Devon Car Hire
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Devon (also known as Devonshire) is a county in southwest England in the UK which has a strong Celtic heritage like its neighbour Cornwall and Brittany in France. It’s admired for its pretty beaches and quaint seaside villages as well as for the dramatic geological character which gives Devonshire cliffs, moors, and thriving wildlife.
Devonshire is a top tourist destination for domestic and international travellers alike drawn to the ‘English Riviera’, string of resort towns on the south coast, the Jurassic Coast (a World Heritage Site) to the north, and especially to Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks.
Devon is served by Exeter Airport (EXT) which is 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Exeter city centre. Enjoy only partners with long-established, trustworthy car hire companies who offer reliable and affordable vehicles at Exeter airport. At time of writing, a Toyota Aygo or similar (mini) costs just £14 a day and the compact Ford Focus is only £15.23 a day, while even a spacious people carrier (7-seater) like the Seat Alhambra is just £42 a day. Pre-book your hire car with Enjoy to ensure hassle-free Devonshire driving – but first, here’s a bit more about this fascinating area.
- About Devon: Devon is a large county straddling the southernmost peninsula in southwest England. A popular holiday destination, it’s well connected for drivers (it actually has the most mileage of roads in any English county). Devon combines dramatic scenery with an uncrowded feel, with reminders of living history throughout. At almost 370 m2 (nearly 1,000 km2), Dartmoor National Park is the largest area of granite in Britain, and is dotted throughout by caps of granite known locally as tors.
Devon has been inhabited since at least 6000 BC, although Kents Cavern in Torquay has produced human remains from 30–40,000 years ago. Like its regional neighbours in South Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany over the Channel it has a strong Celtic heritage ̶ the Dumnonii tribe (‘m’ became ‘v’) were early Britons (Brythonic people). Roman occupation occurred from AD 50 to approximately AD 600.
The main urban centres are the historic port of Plymouth, the tourist hub of Torbay, and the county’s largest town and only city, Exeter. The Devonshire coast (north and south) is lined with seaside resort towns which sprang up with tourism and railway development in the Victorian era, such as Ilfracombe on the north coast and Torquay on the south. Furthermore, Dartmoor and Exmoor are National Parks, while the northern Jurassic Coast and the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape are World Heritage Sites. Like Cornwall to the west, Devon suffered economically with the decline of mining, agriculture, and fishing industries. However, its location and accessibility mean that newer industries are flocking to the area, although tourism will still be the largest and in 2004 it was thought to have brought £1.2 billion to the local economy. The South West Coast Path, the Devon Coast to Coast cycle trail, and the Tarka Trail are just a few of the exciting trips that help make Devonshire unrivalled in leisure activities, from heritage tourism to sea-view dining.
- Airports and Access: Exeter Airport or is located 4 miles (6 km) east of the city centre. Formerly Exeter International Airport, passengers can fly to many domestic destinations such as Edinburgh and London City, and to European destinations in Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, France and others.
- Driving Around Devon: Devon has excellent roads and driving opportunities ̶ the M5 goes from Exeter and Exmouth on the south coast, all the way to Bristol in northeast. Major roads, such as the A30 in the south and A39 in the north, connect urban centres like Barnstaple with inland towns or with Dartmoor.
Driving in Devon offers wild landscapes and pretty resort towns all within reasonable distance and often via cliff seascapes and low valleys. Choose the type of car which best suits your travel plans (in town vs. country, possibility of off-road expeditions, etc.) and budget (we’ve got you covered).
So if you’re ready to roll—and kitted out with a great hire car from Enjoy—here are some of the best drives in this ancient county:
The Minehead to Lynton stretch of the A39 is known as the ‘Atlantic Highway’, and at Porlock it rises sharply to become the steepest, and therefore one of the quietest, A roads in the UK. (A roads are the national main roads, mapped and signed in green with a 60 mph/90 km/h speed limit and not to be confused with M roads [M25, M60] etc, which are motorways, mapped and signed in blue, and with a speed limit of 70 mph/100 km/h. The B road speed limit is 60 mph/90 km/h but be careful because often this is much too fast.)
The best roads to tour Dartmoor go through it, not around it (although those are pretty good, too). If you’re not scared of winding B roads with occasional reversing, try taking the B3387 from Parke Nature Reserve to Haytor Vale, from where you can take a number of walking tours.
If you’re flying into Exeter and fancy a day trip to the moors, turn off the A30 at Dunsford Road and then take the B3212 to Moretonhampstead. It’s a great spot to take stock and plan further trips in Dartmoor National Park.
Dartmoor Prison Museum in Princetown takes you on a trip through penal history in a spooky setting ̶ relive the treatment of Conscientious Objectors, or imagine being strapped to the terrible A Frame. To get there from Plymouth, take the A38 (the Devon Expressway) and A386 northbound via Yelverton to Princetown. The prison is still a working jail and the whole complex is between Rundlestone and Princetown on the B3357.
- Famous Devon: Devon is known for fine dairy goods, especially clotted cream and custard. ‘Devonshire Cream Tea’ has become popular even abroad and comprises tea and scones with jam and clotted cream. Meanwhile, Buckfast Abbey in Buckfastleigh has been a monastery since 1018 AD, but in recent years has become infamous as the producer of a certain type of fortified wine. Excellent cider, clotted cream fudge, and Devon porkers are just some of the other Devonshire delicacies.
The county has an A-list of notable sons and daughters: from Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh to Damien Hirst, Agatha Christie, Muse, Joss Stone, and Olympic swimmer Tom Daley, Devon is well represented.
Guide to Devon
Beaches and Cliffs
As you might expect from a large county with two coasts, the beaches and cliffs of Devon are diverse. One beach guide lists 120 beaches in Devon! Sunny Cove, Batten Bay, Dawlish, Plymouth Hoe (East & West) are all popular, beautiful beaches and if you’re willing to get a bit lost there are hidden beaches too ̶ Moor Sands (aka Moorsand) in East Prawle, Scabbacombe Sands Beach in Brixham, or Broad Sands Beach in Combe Martin are some of the finest. Cliff walks in Devon include dramatic towering cliffs, prehistoric rock formations, varied wildlife and plenty of places to refresh yourself ̶ try Hallsands to Start Point, Seaton to Beer, Orecombe Point (above Exmouth Beach), or Ladram Stone Stacks to get you started.
Devon has 75 museums! These range from the idiosyncrasies of A La Ronde, a 16-sided, 18th Century house of curios, or Barometer World, a shop/museum that sells and repairs barometers, to the military splendour of Dartmouth and Compton Castles. There are also a number of heritage train lines and stations like The Tamar Valley Line and Bideford respectively, while sites such as the Finch Foundry and Morwelham Quay evoke even older histories of Devon and Devonians.
Devon has a strong theatre scene, alongside which there are comedy clubs, jazz clubs, blues clubs and even a country and western pub. There are plenty of activities for kids, and a number of free events throughout the year. Fans of hit BBC sitcom ‘Fawlty Towers’ might want to visit sunny Torquay, where the hotel and its characters were based (although not filmed – that was Buckinghamshire). Sadly the hotel on which Fawlty Towers was modelled has since been replaced by flats.
Sports and Pastimes
There really is an impressive array of activities in this rugged beauty spot. Of course, there are marine activities galore around both Devon coasts, like the 29er Grand Prix (racing sailing dinghies) and Gig Regatta (racing gigs, a kind of six-person rowing boat). But there’s so much more ̶ ghost walks in Exeter, rock-climbing in Yelverton, a literary festival in Budleigh Salterton and shepherding experience days (with sheepdog displays!) in Woolacombe, to name a few. And let’s not forget the glorious moors walking!
What to do in Devon
Devon is a popular tourist destination possibly because, like Cornwall, it has a bit of everything and it’s easy to get anywhere in a few hours.
From the pristine toy-like South Devon Railway to the actual toy-like Babbacombe Model Village, or the Hound Tor deserted mediaeval village to Chambercombe Manor, site of reported paranormal activity, the stories of thousands of years of prehistory and history resonate throughout Devon. If you’re interested in mediaeval Christian architecture, then visiting Exeter Cathedral is essential. There’s a network of mediaeval tunnels that were used to transport water around Exeter, and the Kents Caverns or Beer Quarry Caves let you dig deeper and further back.
There are an estimated 120 beaches in Devon, and two coastlines buffeted by two seas ̶ this means watersports are a crucial part of leisure life here. Surfers enjoy the North and South Devon coastlines (particularly around Croyde, Woolacombe and Saunton) all year round, but there’s so much more. Paddle boarding, sailing (of lots of different boat types), waterskiing, rowing, kayaking and canoeing are just some of the marine activities available.
Party time and family fun
Devon is an area of rugged wilderness and sandy summer vibes. There are activities to suit all ages, in any kind of weather, at (almost) any time! When you’ve had enough nature or history and just want to party, head to the harbourside area of Torquay where the pubs, big clubs and big-name DJs are. Torquay and Plymouth have also helped to net the region a Best Bar None award, and both are known as the nightlife hubs of Devon.
Eating out in Devon
Devon has really moved up the foodie league in recent years (see below) while some traditional Southwest cuisine is also represented. Let’s sample a few of Devon’s best eateries:
First up is Small World Tapas in Torquay. It’s family-friendly, and customers can see the kitchen, watching while the chefs craft tapas and tapas-equivalents from all over the globe. The menu is changed often, usually to showcase cuisine from a particular country.
Set in what once was the oldest coaching inn in the village of St. Marychurch, Torquay is the Memories Bistro. Inside this gorgeous bistro the fish comes from Brixham, and the meat, game, and poultry are all locally sourced and free-range.
The family-run Rodean Restaurant in Kenton is recommended in the Michelin Guide, 2020. It specialises in local, British and European cuisines, and has vegetarian and gluten-free options. There’s an A’ la Carte menu, a House menu and a Sunday lunch special ̶ £20 for two courses, plus they have regular event nights.On the North coast of Devon near Barnstaple is the Pyne Arms, which consistently gets 5-star ratings from both hungry locals and discerning critics alike. Like the Rodean Restaurant above, the Pyne Arms was a Certificate of Excellence Winner, 2016–2019. There is comfortable accommodation, too (it’s an inn) and they have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
The Mason’s Arms is a 13th—yes, thirteenth—century thatched inn with a Michelin-starred menu of British/French gourmet dishes. Located in Knowstone, South Molton, the dining here is refined and the dishes are served in a frescoed interior with old beamed bar.
Getting about in Devon
Exeter Airport is located 4 miles (6 km) east of the city centre and serves a number of domestic destinations (e.g. Edinburgh, Manchester, London City) and European destinations in Portugal, Finland, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and France, among others.
Buses and Trains
Devon is well-serviced by bus operators. Devon County Council has an excellent information page at traveldevon.info and there are community (i.e. free/subsidized) buses for residents. Trains are operated by Great Western Railway, Great Southern Railway, and CrossCountry, and intercity trains connect to various London stations and other British cities. There are no electrified train lines in Devon, so all the hauling is done by diesel engines.
You drive on the left-hand side of the road in the UK and in Devon. The speed limits are: 30 mph/50 km/h in urban areas (dropping to 20 mph around schools). On larger roads within urban areas (like dual carriageways) the limit is usually 40 mph/60 km/h; Most A and B roads are ‘National Speed Limit’ roads, i.e. 60 mph/100 km/h (the sign for these roads is a white circle with a black diagonal stripe through it). On motorways (M roads) the speed limit is 70 mph/ 110 km/h.
Finally, Don’t text or talk on the phone while driving (truly hands-free Bluetooth systems, such as in modern car stereos, are okay). If you’re driving in wet conditions, reduce your speed and extend your braking time.
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