You could cut down your traveling by giving Cornwall a miss; a lovely county , but perhaps more of a summer destination?
You mention Dartmoor , if you're in to some serious walking , bring your hiking boots, probably better to buy maps on the spot.
Chagford would make a good centre for exploring part of Dartmoor. It's a traditional a small moor town with decent pubs ,restaurants and accommodation . Maybe spend a day and night in Exeter on your way back to London.
I’ve been holidaying in the westcountry for almost the last 16 years. I’m heading down there again in just under eight weeks time. I have to be honest, I do find Devon to be generally nicer than Cornwall.
As already stated, Cornwall can be nice in the summer, but given it’s got sea on both sides of the county, it can get a little wind-beaten any time after around the end of September. Port Issac is nice providing you can get there early enough to park. it’s the same story at nearby Padstow. Great if you can get there before around 10am. Any time after that, expect crowds and car park battles. Tintagel is okay if you like history and relaxation, otherwise there’s not much else to do there. I’d avoid Newquay and Rock. Both are very overrated and largely spoilt in my opinion.
I’ve always found Dartmoor to be a little barren for my own liking. Exmoor offers more (i.e - woodlands, streams, rolling hills) in my own opinion. Dartmoor has always been an area that we’ve drove though to get to somewhere, rather than actually stop at.
The Eden Project is decent. That’s certainly something I’d recommend. I went there twice within about 18 months of it opening and enjoyed it on both occasions. Not been there for a while, though. The fishing village of Mevagissey isn’t too far away and that’s worth a visit too - just remember to park your car in the main car park as you enter the village, as the streets are very narrow!
Cornwall is most certainly not a Summer only destination. Many places are year round these days. You can have a gorgeous week in the Winter and have peace and quiet away from the crowds. Of course you can have bad weather any time of the year as you can anywhere in Britain. Whatever weather Cornwall gets, Devon gets it next.
Both counties are great all year destinations, though to see both in 4 days will be a rush job to say the least.
My favourite time for beaches in Cornwall is winter. On the one hand, there aren't too many other people around, and so peace, then on the other, there is the sea in all it's glory, as wild as it should be.
Walking is a lot more pleasant in the cooler weather, and again, not as many people about so you can take your time and enjoy the views.I'm not saying go for a hike on the moors on your own, but then I wouldn't recommend that in summer either. Driving should not be a problem in October as the roads will be clear.Likewise you won't have to get up early to find a parking space.
Lots of places are open all year, those of us who live here don't go into hibernation, we still need shops, bars, cafes etc.
Four days is not a lot of time to get the most out of two counties, but with a bit of planning you can get a good taste of them for future visits.
this is a reply to all four of you who have so far responded to me:
thank you all for the very helpful advice. I will play around with this more and then get back onto this thread and run what I come up with by you all. I selected this area of the country because I have been pretty much everywhere else in England before, and a good deal of that has been much longer and on multiple visits, as well (being a totally devout Anglophile!!). The idea of windblown, bleak Cornwall and the rough, gray sea is exactly what I do want, and would expect as winter approaches. That is not a problem. My main issue is that I do not enjoy rushed travel; I usually linger in places. Otherwise, I don't remember them or get to know them. Hence, clearly, on this trip I am not at all sticking with that travel philosophy with my original itinerary idea. I need to take your great ideas get back to the map and tour books and see. I think the bottom line is that I am too ambitious and need to refine the plan. Which is why I posted. So, again, thanks to all and I will get back with you.Edited: 18 July 2010, 23:19
We had a week in Port Isaac in October last year (mid October) and it was absolutely beautiful with quite balmy days and cooler nights, but never so cool that I needed to get my winter nightie out of my suitcase (my summer one was quite sufficient). Spent an hour or so one day up on the headland overlooking Port Isaac and got a bit sunburned but it was lovely looking at the ocean and enjoying the solitude. We had a car and went to Falmouth for the oyster festivel, to Truro, Padstow, Lanhydrock, Cotehele and found wonderful little villages along the way. I'd spend my life in Cornwall, if I could :-) That would be Heaven on a stick :-)
We love popping next door to Cornwall in Winter.
It's cheaper, there are less people and you could almost have the beach to yourself some days. We've also enjoyed some glorious sunshine in October and November (even sat on balconies!!) I must admit I even like going on the beach on a cold stormy day - blow the cobwebs out!!
As you're thinking of mid October I am just wondering if this wil be the same time as the half term holidays, in which case you would be safer to book, otherwise, you will probably be able to find somewhere to stay just by looking round a bit. If you seem to be getting a bit stuck you could always find the tourist information office of the town you are in (usually signposted) and they will assist you
I would like to recommend Dartmoor to you, I live not far from it and have enjoyed it's particular kind of desolate beauty at all times of year. Yes, parts of it are barren, wide-open spaces which feel close to the sky, but others contain stunning tors, woods and rivers. Although of course it's a matter of opinion, I prefer it much more than Exmoor, which although attractive in it's own way, it does not have quite the same sense of space.
As mentioned in an earlier post, Chagford is a lovely own town which formed around tin-mining. Christow, Widecombe-in -the-moor , Moretonhampstead and Haytor are also good to visit.
You will need warm clothing, waterproofs and proper boots if you plan on walking on the moors, not to mention a map!