Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Devon. As the season paints the landscape in rich golden and crimson hues and the summer warmth gives way to a gentle coolness, the county’s countryside and coastline transforms into an autumnal wonderland. Misty mornings bring an ethereal quality to the region, and the air is filled with the earthy scents of fallen leaves and damp soil. It’s simply wonderful.
If you’re looking to spend some time in Devon during the fall season, we’ve put together a list of our top 10 things to do to get you feeling autumnal.
1. Explore Dartmoor National Park
It’s true that Dartmoor is beautiful all year round, regardless of the weather but on a crisp autumn day when the sun is shining and the leaves are a mosaic of red, orange and yellow, Dartmoor is truly majestic.
There are plenty of things to do on Dartmoor in autumn, you could go for a short amble or a strenuous hike, cycle for miles or visit the wild ponies. The striking moorland is also home to a number of ancient, medieval and folklore sites such as Hound Tor, Merrivale and Kitty Jay’s Grave if you fancy yourself a bit of a history fanatic! Otherwise you could visit a quaint country pub and warm up with a hearty pub lunch!
2. Pick your own pumpkins
Visiting a pumpkin patch is somewhat of an American tradition but it’s become increasingly popular in the UK with a number of farms and attractions opening their gates for a bit of pre-Halloween fun!
Pumpkins, or Jack-o-lanterns, originated from Irish folklore, where carved turnips or potatoes were used to ward off evil spirits. According to the legend, a man named Jack, who was known for his trickery, was denied entry into both heaven and hell when he died. He was condemned to wander the earth with a burning ember inside a carved turnip to light his way. When Irish immigrants brought this tradition to North America, they found pumpkins to be a more suitable and readily available alternative!
3. Go for an Autumnal Picnic
Autumn is a great time of year for picnics for those who are easily irritated by pesky flies and wasps during the summer! There are a number of great places across Devon to settle down for an alfresco feast such as Knightshayes Court in Tiverton, Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor and Cockington Court in Torquay.
Instead of packing the traditional ice cold drinks like you would during the summer, take a flask of your favourite hot drink, or perhaps even some mulled cider! And remember to bring warm clothing and additional blankets to feel extra cosy. You might also want to consider camping chairs instead of a picnic blanket as the grass can get quite dewy in the colder periods.
4. Forage for wild food
Autumn is synonymous with harvesting – it’s a time when plenty of fruit, veggies, herbs and nuts are in their prime time for picking and consuming.
During October and November, you’ll find rosehip, chestnuts, field mushrooms and blackberries in abundance. It’s also a great time to start collecting sloes if you fancy making yourself a batch of sloe gin in time for Christmas! Dartmoor, Exmoor and Blackdown Hills AONB are just a few locations with ample produce to forage, just make sure you’re 100% certain of what you’re picking and don’t consume anything you’re unsure of. You could even take part in a foraging tour to gain a bit more experience.
5. Watch a Firework display
After Halloween, Bonfire night is a great excuse to get outside with your family and friends. It’s a fantastic way to welcome the colder season in a fun and entertaining way. Across Devon there’s an abundance of displays that happen throughout November.
Woodbury Park Hotel & Golf Course often put on a big do which includes fireworks, family entertainment, food stalls and live music, as do Winslade Manor and Westpoint in Exeter. You’ll also find a fantastic display in Plymouth with fairground rides and food and drink on offer, plus the Teignmouth & Shaldon Bonfire Night is particularly unique where you can see a blazing Viking ship set sail followed by fireworks at The Point. Ottery St Mary’s Tar Barrel rolling is also an event not to be missed; a tradition dating back hundreds of years where full-sized, lit tar barrels are carried through the streets.
6. Spend some time exploring historic attractions
Visiting historical attractions such as castles and stately homes are a fantastic autumnal activity. You can enjoy the colours of fall outside and then spend time inside exploring and warming up.
Here in Devon we have a huge number of National Trust, English Heritage and privately owned estates to explore dotted all over the region. Powderham Castle, Greenway and Dartmouth Castle are fantastic attractions to visit with plenty of things for the whole family, regardless of age, to enjoy. If you’re looking for some free historical attractions, we can recommend House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey, Buckfast Abbey in Buckfastleigh and The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.
7. Visit a Food & Drink Festival
Whilst summer is great for music festivals, Autumn is the season for food festivals. The early autumn is when many towns and villages have their annual food and drink fates, such as Abbfest, a locally produced beer and cider festival in Newton Abbot, South Molton Food & Drink Festival where you can sample the taste of the West Country and Dartmouth Food Festival, a first-class feast of entertainment, workshops and tastings.
8. Head into a forest
Woodland walks are a great way to get out and about during autumn, and there are so many activities that you can do. You could build a den, do some nature rubbings, spot wildlife, climb trees, try map reading or even geocaching. Many forests have their own nature trails that you can take part in too.
If you’re looking for an added bit of fun whilst exploring the forest, you could try Go Ape at Haldon Forest, an outdoor adventure company where you can swing through the trees on high ropes, or if you prefer to stay on the ground, you could embark on a Segway tour at Cann Woods in Plymouth.
9. Stay at a cosy hotel with your loved one
There’s nothing more romantic than cosying up by the roaring fire after a day of soaking up the surrounding autumnal atmosphere. A spa weekend is the perfect way to spend a weekend, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Enjoy a couple’s massage, or simply spend some time by the pool in your fluffy white robe and slippers before being wined and dined at the hotel restaurant.
If a spa weekend isn’t your thing, why not enjoy a romantic afternoon tea with sandwiches, cakes and bubbly. Or if you’d prefer to be more adventurous, many Devon hotels offer outdoor activities such as archery, clay pigeon shooting or off-road driving on their estates.
10. Embark on a scenic train ride
Not only is train travel a more sustainable way of exploring, it’s also a fantastic way to soak up the autumnal colours whilst not having to concentrate on driving. Here in Devon we have so many wonderful scenic train routes which travel along the coastline, through the awe-inspiring countryside and passing by several quaint towns and villages.
You could make your excursion even more interesting by embarking on a steam railway trip. The South Devon Railway offer steam train trips from Buckfastleigh to Staverton along the stunning River Dart, whilst the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company runs from Paignton to Kingswear with the additional trip to Dartmouth via boat. In North Devon you could take a trip on the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway in true Victorian-style.
So, as the leaves fall and the days grow shorter, embrace the magic of autumn in this remarkable corner of England. Whether you're a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, Devon's autumnal allure will leave you with cherished memories and a deep appreciation for the wonders of this enchanting season. We hope you enjoy your Heavenly Devon autumn getaway.