England became a unified state in AD 927 and, since the 15th century, has had a significant impact on the wider world, developing the English language, the Anglican Church, and English law – the basis for the common law legal systems of many other countries around the world. Its beautiful and varied countryside is interspersed with quaint villages and cosmopolitan cities including the capital, London.

The name "England" is derived from the Old English name Engla land, which means "land of the Angles". The Angles were one of the Germanic tribes that settled in Great Britain during the Early Middle Ages.

Kings College Chapel

King’s College Chapel: Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

It’s one of Britain’s best loved traditions, watched by millions on TV and radio. The first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols took place at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, in 1918. Since then, the annual service has become an integral part of the festive season

It’s one of Britain’s best loved traditions, watched by millions on TV and radio. The first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols took place at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, in 1918. Since then, the annual service has become an integral part of the festive season.

In the words of the service booklet, the ceremony tells the story of “the loving purposes of God” through a combination of carols and carefully selected readings from the King James Bible.

“I think it has become a British institution,” agrees Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge, the person tasked with arranging the service and directing the choir. “It is very widely broadcast and is very well known. I get a lot of letters and emails from people around the world saying how much they enjoy the service. The public feel that it belongs to them. They have a stake in it.”

Cleobury is passionate about the Festival, which he has been part of since taking over as Director of Music in 1982. He puts his love of music down to coming from a musical family. His father played the piano and organ, and his mother was an amateur choral singer. He went on to become a chorister in Worcester and studied the organ at Cambridge University. Prior to joining King’s College, he held the prestigious positions of sub-organist at Westminster Abbey and Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral. Cleobury thinks all of this provided good preparation for his work at King’s.

Yet despite his many years of experience, Cleobury admits it was a nerve-wracking prospect to become part of the celebrated Festival – and that it can still be daunting for both him and the choir. “You get over that through very careful preparation,” he says. “We hone general skills daily, though for the carol service reportoire, we generally prepare during December itself. That involves not only preparation of the carols, but also psychological preparation for the service.”

The enduring nature of the Festival is partly down to its iconic moments, such as the lone chorister singing the first verse of opening hymn ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, and partly due to the beautiful setting of King’s College Chapel. But it’s also because the service remains faithful to its past without being set in stone – highlighted by the fact that Cleobury commissions a new carol from a different composer each year. “I thought it was important to add something new to the service, so it could remain traditional but not fossilised,” he says. “It helps it to reach out to new people. I always think of it as an ancient tree which has a trunk and roots. The service has roots in the past, but it is still growing new leaves.”

Though he admits not everybody has been a fan of the new carols, he feels they’ve been incredibly lucky with the ones that have been composed over the years. While each new carol is different, they are united by a festive theme with serious undertones: “They can’t just be about tinsel and wrapping paper!” This year, Cleobury is excited to announce a carol by the Bristol-born composer Tansy Davies – though, he has yet to hear it. “I commission the carols but don’t really know what they’ll turn out like until the last minute!” he says.

Of course, the traditional hymns and carols remain an essential part of the service’s appeal. While the arrangement does change each year, the Festival always begins with the hymn ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ and closes with ‘Hark the Herald Angel Sing’. “I inherited those when I started, and I didn’t see any reason to change it,” Cleobury says. “They’re two of the best known hymns and I think the lyrics resonate with people, whatever they believe in. ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ is, of course, about the birth of Jesus, and the theme of a baby’s birth is something that resonates with most people. I had a grandchild recently and, strangely enough, [‘Once in Royal David’s City’ hymn writer] Mrs Alexander’s beautiful words came into my head. ‘Tears and smiles like us he knew.’ The words mean a lot to people.”

Cleobury thinks it is important for the Festival to resonate with people who perhaps wouldn’t usually attend church services. “I think that’s very crucial, because many can respond to elements in it who do not wish to participate in formal or official church organisations. The service can affect everyone – Christians, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists, and the message of the service has different potential for each individual.”

This wide appeal is helped by the fact it has been televised since 1963. It’s actually a different service to the one that takes place in the Chapel on Christmas Eve, with seven lessons instead of nine and additional carols. It’s filmed a few weeks before it is broadcast. Cleobury doesn’t find it unusual to be conducting a Christmas service a few weeks before the actual day. “I think most people are gearing up for Christmas by mid-December and many schools have had their Christmas services by then of course. I have certainly done stranger things, though – like recording a CD of Christmas songs in August in the South of France. Now that did feel odd!”

In 2009, Cleobury’s services to music were recognised when he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List. However, he’s well aware that any musical service is more than about one person. “I know it’s a cliché, but I saw it as recognition not just for myself but for everyone I have worked with. Nobody achieves anything without the help of others.”

There are 650 seats for the Christmas Eve service of Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. They are available for the residents of Cambridge and the wider public. However, demand for seats is extremely high, so if you want to attend the service it’s best to get there early. The public are admitted to the main gate on King’s Parade from 7.30am, and as you queue you’ll be entertained by the Choral Scholars of King’s College Choir singing carols. The service itself starts just after 3pm. The televised Festival, however, is a private service for members of the college, so you won’t be able to attend this one!

Stephen Cleobury is always on the lookout for potential new members of the choir. For more information, visit www.kings.cam.ac.uk/choir or email choir@kings.cam.ac.uk


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Peak District insider’s guide

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1066 Country, East Sussex Guide

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Boisdale and the Younger of Clanranald

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Salisbury insider’s guide: Spires and squires

Home to the tallest cathedral spire in Britain, Europe’s oldest-working clock and the world’s best-preserved Magna Carta, Salisbury is a historic treasure trove; the perfect “city in the countryside”

Salisbury meadows

Most English cathedral cities are much older than the cathedrals themselves, with histories reaching back into the Roman era or earlier.

Salisbury is the exception that proves the rule: a medieval ‘new town’ laid out on a grid of streets alongside the cathedral in the 13th century. But one of the best views of city and cathedral is from the ramparts of Old Sarum, on a hillside not quite two miles to the north.

Once an Iron Age hillfort, it was later the site of a medieval castle and the original cathedral, until the 13th century, when Bishop Richard Poore led the clergy down into the valley to build the present cathedral. This windy hilltop, now home only to some picturesque ruins, is where the centre of this cathedral city really ought to be. Old Sarum was abandoned for several reasons, including a lack of space, the difficulty of obtaining fresh water and a dispute with the garrison of the castle. According to legend, the location of the new cathedral was determined by the fall of an arrow fired from Old Sarum, although it would have been difficult to fire an arrow two miles, even with the north wind blowing a gale.

Whatever the truth of the story, we have every reason to be grateful for the subsequent course of events, as they led to the creation of one of the most magnificent sights in the British Isles: the dazzling, dizzying spire of Salisbury Cathedral. Built in 1320, 404 feet (123 metres) high, it is the largest spire in Britain and taller than any other spire built before 1400 that is still standing anywhere. Drive or walk over the hills that surround Salisbury and it is this majestic stone structure, pointing towards heaven that you see before anything else.

At the heart of the city, the market square has been the city’s focal point since a market was first held here in 1227 and the streets around it are full of good places to eat and drink and shop. There are as many historical buildings and sights as you’d expect to find in a cathedral city, including the gates through the remaining stretches of the old city wall into the Cathedral Close; and the Poultry Cross, the last of many stone crosses which once marked out the areas for different trades in the town market.

If you join one of the cathedral’s Tower Tours – and I very much recommend that you do – you’ll get the chance to sample the best views available of the city centre as you look out from the stone balconies at the base of the cathedral spire over the green lawns of the Cathedral Close, fringed by many of the city’s most beautiful buildings, the medieval streets and market square to the north and the water meadows alongside the River Nadder to the west.

My guide for the Tower Tour was Caroline Waldman, a retired nurse and hospice manager and one of about 600 volunteers who perform various vital tasks to keep the cathedral running. Caroline says the best thing about working at the cathedral is the chance to share with people from many different backgrounds the sense of wonder the building seems to instill in so many visitors, and the devotion it inspires in those who live and work in and around it.

Cathedral window

“I love the sense that it has been there for such a long time,” she says. “Our hopes and fears and prayers become embedded in the place. It feels like a living building. It’s a great privilege to work there.” The Tower Tour is also a great way to find out more about how the cathedral was built. Caroline led us up narrow staircases into the roof space, above the cathedral’s ceilings, to see the timber framework that carries the roof, and other hidden reminders of the cathedral’s construction, like put-log holes, gaps in the brickwork that supported wooden scaffolding used by the masons who built the last few courses of stone at the top of the walls, seven and a half centuries ago.

You can also see the various means by which the tower and spire have been strengthened over the centuries, including some amazing labyrinthine 14th-century wooden scaffolding inside the spire itself and stone buttresses built to support the extra weight of the upper tower and spire added in the 14th century. Raising the tower and adding the spire added 6,500 tons (6,604 metric tonnes) of weight to the building. Stand at the bases of the pillars below the tower in the nave and look up and you’ll see that extra bulk has produced a noticeable, and slightly alarming bend in the pillars.

Other treasures in the cathedral include the oldest working modern clock in the world, built in 1386 for use in a separate bell tower in the Close, which stood about 320 feet north west of the cathedral between 1265 and its demolition in 1792. The clock was then hidden in a storeroom for more than a century until rediscovered in the 1920s and restored to full working order in the 1950s. It has no face, but chimes out the hours, to summon the medieval clergy to prayer.

Visitors will also enjoy the 14th–century Chapter House, where a detailed stone frieze depicts scenes from Genesis and Exodus, including Noah’s Ark and the Tower of Babel and where one of the four original copies of Magna Carta is homed, along with changing exhibitions about medieval literature and scripture.

Back in the nave I am delighted by the new font, installed to mark the cathedral’s 750th anniversary (September 2008). It’s a beautiful piece of art, built by the sculptor William Pye, a dark green bronze cruciform, three metres long to allow full immersion baptism, standing on a base of the same Purbeck stone from which the cathedral was built. The water that flows across it acts as a perfectly clear mirror, reflecting the ancient Gothic architecture of the cathedral and the faces of children wondering whether or not to dip their fingers into it.

Arundells, home of a former Prime Minister

But there is much more to see in Salisbury other than the Cathedral. Arundells, a gorgeous 18th-century house in the Close, was the home of former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath for 20 years until his death in 2005. The house is interesting in its own right, built on the site of a medieval canonry and now filled with Sir Edward’s belongings, including extensive collections of musical and sailing memorabilia, reflecting his primary interests outside politics. But all visitors enjoy the two acres of beautifully kept gardens, which slope away gently behind the house, down to the river.

Mompesson House, on Chorister Green, a picturesque rectangle of lawn in a corner of the Close, is another highlight; an elegant 18th-century house, now furnished in the style of Queen Anne’s reign (1702-1714). The shaded and peaceful garden at the back of the house is the perfect setting for afternoon tea and there’s a tearoom tucked away in the corner. You might just also recognise Mompesson as one of the locations used in the film Sense and Sensibility: you can flick though a nice photo album of the film’s stars, including Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman, cavorting in Regency costume.

Also in the Close, the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum is a particularly good place to find out more about the Neolithic heritage of this part of Wiltshire: Salisbury lies within one of the richest areas of prehistoric human sites anywhere in the country; Stonehenge is just a few miles away. The prize exhibit is the ‘Amesbury Archer’, a Bronze Age skeleton whose burial was excavated in 2002 and who was clearly a very important individual, judging from multiple artifacts buried with him, including a large number of arrowheads.

While walking around central Salisbury you should also make time to slip inside St Thomas’s Church, built to serve the spiritual needs of the people who built the cathedral. It’s a wonderfully light space, thanks to its large windows and still very much a thriving church. But the most important thing you’ll find in here is the 15th-century Doom Painting, thought to be the largest in England, high above the Chancel Arch. Painted in 1475, it shows Christ at the Day of Judgement, casting sinners into Hell and sending the righteous to heaven. It was whitewashed over during the Reformation and only rediscovered by chance in the 19th century.

The other essential element of a visit to this city is a walk along the Town Path, which runs beside streams across the water meadows between Salisbury and the neighbouring suburb of Harnham. It offers the best views of the cathedral available from the valley floor and it was from a spot somewhere near the path at the Salisbury end that John Constable painted one of his most celebrated works, Salisbury Cathedral From The Meadows, in 1831.

Finally, do make the effort to get out to Old Sarum: it’s fantastic. There’s not really a vast amount to see, beyond the crumbling flint of the old castle walls, the deep ditches outside the ramparts and the outline of the old cathedral, picked out in stone on the ground north-west of the old castle. But it’s an evocative place that stimulates the imagination and the views back over this pretty, friendly city are spectacular.

Discover our editor’s favourite places to visit in Salisbury!

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Horsing around at Cheltenham

Visit Cheltenham this month and you’re in for a spectacular sight. A ‘trail’ of life-size horse sculptures has been positioned at key locations throughout the town centre, from Montpellier to the Racecourse…

The ten horses have been created by both national and local artists and are well worth seeing.

Horse Parade 1

One horse has been decorated by local community groups. Led by Su Billington from deepspace studios and Nikki Whitfield from Cheltenham Open Studios, 100 students from Glenfall Primary School and Artshape were invited to come up with a design inspired by the Cheltenham Festival’s centenary in 100 minutes.
The decoration of others are linked to their sponsors; for example Sam Charles Hodgson has created a beautiful vision of interior elements of Ellenborough Park for them, and Sally Lancaster has painted vignettes of legendary Cheltenham winners for the Racing Post. PJ Crook’s horses make some references to her sponsors – the University of Gloucestershire and the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. Alison Little’s for the Regent Arcade is all about shopping and Carrie Reichardt has created a Trojan Horse for her sponsor John Baker.

Horse Parade 2

The horses will be in situ around Cheltenham until 15 October 2011. After the exhibition they will be displayed at the Racecourse and auctioned for each sponsor’s respective charity. Visit www.cheltenham.artgallery.museum for more details about the project. Click here to view the map of the trail.



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Devon Insider’s Guide

From combe to tor, beach to clifftop, England’s second largest county is a tapestry of landscapes waiting to be explored,before sitting down to a good cream tea.

Hartland Point

Hartland Point rock formations

When he wasn’t being carried over the sea to Skye, song writer Sir Harold Boulton, was waxing lyrical about a certain county in the West Country. “When Adam and Eve were dispossessed, Of the garden hard by Heaven, They planted another one down in the West, ‘Twas Devon… glorious Devon!”

For Boulton, over a century ago, Devon was a land of “Combe and tor, green meadow and lane, Birds on the waving bough, Beetling cliffs by the surging main, Rich red loam for the plough.” The county still has these in abundance, despite subsequent urbanisation and the area’s popularity with holidaymakers. When Napoleon’s wars cut off access to the Mediterranean, the Brits headed west to their own English Riviera and we’ve kept up the tradition of holidaying in Devon to this day.

Thatched cottage at Sidmouth, East Devon
 A thatched cottage at Sidmouth, East Devon

A holiday for the Brits has usually meant seaside, and Devon, sat comfortably between Somerset, Dorset and Cornwall on the great peninsula of the West Country, has two coastlines with beaches aplenty. Take your pick from the rich red sands of Sidmouth, Teignmouth and Dawlish on the south or the wide golden expanses of Woolacombe and Saunton in the north. For me, a Grockle (local name for tourist) who grew up with a beach hut at Southend-on-Sea, the other side of the country, it was enough to discover that icon of the English seaside also in abundance here. They stand in their brightly-painted glory at resorts such as Paignton, Budleigh Salterton and Woolacombe.

The coast is not just about bucket and spades, though. There are sand dunes at Braunton Burrows, sheltered estuaries for yachties at Salcombe and Dartmouth, and dramatic clifftops where Exmoor meets the sea. It can all be explored from the South West Coast Path, a 630-mile-long national trail that skirts both sides of Devon on its way from Somerset round to Dorset. As the path runs through Devon, it gives you some of the most stunning views Britain has to offer: from Great Hangman, England’s highest sea cliff and the Hartland Heritage Coast in the north, round to Start Point and Bolt Head down at Devon’s most southerly tip.

Ilfracombe in North Devon

No surprise, then, that both coasts include Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (in fact, Devon boasts five). The catchment area of the Rivers Taw and Torridge from Dartmoor National Park out to sea to the island of Lundy is a UNESCO biosphere, and the whole of Torbay is a UNESCO geopark. Devon’s curriculum vitae of worthy titles shows just how special and well worth exploring its landscapes are. And while we’re showing off, East Devon forms part of the World Heritage Site of the Jurassic Coast.

Between these two glorious Devon coastlines there’s much to explore, not least two National Parks (Exmoor and Dartmoor) and the beautiful and varied riverscapes, such as the Exe and Otter in the east, the Teign (pronounced “Teen”) and Dart in the south, and the Tamar running along the border with Cornwall in the west.

Devon’s few railway routes are also well-placed to let you enjoy its scenery. The Tarka Line, for example, follows the river valleys of the Yeo and Taw from the county town of Exeter for 39-miles up to Barnstaple in North Devon. From Eggesford to Barnstaple, the line forms part of the Tarka Trail, a 180-mile, figure-of-eight route tracing the journeys of Tarka the Otter in Henry Williamson’s novel.

Dartmoor ponies
Dartmoor ponies

Try to get a window seat to enjoy the stretch of Brunel’s railway line from Exeter to Newton Abbot. Trains chug down the River Exe past Powderham Castle (home of 
the Earl of Devon) and the wading birds of the Dawlish Warren nature reserve, around the red coast with the seaside resorts of Dawlish and Teignmouth, then up 
the River Teign with views across to the chocolate-box villages of Shaldon and Ringmore. If you time your journey right and catch one of Devon’s spectacular sunsets, the burning red skies are reflected in the rivers below, with the dark shapes of moored yachts flashing by and the lights of riverside inns twinkling across the water.

Several heritage railways also let you step back in time for 
a steam ride through the countryside. For example, travel 
by steam train from Paignton to Kingswear then join a river cruise on the River Dart, to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home now open to the public with the National Trust. The Queen of Crime was born in Torquay in 1890 and, despite traveling as far as Iraq and Syria, she loved to return. She socialised at the Imperial Hotel, honeymooned with Archibald Christie at The Grand Hotel and featured Devon locations in 15 of her books. 
The English Riviera celebrates its association with the world-famous crime writer and holds an Agatha Christie Festival each September and a Festival of Crime Writing in April.

Bayard’s Cove, Dartmouth

Devon’s literary connections also include Lorna Doone Country based around Badgeworthy Water in the north. Richard Doddridge Blackmore set his ‘romance of Exmoor’ here in the 17th century. And the famously steep and pretty village 
of Clovelly in north Devon was childhood home to author Charles Kingsley and inspired his The Water Babies, while the village of Westward Ho!, along the coast opposite Saunton Sands, was named after his 1855 novel of the same name. Dartmoor is famously the setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles – one of the charms of the National Park is the atmospheric landscape of its rocky tors and valley. However, you are more likely to meet a friendly Dartmoor pony than a fantasy beast.

Lewtrenchard, a Jacobean manor house, now a Von Essen hotel, in the Tamar Valley, was where the Reverend Sabine Barrington Gould composed Onward Christian Soldiers and other hymns, and Devon’s musical heritage also takes you to the National Trust’s Coleton Fishacre, a charming Arts and Crafts house with an Art Deco interior, with a delightful garden running down to the sea near Kingswear. The story goes that the Doyly Carte family (of Gilbert and Sullivan and Savoy fame) were sailing along the Devon coast and spotted the valley. They decided to buy it for a holiday home.

Powderham Castle
Powderham Castle, home of the Earl of Devon

The Doyly Cartes were not the only successful entrepreneurial families building homes in Devon. Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton, was built by architect William Burges in Gothic Revival style for the family of pioneer lace-maker John Heathcoat in 1869. On Dartmoor, the National Trust’s Castle Drogo was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for retail tycoon Julius Drewe. He had discovered in his family ancestry a Norman baron named Drogo, and wanted a castle to reflect his line of descent. One of his cousins was coincidentally rector of Drewsteignton and he bought land from him in 1910 to build his dream castle.

Nearby, hidden away at the end of
a seemingly endless winding country lane is Gidleigh Park, a mock Tudor
house built in 1928 for Australian shipping magnate, CHC MacIlwraith.
In 1977 it became a hotel, adding Enjoy
England’s Hotel of the Year to
its long list of awards.

Gidleigh Park
Gidleigh Park

Also on Dartmoor, in 1880 William Henry Smith (of Britain’s newsagent chain) bought the land where Bovey Castle stands today; his son Frederick built the manor house, completed in 1907. In 2004, it became the five-star resort Bovey Castle under another Devon-born entrepreneur Sir Peter de Savary and today is one of the Pride of Britain hotel collection. Lana de Savary, Peter’s wife, recently brought a touch of luxury to the Cary Arms at 
Babbacombe, relaunching it as a boutique gastropub, with one of the best seaside locations to be found (rooms take advantage of the ever-changing views along Devon’s red coastline). On a clear day, you can see Teignmouth peaking out behind the Ness headland and right around Lyme Bay to Portland Bill in Dorset.

Devon’s built heritage is not just large-scale: near Exmouth, the National Trust’s A la Ronde is a crazy little 16-sided house with weird and wonderful interiors, built to house the mementoes of the two Parminter sisters from their grand tour in the 18th century. And, across to Ottery St Mary, there’s the small but perfectly formed Elizabethan manor of Cadhays, with beautiful gardens.

Plymouth Hoe
 Plymouth Hoe

Elizabethan history continues over in the maritime city of Plymouth, on its historic Barbican. The house of an Elizabethan merchant has been restored to take you back in time to the Plymouth of Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. Born in Tavistock in 1540, Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I and was Vice Admiral in the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. Plymouth is forever known as the city where, reputedly, Drake calmly continued playing a game of bowls beside the sea on the Hoe as the Armada approached.

Exeter Cathedral
Exeter cathedral

It was also said that Drake declared the Ship Inn, off the cathedral close in Exeter, to be his favourite place on earth. The close is certainly one of mine in Devon. At its heart, the cathedral, formerly a Norman Romanesque church, was rebuilt around 1265 in Decorated Gothic style. Enter through the beautiful West Front, with its tiers of saints and angels. Inside, after admiring the nave with the longest unbroken Gothic ceiling in the world, look under the seats of the choir for the oldest set of misericord carvings in England.

On Cathedral Close sits the Royal Clarence Hotel, built in 1769 and now one of the ABode Hotels, jointly run by acclaimed Exeter-born chef, Michael Caines. Caines made his name at Gidleigh Park and is still executive chef there. He’s one of Devon’s growing list of top chefs, with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in Axminster, the Tanners in Plymouth, Simon Hulstone at the Michelin-starred Elephant in Torquay and Mark Streeter at the Dart Marina.

Cream tea at Docton Mill Gardens tearoom
Cream tea at Docton Mill Gardens tearoom

While the county might now be famed for its fine dining, the regional dish remains the much-loved Devon 
cream tea. There’s an enormous choice of places to try it, including any National Trust tearoom, or head for the Georgian Tearoom in Topsham, Docton Mill Gardens tearoom near Hartland, or quaint and quirky Angels on the Babbacombe Downs. It’s certainly a heavenly mixture: scones (of various styles from fruit to wholemeal), jam and thick clotted cream. The perfect indulgence after a long walk on Dartmoor or along the coastal path.

Further information

  • Visiting Devon:
    for further information on where to stay and what to do in
    Devon, to go 
www.visitdevon.co.uk. Tourist Information Centres: Barnstaple, 
tel: (01271) 375000; Dartmouth, tel: (01803) 834224; Exeter, 
tel: (01392) 665700; Torquay, tel: (01803) 211211.

Editor’s Choice

  • Agatha Christie Mile: on the English Riviera explores locations connected with the crime writer. www.englishriviera.co.uk/agathachristie.
  • Blackdown Hills walks: this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty includes a less well-trod part of Devon that’s a pleasure to explore. The website has maps and walking and cycling routes to follow, including one that takes you to the Wolford Chapel near Dunkeswell, which contains the tomb of Lieutenant-Governor John Simcoe who was governor of Upper Canada in the 18th century. The tiny chapel is maintained by the Heritage Foundation of Ontario, Canada. Another walk takes you up to the Wellington Monument, erected to mark the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • Braunton Burrows: important dune system at the heart of the UNESCO North Devon Biopshere and the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: www.northdevon-aonb.org.uk; www.northdevonbiosphere.org.uk.
  • Circular walk in East Devon: (allow a half day) 
from Budleigh Salterton to Otterton, including River Otter and Heritage Coast, via tearoom/restaurant 
at Otterton Mill. One 
of many walks on www.
  • Combe House Hotel: (3-star), Honiton, nr Exeter. Elizabethan manor house hotel with two rosette restaurant in peaceful countryside. Tel: (01404) 540400; www.thishotel.com.
  • Dart Marina Hotel: (4-star), Dartmouth. Luxury hotel on the waterside with spa and fine dining. Bedrooms with great views. Tel: (01803) 832580; www.dartmarina.com. And for ideas on what to see and do in Dartmouth, go to: www.discoverdartmouth.com.
  • Docton Mill Gardens: Hartland, N Devon. With the Best Tea Room (2009 North Devon Food & Drink Awards). Tel: (01237) 441369; 
  • English Riviera Global Geopark: learn more about and explore the fascinating geology of the English Riviera coastline, now part of the European Geopark Network: www.englishrivierageopark.org.uk.
  • Exeter Cathedral: the
    church of St Peter in the county town of Exeter, founded in 1050, with
    wonderful misericords under the choir seats. Set in a pretty cathedral
    close where you’ll find the Royal Clarence Hotel, now an ABode Hotel: www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk.
  • Exeter guided tours:
    the cathedral city has all sorts of treasures tucked away, from Roman walls through medieval Underground Passages to ultra modern Princesshay shopping centre. A great way to get to know it all is by joining in one of the free Red Coat Guided Tours, that depart daily from in
    front of the ABode Royal Clarence Hotel in Cathedral Yard (above) and outside the Quay House Visitor Centre. Tel: (01392) 265203.
  • Gidleigh Park Hotel: (4-star) cosy yet luxurious country house hotel on Dartmoor, in its own gardens and grounds, with the four-rosette, two Michelin star restaurant of Michael Caines. Tel: (01647) 432367; www.gidleigh.com.
  • Spekes Mill Mouth: near Milford. North Devon’s tallest waterfall, on the stunning Hartland Peninsula. www.hartlandpeninsula.co.uk.
  • Steam train rides: Steam train rides. 
Take a nostaglic trip on one of Devon’s heritage railways. 
  • The Cary Arms: (5-star inn), Babbcombe Beach, S Devon. Relaunched as a stylish boutique hotel and gastropub with fabulous seaside location. Tel: (01803) 327110.
  • The Jack in the Green Inn: Rockbeare, near Exeter. Winner of the Taste of the West Awards 2009/2010. Tel: (01404) 822240; www.jackinthegreen.uk.com.
  • The Nobody Inn: Doddiscombsleigh, nr Exeter. Award-winning 16th-century pub famed for its wine, whisky and cheese lists. 
Tel: (01647) 252394; 
  • Torre Abbey: Torquay, South Devon. Former abbey converted into a country home for the Cary family, now an art gallery, with gardens and cafe. Watch out for the Damien Hirst exhibit this summer. Tel: (01803) 293593; www.torre-abbey.org.uk.
  • Walk along River Bovey: from Bovey Tracey, delightful walk
    along the River Bovey and back through National Trust’s Parke Estate,
    through park and woodland. This walk and many others are on the AA website (click on Travel, then Walks and Rides). Enjoy tea or lunch at the Riverside Mill in Bovey, exhibition space/shop of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.
  • Baby giraffe at Paignton Zoo

    Wildlife: Devon has some fabulous ‘zoos’. Celebrating its 25th birthday this year, the small but endlessly fascinating Shaldon Wildlife Trust, where I first met meercats and the tiny Emperor tamarins, is near the Smugglers Tunnel to Ness Beach in the ‘chocolate-box’ village of Shaldon, sitting across the River Teign (Teen) from Teignmouth (Tinmuth). At the other end of the scale is Paignton Zoo, where, among many types of animal, you can meet the new baby giraffe, Tonda, born this February. There’s also Living Coasts, Torquay’s coastal zoo and conservation charity.


    Images: visitbritainimages.com and courtesy of Docton Mill GardensHartland PeninsulaNorth Devon AONB

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John Constable Deadham Vale

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