Rolling meadows, dream villages and rugged coasts. Devon's celebrated countryside makes an ideal destination.
CRUISING at an effortless 60 kmph on the freeway, Devonshire is a few hours' drive from London. Far on a lush hillock, herds of sheep graze contentedly. In another patch of darker green, a white fence cuts off Jersey cows from a still lake encircled by a few thatched cottages. A small red tractor chugs along a hedge-wedged country lane uphill. In the distance, smattering rain sweeps a circumference round a woodland while the rest of the natural beauty is washed by brilliant sunshine.
Peaceful, idyllic and serene... that's Devon's celebrated countryside. You're never too far from the coast, nor too far from thickly forested hectares, or habitation. This bountiful region in southwest England is a year-round destination, if you love the canvas of natural beauty and abundance. Wheels are your best companion in Devon. As you meander through the country roads with quaint road signs, you pass unbelievably pretty villages like Cockington, an old English hamlet with typical reed grass thatched roofs and white-washed walls and flower beds glowing in the mellow sun. The colourful Maidencombe on the English Channel's edge has the wonderful Orestone Manor and a fascinating show theatre store, "The Bygones".
Plenty of places to relax
I drove further into Devon to the busy seaside town of Salcombe on a panoramic coastal patch and got onto the small harbour inhabited by small leisure craft and vacationing folks. Inwards, driving into Totnes on the River Dart and through woody lanes to the Ancient Berry Pomeroy Castle high above the Gatcombe Valley, I was literally prepared for ghoulish jitters and endless yarns of sinister folklore. On the estuary of the river Dart, the imposing Dartmouth Castle (and Royal Naval college) overlooks a grand sweep of fishing activity, leisure cruising and slow-paced small town activity, replete with delightful taverns, pubs and restaurants. I decided to halt for a while and settle down to some great ale at a wayside pub, watching colourful folk stroll by. One cannot leave Devon without experiencing two of its celebrated gourmet icons. In the well-manicured garden of a typical Devonshire cottage Inn near Teignmouth, perched on a gruff hillock, high noon English tea, clotted cream, jams and piping hot scones are a distinguished treat for the taste buds. The next day I joined a guided visit to the Plymouth Gin Distillery (formerly The Blackfriars Distillery) in the city of Plymouth - a swell experience where the history of Plymouth Gin and the story of the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers to America enlivens your experience of the city's prolific past. At the "1431 Refectory", I stretch my limbs to savour gin-based cocktails and canapés by evening. Plymouth city is charming, though with not much of nightlife, except the pubbing tribe easing their nerves over spirits at the many bars and restaurants. FactfileExcellent and conveniently located Bed and Breakfast Inns and cottages are aplenty; make prior enquiries and reservations. Fish and chips restaurants and takeaways are great places to enjoy local food at reasonable prices, and don't miss the great local ales and beers! The classic Orestone Manor in Maidencombe, near Torquay-Devon and the award-winning country manor Combe House Hotel near Gittisham village in Dartmoor are connoisseurs' delights offering signature cuisine and a high-end lifestyle. Devon is ideal for outdoor activity. Try strolling through woodlands and country footpaths or cycling long distance. Designated group treks over hills and cross-country lanes, with night halts at tucked away inns and cottages are another great idea.