Geology in Devon

Devon’s geology has shaped its landscape from the open, windswept high moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor to the rugged coastlines of rocky cliffs and sweeping bays. The underlying geology 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.

A large part of Devon’s landscape and geology are protected through national or international designations.  This includes two National Parks, five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and two World Heritage Sites.  The Jurassic Coast is the only natural World Heritage Site in England. Although these protected landscapes are important, all landscapes in Devon have qualities and characteristics that are valued by visitors.

Beer Head 10 Gun Battery

The beginning of the 19th century was a tense time in Britain, with a fear of invasion caused by political
Photo of a group of people inside Beer Quarry caves

Beer Quarry Caves

Beer Quarry Caves provide a fascinating insight into the geology of East Devon, where a unique limestone was formed on
Photo of the sea and cliffs at Hope's Nose Torquay

Hope’s Nose to Walls Hill

The coastline from Hope’s Nose north to Walls Hill shows the connection between geology and wildlife and is of national
Photo of fields, woods and hills at Codden Hill near Barnstaple

Codden Hill

Codden Hill provides an excellent vantage point from which to see the surrounding features in the landscape that are related
Photo of the beach at Daddy Hole Plain, Torquay

Daddyhole Plain

The coastal headland comprises impressive coves, cliffs, foreshore and quarry exposures. Daddyhole Cove, together with a small quarry at Triangle
Photo looking up at the granite rocks off Blackingtone Rock on Dartmoor

Blackingstone Rock

Blackingstone Rock is a large tor situated in the eastern part of Dartmoor National Park.  It exhibits many of the
Aerial photo of Morwellham Quay

Morwellham Quay

Much of the Tamar Valley in West Devon was once home to a thriving mining industry. This industry needed a
Photo looking across sand and through rocks to the sea at Barricane beach

Woolacombe to Ilfracombe

Devon’s coastline shows some spectacular geology and this is certainly true between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. Woolacombe itself is home to
Photo of a rocky beach with cliffs at Combe Martin

Combe Martin Bay to Hele Bay

Starting within Exmoor National Park, this beautiful stretch of coastline reveals some dramatic geology of the Devonian age. There are
Photo of the river Exe through fields of cows at Brampford Speke

Brampford Speke

This site is an ideal and beautiful location to see the River Exe as it snakes its way through the
Photo of the red cliffs on Sidmouth seafront with High Peak hill in the background

Sidmouth to Beer Coast

Between Sidmouth and Beer the geology is strongly influenced by a gentle easterly dip in the layers of the rocks
Photo looking across Ladram Bay in East DEvon with red cliffs and sandstone stacks

Ladram Bay to Sidmouth

The views from Ladram Bay to Sidmouth are some of the most dramatic on the East Devon coastline. Both Ladram
Landscape photo of Prawle Point showing coastal fields and rocky shore

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
Photo of the red sandstone shore and sea with cliffs behind near Orcombe Point in Exmouth

Orcombe Point to Lympstone

Orcombe Point marks the western gateway of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and its oldest rocks, dating from the
Photo inside Kents Cavern showing stalactites and stalagmites

Kents Cavern

Kents Cavern is fascinating for both its geology and human history. It boasts beautiful and spectacular geological formations and significant
Landscape photos looking across grassy mounds of the iron age hillfort Blackdown Rings

Blackdown Rings

This site provides a stunning viewpoint showing the broad geological features of the South Hams. Blackdown Rings consists of an
Photo looking down over rocky coastal cliffs towards the sea at Baggy Point

Baggy Point to Saunton

The coastline from Baggy Point south to Saunton Sands is a magnificent sight. The rocks are about 370 million years
Photo of a rocky shore and the south Devon coastline at Andurn Point near Plymouth

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.
Photo of Tavistock Town Hall

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
Photo of the River Erme running over rocks with a bridge in the background

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
Photo of the road to Burrator on Dartmoor lined with granite marker stone

Burrator Quarries

Located on the south-western edge of Dartmoor close to the impressive Burrator Reservoir are the disused Upper and Lower Burrator
Photo of granite rocks on Bellever Tor on Dartmoor

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
Photo of a bridge over a river at Merrivale


Located on the west side of Dartmoor, this site is home to a number of impressive landforms that are defined
Photo of South Brentor Church on top of the tor at Brent Tor, Dartmoor

Brent Tor

Brent Tor is one of the most impressive rock outcrops on Dartmoor. With St Michael’s Church at its top, it
Close up photo of red sandstone cliffs at Dawlish

Dawlish Warren and Cliffs

Dawlish Warren is a fascinating place. This sand spit at the mouth of the Exe Estuary is not only of
Photo of Killerton Chapel

Killerton Park

The area around Killerton shows signs of having experienced high levels of volcanic activity about 285 million years ago. Evidence
Photo of the shoreline on a pebble beach

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
Landscape photo looking along the length of the beach and road at Slapton Ley with lagoon on the left and sea on the right

Slapton Ley

The main geological feature at this wonderful site is a dramatic shingle bar running from Strete Gate south to the
Photo of trees surrounding an old quarry at Cann

Plym Bridge Quarries

Plym Bridge is easily accessed via the Drakes Trail. This is quite a gentle route for both cyclists and walkers,
Photo of sea, rocky coast and north Devon coastal cliffs at Hartland Point

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
Photo of the north Devon coast, looking out over rocks and sea at Valley of the Rocks

Lynmouth area

This area on the beautiful coast of Exmoor National Park is home to a number of fascinating geological features. To
Photo of Whitelady waterfall at Lydford Gorge

Lydford Gorge

The impressive Lydford Gorge has a depth of 35 meters, is almost 2km long and is of considerable importance for
Photo of cyclists on a trail under a viaduct on the Granite Way

The Granite Way

The Granite Way is an 11-mile cycle and walkway running between Okehampton and Lydford along the north western edge of
Photo of Exeter Cathedral

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
Photo of coastal cliffs with chalk cliffs in the background

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
Photo of red cliffs and pebble bed layer above Budleigh Salterton Beach

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
View across a rocky shore to Wembury beach


This site spans from Wembury Beach west to Wembury Point. The area has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural
Photo across a dune slack to sand dunes in the background

Braunton Burrows

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