. Few counties in England can match the scenic variety of Devon . Lying between the Bristol and English channels, it has two contrasting coastlines with some spectacular countryside in between.
. The north coast, like Cornwall 's, is fairly rocky with superbly wooded cliffs and, here and there, picturesque villages like Clovelly, where, in summer, donkeys still transport children down to the steep main street past whitewashed thatched cottages. Other resorts like Ilfracombe and Lynmouth are sheltered by the treeless tableland of Exmoor .
. The south coast is altogether softer and the climate balmier - palm trees thrive in Torbay and the South Hams. A deeply indented coastline welcomes the sea well into the heart of the county.
. inland, Devon is dominated by the massive granite peaks of Dartmoor , which reach more than 2,000 feet in the north near Okehampton. it is a bleak and wild gorse-and-heather upland. The old red sandstone plateau of Exmoor gives rise to the River Exe which flows right across the county to the south coast, entering the sea near Exeter .
Origin of name: The district of the tribe of Dumnonii. Name first recorded: 851 as Dev Fenascir... County motto: "One and All."
EXETER : An ancient city, one of Britain 's oldest towns with a beautiful cathedral spared from the ' bombs of World War II
AXMINSTER: Carpet making started here in 1755 with an eye to Turkish designs.
BARNSTAPLE : Georgian-flavoured town, the largest in north Devon . Wool making and wharfs once made this a prosperous merchants' port.
BIDEFORD Has literary (Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho!) and wartime (Armada) connections and is a quiet place off-season.
BOVET TRACET: A small pleasant hillside town with a fine mainly 18th-century church.
CHAGFORD: Once a centre both of the tin and wool trade. Nearby is Castle Drogo, the 20th-century 'medieval' home of grocery magnate Julius Drewe, designed by Lutyens.
DARTMOUTH : Crusade ships anchored here en route to the Holy Land . This naval town's formidable 15th century castle could rake the estuary with cannon shot and the river could be closed off with a massive chain.
ILFRACOMBE: is the largest seaside resort in north Devon and once the fourth port of Britain . Varied countryside with cliffs and farmed hills.
NEWTON ABBOT: Busy market town with fine local potteries and local cider companies.
PLYMOUTH : By far the largest southwest town after Bristol . The Barbican is an attractive small urban area and site of the original town as Drake knew it: and the Hoe has outstanding coastal views.
SIDMOUTH: Once a most fashionable 19th-century resort with Regency-style seaside architecture with its creams and whites and mass of wrought-iron balconies.
TORQUAY: Quiet fishing village 'discovered' during the Napoleonic Wars and favoured by European royalty well before the Hello? era. Grand and glamorous. Nearby Kent 's Cavern, a reminder of an earlier ice Age.
. Ashburton . Budleigh Salterton . Crediton . Cullompton . Devonport . Exmouth . Great Torrington . Honiton . Kingsbridge . Okehampton . Paignton . South Molton . Tavistock . Totnes
Devon has more rivers than most counties including the Plym, Lyd, Tavy ('the little water'), Bovey, Dart, Avon , Teign, Exe, Taw, Tamar ('the greater water' bordering with Cornwall ), Yealm.
High Willihays at 2.039 feet.
. Mid May: The Devon County Show at Westpoint near Exeter with livestock parade, leisure exhibition, food and drink marquee.
. September: The centuries-old Widecombe Fair on Dartmoor , once attended by Tom Cobleigh and friends.
. July/August: Teignmouth Regatta and Tor Bay Fortnight.
. Late May-early June: English Riviera Dance Festival of modern, ballroom, disco and Latin American dancing in Torquay.
. The Beatles' film Magical Mystery Tour (1967) was filmed partly in Teignmouth and Plymouth .
. The television personality Noel Edmunds has a house in the South Hams, on the south coast of Devon .
. Saltram House, the National Trust property just outside Plymouth at Plympton, was used as a backdrop for the Oscar-winning film version of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility".
. Dartmoor was supposedly the place where Sir Hugo Baskerville was killed by a phantom hound in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic tale The Hound of the Baskervilles.
. Ted Hughes, the Poet Laureate, lives at Barnstaple .
. Pop singer Elkie Brooks has a home in North Devon .
. Radio and television personality Angela Rippon lives on the edge of Dartmoor .
Two-tier administration exists throughout the County of Devon apart from a single-tier government for the councils of Plymouth and the towns of Brixham, Paignton and Torquay known collectively as Torbay . Devon County Council is therefore restricted to the rest of Devon and shares power with the eight district councils of East Devon, Exeter , Mid Devon, West Devon, North Devon , South Hams, Teignbridge and Torridge. A small part of Devon, namely the parishes of North Petherwin and Werrington, are administered by Cornwall County and North Cornwall District Councils.
LESS MYSTERIOUS THAN its near neighbours Cornwall and Somerset , Devon is historic, heraldic and wonderfully scenic. It is not as assertive as Cornwall , not as courageous nor Celtic, and has a rather comely English flavour. Whether your choice is the red, rolling countryside of east Devon - home to some of the richest pastureland in Britain - the beaches in and around Torbay , or the dark, brooding hills of Dartmoor , the largest expanse of wilderness in southern Britain , this county can really stretch your imagination. Great care has been taken to preserve the underdeveloped stretches of countryside and, despite abundant commercialism, there are still pockets of genuine tranquillity in the inland villages and quiet coveson the glorious coastline.
Exeter , once the curse of motorists as they headed west for their summer hols, is now more by-passed by the M5 than its once- notorious by-pass ever was. It's a rich county town, its central, historic heart easy to explore on foot. No other place in Devon has a greater variety of fine buildings: a cathedral, mansions, cottages, guild halls and schools. The cathedral is a massively impressive 13th- century building with two Norman towers and a magnificent west front covered with intricately carved figures: it's almost worth visiting Exeter for that sight alone. Just opposite the cathedral, in the Close, is Mol's Coffee House, a building of obscure origin on three floors, the first of which is fronted entirely by a large double bay- window.
An appealing aspect of Exeter - and indeed the whole of Devon - is the proximity to water. The River Exe is only a five-minute walk from the High Street and at the Exeter Maritime Museum on the Quay you can inspect craft gathered from all over the world.
Near Exmouth is the extraordinary Gothic folly called A La Ronde. it was created in the 1790s by two cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter who, inspired by their European
Grand Tour, decided to build a sixteen- sided house based on the Byzantine basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna . The end result is full of mementoes of their tour. Farther along the coast, between Dawlish and Brixham, vivid blue seas and golden beaches come together to form what is known as the English Riviera, with cosy resorts as comforting as clotted cream teas. With palm trees dotting the water's edge, and brightly-coloured yachts idling in the harbours, there is a touch of the Mediterranean about this stretch of coastline - even if the climate may not be
quite so reliable. Farther west still are smaller, picturesque spots like Dartmouth and Salcombe, and Plymouth , home of Sir Francis Drake and departure point for the colonization of the New World . Without a doubt Plymouth is one of my all-time favourite British cities: when you walk up the Hoe and look out at the vista to Cornwall , that has to be one of the most beautiful sights ever seen. When the coastal towns and resorts seem too crowded to handle, head for Devon 's pristine interior. You could try Exmoor - Lorna Doone Country - which straddles the Somerset border and is within easy reach of North Devon resorts like Lynton, Lynmouth, Ilfracombe, Barnstaple , and the Charles Kingsley's novelly-named Westward Ho! Or you could try the great granite upland of Dartmoor , where towering tors rise above barren bogland and racing clouds send sinister shadows skimming across the heather. The afore-mentioned Lynton and Lynmouth are twin villages, the first by the sea and the second almost vertically above it and together they present a fine sample of Exmoor countryside: wooded ravines, moorland rivers, cascading waters (which flooded Lynmouth with water and boulders in 1952) and cliffs nearly 1,000 feet high.
Every schoolboy knows that the Pilgrim Fathers set out to colonize the New World from Plymouth , Devon 's largest city. What is not quite so well known is that prehistoric man played his part in the development of the county. Dartmoor was once populated by Bronze and Iron Age farmers. Innumerable burial chambers, stone circles and standing stones point to evidence of Dartmoor 's heavily populated past.
The Romans briefly established a base in Exeter and, after their withdrawal, Alfred the Great refounded the city By the time of the Norman Conquest, this was one of England 's greatest centres of population and the county continued to grow in importance during the Middle Ages, when the expansion of the wool trade sustained the city. Later the county became a focus for worldwide exploration, first by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, both born in Devon , and later by the Pilgrim Fathers, who set sail from Plymouth in the May flower and reached Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts , in 1620. A full-size replica of the Golden Hind, the ship in which Drake circumnavigated the globe, is moored on the quayside at Brixham, while in Plymouth there's a statue of him on the Hoe close to the spot where he played his famous game of bowls before joining the battle against the Spanish Armada. Later, in the Civil War, Salcombe Castle was the last place to hold out for Charles I and Sir Edmund Fortescue was permitted to march away with arms and colours flying as a tribute to his courage in defence. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Devon prospered on the back of schooner trade to the West Indies , but it needed courage again during the Second World War, when Hitler's bombs rained down on the city, the Devonport dockyards being the target. Much of the city was destroyed, but nothing can destroy the views from the Hoe and the Drake statue stands as lasting testament to Devon 's proud seafaring past.