The self-care guide to Devon

Penned on the 1st August 2023

The self-care guide to Devon

With two beautiful coastlines, clad with sandy beaches, ample wild countryside and a whole host of wonderful places to eat, drink and unwind, the southwest county of Devon is a perfect choice for a wellness escape. Whether you’re in need of some soul-soothing and peaceful connection to nature in the great outdoors, or a chance to rejuvenate your body with energising movement and wholesome foods, there are all kinds of nourishing self-care activities to be found here. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourites for some much-deserved you-time. 

Saltwater therapy

Lidos & tidal pools

Sea pool overlooking Brixham sea front

A plunge in a cold saltwater pool on a summer’s day is a sure-fire way to reinvigorate a tired body or mind – and Devon has lots to choose from. Dotted along the coastline you’ll find a good variety of outdoor pools for swimming and dipping, including The Rock Pool, a Victorian-made pool on the rocky shore at Westward Ho! (submerged at high tide) and Shoalstone Pool, a 53 metre-long pool on the Brixham sea front. Tinside Lido in Plymouth is well worth a visit too. It’s consistently voted as one of Europe’s best outdoors pools – and it’s easy to see why. Set in a beautiful location overlooking the sea at Plymouth Hoe, it was built in 1935 and has a quintessentially art deco style that’ll transport you to a bygone era of the British seaside. There’s a gorgeous sundeck to soak up some rays after your swim too. 



An abundance of people surfing at Saunton Sands

Surfing is fantastic physical exercise, of course, but did you know that it can have a hugely positive impact on your mental health too? And with two sweeping coastlines, Devon is a great place to take a lesson or hire a board to give it a try. In fact, North Devon recently became the UK’s first world surfing reserve meaning its breaks are now protected to conserve the surfing experience and the local ecosystems. If you’re seeking a surf spot on the north coast try Saunton Sands or Woolacombe, both of which usually have more mellow waves that are great for beginners and longboarders. Croyde is one of the most popular breaks in the area but it’s usually best for experienced surfers only. If you’re on the south coast, head to Bantham – just make sure you stay close to the beach to avoid the rip from the River Avon. 


Stand-up paddleboarding

Three people stand-up paddleboarding at Torquay Harbour

If something a little slower-paced sounds more appealing to you, you might enjoy stand-up paddleboarding. This accessible water-based sport has quickly grown in popularity in recent years, perhaps because, like surfing, it can bring a wealth of positive benefits to your mental and physical health. Devon has many beautiful coves and harbours where the water’s calm on a still day, excellent for exploring on a stand-up paddleboard. Torquay, Paignton and Brixton offer sheltered shorelines on the English Riveria, so they’re a great place to start. You can hire your kit or book a lesson with SOAK – and you might want to stick around for a post-paddle beverage at the all-day beach bar. Combe Martin is another stunning spot for SUPing too, with its turquoise waters, towering sea cliffs and hidden caves to paddle to that aren’t too far from the beach.   


Nutritious eating

Plant-based eateries

A colourful variety of Asian food

Devon has a fantastic variety of delicious vegetarian and vegan eateries, offering wholesome home-cooked dishes made with sustainably sourced ingredients. Cosmic Kitchen in Plymouth has the tagline ‘Good mood food’ – perfect for a self-care inspired meal out! Run by two sisters, this 100% vegan bistro offers colourful meals inspired by their Cypriot heritage, such as jackfruit gyros, beetroot falafel and ‘rainbow bowls’. If Asian street food is more your thing, don’t miss Red Panda, with branches in Exeter and Lyme Regis. The menu features a mouth-watering selection of bao buns and salad boxes, with vegan options like teriyaki or spicy tofu. Or for a hearty vegan dinner right beside the ocean, pack your picnic blanket and head to the famous Barricane Beach Cafe in Woolacombe. On dry evenings they serve their much-loved Sri Lankan curry takeaways from 5pm until 7pm – but make sure you get there early because they often sell out fast! 


Health food shops

A health food shop in Totnes

For organic goods, wholefood snacks or health-boosting supplements, Devon has plenty of great health food shops to peruse. In fact, Greenlife in the market town of Totnes is one of the largest in the whole of the southwest – and its shelves are laden with everything you could possibly need for a healthy shopping spree, with many products sourced from local suppliers and growers. In Tiverton, Reapers is a well-loved wholefoods shop. There are often experienced herbalists, food intolerance testers and more in store too, if you’re interested in some specialist advice. And whilst it’s not explicitly a health food shop, Strawberry Fields is an excellent farm shop in the village of Lifton, where you can pick up an abundance of freshly harvested seasonal fruit and vegetables to prepare your own nutritious meals.


Mindful movement 


A yoga glass on a raised balcony overlooking fields and the sea in Devon

Devon has an excellent yoga scene, so why not make the most of it while you’re visiting? Whether you’re a complete beginner or an advanced yogi, you're sure to find a class that appeals at Kiva & Zen Yoga Studios. There’s all sorts on their schedule including Hatha Vinyasa, Yin and Kundalini, all held in their beautifully calming space in Topsham near Exeter. For yoga by the coast head to Ocean Wellness Hub in Sidmouth in East Devon. This seaside sanctuary runs holistic yoga classes and courses as well as meditation classes, sound baths and more. Or for the ultimate blissful experience you could treat yourself to a whole day of restoration at a yoga retreat. Yoga Field & Sea offer ‘rewilding’ day retreats, combining beginner’s yoga with guided wild swims and coastal hikes at either Torcross or Slapton. 



A bike with the rugged landscape of Dartmoor National Park in the background

A gentle bike ride in a beautiful natural setting is sure to get your feel-good endorphins flowing – and Devon has plenty of routes and landscapes to choose from. The Tarka Trail in North Devon is a 180 mile figure of eight loop, ideal for walking and cycling. The 32 mile-long section from Braunton to Meeth is flat, family-friendly and traffic-free, with stunning views across the estuaries of the River Taw and Torridge. The Granite Way is another great choice if you’re looking for an easy to moderate ride. The almost-entirely-flat route travels along a disused railway line between Okehampton and Lydford, taking in spectacular views of magical Dartmoor, all the way to the north Cornish coast in the distance. You can find out more about Devon’s cycle trails here


Walks in nature

The South West Coast Path

The dramatic cliff edge and rock formation of Valley of the Rocks

Over 90 miles of the famous South West Coast Path follow Devon’s two coastlines, so it’s a wonderful place for a soul-filling walk. Whether you’re after a short and easy stroll or a long and challenging day-hike, there are a huge variety of routes and terrains to choose from. Some of the most awe-inspiring include the dramatic Valley of the Rocks starting at Lynton, the wild peninsula at Hartland Quay and the picture-perfect Hope Cove. Wherever you choose though, you’re sure to be rewarded with lots of fresh sea air, beautiful wildlife and, of course, breathtaking coastal views. Make sure you take your camera – and for an extra boost of positive wellbeing, why not pack a journal or a sketchbook to enjoy some mindful creativity whilst you stop for a rest? You can find out more about the benefits of creative journaling here.



A beautiful display of different colour roses at RHS Rosemoor.

Slowly wandering through an idyllic landscaped garden, admiring the variety of plant-life whilst butterflies and bees buzz from one colourful flower to the next…it’s an activity guaranteed to help you feel relaxed, rejuvenated and connected to nature. Fortunately Devon has a great collection of parks and gardens, each with its own unique style, character and horticulture. Some of our favourites include RHS Rosemoor in the Torridge Valley where you’ll find magnificent themed gardens and over 2000 roses – a spectacular sight and scent to behold; and Bicton Park Botanical Gardens near Exeter, a large Grade I listed garden that’s almost 300 years old and is home to the stunning glass Palm House, containing many rare palm plants. Both have lovely on-site restaurants to sit for a while with a hot drink or a hearty lunch once you’ve finished exploring. 



A family walking along the footpath through the trees at Haldon Forest which overlooks the Devon countryside

Spending time in woodlands surrounded by trees is proven to improve our wellbeing. In fact, forest bathing is a practice that’s been growing in popularity globally since its origins in Japan in the 1980s. The concept is simple: being quiet, calm and consciously observant amongst the trees to help you de-stress and connect with nature. Devon has many peaceful woodland walks where you can try it for yourself. Haldon Forest Park is just 15 minutes outside of Exeter but is made up of 3,500 acres of woodland, with four walking routes, stunning views and lots of features for children. Or for something a little more off the beaten track, Bellever Forest is a serene ancient woodland in a stunning part of Dartmoor, where you’ll often stumble upon ponies grazing as you wander – just magical. 

If you love the idea of sleeping amongst the trees, why not stay in a beautiful woodland hideaway? Take a look at our favourite glamping accommodation in the woods here.  


Spas & treatments

Luxury spas

Lady relaxing on a swing seat outside at a spa in Devon

Is there any better way to unwind than with a sumptuous spa day? Self-care seekers will be pleased to know that there are plenty of gorgeous spas to choose from in Devon. Set in a Grade I listed manor house on the edge of Dartmoor, Gaia Spa at Boringdon Hall is perfect for a peaceful spa day surrounded by nature. Its Scandinavian style and facilities inspired by the elements (think herbal saunas and salt steam rooms) only add to the sense of escapism – and as well as the more typical body and beauty treatments they also offer ‘Gaia Rituals’, a series of therapies with spirituality at heart. Also in Dartmoor, but with a very different feel, is Islington Country House. This luxury spa takes inspiration from Tibet, with colourful tiles and hot pink spotlights in the steam room and poolside showers. Choose from their extensive list of facials, massages, body wraps and more – some of which continue the Tibetan influence. Or for a spa oasis beside the sea, head to Wild Rock Spa at Gara Rock in the beautiful harbour town of Salcombe. Sit back in the jacuzzi and admire the stunning surrounding views or opt for an organic, aromatherapy treatment. They even offer a Walker’s Foot Reviver for tired feet – bliss after a day out on the coast path! 


Where to stay 

Secluded clifftop cabin nestled within the trees overlooking the sea in Devon

Whether you’re seeking a solo trip to soothe the soul, a restorative romantic escape for two or a family holiday amongst nature, there’s bound to be something that’s just right for you in our collection of Devon hideaways (and if you’re bringing your four-legged friend make sure you take a look at our guide to dog-friendly places to visit in Devon!). 

From shepherd’s huts with hot tubs and spectacular sea views to quirky cabins in the heart of the green countryside, each and every site has been carefully curated to give you a magical experience to remember.  

Ready to plan your self-care adventure? Browse our full collection of glamping accommodation in Devon


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