Thursday, 30 June 2011

Ten Free Days Out in South Devon

Goodness me! Half of 2011 has flown by and the school holidays are now just a whisker away. With more and more Brits choosing to remain on these shores for their family breaks, I reckon that a few of you might be heading down this way.   Of course we have lots of coastline and the moorland, extensive natural resources that have the potential for providing  free easy days out.  But Devon, like many other areas of the country, can be an expensive place to visit if accommodation costs and entrance fees come into the equation.  Never fear, with my local knowledge, I, Lovelygrey, have come to your rescue.  Here are  some top tips for family friendly forays that will allow you plan a holiday in these parts that won't break the bank.

  • Decoy Park and the Den: Great recreational areas in Newton Abbot and Teignmouth.   Both have extensive play areas with free squirty water features.   The Den is near the beach and is worth a visit as part of a traditional day at the seaside.  Decoy Park,  a former clay quarry, has woodland walks, football pitches, BMX tracks and a fitness trail of its own.  There's enough to do here to make it a  day long destination when the sun shines.  
  • Bovey Tracey:  Home  of the House of Marbles.  Okay, I've said in the past that this attraction does not constitute a day out in its own right but it  just one of the free things to do in this town that promotes itself as 'The Gateway to the Moor'.  How about a picnic in Parke, a free National Trust site on the edge of town which incorporates the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Centre (open on Sundays),  a wander around the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and then a  play in the  park opposite?  And for those who want to splash out a bit of cash there's the town pool.  This is run by a charity on a non-profit making basis and a family of four can swim there for just over a tenner.
  • Dawlish Warren:  I've picked this traditional seaside spot because it's also home to a National Nature Reserve.  The visitor's centre with its interactive visits has a programme of organised fun, educational activities, listed in a wider guide to Green Events in Teignbridge.  These are often free and their frequency is ramped up in  school holidays.  Be warned though as some need to be booked ahead.
  • Exeter:  Take you pick from  Redcoat Tours, an extensive network of cycle paths and the two hour long Sculpture Trail at the university which includes work by Barbara Hepworth and a few other artists whose names might ring bells.
  • Buckfast Abbey combined with a stroll up to the burnt out Holy Trinity Church
  • Collecting fossils at Lyme Regis, an activity reminiscent of childhood holidays in the area and one that's still on my 'To Do List for Louis'!  What could make a boy happier than playing with a hammer and chisel?
  • The Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth  Again, not one I've visited for a long time but this attraction, which is reliant on donations rather than entrance fees, runs a series of activities through the summer holidays.
  • For those based in the Torbay area, try Occombe Farm .  This organic farm, along with its shop and cafe has a nature trail and organises plenty of events.  Although these fall slightly out of my free remit they represent good value for money.  Scarecrow making for £2.50 a child can't be bad!
  • Haldon Forest:  So good  that  I've written about it twice!
  • Okay, I've mentioned the seaside so my beloved Dartmoor has to get a look in too!  Don't just sit in the car park near Haytor.  Pop into the visitor's centre for lots of ideas about things to do  Try letterboxing,  scrambling over rocks or investigating some of the extensive archaelogical sites.
So, there you have it. A list of quality activities that'll leave plenty of pennies over for locally made ice cream.  The Orange Elephant, for instance, comes highly recommended!  Please let me know how you get on with my suggestions and I'd be particularly keen to hear about your experiences of other free finds in the area.

Addendum after original post:  Cockington Court in Torquay looks worth a visit, perhaps coupled with a trip to Occombe farm mentioned above !


    1. Hi, Your post is very helpful. I come to Devon ( Sidmouth ) a few times a year but some of the places I'd not heard of. Have been to the Donkey Sanctuary a few times. Will definately give the other places a go when we go in August. Thank You

    2. That's very usefull to know. I will have to come down that way again at some point. Thank you.

    3. Some really great ideas for free days out in south devon here! Anyone in Devon looking for a free day out won't be short of options, especially at this time of year, however it's great that you've included a few indoor activities too, just in case. The Donkey Sanctuary has to be one of the best free days out in the area and being so close to Sidmouth it makes for an even better day trip as you can also hit up the small town and beautiful coast while you're at it.