Have you ever considered the UK for a beach holiday? If you live abroad then you probably haven’t, most people turn their noses up and assume England’s beaches are filled with tacky arcades, sticks of rock and only see the sun a few times a year. Oh how wrong people can be! Simple google the beaches in Devon and Cornwall and you might well be surprised. Okay yes the weather isn’t always going to be like that of the Caribbean, but who gets beaten by a bit of rain anyway?
Devon is in the south west corner of England, because of this the climate is both warm and damp. Thanks to the North Atlantic Drift, this cost corner is kept mild all year round, even in winter. When the sun shines, it really shines, and we will forgive you for thinking you are somewhere far, far away.
Much of the south Devon coastline is a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, and rightly so. The area boasts crystal clear waters, stunning sandy beaches, and cute coastal coves that might even make you feel like you are a pirate hunting for buried treasure. The best way to explore this magnificent stretch of coastline is actually on foot, across the South West Coast Path, a 630 mile stretch of path, making it the UK’s longest National Trail.
Of course not everyone is going to get a chance to walk the entire thing, and neither did I (although it is now on my bucket list), but you can still enjoy snippets of it depending on where you are staying. My sister and I stayed at the Soar Mill Cove Hotel, a lovely boutique hotel that overlooks the ocean. The hotel is situated just a five minute walk from the Bolt Head Walk, part of the larger South West Coast Path. From here you can either turn left and enjoy the walk round the headlands to Salcombe, or, like us, you can turn right and climb the hills over to Hope Cove.
I mentioned the weather previously, stating it doesn’t rain all year round like some might think, annoyingly for us it did decide to rain on the day we walked. But no fear, the rain added nothing but character and charm to the views, we were slightly soggy by the end of it but we rewarded ourselves with a lovely cup of tea and a scone at a cafe in Hope Cove. The walk took us just under 2 hours, that includes the my constant stopping to take photos. It isn’t the easiest, there are some steep climbs as the landscape is very up and down, but the walk is worth it! I am not a gym bunny by any stretch, in fact, I haven’t stepped foot in a gym for a long time, but I managed the walk okay. I would say if you have mobility issues then the walk isn’t for you unfortunately.
Hope Cove is a pretty little village set in two parts. With the sea on one side and rolling green hills on the other, I can only imagine this is one of the most idyllic places to live, although beautiful on a sunny day, this is the sort of place I would love to be during a storm. The village is home to some beautiful cottages (I believe some of these are now holiday homes), as well as a handful of cafes, pubs, a hotel, a couple of gift shops and a Post Office.
After admiring Hope Cove we set off back to Soar Mill Cove Hotel, the walk on the way back was definitely easier and more downhill than up, so that was a treat! Back at the hotel we had ordered a traditional cream tea which we enjoyed in our room, we thought we would make the most of our sea view after all! The scones were huge, and more than just one each, that is the kind of serving I appreciate! Everything tasted home made, we had ample jam and cream (nothing worse than stingy portions), a lovely pot of strawberries, and of course a beautifully brewed pot of tea.
All the guest rooms have been recently refurbished at the hotel, making it a really fresh, charming and inviting space to stay. My favourite thing was the wall paper! We had beautiful seagull patterned wall paper in our suite, and there were other beautiful patterns throughout the hotel. Breakfast was included in our stay and we enjoyed a lovely hot breakfast both mornings.
Dinner service was just as impressive as the service we received in the mornings, our meal was accompanied by a live pianist which was a lovely touch, I believe he plays at the hotel twice a week. Dinner can get booked up quickly here so please book ahead if you would like to eat here. The food was fresh and there were lots of local ingredients on the menu, including ample fresh fish straight from the Atlantic.
I don’t eat fish (fussy me), there was a range of dishes for different dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten free meals. I started with a salad of heritage beets and honeyed figs with whipped goat’s cheese and walnuts (yummmmm!), followed by the confit leg of Creedy Carver duck, baby kalettes, gratin dauphinoise, caramelised apple and mixed peppercorn sauce. My sister of course opted for all fish!
Call me ignorant but I wasn’t expecting such sophisticated and flavoursome dishes, I’m not sure why other than a strange assumption, but I was totally wrong. These are the kind of meals I would have expected to find in a high end London restaurant, served with the warmth of friendly waiters and a relaxed, chatty atmosphere.
The next day we were greeted by wall to wall sunshine, we decided to drive into Salcombe (we would have loved to have done the walk but we needed to drive to Dorset later that day) which is around 15 minutes away by car. These aren’t the easiest roads to drive around, the roads are narrow with high hedges, but the views are beautiful each time you reach the top of a hill.
Salcombe is a well known tourist destination in the south west, especially amongst those who love boating! Its location at the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary means visitors are greeted by stunning views across a beautiful harbour, rivers, beaches and coves. Salcombe is so popular in fact that it has the highest average house prices in the whole of the UK, this has meant over recent years the town has become very upmarket in terms of boutique shops and restaurants.
So whilst I might not have the amount of pennies to enjoy a posh meal on the harbour side, there is still plenty to do and see that is affordable, one being a very delicious ice cream with chocolate swirls and white chocolate buttons. There are lots of shops in the town, including chain clothes stores such as Joules and Jack Wills (jack Wills actually has its roots in Salcombe), but also some smaller, independent boutique stores where you can get one off pieces of jewellery, scarfs, handbags etc! There is also a chocolate factory, bright pink sweet shop and a few art galleries dotted around.
For those of you who like views, Snapes Point is your place. Looked after by the National Trust, Snapes Point boasts panoramic views over the Kingsbridge Estuary, Salcombe, and the rolling green hills that surround you. Popular with locals, dog walkers and ramblers, visitors can explore on the longer walk from Salcombe, or from the conveniently located National Trust car park!
So as you can see, it was a fleeting visit to Devon for me, but I would highly recommend staying a full week (or longer!) down here to make the most of all that is on offer. For those interested in booking a stay at Soar Mill Cove, click here.