Five Things to Do in England's Devon and Cornwall

by  Amanda Black | Sep 19, 2013
Rocky coast in Cornwall, UK
Rocky coast in Cornwall, UK / mick blakey/iStock

England's two southernmost counties are known for their picturesque villages, expansive moors, and pristine beaches, though both Devon and Cornwall also boast a distinct cultural heritage that not only sets them apart from the rest of the country, but also from each other. From local cuisine to stand-alone attractions, here are five things that'll make a visit to Devon and Cornwall even more worthwhile.

Try a Pasty

Pasties are savory baked pastries that first became popular with Cornish tin miners in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today they're considered Cornwall's national dish. Traditional pasties are filled with minced beef, potato, yellow turnip, and onion, and baked in a semi-circular shape and crimped along one side (they're also often the size of an entire meal). Nowadays, you'll find as many variations of pasties as you will places that make them. Still, a great place to try a 'true' Cornish pasty is Pengenna Pasties, in the coastal village of Tintagel. Watch them being made from scratch through the bakery's front window, then get one fresh from the oven to-go. No utensils needed.

Chase Fiction

Both Devon and Cornwall have served as setting and inspiration for some of England's best literature. You can stop for lunch at the Jamaica Inn, a lodge and restaurant that served as the setting for author Daphne du Maurier's haunting novel of the same name; or get lost among the granite outcrops and mossy bogs of Dartmoor before paying a visit to the notorious Dartmoor prison, both of which were featured prominently in the Sherlock Holmes-driven crime novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. If it's legends you're after try exploring the ruins of Cornwall's Tintagel Castle, rumored to be the birthplace of King Arthur (best known for his Knights of the Round Table). 

Spend the Night at a Traditional Country Inn

Adam Fox Edwards is a former fighter pilot who once served as Queen Elizabeth II's personal attendant. He's also the proprietor of the Arundell Arms Hotel, a 21-guestroom country inn that's been in his family for more than 50 years. There's a pub on the property (where you're sure to spot a tweed-clad local or two), as well as a surprisingly good restaurant that serves up a five-course, seasonally-changing tasting menu (prices change seasonally, too). What's even cooler, however, is that the Arundell Arms happens to be the premier fly fishing inn in the entire south of England. It boasts two full-time instructors, offers beginner courses, runs its own tackle shop, and has access to over 20 miles of wild river. Pack your wellies, because this is the real deal. 

Tour a Distillery

Located in the port town of Plymouth's historic Barbican section, the Plymouth Gin Distillery is England's oldest working distillery. Tours of the facility – which offer an intro to how Plymouth Gin is made and include a complementary gin and tonic cocktail in the upstairs bar – take place daily. You'll also have the opportunity to sample different gin styles. Fun fact: Plymouth itself has another claim to fame; it's where the Mayflower pilgrims spent their last evening in England before setting sail in 1620.

Partake in Devonshire Tea

While cream tea is prevalent throughout England it's especially popular in Devon. Many people believe it originated here (though the Cornish say otherwise). Whatever the case, a great place to partake in Devonshire or Devon Tea – basically a tea with scones, jam, and clotted cream – is the Combe House, a luxurious country estate close to the city of Exeter. Along with the aforementioned goodies, Combe House's afternoon tea includes crustless sandwiches (including cucumber, naturally) and plenty of sweets. A quick tip: there is a difference between Devon tea and Cornish tea; in Devon you put cream on the scone first, then the jam. In Cornwall it's the reverse...

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