‘Forget Devon, this small British county punches way above its weight’


Telegraph Travel experts determined England’s greatest county by weighing up their offerings of natural wonders, luxuries, history, culture, and peace and quiet. 

According to their methodology, Devon came in first place, with 79 points separating it from second-placed Cumbria. 

Telegraph readers jumped at the chance to say whether they agreed with the ranking, with many arguing the case for their number one county in the comments section. 

Does Devon deserve the top spot?

Many readers did in fact agree with Devon taking the top spot, highlighting its unmatched range of landscape and overwhelming supply of history to discover. But readers also expressed their concern should the county’s infrastructure fail to meet the needs of its growing population.

@S Willis:

“The ranking doesn’t surprise me. No other county has the range of landscape of Devon, including its moor, coastal, woodland, farmland, river or estuarine. Even at the height of summer, Dartmoor is virtually deserted, whereas Cumbria is overrun. There are so many undiscovered inland bits–Exe and Teign Valleys, the Torridge from Bideford south to Hatherleigh, and much of Exmoor. Mind you, I’m biased because I live here.”

Instow, Devon, England, United Kingdom, Europe

After carefully crunching the data, Devon emerged – by a comfortable margin – as the finest county in England

Credit: robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo/https://www.alamy.com

@Jeffrey Turner:

“I’ve lived in Devon for 22 years. It’s a lovely county, but gradually getting built-up all over. It will become heavily urbanised within 20 or 30 years. The growth in residential development without corresponding development of infrastructure–including that of transport, healthcare, schools, water and sewage systems–is a particular problem in Devon.”

@Stephen Luscombe:

“I’m Devon born and bred. It really is a lovely place, but we are in excellent company on this list–who needs to go abroad with such wonderful history, culture and landscape here to enjoy!”

@Christopher Hosking:

“Living in Devon, I cannot agree with its position in the first place. It is one of the largest counties so proportionally has numerous features. However, it has poor infrastructure and too much traffic, meaning should you wish to enjoy many of its specialities, travelling distances become a nightmare. Though there are notable restaurants, the majority in seasonal times do not try, and also all too often know they have a captive market and charge accordingly.”

@Anthony Sperrin:

“Ahh, Dartmoor in Devon. If you park in one of the many car parks, excluding Hay Tor where the grockels and strollers go, and within a few minutes you can be gone from all the tourists. Walking 10 miles without seeing hardly a soul is not unusual. The history of your surroundings can be overwhelming, with unending sights to pass by. The changing scenery in some areas is reminiscent of Patagonia, and there are other wooded valleys that smack of Austria or Germany. Nature and ancient man worked their magic on Dartmoor. My favourite place to hike anywhere in the world.”

Any other contenders?

Not all readers were convinced, however, and took the opportunity to defend their most beloved English county. North Yorkshire, Dorset, Northamptonshire, Greater London and Hertfordshire were among the counties that readers heaped praise, and revealed hidden gems within. 

@Harry Chown:

“How is North Yorkshire ranked 23 out of 48 in the ‘peacefulness’ standard? It’s the size of Kent and Norfolk combined yet has only one motorway. Forty per cent of the area is taken up by national parks. The biggest settlement in the North Yorkshire authority has a population of under 100,000. There is no urban sprawl. There are forests, hills, lakes, and it has some of the darkest skies in England outside of Northumberland. It also has one of the lowest population densities of any county.

“I’m not saying it should necessarily be number one, but number 23 is too low. A higher rank on the peacefulness standard would push up its overall position.”

north yorkshire

Harry Chown argued that North Yorkshire deserved a better score for peacefulness

Credit: Getty

@Daisy Clarkson:

“I live in, and grew up in, North Yorkshire, in one of its National Park areas. It is great to see our beautiful county at number three. However, it is not the place it used to be. Too many second homes and holiday homes are killing the very communities which draw in tourists, and are homes to locals like me. In one village nearby, there are only five houses occupied permanently. The rest are second homes. Something needs to change.”

@Private Comment:

“I work in Devon, but I live in West Dorset. Devon is massive, so its size allows it to have it all, and it’s in the right place for weather. Dorset is quite small, but I’d suggest punches way above its weight. However, there is a seasonal element missing. As a resident, the best time to live in Dorset is actually not the summer, it’s spring and autumn when the tourists aren’t here and the roads are quieter. That’s the downside of not having a motorway through the county.”

@David Mansfield:

“There are parts of Dorset that look exactly like they did in the 19th century, but you have to go looking for them. If you want a breathtaking view try from the top of Askers Hill on the A35 heading towards Bridport, the steep valley taking your eye out to the English Channel on the left and the valleys on the right leading the eye to Eggardon Hill, but keep it secret as we much prefer it that the masses keep heading west to the Disney-fied world of Devon and Cornwall.”  

@Elizabeth Hornsby:

“People don’t know what they are missing. Northamptonshire has many historic houses, but luckily they are mostly in private hands, often cherished by families who have lived there for hundreds of years. The National Trust and English Heritage are not the only guardians of our heritage. The Grand Union which snakes through our county, including Stoke Bruerne which is one of the most important canal junctions, is our pride.”

@Night Owl:

“London, even with 14,600 people per square mile out to the M25, is also designated a National Park City with much more green space, canals, rivers, gardens, parks, lakes, woods and forests than most people elsewhere realise. Not to mention its sports spaces, lidos, pools, sailing centres, golf courses and football clubs.”

@K Staines:

“Not a mention of Suffolk. It has wonderful restaurants, beaches, scenic peaceful countryside, and unbelievable culture at Aldeburgh and Snape.”


K Staines praised Suffolk’s lovely countryside

@Robert Highfield:

“Herefordshire has the loveliest countryside in England. Its towns, such as Hereford, Ledbury, Bromyard, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, are beautiful and full of history. After all, this is the Marches. Every village (many black and white and 700 years old) has a Mott and Bailey, and there’ll be a castle a few miles away. We have many of both within a few miles. 

“If you stray across the border, you are in stunning Powys, lovely South Shropshire, or the Malvern Hills on the border with Worcestershire. Southwards we have the amazing Symonds Yat on the River Wye and on the edge of the huge Forest of Dean with its wild boars. The West has the Black Mountains. 

“I would never swap any other county for this amazing place. 31st? Do you know where the story of the Hound of the Baskervilles came from? Hergest Court, near Kington. Don’t forget Black Vaughan, who lived there. Or the music of Mike Oldfield, who played at the Cattle Shed near Lyonshall. A magical land.”

Spoilt for choice 

Although many readers were decisive, others felt they were spoilt for choice with England’s many beautiful offerings. They argued how each county has its own idiosyncrasies, and one could not possibly choose between them.

@Will Bill:

“Obviously personal preference, but given a liking for the sea, any county on the South Coast would be alright, although some perhaps preferable to others. Somerset is pleasant, but I would probably prefer Wiltshire. Some lovely villages in Berkshire. Herefordshire is lovely (as is Brecon, albeit in Wales). North Yorkshire is fantastic and the coast of East Anglia is marvellous. Let’s face it. We are spoilt for choice.

@Derek Miller:

“With the right balance between objectivity and subjectivity.

“It’s North Yorkshire for me every time, followed by Northumbria but, in my experience, every English county has its own charms, even the most landlocked ones.”

@Adam Seddon:

I totally agree with the outcome. However, Cumbria is the most outstanding. Part of the score was for weather. Take that out of the equation then Cumbria wins hands down. But Devon and Cornwall are also stunning.

@Stephen Luscombe:

I’m Devon born and bred. It really is a lovely place but we are in excellent company on this list.Who needs to go abroad with such wonderful history, culture and landscape here to enjoy?

Which do you think is England’s greatest and worst county? Join the discussion in the comments section below

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