Difference between revisions of "Devon"
Revision as of 21:59, 24 November 2012
Devon  (also known, far less commonly, as "Devonshire") is a large county in England's West Country, bordered to the west by Cornwall and to the east by Dorset and Somerset. Uniquely amongst English counties, Devon has two separate coastlines: to the south, on the English Channel and to the north, on the Irish Sea and Bristol Channel. These are studded with resort towns, harbours and (more recently) surfing beaches. Devon is also home to two National Parks - Dartmoor and Exmoor* - and includes the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel / Irish Sea. N.B. Exmoor is shared with Somerset, which has the larger share.
The name "Devon" derives from the Celtic people who inhabited the southwest of Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, the Dumnonii. Devon's flag is green, with a black and white cross.
Devon has produced tin, copper and other metals throughout its history. Tin was found in the granite of Dartmoor, and copper in the areas around the moor. In the eighteenth century, Devon Great Consols mine (near Tavistock) was believed to be the largest copper mine in the world.
Devon has the highest coastline in southern England and Wales on it's Exmoor seaboard. The "hob-backed" hills of the Exmoor national park tumble down to the coast on Devon's Bristol Channel coast, culminating at the awesome "Great Hangman", a 318m (1043ft) hill with a cliff-face of 250m (820ft), while the "Little Hangman" has a cliff-face of 218m (716ft). The best way to see these cliffs is from a boat trip from Ilfracombe or (occasionally) Lynmouth or Swansea; the ferry service from Penarth in South Wales to Ilfracombe also passes by this massive coastline (see below).
Devon's Hartland point is the south-west limit of the Bristol Channel; in other words where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic ocean. The northern limit is St Anne's Head in Pembrokeshire, forty-eight miles from Hartland Point.
Many of the rocks that make up Devon are exceptional geological specimens consisting of the geological period between 416 million years ago and 360 million years ago. It was in homage to this that the period was called the Devonian.
Devon is unique in that it surrounded by three of the Celtic nations - Wales to the north across the Bristol Channel/Celtic Sea, Cornwall West across the Tamar Valley, while Brittany lies due south across the English Channel/Atlantic Ocean. Although not a Celtic nation in its own right, Devon netherless shares many similarities with its Celtic neighbours; Exmoor/North Devon has the same reddish-brown sandstone as found in the nearby Gower Peninsula; the granite of Dartmoor is exactly the same as found in Bodmin Moor and the Penwyth peninsula while the extrusive igneous rocks of South Devon can exactly be found in Brittany - probably because, before at one time Devon, Cornwall, Wales, Brittany and South-West Ireland were part of the same landmass. In 2007, BBC "Coast" presenter Neil Oliver travelled to Devon and Cornwall for DNA testing of West Country lineage and found that - overwhelmingly- that both Cornish and Devonians were of ancient British/Celtic stock. Like its neighbours in Wales, Ireland and Cornwall, Devon was not fully conquered by the Romans - the leigons established a dwelling in Exeter, most likely as a frontier post - but the rest of Devon was relatively untouched by the might of Rome - the wet, boggy moorland of Exmoor and Dartmoor no doubt providing an excellent barrier to the Roman war machine. This probably explains why the ancient Celtic DNA of Devon (and Cornwall) survives. Another Celtic connection is the fact, until the 20th century, the best way to travel was by sea - so, for example, it was easier for the population of North Devon to sail to the Vale of Glamorgan/ Swansea and the Gower Peninsula than to travel the dangerous, bandit ridden country lanes eastwards to Somerset and Dorset - likewise, South Devon had strong links to Brittany and South Cornwall yet the rest of Southern england, was, until the arrival of the railway/car, a distant place. Another "Celtic" connection is North Devon's surf culture found in Bideford Bay - like Ireland, Cornwall, Wales and Ireland surfing has becomne something of a cult lifestyle of the wind swept butterscotch beaches of Bideford Bay.
Devon's Geological Sites include:
Along with its nearby neighbours of North Cornwall and the Gower Peninsula, North Devon's magnificently curved Bideford Bay is one the top surfing attractions in the UK, mainly because just like Cornwall and Gower, Bideford Bay faces westward into the vast Atlantic Ocean. The main surf areas are the white-sand beaches of Woolacombe, Putsborough, Croyde, Staunton and Westward Ho! Croyde in particular is rated as one of the best breaks in the West Country, as at low tide it boasts fast, hollow waves - just like Fistral or Langland's Bay Crab Island. Be warned however - in the summer Croyde gets extremely congested (both beach and village) and the car parking prices can seem unreasonable in the extreme. Fortunately, nearby Woolacombe and Staunton offer plenty of parking spaces and beach space.
The larger towns and cities in Devon have small but developing lesbian and gay communities, notably in Plymouth, Torquay and Exeter. Plymouth and Exeter have annual Pride events. In the more rural areas of Devon homophobia can be common and discretion is advised.
The Devon County Council Site  has more information on Geological Tourism
Exeter has two main train stations, St. Davids (where most long-distance services call,) and Central. Central, unsurprisingly, is closer to the centre of town, but the two are within a short walk of one another.
If visiting from Cornwall, the railway will take you across the Royal Albert Bridge from Saltash (in Cornwall) into Devon. When crossing this bridge, you will enjoy marvelous views of the River Tamar, which it crosses.
If visiting from the south, the railway line between London (Waterloo) and Exeter via Salisbury will transport you into east Devon, with connections with other parts of Devon at Exeter (St Davids station).
If visiting from Somerset and places north of London and Bristol, the Great Western Main Line will take you to Tiverton Parkway station (a short drive from Tiverton itself) and then to Exeter. It will then carry on to Newton Abbot (where the line to Torquay and Paignton diverges from the main line) to Plymouth and then to Cornwall.
The M5 is the only motorway to enter Devon. Coming from Bristol from the north-east, it terminates in Exeter, where it continues on as the A38 towards Plymouth and into Cornwal. It also branches off north at Exeter onto the A30 which serves North Devon via Okehampton and then carries on into Cornwall.
The M5 can get very congested during the popular holiday periods and it only takes an accident to bring the whole route to a standstill. If you are travelling to Devon by car it is recommended that you travel either early in the morning or later at night to avoid the holiday build up.
There is a once-daily Megabus service to Exeter from London Victoria (and vice versa,) but this ultra-economy service can be very uncomfortable and very late.
A park and ride service is available, see National Park and Ride Directory 
It is possible to travel to Ilfracombe in North Devon from Penarth and Swansea in South Wales on the paddle steamers Waverly and Balmoral. The Penarth to Ilfracombe journey is particularly scenic, as you also get to see the picturesque towns of Lynton, Lynmouth, the "Valley of the Rocks" and the awesome Great Hangman (the highest cliff in Devon at 318m). Leisurely traveling to Devon on a paddle steamer is certainly superior to driving there on the often congested M5!!! There is also a strong possibility of a fast catermaran Ilfracombe ferry  to Swansea in a year or two's time.
There are two principal airports in Devon.
Latitudes and Longitudes in Devon can be obtained from an interactive travel map at Stairway to Devon .
Devon County Council has the most uptodate information on buses serving all of Devon. 
A useful foodies site for Devon is located here 
Devon is a very safe place to live and visit. Crime levels are well below the average for England in part a reflection of Devon's rural population distribution.