‘Devon is the new Gloucestershire,’ claims Bruce Tolmie-Thomson of Knight Frank, ‘Now people are able to work further from their office, they don’t mind going the extra distance’. And the ‘extra distance’ is in fact only 27 minutes ? a train journey from London Paddington to Tiverton takes 1 hour 55 as opposed to the 1 hour 28 min it takes to get from Paddington to Stroud.
For this extra 27 minutes reading your paper, you will live in the mildest climate in England, have the choice of two coastlines (Channel and Atlantic), two moors (Dartmoor and Exmoor) and plenty of rolling hills, high-hedged lanes and dense forest. ‘It is a very good time for buyers to purchase as the outlook is optimistic,’ says Graham Adam of Knight Frank, Exeter, ‘London has been a major influence on the county for at least ten years with many people spending long weekends in Devon’.
No part of Devon is further than 25 miles from the sea, and for this reason the county has always been popular with the sailing fraternity. Salcombe and Dartmouth draw a London crowd throughout the year, but have lost none of their original charm: Michelin starred restaurants, good shops and galleries exist happily alongside local pubs and businesses. ‘The southern riverside and estuary areas are always popular,’ says Richard Addington of Savills, Exeter, ‘They are still perceived to be unspoilt’.
The area to the east of Exeter is particular popular with those who want to travel to London on a regular basis. ‘Exeter is a very nice local centre,’ says Addington, adding that from his desk he can see hills in the distance. Much of the post-war town centre has been pulled down and developers are currently remodelling six acres of the city centre near to the Cathedral and historic close. First-rate schools, period housing and good communications make the city an appealing base. Addington describes Plymouth as also ‘On the climb up,’ with a similar rejuvenation projects taking place in the town centre.
But Devon’s rural reputation is what attracts many buyers and if it is this you are looking for, the fringes of Dartmoor and the north of the county are good places to find property. The pretty moorland town of Chagford is a fashionable centre with enchanting shops, pubs and easy access to open moorland. A number of country-loving celebrities have settled in the surrounding area which is also home to Gidleigh Park, one of the most highly rated small luxury hotels in the world.
The areas around the north coast towns of Linton, Ilfracombe and Appledore are also becoming increasingly sought after. ‘The North is on the up in a lower profile way,’ says Addington, ‘The population is smaller and there is not so much property’.
By all accounts, the property market in Devon had a difficult time a couple of years back, but, as the popularity of the county in searches on Countrylife.co.uk indicates, the market in Devon is more competitive than it has ever been. ‘Prices fell back in line after huge increases when we got rather ahead of ourselves’, says Addington, ‘But we are now seeing a healthy market and more supply is beginning to appear with more realistic prices’.
Graham Adam agrees: ‘Good houses are selling extremely fast,’ he explains, ‘There aren’t many bargains left’.
Devon long houses, made of cob with thatched roofs can be found throughout the county. In these properties the floor plan is linear rather than centralised, with rooms often connecting to one another without hallways. Later farmhouses tend to be made of stone, red brick or granite (in the Dartmoor area) with centralised floor plans, slate roofs and large windows. Formerly an important mercantile centre, Devon has a surprising large array of period houses. Tudor, Queen Anne and Georgian houses can be found in rural locations across the country with many villages boosting a period vicarage as well as couple of architecturally interesting larger houses.
Plymouth, Paignton, Torquay, Exeter, Exmouth, Dartmouth, Sidmouth, Newton Abbot, Barnstaple, Salcombe, Teignmouth, Ilfracombe.
Train: Paddington to Plymouth three hours. Paddington to Exeter two hours. Gatwick to Plymouth 1hr 5min direct. Plymouth is 221 miles from central London, via the M4, M5 and A38; Exeter is 174 miles, via the M4 and M5.
West Buckland School, Barnstaple (01598 760281). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.westbuckland.devon.sch.uk
Shebbear College, Beaworthy (01409 281228). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.shebbearcollege.co.uk
Grenville College, Bideford (01237 472212). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.grenville.devon.sch.uk
Bramdean Grammar School, Exeter (01392 273387). Co- educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.bramdeanschool.co.uk
Exeter School (01392 273679). Co- educational, age range 7-18, day. www.exeterschool.devon.sch.uk
The Maynard School, Exeter (01392 273417). Girls only, ages 7-18, day. www.maynard.co.uk
Plymouth College (01752 203300). Co- educational, age range 7-18, day and boarding. www.plymouthcollege.com
Kelly College, Tavistock (01822 612010). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.kellycollege.com
Blundell’s School, Tiverton (01884 252543). Co-educational, age range 13-18, day and boarding. www.blundells.org
Golf courses: Saunton, Braunton (01271 812436). Royal North Devon, Westward Ho! (01237 473824). Woodbury Park, Woodbury (01395 233382).
Hunts: the Tiverton, the Dartmoor, the South Devon, the Spooners and West Dartmoor, the East Devon, the Stevenstone, the Lamerton, the Eggesford, the Dulverton East, the Dulverton West and the Tetcott.
Staghounds: the Tiverton, the Devon and Somerset.
Yacht clubs: the North Devon Yacht Club, the Brixham Yacht Club, the Royal Dart Yacht Club, the Royal Western Yacht Club of England, the Island Cruising Club at Salcombe and the Royal Torbay Yacht Club.
Fishing: rivers Dart, Exe, Otter, Teign, Taw and Torridge.
Country pubs: The Dartmoor Inn Lydford, 01822 820221. The Drew Arms, Broadhembury 01404 841267. Masons Arms, Branscombe 01297 680 300. The Digger’s Rest, Woodbury Salterton 01395 232375.
Newton Abbot Races Ltd, Newton Abbot, TQ12 3AF, Exeter Racecourse, Exeter, EX6 7XS