England, known all over Britain.
The legend says that Benedictine monks, who once inhabited the 10th century Abbey, were rewarding workers for restoring their church with bread, clotted cream and strawberry preserves. Nowadays, it consist of a scone (a sweet baked good), a clotted cream (a type of thick cream), a strawberry confiture (jams, compotes, marmalade or preserves) and is accompanied by tea or coffee with milk. We had to stop here for a Cream Tea and do it the original Devonian way – scone covered with clotted cream and topped up with the strawberry jam! It was delicious and you have to try for yourself!
In next month’s post, I’ll describe the remaining adventures of our trip, including my experience with the Cornish way of eating a scone…! Thank you for reading and stay tuned for North and South West Cornwall, including visits to spectacular Minack Theatre, dramatically set on the rugged coast Botallack Mines and busy town of Falmouth.
Meanwhile, please feel free to check our website for our small group, rail or self-drive tours, and do not hesitate to contact our agents to get your British journey started!
March 7, 2023