Carpeted by patchwork fields, criss-crossed by time-scarred estuaries and narrow vales, the rural character of Devon is its most defining allure. That, and the legacies of a few iconic celebrity types whom famously hail from England's fourth largest county.
If Cumbria is to be known as Wordsworth country, then its only fitting that Devon be attributed to Agatha Christie, award-winning mystery writer and self-confessed cream tea fanatic. Her legacy remains one of Torquay's most prominent touristic attractions, lending to the establishment of umpteen museums, tearooms and monuments, created in her memory. Famous naval commander Sir Francis Drake was also a Devonian by birth, raised in the picturesque stannary town of Tavistock on the fringe of wild Dartmoor. Gifted to Drake by the formidable King Henry VIII, Buckland Abbey near Yelverton constitutes one of the most popular National Trust attractions in the West, ideal for family days out. From iconic museums that document the Roman invasion of Exeter, to bizarre architectural marvels, such as The Landmark Theatre of kitsch old Ilfracombe, Devon boasts a smörgåsbord of fine tourist attractions to satisfy any wayfarer's wanderlust! For a lovely place to say in Devon.
The Landmark Theatre and Ilfracombe Museum, Ilfracombe
Its double conical design has prompted much speculation over its intended concept in recent years, yet Ilfracombe's defining Landmark Theatre still manages to draw a crowd, just for the photo opportunity. Constructed in 1980, The Landmark replaced the dilapidated old Victorian Pavilion Theatre and now serves as one of the biggest entertainment venues in Devon, featuring sell-out shows straight from the West End. Adjacent to The Landmark sits the Ilfracombe Museum, housed within a former hotel laundry building once belonging to the Georgian Ilfracombe Hotel. Packed with Victorian curios; a South American butterfly collection and even an old skeleton repository, it's the perfect prelude to a fabulous evening show! www.ilfracombemuseum.co.uk
Buckland Abbey, Buckland Monachorum (near Yelverton)
For over 700 years it has stood as a reminder of Buckland Monachorum's Cistercian roots and today, still stirs the soul with its spectacular setting amid the Tavy Valley and unique medieval architecture. Built in 1278, Buckland Abbey was home to an order of monks for over 250 years, until Henry VIII's Dissolution of Monasteries order prompted its sale to seafarer Sir Richard Grenville in 1541.. Sold forty years later to New World explorer Sir Francis Drake, it is his ownership that has since made Buckland Abbey one of Devon's most iconic National Trust museums. From living history dramatisations and guided tours, to its Christmas and Summer Craft Fairs, this scintillating medieval relic invites you to explore over 700 years of history within its hallowed halls. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/buckland-abbey
Greenway House, Galmpton (near Brixham)
It seems a somewhat ambitious fancy that Greenway House could have been the setting for 'Dead Man's Folly' and 'Five Little Pigs', yet on closer inspection, this delightful old country estate ticks all the right boxes for situ and character. Surrounded by thick woodlands and ancient nature trails, Greenway's gardens inspired many a classic Christie murder scene. Raleigh's Boathouse beside the sparkling River Dart is a must-see for Christie fans, since it inspired the murder scene for 'Dead Man's Folly', as well as the ferry route for 'The Regatta Mystery'. Nearby stands the Peach House and Vinery where Christie and her second husband Max whiled away many a summer's afternoon. Carefully tended by National Trust horticulturists, the exotic collections of Southern Hemisphere plants are an enchanting contrast to the wild woodland estate. Don't miss the charming Tumbridgeware hoard, along with the Christie portrait collection adorning the Drawing Room walls. nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway/
Splashdown Quaywest Water Park, Paignton
Located beside the award-winning Goodrington Sands Beach, Quaywest combines an outdoor water theme park, zoo, steam railway attraction and outdoor go-karting course for the ultimate family day out. Adrenaline junkies are well catered for, with wind-surfing, para-gliding and jet ski hire on offer throughout the peak season. At the Water Park, a corking eight gigantic water slides entice kids away from the shallow pools to bigger adventures, including Devil's Drop - a 15 metre plunge-fest of massive proportions. A little tamer, yet equally as much fun, Surf Lagoon invites you to ride a tsunami before it reaches the beach, or just die of laughter trying! Whether you fancy a little sun, sea and afternoon tea, or you're looking for the ultimate Splashdown thrill, Quaywest Paignton promises a memorable family day out! quaywest.splashdownwaterparks.co.uk/
Which are your favourite Devon attractions?