Devon LivingIssue #03
We share our favourite ways of enjoying the outdoors in Devon, from hang gliding to scuba diving, and everything in between.
From lacing up your boots and hitting the moors, to donning a wetsuit and climbing aboard a stand-up paddleboard, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the great outdoors in Devon this summer.
“…whatever the occasion, our aim is to enable all participants to release their potential, have fun, challenge themselves and enjoy being outdoors and active.”
On the water
When visiting the south west, its endless miles of coastline simply can’t be ignored, and the allure of crystalline waves tempts thousands of locals and visitors alike into trying their hand at surfing. If this sounds like you, why not contact North Devon Surf School (www.northdevonsurfschool.co.uk)? This fantastic, purpose-built surf school has its own onsite shop and café and is just 50 metres from the beach! The team of friendly, helpful staff are well trained, offering group sessions, private lessons and surf hire, ideal for all abilities!
Surf School Manager Emma tells us: “We’ve been running surf lessons in north Devon since 1988 and are one of the biggest established surf schools in the UK! In fact, we’re the top rated surf school in the UK, holding the ‘Centre of Excellence’ award from the ISA and Surfing England!
“We pride ourselves on our facilities of male and female heated changing rooms, secure storage, toilets, hot shower, surf shop and café, all on a big sunny decked area!”
For something a bit different, why not give visit the team at Reach Outdoors (www.reach-outdoors.com) in Torbay? Company Director Rachel Edwards tells us: “We deliver experiences for those who want to try coasteering, SUP, raft and sea kayak sessions in Torbay and many other dry based sessions in the local area.”
Now entering their sixth year of operation, the Reach Outdoors team have gone from strength to strength, winning gold awards for the Devon Tourism and Sport Excellence scheme, as well as being at the top of certain TripAdvisor searches!
Rachel continues: “We provide a whole range of sessions to a whole range of client groups, from primary and secondary schools, to youth groups, stag and hen parties, family outings – whatever the occasion, our aim is to enable all participants to release their potential, have fun, challenge themselves and enjoy being outdoors and active.” Well said!
Perhaps your home or holiday cottage is based in the north of Devon and a trip to Torbay isn’t quite what you had in mind? If so, H2Outdoors (www.h2outdoor.co.uk) is an excellent alternative. With a team of highly experienced instructors and only using the very best facilities and locations for all activities, the team not only ensures your safety at all times, they also make certain that you get the best from your adventure. Adventure Specialist Matthew De Havilland explains: “North Devon is one of the best locations in the country for people wanting to explore the outdoor environment in a variety of exciting ways and all of us on the team strive to provide top class adventure activities and packages that suit your needs.”
H2Outdoors’ activities include coasteering, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and surfing, allowing you to venture out along north Devon’s stunning coastal environment in new and exciting ways!
Also keen to get your adrenaline pumping is the team at Active Escape (www.activeescape.co.uk), similarly offering coasteering and SUP hire, as well as more demanding and competitive activities including splatgun paintball, giant party SUP and the ever-popular Adventure Challenge. Team member Becky tells us: “If you’re feeling competitive then our Adventure Challenge is perfect for you. Use the map to find the clues; half are hidden in caves and around our assault course and the other half are in the sea, which you can use our SUPs to find. Once you’ve found all the clues, use them to crack the code to win your prize, treasure fit for a salty sea dog!”
Getting out on the water is one thing, but diving beneath the surface and exploring the world underwater is quite another. Operating dive charters from Dartmouth and Salcombe – an ideal base from which to explore the numerous reefs, rock pinnacles and wrecks of southern Lyme Bay, Start Bay and Bolt Trail – Falcon Diving Charters (www.falcondivingcharters.com) has the expertise to lead you on some of the most awe-inspiring dives you’re likely to experience. Indeed, Anne-Marie explains, “the area of coast that we cover is a wreck diver’s paradise, offering a wide variety of wrecks from varying depths, ideal for sports divers as well as technical divers looking for a bit of depth.”
On the moor
At the very heart of Devon lie 368 square miles of moorland and for many, a visit to Devon would not be complete without a trip to this vast, enigmatic landscape. The best part about Dartmoor is how you can simply lace up your boots and get walking, making a day out of exploring its many tors, waterways and innumerable archaeological sites. As you might expect, there are also a number of companies offering adventure days on Dartmoor, and Crag2Mountain (www.crag2mountain.co.uk) is a fine example. This family run adventure company aims to inspire the inner adventurer in everybody, leading families in enjoying the outdoors and making adventure based activities accessible and affordable for all. Instructor Georgia Barnett tells us: “We offer activities including climbing, scrambling, mountaineering, navigation, camp craft, caving and events organising – for instance hen parties and stag dos. We are also providers of Mountain Training’s Hill & Mountain Skills courses and the National Navigation Award Scheme.”
And then there’s River Dart Country Park (www.riverdart.co.uk). Set in 90 acres of parkland within Dartmoor National Park, the River Dart Country Park has been one of Devon’s leading family attractions and campsites for more than 40 years, offering an abundance of activities for all ages to enjoy. Indeed, kids and adults alike will find something to get their blood pumping at River Dart Country Park, with activities including the Adventure Playground, Agility Trail, Anaconda, Climbing Pods, Commando Assault Course, Mini Zip Wire and much, much more, including adventure days perfect for groups of up to eight!
Devon on two wheels
Cycling is definitely one of the most popular means of enjoying Devon’s rolling countryside and coastal trails, with a number of fantastic routes offering great days out for the family. The Tarka Trail, for instance, follows the footsteps of Devon’s favourite otter and it doesn’t take long to see how this stunning area of Devon – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – inspired Henry Williamson to write such an illustrative novel.
There are also plenty of trails across the county that cater for those in search of a more demanding cycling experience. Gawton Gravity Hub (www.gawtongravityhub.co.uk), for instance, is a volunteer-run club set up to serve the local mountain bike community by building, managing and maintaining some of the best downhill mountain bike trails in England. Visitors can enjoy a variety of tracks across two sites at Gawton and Tavi Woodlands, starting at red graded trails which are similar to red trails at Forestry Commission sites, right up to double blacks, which are some of the most difficult in the country and attract pro-level riders.
Organisation member Tom tells us: “We have just rebuilt our entry level track at Gawton, which is proving very popular, and we are currently rebuilding our double red track, named ‘Properjob’, which is set to reopen in June.”
To ride at Gawton all you need is a day pass, which costs just £5 and allows you access to both Gawton and Woodlands for the day. You can even book an uplift service at www.flyupdownhill.co.uk for your day, which offers between 12 and 14 trips back up the hill with your bike. What’s more, a year’s membership costs just £40, so if you’re an avid mountain biker, it could well be worth the investment!
If you’re enjoying a city break in Exeter and looking for a similar experience nearby, Forest Cycle Hire (www.forestcyclehire.co.uk) offers visitors more than 3,500 acres at Haldon Forest Park, along with five purpose-built mountain bike trails. You’ll find routes for all abilities here, as well as over 150 mountain bikes, helmets, baby seats, tag-a-longs, recumbents, trikes and other equipment for rent. There’s even a fully-equipped cycle servicing centre to fix and service your trusty steed, meaning Forest Cycle Hire has everything you need to enjoy your day out on two wheels!
Outdoor adventure parks
As we’ve already seen, Devon lends itself perfectly to outdoor adventure and thanks to this, a number of fantastic adventure parks have sprung up around the county, offering visitors of all ages an ‘all-in-one’ adventure experience like no other.
Take the Ultimate Adventure Centre in north Devon, for instance (www.ultimateadventurecentre.com). Situated 250 metres from the A39 between Bideford, this is an AALA Licensed centre, offering visitors a wide array of activities, from a high ropes course, climbing wall and ‘leap of faith’, to mountain boarding, coasteering, surfing, archery, and a whole host of activities for over fives!. There’s also an onsite café, numerous picnic areas, a fire pit, chiminea rooms and barbeques for hire, so you can really make a day of it!
We couldn’t possibly leave out GoApe! (www.goape.co.uk) in Haldon Forest near Exeter. If you fancy flying over 200 metres on a zip line across a valley, or climbing 14 metres above the forest floor to swing, leap and soar your way through the canopy, the GoApe! team guarantees a day out in Devon like you’ve never experienced before!
Experiences with a difference
If climbing 14 metres into the treetops isn’t enough of a rush for you, perhaps you’d consider jumping from a plane? Or why not climb to one of north Devon’s highest hills and propel yourself into the air on a hang glider? If so, Sam Jeyes, owner and manager of Fly Like a Bird
(www.flylikeabird.co.uk) offers both to anybody looking for real thrill, and what could possibly beat a bird’s eye view of the north Devon coast?
Alternatively, if you’d rather keep your feet firmly on the ground, perhaps Land Rover Experience West Country (www.westcountry.landroverexperience.co.uk) has what you need to get your adrenaline pumping? Surrounded by 135 acres of private access ground, including a 35-acre off-road course, the Land Rover Experience centre is familiar with holding events for small to large groups and guarantees an unforgettable day of confidence-boosting off-road driving challenges.
Our favourite walks
There are countless walks around Devon, whether you want to explore the mysterious reaches of Dartmoor or stick to the South West Coast Path, always with a view over the Atlantic. One of our favourite spots for a stroll is Lydford Gorge. Owned by the National Trust, the full gorge walk takes around two hours to complete, and is a challenging circular walk with narrow slippery paths, however there are shorter walks to be enjoyed around the gorge. Both summer and winter strolls can be enjoyed here and in the winter, after the autumnal fall, you can enjoy views that are usually hidden by the leaves!
You’ll also find two tea rooms at Lydford Gorge, one at the entrance and one near the 300 metre waterfall that the gorge is famed for, so why not pop into one of them for a cream tea during you afternoon’s exploration?
So that’s that! We’ve barely scratched the surface of what Devon’s outdoors has to offer, and there are countless companies offering unique outdoor experiences throughout the county. Now isn’t it time you got up and went outside?
GIVE IT A GO
Also offering fantastic family fun is the Bear Trail (www.thebeartrail.co.uk) – Devon’s newest award-winning family attraction. This ten-acre family army assault course is designed for all ages, so that you and yours can get back to good, old fashioned memory making, over scramble nets, along zip lines and through tunnels. As the team says, “mud washes off, experiences last forever.”
All around Devon you’ll find some fantastic walks, with routes to suit all ages and abilities. The National Trust has a number of easy-to-follow routes available online, just visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walking
Discover even more
Multi award-winning Unique Devon Tours offers exclusive guided tours of Devon and the surrounding counties for small groups of up to six people. For the discerning traveller, this is the perfect way to see Devon in all its glory, taking travellers off the beaten track to beautiful and interesting places. You can be certain you’ll be in safe, expert hands as guide and owner, Alex Graeme, has just been shortlisted for the Wanderlust World Guide of the Year Awards, and is down to the last ten out of over 4000 guides around the world!
For more information visit www.uniquedevontours.com
"whatever the occasion, our aim is to enable all participants to release their potential, have fun, challenge themselves and enjoy being outdoors and active."