100 things Devon is famous for

Devon has more than a few claims to fame. Here are 20 of the best:

  1. You cant get more famous than the world-famous Brixham Fish Market. This renowned fish market is now England’s largest fish market by value of fish sold with over £43 million in fresh wet fish brought in by the hard-working skippers and fishermen of the town in 2021. 
  1. Start Point lighthouse still shines its reassuring beam out to mariners across Start Bay. This traditional granite lighthouse, complete with a complex of lighthouse keeper cottages was home to lighthouse keepers and their families for over 150 years until the light and fog horn was automated in the early1990s.
  1. The Clovelly village and estate is a must-see for any cottagecore aficionado. Time appears to have stopped a few hundred years earlier in this gorgeous north Devon harbour town, complete with cobbled streets, quaint cottages, fishermen and resident retired donkeys. The village and harbour are wholly privately owned by descendants of the aristocratic Hamlyn family that operate the Clovelly Estate Company. If you visit, you have to pay a fee to enter the village.
  1. North Devon has its own private island. Lundy Island is located in the Atlantic Ocean at its meeting point with the Bristol Channel. This otherworldly, three by three-mile granite is occupied by a lighthouse, holiday cottages and a few stoic residents. Having changed hands many times throughout history, Lundy is famous for Martin Harman, its self-proclaimed king who issued his own coinage in 1929 and received a hefty fine.
  1. Saffon cake is a traditional Devon sweet bread that takes its name from the saffron that is used to flavour the bread. It’s a recipe that is well worth making and you can enjoy a slice of your mixed-fruit saffron loaf or bun with a generous dollop of gorgeous Devonshire clotted cream. 
  1. Don’t tell the Cornish but Devonshire is the home of rich creamy and indulgent clotted cream, the fulcrum of a Devonshire cream tea. This delicious cream is the pride of the dairy industry of Devon with farmers like those at Langage Farm near the Moor at Smithaleigh creating a velvety smooth cream with that moreish buttery crust that taste delicious spread cream-first on a fresh scone. Buy fresh thick pats of the stuff at Woozies Deli in Beer!
  1. Exeter, the county town of Devon was the westernmost Roman Legionary fortress in Britain, founded in AD55 by Vespasian.
  1. The mysterious Neolithic queen/princess of Dartmoor: in 2014 archaeologists made the unprecedented find of a 4,000-year-old burial site of a young noblewoman complete with some exceptionally rare metal and amber objects that provide insights into Bronze Age British life.
  1. That infamous game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe just had to be finished by Devonian Sir Francis Drake in 1588.
  2. The American celebration of Thanksgiving has its roots in the epic transatlantic voyage of an unlikely group of English Christian families known as the Pilgrims. 2020s deferred celebrations marked 400 years since the Mayflower, a Dutch cargo vessel that set sail from Plymouth, England to what is now Plymouth Massachusetts. 
  1. The charming fishing town of Brixham on Tor Bay set the stage for the Glorious Revolution of 1688, where the locals welcomed William III Prince of Orange ashore to become King of England alongside his wife Mary, deposing his uncle James II.
  1. Peter Blackmore “a more boren” is thought to have been one of Exeter’s earliest black residents, recorded as making his home in the city in the 1522 census by Henry VIII.
  1. Dartmouth has a claim to fame as being the birthplace of Thomas Newcomen (1664 – 1729) inventor of the first functional steam engine, known as the Newcomen Engine. The Newcomen Engine House in Dartmouth has a functioning version of this engine that dates back to 1725. 
  1. You can visit a little piece of Canadian sovereign territory in the heart of Devon! Salute the Maple Leaf flag flying high over Wolford Chapel in Honiton, the last resting place of John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Canada. The chapel and grave belong by deed to the people of Ontario, who have a permanent right of way to this obscure property.
  1. The people of and places of South Devon played a strategic role in the preparation and successful invasion of Nazi-occupied mainland Europe, known as Operation Overlord. The remarkable similarity between the coastline of Slapton Sands and the Normandy beaches that would be the site of the D-Day landings of 6th June 1940, meant that they were a mission-critical, top-secret location for the Allies military exercises. 
  1. Exeter Cathedral, AKA the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter in Exeter has several claims to fame including:
    1. The longest uninterrupted medieval vaulted ceiling in the world
    2. The world’s second heaviest peal of 12 bells hung for change ringing
    3. A remarkable astronomical clock
    4. Thee working pipe organs
    5. Strange and uncomfortably large luminous fanged tube web spiders make their home in crevices and cracks of the acidic calcareous stone walls.
  1. Castle Drogo, Britain’s last 100% authentic castle was built in 1910 and completed in 1930 near Drewsteignton, Devon. Self-made millionaire Julius Drewe commissioned prominent architect Edward Lutyens to build the imposing granite edifice, which is now owned by the National Trust.
  1. You may think that trams are more in keeping with the north of England, but the seaside town of Seaton in East Devon has a three-mile tram route along the Axe Estuary as its claim to fame, attracting over 100,000 visitors annually. Hop onboard the vintage narrow-gauge electric trams of Seaton Tramway for a leisurely journey that takes in some of the beautiful wetlands in this region. This preservation tramway runs between Seaton and Colyton and a return journey costs £12 for adults and £8.60 for juniors.
  1. The seamanship of Devonian Sir Walter Raleigh (1552 – 1618 ) is world-renowned. It is more than likely that his upbringing near the coastal village of Budleigh Salterton fostered a deep love of the sea. His boyhood is charmingly depicted in an oil painting by Sir John Everett Millais which supposes that he would have been regaled with epic tales of adventure on the high seas by a local mainer.

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