Cornwall or Devon: which is better for holidays?

Cornwall or Devon: which is better for holidays? 

It’s a question that many people find themselves asking when planning a trip to South West England. 

Both counties have a lot to offer, from beautiful beaches to stunning countryside, and it can be difficult to decide which one to choose! 

I should know – I live in Devon, but my family are very passionately Cornish! 

In this post, we’ll compare Cornwall and Devon in different categories to help you make an informed decision.

Cornwall beaches vs Devon beaches

Rock Beach and the Camel Estuary, Cornwall, UK' during the summer heatwave.

Winner: Cornwall

Both Cornwall and Devon have beautiful beaches, but Cornwall has to take the crown when it comes to the number and variety of beaches on offer. 

From the popular surfing beach of Fistral in Newquay to the secluded coves of Kynance Cove and Porthcurno, there’s a beach for everyone in Cornwall!

Devon has some great beaches too, including Woolacombe and Bantham, but in my opinion, they can’t quite compete with Cornwall’s selection.

Cornwall vs Devon for nature

solitary white wild horse in Dartmoor at sunset

Winner: Devon

Devon is known for its stunning natural beauty, with two national parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor, and the beautiful Jurassic Coast

It’s the perfect destination for anyone who loves hiking, cycling, and other outdoor activities!

Cornwall has plenty of natural beauty too; Bodmin Moor is a highlight and, of course, the rugged cliffs are enchanting, but Devon swings it when it comes to the variety of nature on offer. 

Cornwall or Devon for cities

Travelling at Old center of Exeter (Devon), UK

Winner: Devon

If you’re looking for a city break, Devon is the clear winner. The county has two great cities, Exeter and Plymouth. In Exeter, you’ll find one of the UK’s best Cathedrals, Medieval tunnels and a gorgeous quay

Plymouth is famous for its nautical history – you can enjoy the Barbican, coastal walks, museums and the world’s oldest continuously operating gin distillery

Cornwall, on the other hand, has only one city, Truro, which is much smaller and quieter. There are still a few things to do here, but you can easily see it in a day!

Devon or Cornwall villages

Scenery of Polperro, with big rock in background and beach in foreground. The rock, Chapel Rock, is one of the best hidden gems in Cornwall.

Winner: Cornwall

Both Devon and Cornwall have wonderful villages – Cornwall’s most picturesque are Port Isaac, Polperro and Mousehole. These charming villages are full of character, with narrow streets, colourful houses and plenty of history – much of which involves smuggling. 

Devon has some lovely villages too (with smuggling history!) like Clovelly and Cockington, but for me they don’t quite match the charm of Cornwall’s villages.

Pro tip: Cornish fishing villages are idyllic in the winter, when they see far fewer tourists! 

Cornish or Devonian food

Delicious Authentic Cornish Pasties

Winner: Cornwall

This category is a tough one, as both counties are known for their great food. 

However, Cornwall just edges it with its famous pasties!

Both have cream teas (although make sure you put the jam and cream on the right way round – jam first in Cornwall, cream first in Devon) and wonderful seafood – but the pasties are world-famous! 

Cornwall or Devon for culture

Winner: Cornwall

While I appreciate Devon’s culture, I do have to give Cornwall the crown for this one, not least because I’m from a family of very passionate Cornish people! 

Cornwall has its own Celtic identity, with its own language (it’s not spoken day to day but some people can speak it!) and distinct traditions. While Devon has plenty of traditions and culture too, it’s not quite as distinct as Georgia!

Which is cheaper Cornwall or Devon?

Overlooking the beautiful golden sandy beach at Putsborough Sands Devon England UK Europe

Winner: Devon

If you’re on a budget, Devon is the winner when it comes to affordability (alhtough neither are particularly cheap…). 

Devon has more affordable accommodation options and cheaper dining options – I’d recommend looking outside of the more touristy places like Salcombe to find better deals.

Both are much cheaper outside of peak season. 

Cornwall and Devon: which is easier to get to? 

A photograph of Teignmouth beach and railway line in Devon.

Winner: Devon

Devon is easier to get to than Cornwall, with better road and rail connections. 

The M5 runs to Exeter and then the A38 connects to Plymouth (with the A30 spanning the middle of the county) 

The are several train stations, including the large Exeter St Davids and Plymouth.

Cornwall, on the other hand, has only one major road, the A30, which can get congested during peak season, and the train service is not as frequent (many trains stop in Plymouth). 

Devon vs. Cornwall attractions

Eden Project Cornwall uk

It’s a tie!

When it comes to attractions, both Cornwall and Devon have a lot to offer.

From the famous Eden Project in Cornwall to the epic Dartmoor in Devon, there’s something for everyone. Both counties have great historic sites too, like Tintagel Castle in Cornwall and Torre Abbey in Devon. 

Who is Cornwall or Devon best for?

Now that we’ve compared Cornwall and Devon in different categories, let’s look at who each county is best for.

Families: Winner – Devon

Devon is a fantastic destination for families, with plenty of family-friendly attractions, such as Crealy Adventure Park, the National Marine Aquarium and Paignton Zoo.

 The county also has a lot of outdoor activities, like hiking, cycling, and beach days, which are perfect for families. 

Cornwall is also great for families, with attractions like Newquay Zoo and Flambards Theme Park, but Devon has a slight edge on this one!

Surfers: Winner – Cornwall

Adrealine rush in surf, Fistral beach, Newquay, Cornwall

When it comes to surfing, Cornwall is the winner.

The county is known for its great waves and has some of the best surf spots in the UK, such as Fistral Beach, Watergate Bay and Perranporth. Devon has some good surf spots too – like Bantham and Croyde – but the surfing coastline is smaller. 

Couples: Tie

Both Cornwall and Devon are wonderful destinations for couples, with plenty of romantic places to explore! 

Cornwall boasts the charming town of St Ives, the Minack Theatre and the Eden Project, while Devon has the picturesque town of Dartmouth, Dartmoor National Park, and Salcombe Estuary. 

It really depends on what you’re looking for as a couple, as both counties have a lot to offer.

Groups of friends: Tie

If you’re planning a trip with your friends, both Cornwall and Devon are great destinations!

Restaurants-wise, Devon potentially has more on offer, but Cornwall has tonnes of laidback coastal pubs and bars. 

Devon has good nightlife in the cities, and while Cornwall has smaller settlements, Newquay is a popular nightlife spot. 

Both counties also have plenty of outdoor activities, like hiking and water sports, which are perfect for groups.

Disadvantages of visiting Cornwall and Devon

Blackpool Sands, Devon, England with kayaks in the foreground

While both Cornwall and Devon are great destinations for holidays, there are some disadvantages to consider.

Firstly, both counties can get very busy during peak season, which can lead to traffic congestion and difficulty finding accommodation. If you’re looking for a quieter holiday, it’s best to avoid peak season and visit in the off-season.

Secondly, both counties can be expensive, especially during peak season. Accommodation prices can be high, and dining out can also be costly. It’s worth budgeting carefully before your trip to avoid any surprises. (Check out some free things to do in Cornwall here).

Alternatives to Cornwall and Devon

If you’re still not sure whether Cornwall or Devon is the best destination for your holiday, here are some alternative options!

  • Somerset is a great alternative to Devon, with beautiful countryside, historic sites like Glastonbury Tor and Bath, and a great food and drink scene.
  • Dorset is another option, with the stunning Jurassic Coast, charming villages like Lyme Regis and Sherborne, and plenty of outdoor activities.

Which county has the best weather?

Both Cornwall and Devon have a similar climate, with mild temperatures and plenty of rainfall. It can be a bit wetter in Cornwall!

Which county is the best for hiking?

A: Both Cornwall and Devon have great hiking, with the South West Coast Path leading through them both. But Devon’s Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks offer some of the best hiking in the UK.

Are there any good beaches in Devon?

Yes, Devon has some great beaches, such as Woolacombe, Bantham, and Blackpool Sands. While Cornwall is more famous for its beaches, Devon’s are still worth visiting!

So, should you visit Devon and Cornwall?

Both Cornwall and Devon have a lot to offer, and the best destination for your holiday depends on your personal preferences.

I can’t recommend one over the other – in fact, I’d probably advise going to one one year and one the year after and seeing which you like best!

But do check out my posts about Cornwall and posts about Devon when planning your trip.

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