Landscape in Devon

Devon has a diverse and special landscape, ranging from the open, windswept high moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor, the rugged coastlines of rocky cliffs and sweeping bays, secluded valleys, rolling hills of traditionally managed farmland, and settlements and buildings displaying its rich historic character. This variety is why so many people choose to visit and live in Devon.

However, landscape is more than just scenery; it is formed and influenced by a number of factors. Climate has played a role influencing how the land has been farmed and the plants that grow, and people have changed the landscape over the centuries through farming and by housing, roads and rail lines, and other modern developments. However, it is the underlying geology that influences the soils and the plants that grow, and the building materials that local communities have used. The hills, valleys and estuaries have been shaped by the geology and they in turn have shaped the pattern of human settlement we see today.

The uplands are dominated by the granite of Dartmoor and the sandstones, slates and other sedimentary rocks of Exmoor. Both of our National Parks have been strongly influenced by a period of mountain building caused by tectonic plate collision.

In the central belt of the county the Culm Measures of Carboniferous age, laid down between 290 and 354 million years ago. In contrast, limestone can be found along the south coast which dates back to the Devonian Period (417 – 354 million years ago), now supporting species rich grasslands and providing homes for the largest breeding colony of guillemots in southern England. Inland the iconic red soils are caused by the presence of iron oxide, laid down in the arid desert conditions of the Permian and Triassic periods, 290 to 206 million years ago.

Devon’s quality landscapes and geology are protected through national or international designations, and include two National Parks, five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and two World Heritage Sites, the Jurassic Coast being the only natural site in England. Although these protected landscapes are important, all landscapes in Devon have qualities and characteristics that are valued by visitors.

The geological processes that have shaped our county are still at work today, and our landscape is continually evolving and changing. Landscapes can offer aesthetic enjoyment, escapism, tranquillity, and a sense of belonging to an area with a distinct natural and cultural identity. Many landscapes in Devon inspire artists, writers and photographers whose work is enjoyed by all ages.

As you travel around Devon you are able to visit many places that reflect the County’s diverse and intriguing landscape.

 

Photo by Guy Wareham

Blackingstone Rock

Blackingstone Rock is a large tor situated in the eastern part of Dartmoor National Park.  It exhibits many of the typical…

(C) B Gamble-Cornwall County Council

Morwellham Quay

Much of the Tamar Valley in West Devon was once home to a thriving mining industry. This industry needed a transport…

Barricane Beach by Pauline E

Woolacombe to Ilfracombe

Devon’s coastline shows some spectacular geology and this is certainly true between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe.

Woolacombe itself is home to an impressive…

Combe Martin Bay by Sarah Charlesworth

Combe Martin Bay to Hele Bay

Commencing within Exmoor National Park, this beautiful stretch of coastline reveals some dramatic geology of the Devonian age. There are a…

The River Exe by Bill Boaden

Brampford Speke

This site is an ideal and beautiful location to see the River Exe as it snakes its way through the Exe…

Sidmouth by Derek Harper

Sidmouth to Beer Coast

Between Sidmouth and Beer the geology is strongly influenced by a gentle easterly dip in the layers of the rocks that…

Ladram Bay by Robin Lucas

Ladram Bay to Sidmouth

The views from Ladram Bay to Sidmouth are some of the most dramatic on the East Devon coastline. Both Ladram Bay…

Photo by Derek Harper
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Start Point to Prawle Point

Start Point to Prawle Point is a truly beautiful stretch of south Devon coastline. It is underlain by rocks that are…

Beer Quarry Caves by John Scott

Beer Quarry Caves

Beer Quarry Caves provide a fascinating insight into the geology of East Devon, where a unique limestone was formed on the…

Sandstone near Orcombe Point by David Dixon

Orcombe Point to Lympstone

Orcombe Point marks the western gateway of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and its oldest rocks, dating from the early…

Kents Cavern by Sarah Charlesworth

Kents Cavern

Kents Cavern is fascinating for both its geology and human history. It boasts beautiful and spectacular geological formations and significant prehistoric…

Blackdown Rings by Derek Harper

Blackdown Rings

This site provides a stunning viewpoint showing the broad geological features of the South Hams.

Blackdown Rings consists of an Iron Age…

Baggy Point by Alan Bowring

Baggy Point to Saunton

The coastline from Baggy Point south to Saunton Sands is a magnificent sight. The rocks are about 370 million years old…

Andurn Point by Derek Harper

Plymouth Sound, shores and cliffs

This magnificent coastal section runs along the eastern side of Plymouth Sound from Andurn Point northwards to Mount Batten Point. As…

Photo by Malc McDonald

Tavistock and Tavistock Railway Cutting

Tavistock, originally founded in 974 AD with the building of the Benedictine Abbey, has been greatly influenced by the local geology….

Photo by John Goodall

Ivybridge and the Erme Valley

The areas of Ivybridge Town and the valley of the River Erme to the north and south are very interesting for…

Road to Burrator by Mick Lobb

Burrator Quarries

Located on the south-western edge of Dartmoor close to the impressive Burrator Reservoir are the disused Upper and Lower Burrator Quarries.

The…

Bellever Tor by Stephen Craven

Bellever Tor and Higher Cherrybrook Brid..

Situated in the centre of Dartmoor National Park, the area around Bellever Tor is easily accessible and is a popular site…

Disused bridge at Merrivale by Brett Sutherland

Merrivale

Located on the west side of Dartmoor, this site is home to a number of impressive landforms that are defined by…

Photo by Chris Downe

Brent Tor

Brent Tor is one of the most impressive rock outcrops on Dartmoor. With St Michael’s Church at its top, it makes…

Photo by Craig Dixon

Dawlish Warren and Cliffs

Dawlish Warren is a fascinating place. This sand spit at the mouth of the Exe Estuary is not only of geological…

Photo by SJB

Barley Grove and Torrington Common

The beauty of this site is in its views. Standing at the viewpoint on Great Torrington Common, you can look south…

Photo by Sarah Charlesworth

Killerton Park

The area around Killerton shows signs of having experienced high levels of volcanic activity about 285 million years ago. Evidence of…

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Westward Ho! Cliffs and Northam Burrows

The Westward Ho! cliffs provide a good section of a raised beach platform well above the level of the present beach….

Photo by Derek Harper

Slapton Ley

The key geological feature at this wonderful site is a dramatic shingle bar running from Strete Gate south to the village…

Photo - Ron Strutt

Plym Bridge Quarries

Plym Bridge is easily accessed via the Drakes Trail. This is quite a gentle route for both cyclists and walkers, heading…

Photo by Maurice Budden

Hartland Point to Hartland Quay

Part of the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this stretch of coastline is one of the most dramatic in…

Photo by Ruth Sharville

Lynmouth area

This area on the beautiful coast of Exmoor National Park is home to a number of fascinating geological features.

To the west…

(C) Rob Wilcox - geograph.org.uk
3miles

Lydford Gorge geology

The impressive Lydford Gorge has a depth of 35 meters, is almost 2km long and is of considerable importance for interpreting…

GraniteWay5
11miles/
18kms

The Granite Way

The Granite Way is an 11-mile cycle and walkway running between Okehampton and Lydford along the north western edge of Dartmoor….

(C) Julian P Guffog licenced for reuse - Wikimedia Commons

Exeter City Walls and Cathedral

Over 70% of the wall that once protected Exeter still remains and reveals a lot about the geology of the area….

Copyright Tony Atkin - Licenced for reuse - see geograph.org.uk

Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliffs

This magnificent 304 hectare nature reserve, managed by Natural England, offers dramatic coastal scenery and is of international importance for its…

(C) Richard Edmonds

Budleigh Salterton Cliffs and the Otter ..

The cliffs in the western part of Budleigh Salterton expose the full thickness of the Lower Triassic Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds….

Copyright Steve Daniels - Licenced for reuse - see geograph.org.uk

Berry Head to Sharkham Point

This dramatic stretch of coastline is of tremendous geological, historical, ecological and landscape importance.

Berry Head is a large headland of Devonian-age…

Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse - see geograph.org.uk

Wembury

This site spans from Wembury Beach west to Wembury Point. The area has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty…

© Dietmar Rabich via Wikimedia Commons

Braunton Burrows

Braunton Burrows is a dramatic series of sand dunes located at the mouth of the Taw-Torridge Estuary and is one of…