Visit East Devon: Places to stay, things to do

It's not only migrating birds who head for East Devon at this time of year, Hannah Foley discovers the best kept secrets of the area.

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Why go there?

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Once the official holiday season has ended, East Devon returns to its peaceful rhythm and so autumn is the perfect time to visit. The mild climate of the region means you can explore without having to brave harsh winter weather. You will also be joining over 23,000 wildfowl and wading birds, which choose the Exe Estuary for their winter migratory destination. The nature reserve on the sandspit of Dawlish Warren, extending a mile and a half into the estuary mouth, is a hotspot for birdwatching – and if you’re lucky you might see flocks of dunlin, grey plover, bar tailed godwit, oyster catcher, brent geese, wigeon and teel. A great way to get up close to the estuary is to cycle the Exe Trail, which clings tightly to the estuary edge all the way to Exeter, giving cyclists a waterfront view of the river and its inhabitants.

Exmouth, on the eastern side of the estuary, marks the western most point of the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast. This diverse coastline, spanning 95 miles, reveals 185 million years of the earth’s history in its rock formations. At the end of Exmouth’s sandy beach you can take the cliff path to the top of Orcombe Point (20 minutes walk). Atop these ancient red Triassic cliffs is a modern monument to the Jurassic coast, marking the viewpoint. Another way to see the coast line here is by boat. Stuart Line Cruises offer tours of the Jurassic Coast with a knowledgeable commentary, departing from Exmouth Marina.

Where to Eat?

If you’re looking for the quintessential Devon cream tea then Otterton Mill is the place for you. The mill nestles beside the river as you enter the charming village of Otterton, less than fifteen minutes from Exmouth. Enormous golden scones are served with generous portions of clotted cream and jam. The earliest written record of the mill is in the Domesday survey of 1068. Today they continue to grind their own flour, turning it into tasty products for sale in the café and shop. The mill organises all sorts of events from music evenings through to willow-weaving courses. This Sunday you can join an RSPB ranger on an autumnal walk starting out from the mill.

Where to Stay?

The elegant Georgian Gentleman’s Residence of Tidwell Manor is just two minutes drive from the mill. Take in the beauty of East Devon from the patio or explore the walled gardens, laid out to invoke a mellow mood. Tidwell is situated off the main thoroughfares, but is actually within easy reach of Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton, and Sidmouth.

Local Secret

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Sir Walter Raleigh was born in Hayes Barton, East Budleigh. Sir John Everett Millais’ famous painting The Boyhood of Raleigh was painted at Budleigh Salterton.