LOOKING for a romantic spot to enjoy a first date or a landmark anniversary. Here’s 15 of our favourites:
1. Take a picnic up to Tarr Steps on Exmoor.
Tarr Steps encloses the longest medieval clapper bridge in the UK, which crosses the River Barle in a lush wooded valley.
According to ancient legend, the bridge is said to be the work of the Devil, but this didn’t discourage the Sunday Times from naming it the Top Picnic Spot in the country.
This idyllic spot is the perfect place to enjoy a sumptuous picnic and a bottle of wine, rounded off with a local ice-cream from the tiny ice-cream hut next to the river.
If you fancy a wander, 20 minutes upstream you can find some deeper pools that feature on the official Wild Swimming website as a great place to take a dip.
Stick around as the evening closes in for some romantic stargazing at the recently named first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe. Incredible astronomical wonders can be seen by the naked eye, and telescopes are available for hire at the National Park.
2. Visit the famous clifftop furnicular.
If your date isn’t scared of heights, take the cliff railway from Lynmouth up to Lynton for stunning views over Exmoor and the North Devon coast.
Plans for the railway were developed following the suggestion in an anonymous letter, and the famous funicular cliff lift, which reaches heights of over 150m, was finally completed in 1890 and has been running ever since.
The area, which was nicknamed ‘Little Switzerland’ by the Victorians, is home to wild goats, buzzards and the famously haunting Valley of Rocks. The town centre is rural and picturesque, and every Tuesday hosts a selection of quirky market stalls.
Finish up your date with a delicious Devon cream tea at the Cliff Top cafe overlooking the rolling hills and colourful beauty of Exmoor.
3. Sample local fish and chips and enjoy them with a walk along the seaside – there are many wonderful options in North Devon.
After lunch, take a stroll along one of North Devon’s beautiful beaches and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Simple, but great fun for a first date.
4. Enjoy an exciting day out at the Milky Way Adventure Park in Clovelly.
According to AskMen: “Generally, places that were fun when you were a kid make the best first dates.”
So treat your date to a ride on the Cosmic Typhoon, Devon’s tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster, and cuddle up together on the Dodgems.
If your date isn’t an adrenaline junkie, get lost in the Milky Way Maze. Take advantage of the variety of shows and demonstrations available, including archery, falconry and Britain’s Got Talent’s Merlin, as he bewilders the audience with his magical powers and death-defying tricks. Giving you plenty to enjoy and talk about, you won’t have a second to feel shy, and plenty of opportunities to get to know your companion on this memorable date!
5. Enjoy a romantic dinner at the Masons Arms in Knowstone.
The classics never lose their magic, so wine and dine your date at Michelin Pub of the Year 2010.
Receiving stellar reviews from diners and newspapers alike, this hidden gem is secluded in the foothills of Exmoor and is as famed for its sleepy country charm, wooden beams and rustic fireplaces as for the artistic presentation of its award-winning food and its superb wine list.
The food is sourced by local suppliers and the “Brill fillet with potato crust and monkfish, wrapped in prosciutto ham with salmon mousse” is particularly recommended.
During the summer, alfresco dining is offered, where you can enjoy the views of Exmoor from the elegant terrace, and round off your exquisite meal with a rich cup of coffee, homemade fudge and macaroons.
6. Visit the spectacular landscaped gardens at Castle Hill.
The majestic Palladian seat of the Fortescue family since 1454, Castle Hill is perched atop a hill overlooking the elaborate parklands of the estate.
The grounds are spacious and beautifully designed, featuring an array of Greek-style temples, statues and follies nestled in the lush labyrinth of the gardens.
Wander the peaceful groves and admire the incredible beauty of the bluebell woods, colourful flower arrangements, sunken stream and tiny waterfalls.
As evening approaches, make sure to visit the newly restored Holwell Temple, an 18th century Greek temple perched on the edge of the woods and illuminated by night.
Take advantage of the events taking place in the beautiful grounds, and buy tickets for outdoor productions, such as the recent “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” production.
Bring a picnic rug, an old-fashioned wicker hamper and a bottle of wine, and enjoy Shakespeare’s hilarious tale of romance and mystery, set in the heart of an enchanted forest. Castle Hill was well-chosen as the perfect location.
7. Take a surf lesson together at Woolacombe beach.
Voted Best British Beach by the Mail On Sunday, the three-mile stretch of unspoiled beach is backed by sandy hills and enjoys the rolling waves that draw surfers from all over the country.
Surfing lessons are available from a variety of surfing schools close by, whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a complete beginner, you’re sure to enjoy the exhilaration of catching those perfect waves just right.
Once you’ve dried off, we recommend wowing her with your barbecuing skills, and serving up some delicious summer barbecue food accompanied by a cold beer.
The beach at Woolacombe enjoys a fantastic sunset, so find a secluded spot and while away the evening with the perfect view, perfect summer food and perfect company.
8. Take a step back in time at Arlington Court, Barnstaple.
Visit the neoclassical family estate, and enjoy the beautiful gardens, picturesque lake and curious collection of souvenirs.
Miss Rosalie Chichester accumulated treasures from 1860 including delicate seashells, carved model boats and period costumes, and stored them in her intricate collection where visitors can still marvel at them today. Adjoining the house is the antique Carriage Museum, and the stables which still house the stately shire horses.
The grand estate is also home to deer, badgers and heron, and keep your eyes peeled for otters during a leisurely stroll round the atmospheric lake.
Round off your afternoon with a visit to the Old Kitchen teashop for freshly made strawberry tart and a pot of Earl Grey tea.
9. Visit the cheery seaside town of Westward Ho!
The town was named after Charles Kingsley’s bestselling novel of kidnap and adventure in the Elizabethan era, and has sprung up in recent years as a bustling centre of entertainment and watersports.
Take a stroll along the spectacular stretch of flat sand, where you can see surfers and body boarders trying to catch the waves, then head to the famous amusement arcade for some old-fashioned seaside fun and the chance to win your date a cuddly toy with the claw crane!
The coast paths around the area are spectacular, offering panoramic views of the bay, and the Crazy Golf course opposite is not to be missed.
When the sun begins to go down, head for a relaxing drink at the Westward Arms, and if you’re feeling peckish, split the renowned Sticky Toffee Pudding with toffee fudge sauce and vanilla ice-cream!
10. Hire a rowing boat and treat your date to a lazy afternoon on Roadford Lake.
Covering 730 acres, this spectacular lake is host to sailing boats and kayaks, and people from all over the area flock here for watersports, fishing and cycling.
The surrounding countryside is peaceful and lush, and the sun seems to smile on this calm stretch of water which is a local nature reserve for diverse species of fish.
The shoreside trails pass through shaded forests and meander round the marshlands, and the cycling tracks are accessible and well-maintained. After all the exercise, treat your date to an old-fashioned Sunday carvery while you admire the magnificent view.
11. Take a boat trip over to wild and windswept Lundy Island.
The isolated and unspoilt island rises out of the stunningly clear ocean, and is home to an incredible abundance of wildlife, including wild ponies, deer, and even dolphins.
The stony beach has a secret smuggler’s cave, and the island boasts an old lighthouse at each end of the island.
If you and your date are keen divers, Lundy is the UK’s first Marine Nature Reserve, and the clear water allows for breathtaking experiences up close to a diverse variety of fish, playful seals, and several accessible wrecks.
And once you’ve exhausted the bleak but spectacular scenery, retire to the cosy Marisco Tavern for a hot game stew and a pint in front of the roaring open fire. Alternatively, sample the island’s freshly caught crab or lobster dishes.
12. Enjoy a cream tea at Fremington Quay
The hidden gem that is Fremington Quay Cafe is situated on the site of the old train station on the Instow to Barnstaple leg of the Tarka Trail.
Depending on the weather, you can sit outside with a delightful cream tea for two and look out on to the River Taw.
It is rarely quiet and the friendly welcome from staff explains why people keep coming back.
Even if it turns out to be a drab day, there is plenty to do inside. The walls of the cafe are enveloped in pictures of the quay which will take you on a journey back in time to Fremington in its heyday.
13. Wander around Exmoor Zoo
Who says zoos are for kids? Take a step back in to childhood by visiting Exmoor Zoo in Bratton Fleming.
Immerse yourself in the natural landscapes that they pride themselves on which are home to over 600 animals including monkeys, parrots, alpacas and various others.
You could wow your date by booking a Walk on the Wild Side experience which includes a walk around the zoo with staff who will let you get up close and personal with a variety of animals which will vary depending on the season.
14. Walk hand in hand around Rosemoor Gardens
This 65-acre garden really captures the beauty that is North Devon. RHS Rosemoor plays host to a luscious variety of both formal and informal gardens and features plenty of beautiful walks. it is worth a visit just to experience the breathtaking views of the countryside.
If you’re peckish, take a stroll to the Garden Kitchen and grab a bite to eat. The produce is all either from the gardens themselves or from a local source so you really get a taste of North Devon.
If you don’t fancy a meal, venture to the Wisteria Tea Room which is located within Lady Anne’s garden and treat your date to drinks, ice creams and real Devonshire cream teas.
15. Cycle the Tarka Trail
If you’re a cycling enthusiast or just curious to explore, cycling the Tarka Trail is a fun way to spend an afternoon with a special friend.
The trail is largely made up of old railway lines so the trail is not too strenuous to explore by bicycle if you’re not confident.
You’ll be spoilt for choice during this unique experience. The vast array of Cycle hire shops are located in Barnstaple, Braunton, Torrington, Ilfracombe and Petrockstowe and you can hire out bicycles for half a day or a full day, depending on how far you want to go.
You can stop to refuel at many points during the trail, particular highlights include Yarde Orchard Cafe which is situated near Torrington just by the Tarka Trail and has plenty of organic items to choose from. The menu includes The Cyclist’s Breakfast which features delightful combination of organic and locally sourced produce.