Great ideas for a free family day out in Devon

10:11 11 May 2022

10:19 am May 11, 2022

While many families watch their budgets, KATE LORD BROWN shares 20 best free ideas for family fun this summer

Summer is the perfect time to explore the South West Coast Trail.
– Credit: Becky Dickinson

1. Unique among English counties, Devon is blessed with two stunning coastlines, and summer is the perfect time to explore the South West Coast Path. Starting from Minehead and crossing Exmoor, you can explore North Devon’s new World Surf Reserve.

A sunny Devon river under a green canopy.

Wild swimming is a great day out for all ages.
– Credit: Kate Lord Brown

2. I learned to swim splashing around in the summer rivers of central Devon, and wild swimming is a great day out for all ages, especially with a picnic at home. See here for some of the best spots across the county.

3. Learn about foraging – Wild Food UK has a free plant guide where you can learn all about identifying the amazing food in our hedgerows and shores this summer, from glasswort to wild strawberries.

4. Try volunteering – volunteers make a difference in their community, meet new people, gain skills and experience. Devon Voluntary Action has links with over 4,000 organisations. See here for ideas on opportunities across the county this summer.

5. Getting fit this summer doesn’t need an expensive gym membership – with a pair of trainers and the free NHS program Couch to 5k you can be up and running across the Devon countryside in no time. The nine-week program for complete beginners gently guides you towards your goal of running regularly.

A mare and her pony.

Enjoy a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the Mare and Foal Sanctuary.
– Credit: Mare and Foal Sanctuary

6. Meet the ponies at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, Combe Park, open days. Enjoy a guided behind-the-scenes tour and learn about their life-changing horse-assisted learning program. See here to book free events.

7. Climb to Dunkery Beacon and enjoy breathtaking views from the highest point on Exmoor.

8. Or the Dartmoor Walking Festival is running a series of guided walks this summer (donation to Devon Air Ambulance, U16s free)

9. The Bro Project works to help men’s mental health. Join one of their free monthly sessions at the BroGolf driving range at Bovey Tracey Golf Centre, Newton Abbott. See here to book this and their monthly Bench Press sessions at Seale Hayne.

Red facade of the exterior of the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter.

RAMM has a program of summer events
– Credit: to Exeter

10. Check out your local museum – I always loved visiting the giraffe at RAMM when I was a kid. Go here to find out about their summer activities (free entry).

110. Meanwhile in Plymouth, The Box is a jaw-dropping day out – try out their fake TV studio and visit Devon icon Guy Honeybun in the Media Lab!

12. The spectacular Dartmouth Regatta is a whole week of fun and free entertainment. Watch over 250 yachts entered in sailing races, cheer on road racers, enjoy live music and fireworks. Regatta week begins August 20, 2022 – visit the Dartmouth Visitor Center for more information.

A family of cyclists standing by a modern art scuoite on the Tarka Trail bike path.

The Tarka Trail is one of many amazing traffic-free trails in Devon.
– Credit: Neville Stanikk/VisitDevon

12. Dust off your bike – we’re blessed with some great traffic-free trails in Devon. Try the 31 mile stretch from Meeth to Braunton of the Tarka Trail.

13. We have always loved the Exe Estuary Cycle Route with the kids, starting at Darts Farm. There are also free guided walks on the Wray Valley Trail.

Under the canopy of a Devon forest.

Try restorative forest baths.
– Credit: Kate Lord Brown

14. Head into the woods and try restorative forest bathing. Or join one of Forestry England’s free weekly ‘Active Forest’ guided walks in Haldon Forest. Enjoy guest lectures and themed walks on everything from mindfulness to fossils.

15. Check out that craft project you wanted to complete and join Make Southwest for their free Wednesday weaving sessions at Riverside Mill, Bovey Tracey. Monthly sessions are for all ages and walks of life, a chance to come together around sewing, knitting, mending and tailoring.

16. Explore the Barbican, the historic old port of Plymouth. There’s so much to see from the winding cobblestone lanes to the Mayflower Steps. Next, head to Hoe Park to see the famous Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse.

The front of Buckfast Abbey.

Experience the serenity and tranquility of Buckfast Abbey and its beautiful gardens.
– Credit: Buckfast Abbey

17. To calm a stressful mind, experience the serenity and tranquility of Buckfast Abbey and its beautiful gardens – free parking and entry.

18. Or try a free mindfulness and meditation app – I love Insight Timer.

A green houseboat on a canal.

The Grand Western Canal stretches over eleven miles.
– Credit: Kate Lord Brown

19. Explore the Grand Western Canal – stretching over 11 miles, it’s a great day out and an easy family outing through beautiful countryside. Keep an eye out for one of the last remaining horse-drawn barges in the country.

20. Play on the Pier – Head to Paignton July 23-31 for the Festival (Torbay Carnival Week) and enjoy live music, fireworks and more.

Red brick exterior of Exeter Library.

The Exeter Library is a completely free community space.
– Credit: Kate Lord Brown

Many in the library

“First and foremost, the library is a completely free community space,” says Callum Elliot-Archer of Exeter Library. “You can use us as a place to study for an exam, meet your friends during your lunch breaks, bring your children to play in our children’s library or find a quiet corner to read your favorite book.

“We have public access computers that people can use completely free of charge and access to printing. Our teen space recently launched and is the perfect place to hang out, browse our young adult books, or play a few Mario Kart games on our Nintendo Switch.

“We also have free resources available for those wanting to start their own business, including 1-1 experts and market research programs that would be worth thousands of pounds.

“Our events program runs year-round, which means you’re never far from a major event taking place within the library. We regularly host Bounce and Rhyme sessions for families with young children, story time, computer drop-off and job clubs.

Visitors to a gallery looking for art.

The Thelma Hulbert Gallery hosts an inspiring exhibition program of contemporary arts and crafts.
– Credit: Thelma Hubert Gallery

great at the gallery

Be arty – in Honiton, The Thelma Hulbert Gallery hosts an inspiring exhibition program of contemporary arts and crafts, alongside a permanent collection of works by artist Thelma Hulbert. There is a learning room for children to get creative and a beautiful garden perfect for picnics. Check their website for free art activities for families.

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