Free family days out in Devon this summer

Pack your picnics: we’ve put together a list of eleven fabulous and free family days out in Devon this summer. Whether you’re visiting Devon or lucky enough to live here, we’ve enough free events and activities to keep you going all summer, plus ideas for free days out in Devon, all year round.

Dartmouth Regatta Days out in Devon

1. Revel in a Devon regatta
On most Devon summer weekends there’ll be a regatta on somewhere. It’s a great day (or week) of entertainment: time spent at the water’s edge in a pretty town, with exciting watersports to watch, and plenty to keep the crowds happy between races.
Bigger Devon regattas coming up include: Port of Plymouth (July 20-28); Teignmouth (July 29-August 4); Salcombe Town (August 4-10); Frogmore Village (August 18); Shaldon (August 19-25); Brixham (August 21-23); Torbay Week (August 23-28); and Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta (August 29-31).

2. Party at Dawlish Carnival
During Dawlish Carnival Week (August 10-17) this South Devon town shows that it sure knows how to party. During its week-long carnival there’s loads going on, including the flamboyant main carnival procession and a display from the Red Arrows that most watch from the promenade. Also check out Dawlish Air Show (August 23-24).
Official Devon tip: There are free children’s activities and entertainment from 2-4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer at Dawlish Warren, and on Thursday August 22 the entertainment continues with fireworks and live music from 7pm-9pm.

3. Get on a bike trail
There are fantastic cycling and walking trails across Devon, most of which publish free maps and suggested routes online. And if you don’t have your own, you can hire bikes for everyone – including tandems, trikes and all kinds of carts and seats for kids – from centres along the way. Three great trails to try: The Granite Way (also here) on Dartmoor, which crosses over two stunning viaducts; Haldon Forest Park near Exeter, which has themed family walking and off-road biking trails; and the Tarka Trail in North Devon, which runs along the coast and inland too.

4. Chillax on Summer Sundays in Exeter
Sit back with your sandwiches and be entertained on Exeter’s Quay. From now until September 1 enjoy Summer Sundays: jazz sets from some of the South West’s top bands, and family street theatre performances (including magic, juggling, clowning and balloon art), all near the Transit Shed (plenty to do there, too) from 12– 4pm.

5. Enjoy a freebie Devon festival
There are lots of village fetes and free festivals in Devon throughout the summer, like Hatherleigh Festival. From July 25-28 this lovely mid-Devon town is laying on music, exhibitions, workshops and parades, with most being free or low-cost (though it’s nice to throw some change in a collection bucket to show your appreciation).
Find more family fairs and festivals in Devon

6. Go on a bear (ok then, bird) hunt
Head for Wistlandpound Reservoir on Exmoor for a spot of nature watching. There’s a lovely walk around the water’s edge, plus bird hides dotted around, and plenty of picnic spots. Then stop at the natural play area with wooden tree snakes, mushroom carvings and tree dens. You’ll have to pay to park, but entry is free. There are similar free nature reserves all over Devon – follow the links at the foot of the page for more info.

7. Use your Imaginarium
Experience a traditional seaside sideshow at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, voted Museum of the Year in 2012. On August 10 from 11am-4pm the Imaginarium marquee will be on the museum’s lawn with attractions including a flea circus, story telling, and Try Your Strength machine. The RAMM also has fascinating exhibitions and collections that’ll interest the whole family, plus an award-winning cafe.

8. Meet a donkey
Visit the residents of The Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth; a lucky bunch of around 400 animals who are being looked after by this excellent charity. Entry and parking are free, and visitors can spend as much time as they like meeting the donkeys and taking strolls along its lovely field walks with self-guided summer nature trails (each guide is £1).

9. Inspire the family foodies
Want to be immersed in the Plough to Plate experience? At Occombe Farm, a working farm on the edge of Paignton, there are farm animals, a fruit and vegetable garden, a visitor centre, nature trails running through a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a play park, farm shop and cafe.

10. Watch jaw-dropping fireworks
Once again Plymouth is hosting the two-day British Fireworks Championships, from August 13-14. The spectacular displays will start at dusk (around 9.30pm; this is one for families with older kids), but from 6pm there’ll be music, entertainment, stalls and a funfair at Plymouth Hoe.

11. Go on a treasure hunt
Download the Discovery Trail Gara Rock 2014, a quiz/treasure hunt (with prizes to be won) to help the family enjoy and explore Gara Rock at East Portlemouth in South Devon.

Find more free days out in South Devon, The English RivieraNorth Devon and Exmoor, Dartmoor, Plymouth, and Exeter and East Devon

By <a href=””>Stef Fox Adcock</a>