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Explore South Devon

Bantham Beach looking across to Burgh Island

South Devon has long been one of the country’s favourite holiday destinations with its mild climate and a variety of natural wonders, it’s not hard to see what keeps the holidaymakers coming back.

Dotted with rural villages, and bordered on two sides by some of the country’s most stunning coastline, Devon has something to offer everyone. Charming towns, quaint old villages and busy fishing harbours are just the thing for sampling a traditional British seaside holiday. In addition to beautiful beaches and stunning scenery there are picturesque gardens to enjoy, National Parks to stomp across, rustic villages and towns to stroll around at your leisure, castles and stately homes to explore, extreme sports and exciting cities mix great shopping with a fascinating past.

Its unique character has encouraged artists and musicians to make South Devon their home, and you’ll find plenty of galleries, music festivals and alternative livestyle centres in this part of Devon.

Devon boasts five areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO Geopark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and two National Parks. Perhaps the most famous of the National Parks is Dartmoor. Its rugged beauty inspired Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, and has been used as the backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters including War Horse.

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Dartmouth harbour in south devon

Dartmouth, Kingswear and Surrounding Areas

Dartmouth is one of the most popular and picturesque tourist destinations in Devon. Situated on the banks of the River Dart - with a tidal river running inland as far as Totnes and beyond - it lies in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and South Hams District and has a small resident population of 5,500 inhabitants.

Nowadays, Dartmouth has a busy town centre with many attractions for tourists, including independent shops, restaurants and galleries – with many situated along the waterfront. After you have finished exploring the town make sure you head out into the surrounding countryside. Take one of the many footpaths surrounding the town and discover the wonderful countryside or coastal views.

Why not walk parts of the South West Coast Path and enjoy spectacular views across the coastline. The River Dart is the perfect water sports playground – sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, boat trips and more are all on offer – you can even learn to surf at one of the nearby beaches, or just spend a lazy day enjoying the views. One of the country’s top beaches Blackpool Sands is just a short drive from Dartmouth and is not to be missed.

Choose from one of the many ferries operating from Dartmouth and head for Torquay, Salcombe or Totnes or just enjoy a trip around the river mouth. If a trip on land is more for your style, catch the steam train from Kingswear for a nostalgic journey through the South Devon countryside.

Set on the banks of the River Dart, opposite the town of Dartmouth, Kingswear is a charming character village whose brightly painted houses (often likened to Balamory), church, pubs and other buildings rise up steeply from the river.

Its most prominent feature is the privately owned Kingswear Castle - a 15th Century artillery

tower built to defend Dartmouth harbour. Kingswear marks the end of the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway and visitors can take a delightful journey to Paignton via a steam train, which runs from Easter to October. If you prefer the water, there are three different ferry companies operating between Kingswear and Dartmouth.

The village also boasts Coleton Fishacre - a National Trust maintained Arts and Crafts style house with a stylish art deco interior. Its beautiful gardens are situated amongst a dazzling coastal setting. Keen walkers will be in their element as the South West Coast Path passes through Kingswear.

For those who prefer a ramble, there is The Dart Valley Trail - a 4 ½ mile walk from Kingswear to Greenway. The Royal Dart Yacht Club is based in Kingswear and during the yearly Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta you will see many splendid yachts out on the water.

Just 5 miles from Kingswear is one of the busiest fishing ports in the UK – Brixham. Known for its amazing fish restaurants, the town is also a place where you can discover an eclectic range of arts and culture.

Originally a Saxon settlement, Brixham was the landing place of William of Orange during the Glorious Revolution and many of the town’s inhabitants, who are descendants of the Dutch army, have Dutch surnames. Over the years, the town has become known for its great range of art galleries featuring local and visiting artists.

In dry weather, you can wander along the Strand to artists’ corner and see their work in progress. If it’s raining, how about popping into the museum which boasts interesting exhibits from the town’s cultural and maritime heritage?

Kingsbridge and Salcombe Holidays in South Devon

Kingsbridge, Salcombe and Surrounding Areas

Kingsbridge and Salcombe are both situated within the South Devon Area of Outstanding
Natural Beauty, just 6 miles apart from each other. Kingsbridge is a beautiful market town with lots of things to see and do and many new areas to explore and eateries to choose from. A great central base for your holiday away, and just a stone’s throw away from some fantastic beaches.

There are lots of things to do and new places to explore, but if beaches are more for you, head to Salcombe where you have oodles of choice. From the sweeping golden sands of Thurlestone to the sheltered coves of South Sands and Hope Cove.

Salcombe is also well-known as a centre for sailing and the town itself has a wide variety of art galleries, gift shops, boutique shops, high street brands and independent producers. While you’re here, don’t forget to sample some delicious Salcombe Dairy Ice-cream or the award-winning Salcombe Gin - both have in-town shops and distilleries you can visit.

Overlooking villages on the river dart

Villages on the River Dart

Villages on the River Dart - We have a number of great holiday cottages available within the villages situated on the River Dart. Stoke Gabriel is a medium-sized village with winding narrow streets, situated on a peaceful creek of the River Dart. Close to Stoke Gabriel is the village of Galmpton. Once home to Agatha Christie whose old family home (Greenway), is just a short walk away and open for you to visit. On the other side of Stoke Gabriel is the sleepy village of Ashprington. Close to Sharpham vineyard and just a short stroll from the River Dart.

View of the river dart in totnes

Totnes and Surrounding Areas

Totnes – known for its lively and diverse community and relaxed atmosphere. Here you can wander through the historic streets, take a river trip on the Dart, visit Totnes Castle - one of the best preserved examples of a Norman motte and bailey castle in England, enrich your mind in the town’s museums or art galleries, or simply enjoy the excellent range of small independent shops.

In Civil Hall Square you’ll find the weekly market which held on Fridays and Saturdays,
an Elizabethan market held each Tuesday morning (May- September), when traders dress
in Elizabethan period costumes and the Totnes Sunday Good Food Market held the third Sunday of the month.

If you love cheese and wine, you must make time to visit Sharpham Vineyard. This thousand year old farm consists of five hundred acres which overlook the fields and wooded slopes above the River Dart, two miles downstream from Totnes. The vineyard runs a variety of tours, all of which include wine and cheese tasting…yummy!

Eight miles south of Totnes is Blackawton, a pretty village situated in the South Hams between Totnes and Dartmouth. Blackawton is a sleepy village with oodles of South Devon charm and well worth a visit. In Main Street, the 14th century Parish Church of St Michael and The George Inn complete the picture-postcard beauty of the village.

Sunset over torbay

Torbay - Paignton, Brixham and Torquay

Torquay and Paignton – along with Brixham – form the borough know as Torbay, which was created in 1998. Torquay has something for everyone! Superb beaches - Babbacombe and Oddicombe – a pretty marina, shops, restaurants, cafes and even a monastery! Torre Abbey was founded in 1196 and has art galleries and extensive gardens featuring plants from local writer Agatha Christie’s novels.

Over the years, Torquay has played host to numerous stars and these can be discovered on the Blue Plaque Heritage Trail which takes you through the town. Famous authors to visit Torquay include Charles Kingsley (Water Babies), Flora Thompson of Lark Rise novels fame, Rudyard Kipling who lived in Rock House for 2 years and poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning who spent time in what is now known as the Hotel Regina on the harbourside.

Hesketh Crescent in Torquay was once leased to Charles Darwin and engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel also had a long association with the town. The views from the lovely Royal
Terrace Gardens are spectacular with the magnificent new illuminated staircase - a real treat after dark. From here, you can see right across the large sheltered bay to Brixham and Berry Head.

Torquay is part of the UNESCO supported English Riviera Global Geopark, a unique area where cavemen and prehistoric beasts once roamed.

Paignton, very much like its sister town, Torquay, also became a favourite tourist destination for the Victorians with the arrival of the railway in 1859. Originally a Celtic settlement, Paignton was a fishing village right up until the 19th Century when the harbour was built. Now the town is a bustling, traditional, seaside destination, known as one of the best for a bucket and spade holiday.

A visit to the town won’t be complete without a wander along it’s charming pier. If the colourful and noisy attractions along the pier itself are not for you, the views across Torbay from it will take your breath away.

River teign near the coast

River Teign and Coast

Take in the varying scenery of the 30-mile River Teign, starting in Dartmoor, travelling all the way down to Teignmouth. Alongside, picturesque views, this area is also perfect for spotting local wildlife. Varying in its whole journey, until it meets the sea at Teignmouth, this is truly a wonderful part of South Devon to explore.

View over dartmoor

Dartmoor

Situated right in the very heart of Devon, Dartmoor provides the perfect base for you to explore all of the delights that the region has to offer on your next break.

A beautiful ancient landscape with panoramic views, awe-inspiring granite tors and deep-wooded valleys with fast-flowing rivers, Dartmoor is the perfect holiday destination for all family members. With ample quiet spots for picnicking, trails for strolling, walking and even cycling, all whilst admiring the breath-taking scenery. As Dartmoor is located in the centre of Devon, this is also the perfect holiday destination to visit many of the popular attractions the county has to offer.

For the walkers, if you dream of long strolls through the fresh, open countryside, Dartmoor is the place for you. There are many miles of footpaths and tracks to be discovered, with two major routes; The Dartmoor Way, a circuit that encourages you to explore many attractive Dartmoor towns and villages and Two Moors Way linking Dartmoor and Exmoor.

Many of our visitors at Marsdens Cottages have commented on the stunning natural beauty of Dartmoor and that it’s scenery is truly second to none. There can’t be much higher praise than that of acclaimed Film Director Steven Spielberg who said of Dartmoor ''I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.”

See below our fabulous range of cottages positioned in and around Dartmoor that we think will act as the perfect base for your next getaway.