Some holiday-goers are happy to lie comatose on a beach for days on end, but for adrenaline junkies, sitting still can feel like something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Luckily, Devon offers much more than rest and relaxation with hills, cliffs, lakes, rivers and not one, but two coastlines providing the chance for rip-roaring adventure. Adrenaline addicts can get their fix in many different ways: surfing, climbing, caving, horse riding, paintballing, diving, mountain biking and even roller coasters. Looking for a buzz during your holiday in Devon? Allow us to make a few suggestions.
Roller coaster riding
Sometimes, particularly for those with an inexplicable taste for danger, finding activities that are both adrenaline-inducing and family-friendly can be difficult. But Crealy Great Adventure Park was built with both fun and little ones in mind. The braver family members (or at least those who reach the 120-centimeter minimum height) can make a charge for the park’s biggest roller coaster: the Twister. This ride promises to drive up the heartbeat and spur a jolt of fear as it spins around the track reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. If the thrills and spills are too much for the meeker members of your brood, let them pet the fuzzy resident of the Pets Paddock instead. Goats, sheep and guinea pigs are just a few of the many furry creatures that can be seen here.
As the success of war films and video games suggests, there is nothing like intense combat to fire up the adrenal glands. Paintballing allows your average Joe Soap to experience the thrill of battle without any of the real-life consequences. During the game, two teams are pitted against each other and each bombards the other with paint pellets as they attempt to capture the flag. Paintball centres are peppered throughout Devon. If you’re staying in North Devon, you might want to test out Survival Paintball in Barnstaple. The facilities here include more than 20 acres of natural woodland with plenty of trees and bushes to hide behind, as well as bridges to cross and trenches and barricades to duck under and dive into. If you’re staying in South Devon, you’ll find a paintball centre in Exeter.
Few things can match the rush of viewing Devon’s spectacular wilderness from on top of a horse. Keep pace on a gentle walk-and-trot trek or canter like the clappers across open ground – the difficulty level, length and route for your trek all depends on your riding experience. Cheston Farm, on the southern edge of Dartmoor National Park, offers intensive holiday courses for those who want to improve their riding skills as well as quiet summer evening lane hacks for novices. More advanced riders can head out on galloping hacks into the wilds of Dartmoor. No matter where you are staying in Devon, there is bound to be a riding school nearby that will be able to arrange pony trekking – just ask around.
Devon’s wild north coast is the prime place for those who seek exhilaration in the ocean. And despite the wealth of options for surfers all around England, many still point to North Devon as one of the country’s best surfing spots. Indeed, the large Atlantic swells that roll in here could put hairs on even the smoothest chests. But that’s not to say beginners can’t surf here; there are several calm beaches, which provide perfect conditions for first-timers, too. Try a lesson with the North Devon Surf School at Westward H0! Once you get the knack of standing on the board, the ocean is your oyster. Just north of Westward Ho lies Saunton Sands, another stretch oft-cited as the finest surfing beach in the county. On a good day, surfers can enjoy long, sweeping rides here.
Not all Devon’s natural thrills are to be found above ground. In fact, many of the most invigorating experiences take place below the surface. All you have to do is be prepared to enter a dark network of underground chambers. The truly fearless can scramble through tight passages and worm along narrow tunnels. But if you’re prone to bouts of claustrophobia, just let your guide know when you make the booking and they’ll arrange a roomier route. Tight squeezes can be avoided and it may surprise you to see just how cavernous some of the underground chambers are.
Enlist the help of professionals to aid you in your cave explorations. CRS Adventures offers caving tours of Pridhamsleigh Cavern in South Devon, an ideal place for novices to get a taster of subterranean adventuring. Be aware that things can get muddy down below the surface, but what’s a bit of mud to an intrepid explorer?
Surely one of the ultimate highs for thrill fanatics is strapping on an oxygen tank and descending below the water’s surface to a totally foreign world, where creatures, ranging from the stunning to the downright strange, dwell. Arrange to go on an outing with the Teign Diving Centre. You might get to splash around with the playful seals at Babbacombe or swim around one of the several sunken war wrecks that rest on the seabed. In North Devon, the coast around Lundy Island is particularly suited for diving. The Marine Reserve here contains a number of lesser-known wrecks as well as corals, basking sharks and a fleet of undeniably cute seals who bear a striking resemblance to Labradors. Arrange to go on a night dive to witness the underwater world by darkness. This is when the corals come alive and many of the most unusual sea creatures come out to play.