Further easing of Government COVID restrictions allows the rest of Devon’s Top Attractions members to re-open finally.

Image: Watermouth Castle.

As we all hope expectantly for the long-awaited ‘Step 3’ of planned easing of the Government’s Covid recovery ‘Roadmap’, the excitement and anticipation is also growing at all members of Devon’s Top Attractions who are getting ready to expand their operations or to simply re-open for business. The Covid rules changes from Monday 17th May and further lifting of restrictions will allow those visitor attractions who were unable to open earlier on to now finally re-open their doors and start welcoming visitors back in force.

Trading as ‘Devon’s Top Attractions’, the Devon Association of Tourist Attractions (DATA) says its members are in rude health and ready to go again for the truncated 2021 season. All of Devon’s indoor attractions will be able to re-open for the first time and those attractions who were already partially open can fully re-open their indoor facilities too.

Indoor soft-play areas, rides within buildings, exhibitions, and museums, plus anything else housed indoors will be re-opening. And the lifting of indoor hospitality restrictions also means that attractions will be able to re-open their cafes and restaurant areas, and not be restricted to only offering takeaway and outdoor dining service. A great bonus for sure to visitors and businesses alike.

Devon’s Top Attractions have all been doing lots of work to prepare their sites, as well as recruiting and training staff. Behind closed doors, the attractions have also been very productive in making many improvements and changes to their operating procedures and processes following CV-19.

In some cases, attractions have remodelled the whole delivery of their ‘day out experience’ in readiness for this long-awaited key date. There is a jubilant and celebratory feel among Devon’s Top Attractions for the May 17th ‘take off’ date when all holiday accommodation will be open; domestic overnight stays allowed; indoor socialising, and indoor dining all allowed again.

From May 17th we will see a number of attractions that have been closed for over 18 months finally re-open. For example, Watermouth Castle is one attraction that did not open at all in 2020. Debbie Haines, owner of Watermouth Castle, said: “There is a mixture of excitement and nervous energy around the grounds of Watermouth Castle as we prepare to open our doors for the first time since October 2019. When we closed that winter, we had no idea that we wouldn’t be welcoming visitors to the park for almost 19 months! We just can’t wait to welcome people back.”

Next Monday will also see the first steam trains back running on the tracks and carrying passengers again at the South Devon Railway after a 15-month absence lasting 417 days! Next week will also see Pecorama re-open with miniature trains set to start running once again after being closed.

Pecorama Operations & Events Manager, Blanche Alexander, said: “We are really excited to be able to open our gates on Tuesday 18th May. After 14 months of closure, the steam locomotives are being fired up, the gardens tidied and our outside catering cafés prepared so we can welcome visitors once more.”

We will also see a number of attractions which managed to open briefly in between the three Government lockdowns also re-open their doors. Owner and director of Kents Cavern, Nick Powe, said: “We are thrilled to be opening again after spending much of the last 12 months closed, the site is looking better than ever, and we are ready for business again.”

Despite all of this positivity, Devon’s Top Attractions members will still be hit by only having limited capacity numbers being allowed through their doors, and they will still be following all Government guidelines. Some DATA attractions are, therefore, phasing in the date of re-opening their indoor areas but, by May Half Term, nearly all DATA attractions will be fully open and operational. And some attractions are starting to offer key seasonal events which have not been offered since before the pandemic first took hold last year.

The May 17th key date also coincides with Devon’s Top Attractions launching their new ‘stronger together’ mutual-promotion project by unveiling their ALL-NEW location map boards at all members’ sites.

The striking new boards are part of DATA’s own Covid-19 ‘Rethink, Remodel, Rebound’ strategy developed last year when fighting for survival. A shift towards greater digital technology and a new way to promote one another mutually, but still upholding the primary aims of DATA of ‘quality’, ‘best practice’ and acting as a ‘unified voice’.

Each DATA member attraction will have at least one clearly visible map board located in high footfall or visitor-dwell areas. Through the proven technology of using large size QR codes, the new boards will offer visitors a quick route to view other member attractions; find information about them, and even book tickets.

Taken collectively, the boards could well be viewed by the five million plus visitors a year who already come to Devon’s Top Attractions, and these new location boards may be rolled out and offered at other key visitor locations such as holiday parks in years to come if successful.

The Chairman of ‘Devon’s Top Attractions’ and South Devon Railway PR manager, Dick Wood, said: “Our member attractions are all getting ‘ready to roll’ again so visitors can have some much-wanted fun once more. But they have also put in much hard work and preparation in order to continue to keep staff and visitors safe and following Government guidelines.

“Our attractions are eager to either re-open for the first time in 12-18 months, or to now fully re-open their whole attraction. And we are so pleased to see some of Devon’s key annual events starting to re-appear in our events calendar again – that shows confidence going forward!

“And we are thrilled to launch our new location map board project this year which has enjoyed overwhelming support from our members, and generated really strong ‘team work’ to get this project off the ground in just a short period. The new display boards are being installed in key areas at our 36 member attractions and a few other locations. Collectively, they will be seen by vast numbers of visitors and serve as a boon to visitors. As DATA Chairman, it’s pleasing to see this joint project come to fruition which highlights really good collaborative working during a time of great uncertainty for our members.”

The May 17th easing of restrictions will continue until ‘Step 4’ on 21st June and, hopefully, we will see the final lifting of restrictions by the Government.

To find the full list of attractions re-opening dates see below or www.devonstopattractions.co.uk/whos-open

Full List of ‘Devon’s Top Attractions’ and their planned re-opening dates

Babbacombe Model Village – Re-opened 12th April, outdoor.

Becky Falls – Re-opened 17th April, outdoor.

Bicton Park – Re-open. Awaiting Government guidelines for indoor areas to open fully from 17th May.

Blackpool Sands – Re-opened from 12th April, Venus Take-Away available.

Canonteign Falls – Re-opened 31st March – For walks, Easter trails and takeaway refreshments. Restricted entry to locals only. Re-opened to all from 12th April outdoors.

Clovelly – Village, gardens and pub at the Red Lion (takeaways only) re-opened 12th April. The Red Lion Hotel opens its doors for overnight stays on May 17th.

Crealy Theme Park & Resort – Outdoor re-opened 12th April, then partially open for weekends. Fully re-open from 22nd May.

Dartington Crystal – Factory shop only re-opened on 12th April – fully re-open 17th May.

Diggerland – Re-opened 12th April – outdoor.

Exmoor Zoo – Re-opened 12th April – outdoor.

Lundy Island – Re-opened Self Catering accommodation from 12th April – Week by week review for trips – Camp site from 17th May – full capacity hopefully from June.

Pennywell Farm – Re-opened 12th April – outdoor.

Powderham Castle – Re-opened of grounds and Secret Garden on 2nd April for the Easter Holidays, and on weekends throughout April and May. Closed again for a time and reopening of the Castle/Grounds on 25th July.

Quince Honey Farm – Shop and gardens re-opened on 15th April, attraction re-opening 17th May.

RHS Rosemoor – Currently open to locals only – re-opened up wider 29th March for an Easter trail. Restricted capacities and online booking. Accommodation re-opened 12th April.

Seaton Tramway – Re-opened 12th April with limitations.

South Devon Railway – Re-opening of site only on 12th April and steam trains running from 17th May.

Watermouth Castle – Accommodation re-opened from 12th April and Theme Park open 18th May.

Wildwood Escot – Re-opened 12th April – outdoor.

Woodlands Family Theme Park – Reopening 12th April outdoor only. Looking towards fully open for May Half Term from 29th May. Indoor situation still under review.

River Dart Country Park – Park re-opens 1st May for day visitors and campsite opens 17th May.

Stuart Line Cruises – Re-opening 1st May with limited timetable. Full sailing schedule from 17th May.

Re-opening 17th May onwards

Buckfast Abbey – May 17th – subject to clarification.

Bygones – Re-opening 17th May with secure restrictions in place.

Coldharbour Mill – Re-opening 31st May 2021 check website.

Devon Railway Centre – Re-opening 22nd May, subject to change.

Exeter Cathedral – Re-opening on 17th May but subject to change.

Kents Cavern – Re-opening 17th May – Advance online booking only 16 people per tour. Hopefully this will be relaxed from 21st June, await Government guidelines.

Morwellham Quay – Re-opening 17th May.

Pecorama – Re-opening 18th May, Tuesday –Saturday 10am until 4pm. (Except Bank Holiday weekends) Pre-booking strongly advised as entry numbers will be limited.

Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) – Still reviewing a re-opening date, but check website.

The Big Sheep – Re-opening 17th May Subject to guidelines.

The Donkey Sanctuary – Reopening planned for 17th May, subject to change.

The Milky Way Adventure Park – Re-opening 22nd May – subject to guidelines.

World of Country Life – Re-opening on 17th May.

Destination Plymouth – Events will be after 21st June – still to be confirmed.

Seaton Jurassic – Will remain closed.

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