With wild Devon moorland all around, fantastic pub food close to hand and the quaint old market town of Great Torrington just up the road, Stafford Moor holiday log cabins have a great deal to offer.
Boss Andy is a warm, welcoming host with a quick wit and a stack of knowledge about his fishery. From large carp and catfish to loads of tiddlers, there is an angling treat in store for those staying in the luxurious Scandinavian style lodges.
Try Hollywood Lodge, looking out over a lake while steaming in a hot tub to ease the muscles – if you can tear yourself away from the fishing.
01805 804360, www.staffordmoor.co.uk,
This small child friendly musuem is tucked away - many in Newton Abbot don't even know of its existence! It is just five minutes from Newton Abbot railway station. There is a room dedicated to GWR for young and older railway enthusiasts alike and you can even change the signals at the working signal box. The other rooms here are dedicated to social/local history, and change yearly. Last year the focus was Lethbridge, an 18th-century diver, and children could experience what is was like underwater in a replica vessel.
2a St Pauls Road, Newton Abbot
Pull on your brightly coloured gnome hat and leave your cool ironic detachment at the door. The Bradworthy Gnome Museum and Reserve, in the wilds of north Devon, is not for the faint-hearted, but it will give you and your childen more laughs per minute than any other small museum in the UK. There is not just an indoor museum, devoted to gnomes of the past, there are also four ares of woodland and wild flower gardens with gnomes of all shapes and sizes round every corner and lurking up quite a few trees. And when you collapse, mentally exhausted, to round off your visit with a classic cream tea, you can marvel at the fact that you have just visited the only museum in the UK to have been proposed as a candidate for the Turner Prize.
The Gnome Reserve
01409 241435, www.gnomereserve.co.uk
Secreted in a tiny village between Torquay and Exeter this restaurant is a delight. Using mostly local ingredients to create excellent menus at what - at least to London eyes - are very reasonable prices.
A working farm between Tiverton and Barnstaple - really lovely family site for relaxing. If you're a walker, it's a good spot for walking the moors or equally for local walks.
West Middlewick Farm, Nomansland, Tiverton Devon Ex16 8NP, www.westmiddlewick.co.uk , 01884 861235
This fabulous hotel is on the Devon/Cornwall border overlooking the River Tamar. It manages to combine all of the essential ingredients of a fine country hotel in such a relaxed way that I can't believe anyone could find it anything other than perfect.
There are roaring log fires, beautiful gardens and fabulous rooms. Room 8 has handpainted wallpaper and looks straight out across the lawn and down to the river while room 1 is a gorgeous suite with doors opening directly on to the gardens and a vast bathroom complete with free standing bath which seems large and deep enough to host Olympic swimming events!
Afternoon tea is laid out at 3.30 every afternoon and is not to be missed for those whose idea of heaven is bowls of clotted cream, freshly baked scones (hot cross buns at Easter!) and traditional cakes such as Victoria Sandwich and apple and sultana cake.
Foodies will not be disappointed by the restaurant menu. The chef's risottos are fabulously creamy and rich - my particular favourite is wild mushroom with truffled brie although the fish starters are usually delicious as well. I'm not sure of the secret of the beef fillet but it is divine.
To top all of that, the staff are so friendly and truly cannot seem to do enough to assist.
Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Devon with its golden vistas of beech woods that fill the landscape and, if you want more variety in your autumn colours, then a visit to Buckland Monachorum, with its magnificent acer glade, will bowl over even the most ardent leaf peeper.
Buckland Monachorum, Yelverton, near Tavistock, Devon, PL20 7LQ
£5.50 entrance fee, need your own transport to get there, plant centre sells plants, garden tearooms at the place serves homemade cakes and light lunches
Wetsuits for kids in Devon and Cornwall are cheap, they don't need top of the range (usually £35), just get the cheap ones (probably £10 or less). They give them sun protection, keep them warm if they are in and out of the water all day and give a bit of added buoyancy when they are learning to swim.
Get the ones with short arms and legs, you get more use out of them when they are growing fast, but remember to sun cream the lower arms and legs, or do like my kids do and wear a long UV sun suit underneath. Watch out if it's hot, especially if the kids are not going in the water much as they can get very hot with the black neoprene absorbing the heat.
They were the best things we ever bought, my daughter learned to swim in the sea when she was 4 in hers as she felt so confident.
You can buy them in surf shops (expensive), but also in most beach kiosks, bucket and spade shops in town and also in some supermarkets in beach towns. The ones from Decathlon in France are really good, and only 10 Euros.
There are wonderful unspoilt beaches all around the West Country coasts, with no 'facilities', no development and few if any visitors. To find them, get a large-scale Ordnance Survey map (1:25,000) and look for beaches with no parking and no road nearby.
Providing you have to walk for 30 minutes to reach your beach, often down an old smugglers' path flanked by tall hedges alive with birdsong and wildflowers, at the end you should find, if you have chosen well, a little sandy cove surrounded by rocks and cliffs, with barely a soul in sight.
Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset
Living Coasts is a 'sea-life' zoo - the best part is that the penguins there are allowed out of their enclosure to mingle with the public.
Telephone (01803) 202470
Fax (01803) 202471
This beach is not quite as famous as Croyd but very close to it. It's a fantastic beach for longboarding, has a hire shop on the beach, a great little cafe for lunch snacks which is open even in the depths of winter and a cool cafe bar for a well deserved drink after the surf.
Also the hotel at the top of the hill is beautiful and well worth a stop over.
In a county replete with astounding cream teas, Primrose Cottage in Lustleigh serves the best.
Set in the wooded Dartmoor village famed for its Cleave, Lustleigh avoids the worst of the tourist influxes suffered by Widecombe and Haytor. Its thatched cottages centre around the church and its neighbour Primrose Cottage. As well as astoundingly good cream teas (served since the 19th century) the tea rooms also have an incredible selection of homemade cakes.
Work it all off with a walk along Lustleigh Cleave, a steep wooded valley through which the River Bovey bubbles.
Lustleigh is a 10 minute drive north of Bovey Tracey and about 45 minutes from Exeter.
Burgh Island is a tiny lump just off the south coast of Devon, opposite Bigbury on Sea. At low tide the island is connected to the mainland by a strip of sand but this disappears at high tide.
A tractor on stilts (seriously) ferries visitors across the waves to the now remote island. A happy couple of hours can be spent exploring the ragged coastline, excellent ale house and art deco Burgh Island Hotel.
Bigbury on Sea, south Devon
... by not deciding to tow your caravan during the rush hour. Over a million of us live and work here, even though to you it's just a holiday destination - and caravans are a BIG problem every Friday during the summer.
A few miles south of Ilfracombe are the villages of Croyde, Saunton and Braunton. What they all have in common are huge sandy beaches and conditions that have become well known for surfing. If you don’t surf, just get an ice cream and watch – it’s quite entertaining.
Croyde, Saunton, Braunton
A view to brighten up even the dullest day. Great to run to in the early morning to free your mind. Stunning on a sunny day when chilling out on the grass with friends and family. Bracing on a wild and windy day. Strangely magical on a wet and blustery day! Always something to see, always something to do and plenty to think about. A great space to chill out in or to be active in.
PL1 2NZ - approximately
Apart from a very steep and winding road, the two villages are connected by a funicular from where you can enjoy spectacular views over the bay and surrounding hills. My recommendation is to leave the car in Lynton's car park, which is bigger than Lynmouth's, then enjoy the descent down the cliff-side while having your breath taken away.
Delicious crisp and crunchy chips - just as they should be. Served with a wide array of different choices of fish... choose from skate or sole rather than the usual cod. A splendid trip and while you're there, you'll probably find yourself just having to go into one of the best farm shops ever!
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