Heading off the beaten track with ideas for great days out
1 Go rock climbing, indoors
You don't have to brave the elements to have fun rock climbing. Indoor climbing is becoming more and more popular, offering a full body workout that will take your mind off the daily grind.
Dart Rock climbing centre near Ashburton, South Devon offers "try a climb" sessions on its purpose-built climbing wall, with an instructor to show you the ropes, literally.
Drop-in sessions cost £12 and are available daily, and there are also sessions for children and teenagers at the weekends. Call 01364 644499 to book or visit www.dartrock.co.uk. Or try the Marjons Sports Centre near Plymouth, which offers £3 drop-in sessions (www.marjon.ac.uk/ucpmarjonsport); the new Plymouth Life Centre, which has a seriously high 15-metre wall (01752 606900); and the Clip 'n Climb adventure centre in Exeter (www.clipnclimbexeter.co.uk).
Fantastic offer at Swanson Ford, Newton Abbot. 3 Years FREE Servicing and 5 Years Warranty available on your BRAND NEW FORD FIESTA with the AWARD WINNING ECOBOOST ENGINE!!!
Terms: Limited stock available. Only whilst stock lasts
Contact: 01626 240583
Valid until: Tuesday, December 24 2013
2 Dress up like a Tudor
Dressing up is not just for children. At Mount Edgcumbe House, on the Cornish side of the River Tamar, visitors of all ages can try on authentic costumes from the Tudor era made by local experts Claire Herdman and her mother Julia, and then have their photo taken around the house.
The mother and daughter seamstresses have recently added more children's outfits to the collection in the upstairs dressing room, which include the opulent outfits of the nobility alongside plainer garb worn by merchants and peasants.
"You can try them on and pose anywhere you like in the house to have your photo taken," says David Marshall, who works at the stately home. "Most people choose the main staircase."
Mount Edgcumbe House is open from Monday-Thursday and on Sundays from 10.30am-5pm. Visit www.mountedgcumbe.gov.uk.
3 Go underground, down a mine
You can still sense the presence of the last miners at Geevor tin mine near Pendeen in West Cornwall. Their coats and boots and other mementoes have been left in The Dry just where they were taken off at the end of that last shift in February 1990. It is a poignant piece of history that says more than any reconstruction could.
As well as exploring the buildings above ground, you can join guides for a tour underground through the tunnels where miners worked away during the 19th century.
Geevor tin mine is open every day except Saturday from 9am-5pm (9am-4pm November-March). Visit www.geevor.com.
4 Get close to creatures of the deep
Fish and other sea creatures are waiting to be discovered at the National Marine Aquarium on Plymouth's Barbican, from the local residents beneath the Sound to the exotic inhabitants of colourful, tropical waters of the Caribbean.
As well as admiring these creatures in all their weirdness and wonderfulness, visitors learn about the vital protection and conservation of our blue planet.
On wet days, of which we've had more than our fair share of late, it's advisable to book tickets and get fast track entry to avoid the inevitable queues a tank of three-metre-long sharks will attract.
The National Marine Aquarium is open every day from 10am to 6pm (10am-5pm from November to March). For more information go to www.national-aquarium.co.uk.
5 Follow the Rail Ale Trail
For any fan of real ale, the Rail Ale Trail is not to be missed. Revamped for this summer, this pub crawl by rail combines great pubs with scenic routes through Devon and Cornwall, without the need for a designated driver.
There are six trails altogether which tie in with six branch lines: the Tamar Valley, St Ives Bay, Looe Valley, Maritime, Tarka and Atlantic Coast. New for this summer is the Great Cornish Ale Trail, from St Ives to St Germans, which features 20 of St Austell Brewery's hidden gems – a pint a pub is probably inadvisable, but if you visit each one and get a stamp you can stumble home with a brewery T-shirt!
For more information on the Rail Ale Trail, each route and the pubs along the way visit www.railaletrail.com.
6 Make prints to amaze
Why not indulge your creative side and make some lovely prints at Otterton Mill's printmaking workshop?
On this introductory course to printmaking, led by Lynn Bailey of the Double Elephant Print Workshop in Exeter, you will learn the practical skills to create your own work, drawing inspiration from the beautiful surroundings of the mill beside the River Otter in East Devon.
"One of the things that excites me most about printmaking is the potential to use materials gathered from the environment in the actual creative process," says Lynn. "These materials leave traces of themselves embedded in the artwork."
You don't need to bring anything aside from an apron and a willingness to experiment.
The next printmaking workshop takes place at Otterton Mill near East Budleigh on Tuesday, July 31 from 6.30-9pm and costs £35. Book on 01395 568521.
7 Indulge in a cream tea
You can't beat a good cream tea, and here in the South West we are positively spoilt for choice on the scone front, always served, of course, with clotted cream and jam (although the debate still rages about which should go on first).
We like the Kingsbridge Creamery, a cosy tearoom close to the church in the South Devon seaside town (01548 852456); Trenance Cottage Tea Room and Gardens in Newquay which has great old-fashioned service (01637 872034); and Burtons Farmhouse near Hope Cove in South Devon (01548 561210). "It is a lovely place to spend an hour," says one fan.
8 Blow your own glass
Blowing glass looks impressive, although it is not as easy as it looks! The expert glassmakers at Dartington Crystal near Torrington in North Devon offer a fun initiation into their art, helping you blow your own tumbler to take home.
After they've gathered the molten glass onto the blowing iron, you are invited to contribute the steady puff to make the shape. You can also try your hand at painting on glass, or create a glass cast of your child's hand or foot.
Visit www.dartington.co.uk or call 01805 626242.
9 Mix up some fabulous cocktails
If you've ever wanted to learn how to mix yourself a perfect margarita or a refreshing Manhattan, you'll find plenty to get shaken and stirred about at The Refectory cocktail lounge in Plymouth's famous Gin Distillery.
Matt Green, bar manager at the stylish venue, is teaching the art of cocktail making over five weeks each Monday night from 7-9pm, starting on August 6.
The course costs £100, and can be booked on 01752 828988.
10 Go for a wild walk
When the weather won't let up, it can be good to blow away the cobwebs with a stormy walk along the beach. There are countless coastal spots around the South West peninsula worth braving the rain for, and plenty of beach cafes offering a warming hot chocolate afterwards.