Every year we pick a county in the UK to visit and spend our days at all the local attractions to bring you the best, unrivaled, reviews.
This year we chose to stay closer to home in Devon as there are plenty of hidden gems that deserve a mention.
Here’s our list of the best days out in Devon attractions, in our humble opinion.
This hidden gem is amazing. We didn’t know what to expect which is probably why we were so bowled over. We were greeted by staff in barrels who took our money before giving us a wristband. It was busy and the crowd pulled us through the eclectic collection of memorabilia in the castle. It began with robots singing and took us through history which was great for sowing the children how kitchens used to be. There was one 1920’s room that had a few things out of place! Then the real delight started, the penny and tuppence machines. They have change machines everywhere so this was fantastic and the machines weren’t simply one armed bandits. There were alsorts I remember from childhood along with many more. Fortune tellers (like the one from BIG with Tom Hanks), clown dancing, tank riding, Noddy’s house, duck racing, and even the naughty peeping Tom machines. It was an absolute delight, all mixed in with eras of history.
Through the tunnels we went, avoiding the dungeon because of the children we emerged in a sunlit garden that smelled of fresh honeysuckle. There was a water show on that we caught and then we followed the trail that would lead us to Adventure Land or Gnome Land. We chose the first.
Adventure Land is amazing, there’s so muich to see and do but just like the rest of the castle, it doesn’t rely on electric and technology to entertain. We loved the games such as the Maze, the locks, the flowrpot men and the swing boats and with every corner we turned we found even more to enjoy.
We won’t spoil it all as there’s much more to discover but in our eyes this is a very clear winner. The children came home feeling closer than ever after a great family day out, I returned with inspiration for my secret garden and my husband returned with an exhausted smile and a promise to go back. What more could you ask for?
I am intrigued to know, if, like The Forbidden Corner in North Yorkshire we reviewed a few years ago, this is the brainchild of one person that has developed into an attraction. It all seems rather personal.
The first time we visited Crealy in Devon we were bowled over. It is much smaller than theme parks we’re used to such as Flamingo Land and Alton Towers but that didn’t seem to matter. Every single area had a purpose and something to see and do, from the outside play areas to Maximus, the rollercoaster and the petting zoo. The second time we visited the weather wasn’t so kind and we spent time in the indoor play area, a section we’d missed the previous time, with so much to do outside. This was a little disappointing, pretty dirty and smelly but the kids seemed to enjoy it. It makes second place as the petting zoo alongside feeding the goats outside, the waterslides and the free panning for gold make it a great day out on a sunny day, not so great when it rains!
Summary: Great on a sunny day
The Big Sheep
The Big Sheep is a great day out and has a lot more to offer than you may imagine. From duck racing to sheep races, sheepdog trials and lamb feeding there’s something for everyone at the Big Sheep. Matt the farmer is easy on the eye and guaranteed to raise a smile while the animals are all well looked after and tame enough for strokes. We loved feeding the lambs, riding the ponies and floating on pedalos and we’re looking forward to going back for more.
Summary: Well worth a visit, TWICE
The Tunnels Ilfracombe
The tunnels at Ifracombe are not an attraction per se as they don’t have the usual rides and entertainment but they deserve a mention and third place due to the splendid day we spent there for very little money. The history of the tunnels is intirguing while the rock pools are second to none. The cafe serves delicious seafood and the facilities are spotless. A grey shingle type beach, it’s not for sunbathing and sandcastle building but it is a great day out rockpooling for all the family.
Summary: Somewhere different to soak up the sun while partaking in a little rockpooling fun
The Milky Way is our go to place when it’s a rainy day. We’ve visited many times now and seem to find something new everytime we go. From the owl displays to the indoor play area to the sporadic entertainment and the alien ride, there’s more to Milky Way than meets the eye. Unfortunately on our last visit one of our child reviewers suffered horrific, serious injuries on the Death Slide. As we’ve been told that many attractions have these death slides, we’re not marking Milky Way down for this. Their first aid team helped brilliantly. We would give advice though to any children going on these sheer drops (I certainly wouldn’t, I’d rather jump off my own house!) make sure you wear clothes covering ALL your body. Keep arms tucked in and don’t wriggle or move once you start your descent.
Milky Way told us this is the first accident in 25 years so we’re loathe to pursue it but it did put our reviewer and the family out of action for a good few weeks.
Luckily there is much more to explore at Milky Way, such as the rollercoasters, little stars and outdoor bouncing pillows.
This is another attraction that claims to be the best day out in Devon (see Woodlands Theme Park) and although it’s fun, it does have quite a way to go before it can claim this title. The gift shop is pretty dire, while there are empty areas of no interest and the atmosphere seems stale sometimes, which reminds you you’re basically in a huge warehouse. Outdoors, the rollercoasters are fun but they look as if they’ve been dumped in a car park like when the fair comes to town. It needs more but does offer good space and activity on a rainy day!
We were intrigued by this as reviewers had complained about the steep walks and the hills. We found nothing of the sort. There was so much to see that the hills weren’t noticeable at all and access with a pushchair was easy. Our favourite parts , the Dinosaurs waking up on the hour, every hour (see our video) and the lion talks. (See image) . A great fun day out for all.
Summary: A great day out had by all
Woodlands Theme Park
We liked Woodlands Theme Park but we’re confused about their advertising that says it is the best day out in the galaxy. In fact it was quite restrictive. When we visited, with 1 adult and 3 children, we looked forward to the water slides and rides. As it was, we couldn’t go on many of the attractions as the age ranges meant we’d always leave one child behind. Our 4 year old couldn’t go on the water slides even with an adult, while our 11 and 15 year old couldn’t play in the same areas as our 4 year old. Quite disappointing but we will try again and next time visit with two adults so we can divide and conquer.
Summary: We need to visit again to make up our minds here.
There’s something quite absent about choosing any aquarium for a full day out, as they rarely offer enough entertainment for a full day. Plymouth Aquarium is no different, especially with a toddler who has no interest in reading the information. It’s an impressive collection but still, like others, needs extra ways to interact with visitors. The addition of beacons and some good proximity marketing would go a long way here.
Summary: Not a full day out but still worth a visit. Check out the Rockfish restaurant for great seafood.
Paignton Zoo makes it to the bottom of this list due to the appalling customer service. We put every theme park through its paces and only revealed our visit less than 12 hours before we turned up. For some, we didn’t reveal ourselves at all. The snotty reply we received from Paigntons PR company for the short notice was pretty disgusting and left us with quite the bitter taste in our mouths.
The zoo itself was fine. Quite sad in parts while the train, you pay to go on, was a HUGE disappointment. The outdoor play area was unsuitable for toddlers and the dessert consisted of two ants and a cactus. The service in the food hall was just as bad as the PR company while the food was covered in wasps and inedible.
Plus points? The ice creams were nice, the gift shop impressive and the gorilla was a lovely sight to see, alongside the elephant who seemed lonely (and had no water resevoir to play in) . There didn’t seem to be any opportunities to interact with the animals unless you paid a hefty price.
The video of this sheep sums it up for us. Do try not to laugh!
Summary: Needs more opportunities to interact and some nicer people running the show.
The World of Country Wildlife
The entrance to the World of Country Wildlife is great, Happy, smiling people and a step back in time as you are taken to the outside. Outside there are play areas and rusty slides along with a train ride to see the llamas, which we hopped on. The llamas seemed pretty uncomfortable and covered with flies which could have been solved with a little oil. It was great to get close though and to see the mighty stag in the field beyond.
The birds of prey are worth a visit but the buck stops there as the customer service is dire. The food is disgusting (see below) while the prices are extortionate for simple drinks and the faces behind the counters are quite simply terrifying.
Summary: An OK day out but needs a good clean and a staff overhaul.
Other Attractions – Not a Full Day Out
You can spend an hour viewing many many gnomes while pretending to fish in a pond, just as a gnome does. What’s not to love?
Great if you’d also like to shop for a bargain, some brilliant shops (the usual suspects, Holland and Barrett outlet, Cadbury, Asda, Gap) and some fine outdoor fun on a pirate ship. You can also choose bowling at the small alley and enjoy a nice coffee at Costa.
This visit took thirty minutes and that’s with a 15 minute stroll around the gift shop. I think we must have missed something?
A great few hours can be had for free at Bideford park in the summer. Directly on the waterside, there are huge parks alongside an outdoor swimming pool in the warmer weather.