Guide to Moving to Devon Pros & Cons




devon hills

As a non-Devonian, this is my view of moving to Devon and living here, based on my own experience and what I have seen of others who have made the move. In summary: it is wonderful, but as with everything it depends on your motives, and (possibly), it is not without sacrifice.

(Update Summer 2023)

I wrote this post a couple of years ago now, and it is the most popular post here, despite this mainly being a tourism blog. I think that gives you an indication in terms of interest the region holds as a home / second home. Overall I think my personal opinion still holds, little has changed. I feel that we are seeing a continued expansion of new housing around Exeter, and throughout Devon. The rate of housebuilding is unprecedented in my view (though don’t quote me on this).

Teignmouth and Exmouth in East Devon and some of the Moor towns have become more on the up and still present much better value than the large draw of Exeter, the South Hams and the picturesque tourist areas. Exmouth has had a pedestrian ‘makeover’ and has a very nice central ‘plaza’ area now.

My original post was very much geared to living and working in Devon, as that is what I do, so I have not said much about second home ownership.

One thing to keep an eye on and perhaps research is the expansion of the rail network. We have new rail stations that are planned or recently opened in the region. This should be a welcome for those who prefer not to 100% rely on one mode of transport. See here and here.


We moved here a little over 20 years ago. The second major move in my life. I did the ‘typical’ move from ‘up north,’ to London for Uni, hung around for a few years, bought a flat in the London suburbs for what is possibly the price of a garage now etc. Usual story. Instead of moving back ‘home,’ when the time to ‘get serious’ called we decided to head further south.

I had fancied my chances in Australia, couldn’t quite commit to that and the South West conjured similar ideas in our heads but with less mileage. Only a partial joke there. Devon also presented then the opportunity of moving up the property ladder without the massive London prices, clean air, ‘nice people,’ beaches and moors. The move certainly delivered on that.

Moving to Devon does not always work out and I have seen some people do a u-turn which is why I thought I’d pass on my thoughts.

Regional Economy Matters

When I was a kid I hardly saw the sea, so the idea of being by the coast seemed like a dream. I used to ask my dad, ‘why can’t we live by the sea?’ The answer was usually, there are no decent jobs etc. His words are still partly true in select areas, but thanks to regional development, as well as changes in the way we are working, especially with the option of remote working, there are so many more options available now.

I have worked around the ‘city’ (Exeter) for the various major employers and have watched others move here and do the same also. The area has gone through a massive period of urban development and change. And I mean massive, we have seen whole new towns emerge.

This post could quickly go into the facts and figures of the economy here, instead I’ll point you to Devon County Councils’ website if you are interested in the economic and business data. The main take home point is that there are some very promising employment avenues depending on what sector of employment you are looking for.

In general the economic and infrastructure challenges seem to adversely progress as you head out of Exeter south, into rural communities, with more significant challenges as you head deeper into Cornwall. The Covid-19 pandemic laid bare some real economic imbalances and weakness within our region, namely the over-reliance in some areas on tourism, tourism of course was pretty much halted for long periods of time during the covid-19 pandemic.


The lack of affordable housing in some parts, especially in Cornwall is almost at a crisis point. Local news is full of stories of hoteliers who are unable to fill vacant positions because their employees cannot afford to live within a commutable distance of their employment.

When I arrived decades ago, someone said ‘you know it is the graveyard of careers down here’, and for sure if you are very keen on building a strong career in the corporate sector, you will have less of a variety of employers to choose from, than say if you were in Bristol, London or Birmingham. Some specialist trades or professions could do very well, or not so well depending on demand. The headcount of companies is different – you will see more SMEs.

I remember going for an interview at the local airline at the time and they offered an example where the tea lady had been trained and worked up the ranking, now doing quite a specialist role. That message was both admirable, but also demonstrated the claustrophobic nature of the job market at the time. In the past, it felt like people could be employed by the same employer for longer than average periods and there was less new blood entering these organisations, change was slow.

Things have changed, the advent of more remote working and the influx of ‘newcomers’ has accelerated this. Organisations are all different, and of course, a savvy job hunter will do their due diligence on their future employer and work out whether the cultural fit is right for them.

The major employment area is still very much focused on and around the bigger cities and towns such as Exeter, and includes the major civil service employers including the Met Office, The University of Exeter, Arconic Exeter, Sitel, Centrax Ltd, EDF Energy, Euro Tech Group, Goodridge, Graphic Plc, Heathcoat, Hepco Motion, The Pennon Group, Peninsula Bioventures, Supercat, Thomson Reuters. Read Exeter Councils five reasons to move to Exeter for a full list.

© Guy Newman.20.06.2017.Exterior of Exeter Science Park

One exciting opportunity is the growth of the Science Park outside of Exeter.

The annual 150 biggest employers report will give you a good idea of who’s who.


On the subject of roads, some of our commuter links change depending on the time of year. For example during the summer season when our roads swell with tourists commuting to and from Torquay (as one example) the journey can take significantly longer than during the winter with the absence of ‘holiday traffic’. Conversely small minor country roads can become less comfortable to drive on during bad weather. The A380, telegraph hill is another famous commuter route that can be interesting in adverse weather conditions.

Consider Moving to Plymouth?

The cost of living is however much cheaper in Plymouth due to the lower house price market and personally I’m all for less overheads. You are more likely to get a bargain in Plymouth, Torquay and Newton Abbott than Exeter in terms of housing.

Development around the Barbican area in Plymouth has regenerated the area pulling in its own share of tourism and day visitors. The city hosts a number of good outdoor, culture and music events each summer, as well as its renown maritime history. Look out for the annual British Firework Championships held in late summer.

Rose Tinted Glasses

The reality of living here in a nutshell : For us overall positive; my daughter remarked she was really pleased that she grew up in Devon. I’m very happy I made the change. If you are thinking of uprooting your family some pointers.

  • Out of season – the lay of the land looks different. Devon / rural roads can be more hazardous in the winter, public transport out of city isn’t fun if the town is not well connect.
  • There are more smaller / medium employers than large corporate employers, things have changed considerably, but do your employment research for ‘this’ job and the next. You probably won’t want to work for the same employer forever. Is there a plan b for work?
  • If you / your family have only lived in urban environments and you are moving to a small village, be prepared for a culture shock, villages can feel claustrophobic and strangely isolating at the same time. If your village has a good pub or community centre you can engage and integrate easier.
  • Broadband – check the speed in the area of interest.
  • Farm animals are noisy and smell, don’t expect sympathy from the locals.
  • Devon might not fix your family / relationship problems – people move thinking the Devon air will somehow fix their life, it might, or the problems might continue.

House prices are somewhat high especially in Exeter, you can find pockets of housing that are cheaper in the outlying towns and villages, but then you get poorer transport links and potentially poorer broadband connections. With the price of oil being so high this can include the cost of not being on the mains gas supply also. Exeter currently has the no 12 spot for the most expensive town. Its a topic everyone complains about.

Ethnic Diversity

Devon is still a very white area, ethnic diversity largely comes from the transient University student population. This injection of diversity in my opinion is a massive plus and gives the main University towns, Exeter and Plymouth a much more culturally diverse and creative feel. Growing up with BAME heritage in the rural Britain will have its own challenges. I do not have first hand experience here and do not feel qualified to fully discuss this. I do know is that crime is still thankfully comparatively relatively low in the region, however, we also know that stats do not always give the full picture of day to day racism.

My Final Thoughts On Where to Move To

This is a scant recommendation, I’ve just reduced a really diverse county down to a few recommendations which is pretty bad to be honest, I could list so many options here, it is very personal. Exeter and villages or towns north of Exeter offer a good mix of location and access to the M5 road infrastructure.

I am biased towards Exeter and East Devon generally for employment and transportation links, if this is a priority. This is also a useful area to target if you are going to spend a lot of time on the M5 / A303 travelling north to family. In essence, you are down in Devon but can still ‘escape’ back up north, with quick access to the major routes if needed.

Regrettably, Exeter houses prices are relatively inflated and show no signs of coming down. Some of the Moor towns have rail infrastructure and therefore good commuter access into Exeter if you wish to go by train. Tavistock is one of my favourites. Honiton is also another good commuter town into Exeter which is often overlooked.

If I wasn’t bothered about working in Exeter or was happy to commute into Exeter I’d go for Teignmouth. I absolutely love this port-town, it has a wonderful mix of shops in the town centre, a thriving music community and small theatre. The South Hams is of course incredibly picturesque and it all depends on what you need in terms of employment and infrastructure. It is also quite expensive (relatively) for Devon.


Failed moves to Devon seem founded on unrealistic ideals of country living, not being able to integrate into the environment and people feeling isolated, people thinking that Devon was going to fix x,y,z when reality was the issue was much more complex. I am not sure what to say about the lady who complained about cows mooing or farmyard smells. Thankfully I can think of a few of these failed migrations.

Devon is a wonderful county to live in. I have not concentrated on the natural beauty of our local environment, the weekends on the beach or walking on the moors, I’ve been somewhat more practical with my thoughts here. Most of us do not spend no-where near the amount of time you’d think on the beach, because we have our usual lives to get on with. We all probably take our local environment for granted regardless of where we live if the truth be known.

Resources Worth Checking

Please note I do try to keep this site up to date, but as things change often, it is recommended that before travelling any distance you do your own checks.

If you wish to feedback on the site content please get in touch.

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