The great patchwork-quilt area of southwest England, part of the "West Countree," abounds in cliff-side farms, rolling hills, foreboding moors, semitropical plants, and fishing villages that provide some of the finest scenery in England. You can pony trek across moor and woodland, past streams and sheep-dotted fields; or you can soak up atmosphere and ale at a local pub.
The British approach Devon with the same kind of excitement normally reserved for hopping over to the Continent. Especially along the coastline, the names of the seaports, villages, and resorts are synonymous with holidays in the sun: Torquay, Clovelly, and Lynton-Lynmouth. Devon is a land of jagged coasts -- the red cliffs in the south face the English Channel. In South Devon, the coast from which Drake and Raleigh set sail, tranquillity prevails; and on the bay-studded coastline of North Devon, pirates and smugglers found haven.
Almost every village is geared to accommodate visitors. But many small towns and fishing villages don't allow cars; these towns have parking areas on the outskirts, with a long walk to reach the center of the harbor area. From mid-July to mid-September, the most popular villages are quite crowded, so make reservations for a place to stay well in advance.
Along the south coast, the best bases from which to explore the region are Exeter, Plymouth, and Torquay. Along the north coast, we suggest Lynton-Lynmouth. The area's most charming village (with very limited accommodations) is Clovelly. The greatest natural spectacle is Dartmoor National Park, northeast of Plymouth, a landscape of gorges and moors filled with gorse and purple heather -- home of the Dartmoor pony.
If you're taking the bus around North Devon, First Devon offers an unlimited-use ticket for specific areas. Single-day rates are £6.50 adults, £4.30 children. You can plan your journeys from the maps and timetables available at any First Devon and Cornwall office when you purchase your ticket (tel. 0871/200-2233; www.firstgroup.com). For information about other tours, contact Stagecoach Devon Ltd., Paris Street, Exeter, Devon EX1 2JP (tel. 01392/427711; www.stagecoachbus.com). This bus line covers a wider area of Devon, charging £6 for adults and £4 for children.