These days for us, a family walk tends to result in a big game of trains regardless of the location but a recent such walk got me thinking about how lucky we are in Devon to have so many wonderful & varied walks within easy reach. I’ve therefore put together the following list of some of our favourites. I’d love to hear about any others you know of though…..trains are optional!
Blackbury Camp, East Devon
This English Heritage managed site is on an ancient fort and provides a wonderful flat area for small kids to be able to run around which remaining contained, along with walks in the wider area for longer legs. Great in all seasons but the bluebells in late spring are spectacular.
Goat Walk & Bowling Green Marsh - Topsham
In days gone by when I was marathon training, this was always the favourite part of my long runs, now it’s a good opportunity to walk off some cake! Topsham is always a wonderful place to wander around and the Goat Walk provides stunning views across the Exe and down to the sea. It’s flat walking for little ones and once you’ve left the Exe behind, you can call into the RSPB Bowling Green Marsh site and watch the birds for a while. Afterwards, head back into Topsham for plenty of refreshment options (taking in the level crossing at the station if your 3 year old is anything like ours!).
There must be a few generations of Devonians who remember walks at Haldon Forest as a kid (does anyone else remember the Enchanted Walk of the mid 80s?) There are now a number of way marked routes for all ages, some of which are bike and scooter friendly. A more recent addition are the fantastic themed trails with favourite characters from Julia Donaldson’s books. We loved the Gruffalo last year and want to check out the Highway Rat that’s there at the moment. Download the app for the best experience. Once you’ve earned it, check out the cafe (do you see a theme starting to emerge?!)
Ashclyst Forest, near Cullompton
This was a new discovery for me a few years ago. Like Haldon Forest there are a number of marked walks for varying levels and abilities which provides great fun for the kids as they spot the next way marker. There’s also great blackberry picking in autumn. The National Trust website has further details.
Exe Estuary at Powderham
This is park of the Exe Cycle Trail so can be walked or cycled. The ambitious could cycle from Exeter or get a train to Starcross. Alternatively, park at the beautiful Powderham Church and walk along cycle path up the river (once you’ve crossed the new bridge, pedestrians can use the upper path that provides panoramic views up and down the river and across to Woodbury Common. The famous Turf Locks pub offers good food and wonderful views for those who can make it that far.
Exeter Green Circle
Chances are, if you live in Exeter you’ve done some of this trail, even if you haven’t realised it. We’ve discovered areas of the city we didn’t know existed, particularly around Mincinglake where we found a wonderful, empty play park and the spectacular autumnal colours. In total it’s about 13 miles but you can break it down into little chunks.
No list of Devon walks would be complete without at least one Dartmoor walk. There are the really famous ones that, weather dependant, can get really busy but it’s very easy to (literally) get off the beaten track and discover new places. To add interest for older kids, try letter boxing, or the 21st Century equivalent, Geocaching.
Bowerman’s Nose (Grid Ref SX742805) This was a family favourite when I was growing up and is famous for it’s distinctive tor. Close to Manaton & the more popular Hound Tor, it is a bit of a scramble but worth it for the views and is usually pretty empty. Kids will love clambering over the rocks and maybe finding a letterbox.
Emsworthy Mire Nature Reserve (Grid Ref SX 745 765) - a gentle walk from the car park with a derelict barn to explore and amazing bluebells in the late spring.
Spitchwick (Grid Ref SX714712) - Another family favourite when we were kids, particularly for wild swimming in the summer. Spitchwick itself can get crazy busy in nice weather but park up and walk a little further along the river in either direction and you will come across some wonderful picnic and swimming spots. Taking the plunge is definitely worth the effort (and initial shock!)
River Otter Walk
Start out at Otterton and there is easy, flat walking in either direction. Keep your eyes peeled for signs of otters and beavers. Oh, and there’s always the cafe at Otterton Mill for a rewarding lunch or cake!!
Seawall at Dawlish Warren
OK, so Dawlish Warren isn’t everyone’s idea of a quiet walk, particularly in high season but it doesn’t take long to get away from the attractions (which the kids may love anyway!) and there’s a great, easy walk along the seawall to Dawlish, either along the beach or the seawall (check tide times and sea conditions!). It’s also a train lover’s dream and getting a wave and beep from the drivers is always a French family highlight!! Alternatively, head the other way along the Warren for really different landscape and some more peace! Head to Red Rock beach towards Dawlish for great swimming in the summer.
(OK so not technically Devon but just a little way over the border into Somerset and as we’ve all seen the landmark so many times from the motorway I reckon it’s worth checking out.) The real challenge is to walk up from Wellington but it’s actually very easy from the National Trust car park — a flat walk through a beautiful avenue of trees that opens up to a wonderful flat area dominated by the enormous monument. . The views are amazing in clear weather (or, as we discovered, you can see the bad weather coming in just before it hits you!)