The UK is one of the safest countries in the world to travel solo. The locals are generous, crime rates are comparatively low, public transport is readily available (if quite expensive), hotels and homestays are everywhere, and people are used to travellers doing their thing.
Devon is no exception. If you are passing through or planning an extended stay, doing it solo is one of the best ways to do it.
Choose your Own Itinerary
Travelling in groups always means a lot of compromise. Doing it solo means you can get up in the morning without a plan and choose exactly what you want to do that day, no arguments.
Be More Social
Doing things by yourself means you have to meet people and make introductions if you are going to get anywhere. This might sound like very hell to some but as a confidence booster and a way of getting to know somewhere, it is the best way to do it. Because you have to meet new people in order to do anything, you get the inside story from the locals. The best hidden surf spots, the best cream teas, the best hidden gardens, they’re all easier to get the low-down on if you’re doing it solo.
Want to Surf? Go Surf!
The surfer’s curse is the inevitability that you have a day off to hit the waves and the wind is blowing offshore, flattening all the swell. When you’re with a group, you might have a day set aside for surfing. Almost inevitably, there will be no swell. The gods of the oceans are fickle like that. If you’re doing your own thing, however, you can just check the surf reports for the local areas and head to where the swell is when it’s blowing onshore. Much easier to get some great surfing in.
Travelling Around Devon Solo
Devon is well endowed with roads and car hire companies. Of course, it’s always cheaper to hire a car between a few people, but you can get a small car or motorbike for not very much more.
Getting around Devon is not too difficult. There are a lot of winding A roads, tiny villages, and secluded spots, but if you have a good sat-nav or have got the low-down from the locals, you can find your way to anywhere in Devon within a couple of hours by car.
Trains are less reliable (this is England, we love to bash the train service) but you can get to any of the major hubs in Devon very easily. Connections to smaller towns and villages are intermittent, so double check before taking the train there – the train back might not be until tomorrow!
Walking in Devon Solo
With thousands of B&Bs, hotels, youth hostels, and homestays throughout Devon and along the coast, a very popular way to explore Devon by yourself is to walk it. You can go from one town or village to the next in a days’ beautiful rambling and almost always find somewhere to stay. Check ahead, of course, but you should be fine.
Can I Hitchhike?
Unfortunately, hitchhiking died out a lot in the UK in the 70’s and 80’s when a number of serial killers spoiled the fun for everyone. You can still hitch a ride in a strangers car or lorry but it is quite difficult. Being a lorry driver myself I never pick up hitchhikers anymore simply because of insurance reasons, however I feel the perception of hitching is very different to the reality: it’s a safe way to travel in general, if you can get a ride. Always take a photo of the number plate and car before you get in, post it online so people know where and when you took the ride.
In reality, the most dangerous aspect of being a hitchhiker in the UK today isn’t getting into a car with a serial killer but being a passenger injured in a car accident because of an irresponsible driver.
Need Someone to Talk to?
Travelling solo can be lonely. As great as it is to choose your own path and do your own thing, you do need some human contact now and then. Happily, the people of Devon are welcoming and friendly. With a fabulous selection of pubs to choose from, a weary traveller can get a few pints of scrumpy and a good chat just about anywhere in the county. The same is true for tea shops, they are everywhere!
Otherwise, you can always find a group or tour to join in. The number of beautiful castles, manors, abbeys, and ruins around the county is almost embarrassing, so you do not have to go far to find somewhere to explore. Tag along with a group, make some friends.
Although Devon is one of the safest counties in one of the safest countries in the world, it can still be dangerous. Always leave your contact details and itinerary with someone you can trust and make sure they know where you are going before you go. When you get there, send a check-in text so they know you’re safe. If it looks scary, don’t bother, there are lots more options.