After Devon's success as the setting for Steven Spielberg's World War I epic, War Horse, it seems visitors cannot get enough of this scenic rural county. The film has been nominated for 6 Oscars to add to its AFI Movie of the Year 2011 Award and the Critics Choice Award for Best Cinematography, while the county itself has many awards tucked under its belt so far this year.
Easily accessible from Exeter and Bristol airports and brimming with natural and manmade attractions, Devon remains a popular choice for holidays. In 2011 it recorded 5.3 million staying guests and a further 19.9 million day visitors. It has plenty to offer families, retirees and couples looking for romantic breaks, wedding destinations, stag and hen parties and outdoor fun. With a wide availability of cottages to rent, holidays in Devon are also surprisingly affordable.
Top beaches in Devon include Blackpool Sands, one of South Devon's pristine beaches which is ideal for swimming. Wembury is a charming location in the South Hams and at low tide offers rocks for scrambling over and rock pools filled with marine life from starfish to anemones.
For surfing, the north coast of Devon has several excellent locations topped by Croyde Bay, said to be one of the best surfing spots in Europe. Neighbouring Woolacombe is an excellent choice for families as it has the perfect sand for making sandcastles. More adventurous creations can be seen in the annual sandsculpting championships held there every July.
If you are looking for breathtaking views, try the top of Haytor. If the climb does not take your breath, the views certainly will! On a clear day you can see for miles from this Dartmoor Tor. The Valley of the Rocks is an amazing rocky landscape in North Devon with steep sided valleys more in keeping with the Lord of the Rings than Tarka the Otter. If you want to cheat a little, climb to the top of the North Tower at Exeter Cathedral or ride the Plymouth Wheel to see great city views from these manmade viewpoints.
If you think Devon is boring, think again. Try geocaching or letterboxing in the wilds of Dartmoor, book a mackerel fishing trip or canter through the surf on a horse ride on the beach. The Watersports Centre on South Sands Beach offer lessons in sailing and kayaking or go wreck diving from the Teign Diving Centre.
History lovers can visit some splendid attractions on Plymouth's Barbican including the Elizabethan House and the Blackfriar's Distillery. Tours and samples of Plymouth Gin are available at this oldest working distillery in England. Nearby, boat tours are offered around the Naval Dockyard.
Cultural treats include concerts at the Plymouth Pavilions and performances at Plymouth's Theatre Royal such as the Phantom of the Opera, ahead of the national tour. The Arts Centre at beautiful Dartington Hall, National Trust properties, gardens, festivals, churches, museums and art galleries all combine to display the very best of Devon. Come and see for yourself.