Devon and Cornwall are neighboring counties located on a peninsula in southwest England. Seaside towns dot Devon’s two coastlines (along the Bristol Channel to the north and the English Channel to the south). Areas further inland are punctuated by rural, thatched villages. The River Tamar separates Devon from Cornwall, the southernmost county of the British Isles. Cornwall includes the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles offshore. Rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, hit hard by waves off the Atlantic, and fishing villages line the coastline. As the peninsula continues south, it narrows and eventually splits into two pincers: Lizard Peninsula ends at Lizard’s Point, the most southerly point in Britain; Penwith Peninsula ends at Land’s End, the country’s most westerly location.
WHEN TO GO
Yes, you'll be a victim of the British climate, even here, but the good news is, the farther west you travel, the warmer it gets—within reason. The Cornish climate is quite distinct, especially at the far western tip, the only place in England where palms and yuccas grow outside. There, and on the south coast of Devon, the summer is as high a season as you'll find anywhere in England—it's the best time to come, but by far the most crowded. North Devon and the moors are forbidding in winter—and even dangerous with their sudden mists and squalls—but it's among the most atmospheric landscapes in England. Many places in both counties are seasonal, though, so bear that in mind if you're thinking of a winter break. Spring is divine in Cornwall, especially for horticulturalists; in Devon, it's lambing season and blindingly green. Seasonal places begin to close in October or so, but there is leaf-watching to be savored in Devon especially; December is festive in villages and towns, as it is all over England, where Christmas is almost universally celebrated.
HOW TO GET THERE
In May 2005, Continental began a nonstop service from Newark Airport to Bristol Airport, the so-called Gateway to the Southwest of England. From here it's about an hour's drive or a short flight to Plymouth or Newquay (www.airsouthwest.com). Air Southwest also connects London's Gatwick Airport with Plymouth and Newquay, while Ryanair flies from London Stansted to Newquay (www.ryanair.com). It's also possible to catch a train from London Paddington to Devon and Cornwall. At Dawlish, there's a famous stretch of track that runs along the southern coastline below the cliffs, just above the English Channel. The train is often sprayed by waves, arriving at its destination covered in seaweed. There are murmurs that a new inland route is being considered, so experience this dramatic journey before it's too late (www.greatwesterntrains.co.uk).
Renting a car is advisable because the local railways are limited and the bus network Byzantine. You'll need a valid driver's license and a minimum of one year of driving experience. Hire companies often demand the driver is over 23 years old. Try Abbeyford Car Hire (www.abbeyfordcarhire.co.uk), Avis (www.avis.co.uk), or Hertz (www.hertz.co.uk).
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