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Exeter St. Davids to Dawlish and Paignton

A dramatic journey of coastal magnificence and seaside glory in the heart of Devon


Prices from £8 single

Travel Type:


No. of Attractions:

12 places to visit

View journey Attractions
Journey Duration:

40 minutes on the direct service, 54 minutes when changing

Route Frequency:

Hourly frequency from Exeter to Newton Abbott, changing for Paignton and 1 service on Cross Country Trains direct daily

Starting point:

Exeter St. Davids Railway Station

How to get here

Journey fact:

Paignton once had its own palace. Oldway Mansion, an opulent building set in stunning gardens, was originally a private residence built for Isaac Singer, the sewing machine magnate. Its lavish interior includes a grand staircase modelled after the Palace of Versailles.

Journey Overview


This is a truly captivating, breathtaking journey, one of the most scenic sections of railway in the UK and beyond, known as the Riviera Line. The train winds its way out of majestic Exeter, past the backs of tidy terraced houses, before hugging the Exe Estuary, with its wide open land and emerging sand dunes, before the coast appears into view and then it is ‘Wow Factor’ scenery on the left hand side of the train. Very soon on this journey, scenic thrill seekers realise they are in for an absolute treat – this really is the most elegant of trips in our Great Scenic Journeys collection!

Pretty small boats in a harbour setting give way to the adorning, English Channel, with the sighting of golfers on a large links course and a classic coastal seaside funfair at Dawlish Warren. As the train makes its way alongside the sea, there’s the timeless sight of walkers straddling the railway line on the promenade, licking ice cream, allowing their pet dogs to wrestle free from their leads and enjoy the beach and of children enjoying rock-pooling or just dipping their toes into the sea or more adventurous swimmers beyond. There’s plenty of small retreats below where the jagged cliffs jut out which offer solitude and the most peaceful of bathing opportunities, punctuated only by the whirring noise of train, or tooting of its horn as it glides past!

The orange granite rocks from the cliff provide a gripping sense of occasion overlooking the coast. The train cuts through the cliff in and out of short tunnels and there’s sightings of cruise ferries overlooking the railway in the distance.

When the weather is inclement, the atmosphere is moody but gripping, with sea-spray crashing against the side of the train in the most dramatic of settings. In sunnier climes, it’s a serene setting, English seaside holiday joy at its best. Keep an eye out for the array of wildlife along the estuary and at Dawlish Warren, which is a designated wildlife reserve.

The line also passes Powderdham Castle, where deer graze in the park lands. Teignmouth, with its traditional seaside residences is navigated blissfully before the train cuts inland to the eclectic market town of Newton Abbot and then folk can either change trains for regular services to Paignton or stay on to Plymouth. One Cross Country service daily goes all the way to Paignton and there’s more delights as the route heads back south, towards the coast and hugs the seashore as firstly Torquay approaches, with the Grand Hotel on the left, just in front of the famous ‘English Riviera’ which winds its way towards the town and a Mediterranean style harbour! Towards Paignton the train continues and there’s neat houses coming into view and the shore on the left, with its classic cockles and mussels stands and seaside frivolity, before the level crossing is traversed outside Paignton station with the fantastic Dartmouth Steam Railway on the left as the train pulls to a stand.

One obscure and lesser-known fact about the railway line in Dawlish is its unique vulnerability to the sea, which has led to some remarkable engineering challenges and solutions. The most notable event occurred in February 2014 when a powerful storm caused significant damage to the sea wall, washing away parts of the track and leaving the railway line hanging in mid-air. This catastrophic event highlighted the ongoing battle between engineering and nature at Dawlish.

The railway’s designers had to come up with innovative solutions to stabilize and protect the line. One such solution was the creation of a specially designed concrete wave return wall, which was constructed to deflect the force of the waves back towards the sea, thus minimizing the impact on the railway line. Additionally, they installed a series of rock armour and reinforced the cliffs to further safeguard the track.

The Riviera line is a route that shows fortitude and first rate views, like no other! It’s 40 minutes of paradisical bliss – a railway journey where you dare not blink or look away for a second, just in case you miss something jaw-dropping out of the window!


A Fab Day Out!

Start your fun-packed adventure in Exeter, a city brimming with history and culture. Explore the majestic Exeter Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture with its stunning vaulted ceiling. Stroll along the picturesque Quayside, perfect for a leisurely walk or a riverside café stop. Don’t miss the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, showcasing Exeter’s rich heritage.

There’s a Cross Country Trains service leaving Exeter St. Davids at 12:27 which stops at Dawlish, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Torquay and arrives at Paignton at 13:07. If you fancy getting off en route, then that’s simple as local Great Western Railway services can be picked up to take you between the stations on the route and onto Paignton. You may, of course prefer exploring Exeter first and boarding the 12:27 all the way to Paignton, enjoying the view and having fun in Paignton when you arrive. There’s so much to see and do, in any case!

As the train meanders towards Dawlish, prepare for those scintillating views. The tracks hug the coastline, offering spectacular vistas of the sea crashing against the red cliffs. In Dawlish, the charming town known for its black swans, enjoy a peaceful walk along the Dawlish Water or relax in the lush, green lawn of the Dawlish Lawn. The quaint boutiques and tea rooms add a touch of traditional English charm. Watch out for famous black swans that live in this incredible small town!

Next stop, Teignmouth, a classic seaside town with a vibrant atmosphere. The Victorian pier invites you for a stroll above the waves, while the sandy beach beckons for a leisurely day under the sun. Teignmouth’s charming backstreets reveal a wealth of independent shops and cafes, perfect for an afternoon of exploration. The Teign Museum or the Grand Pier on the seafront are fabulous, with lots of family amusements, a children’s play area, skate park, mini golf course and heated lido. Maybe, during summer months only, on your return trip from Paignton, disembark at Teignmouth and take a ride on the open top 222 Stagecoach bus along the seafront to Dawlish to re-join the train.

Continuing to Newton Abbot, discover a town with a lively market heritage. Visit the bustling Newton Abbot Market, where local traders offer everything from fresh produce to unique crafts. History enthusiasts will appreciate the town’s museum, housed in a former railway station, which delves into the area’s rich past.

Arriving in Torquay, the heart of the English Riviera, marvel at its palm-lined promenades and azure waters. Torre Abbey, a historic building set within beautiful gardens, offers a fascinating glimpse into medieval life. The vibrant harbour is perfect for a boat trip or simply enjoying fresh seafood at one of the waterfront restaurants.

Finally, Paignton greets you with its golden beaches and family-friendly attractions. Visit Paignton Zoo for a day of wildlife adventures or take a nostalgic ride on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway, capturing the essence of a bygone era. The lively pier and seafront offer endless fun, from amusement arcades to ice cream parlours!

This enchanting train journey through Devon’s gems really promises a rich tapestry of experiences, blending natural beauty with cultural treasures. It’s unbelievable!

How to get here...

Visit the megabus website and view megabus services that will transport you to this exceptional scenic journey.

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Visit the National Rail Enquiries website to discover train routes that will lead you to this magnificent scenic adventure.

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Plan your route to this Great Scenic Journey

Take your scenic journey to the next level by embarking on this delightful walk, carefully curated by the expert team at Go Jauntly, the leading walking app provider.

Exeter St. David's Station to Green Circle Connector

Exminster Marshes Loop

The Alphin Brook Walk

Barley Valley Nature Challenge

Totnes River Dart Circular

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