Photogenic Landscapes and Historic Sites in Devon

Valley of Rocks Hooken Beach Hern Rock Point Exeter Cathedral
Devon is renowned for its moorland and coastal scenery. The county contains all of Dartmoor National Park and about a quarter of Exmoor National Park, the remainder being in Somerset, which along with Dorset borders Devon to the east. Both parks are characterised by extensive, treeless uplands, dotted with weathered granite outcrops, and abundant deposits of peat. There are no dramatic peaks, and most of the moors have low relief, so the best views are generally of the large scale landscape, but the hills are often topped with photogenic eroded rock formations. Many trails cross the two national parks, and a few smaller moors elsewhere in the county.

All of the Devon coast is dramatic, and similar in appearance to the north and south; mostly cliff-bound but also forming many sandy beaches and coves. The rocks are sedimentary to the south, generally tilted at a moderate angle, but more distorted to the north, and partly metamorphosed. The eastern 30 miles of the southern shoreline, beyond Exmouth, is part of the Jurassic Coast that extends across most of Dorset, and contains large exposures of fossil-bearing strata spanning 185 million years of geological history. Long stretches of both coastlines are generally accessible only from above, along the coastal path, but may also be explored at sea level, perhaps only for a few hours around low tide. Some of these regions are amongst the most scenic and little-visited parts of the whole country.

Devon contains a few, relatively minor prehistoric sites, and no major ruined abbeys, but does have a good selection of castles, and a particularly beautiful cathedral.


Berry Pomeroy Castle - ruins of a 15th century castle containing a Tudor manor house; a substantial and evocative site, on a limestone outcrop in a wooded, rural setting

Dartmouth Castle - small castle, built as an artillery fort at the end of the 14th century, with a spectacular location on a rocky outcrop at the entrance to Dartmouth Harbour

Lydford Castle - square tower/keep from the 13th century, mostly used as a prison, close to earthworks from an earlier fortification

Okehampton Castle - photogenic ruins on a partly wooded hill above the West Okement River; once the largest castle in the county

Powderham Castle - castellated mansion, begun at the start of the 15th century

Tiverton Castle - medieval castle that was later transformed into a country mansion, retaining many original features; a varied and interesting place to visit. Privately owned, with limited opening

Totnes Castle - small but well preserved Norman motte and bailey castle, centred on a circular keep


, and other major churches

Exeter Cathedral - large and very beautiful 12th century cathedral, featuring fine ceiling vaulting, ancient stained glass and a variety of carvings

Ottery St Mary - grand church from the 14th century


Axmouth to Lyme Regis - cliffs, beaches and landslips along a remote, 7 mile section of the Jurassic Coast

Beer Head - sheer cliffs, sea caves and scenic beaches along the Jurassic Coast

Burgh Island - tidal, cliff-lined island opposite a popular sandy beach

Haytor Rocks and Hound Tor - granite outcrops in Dartmoor National Park, plus a ruined medieval village and several old quarries

Lydford Gorge - deep, wooded ravine with waterfalls and dark narrows

Sidmouth to Ladram Bay - isolated red cliffs and sea stacks; along the Jurassic Coast

Valley of Rocks to Woody Bay - rock formations, isolated beaches, steep cliffs and coastal woodland

Ruined Abbeys

Canonsleigh Abbey - small monastic remains adjoining a farm, near Burlescombe, close to the border with Somerset

Cornworthy Priory - gatehouse from a 13th century monastery, in a field a few miles south of Totnes

Frithelstock Priory - picturesque ruins in a small village south of Bideford

Map of Featured Devon Locations