Kelly Beswick from London, her husband Sam, their twins Kit and Natasha, plus Nana and Grandpa, aka Barbara and Bruce, stayed at a Coast & Country Cottages holiday home in the picturesque seaside town of Salcombe, South Devon.
With Easter fast approaching, along with the customary school holidays, I knew that unless we escaped the big smoke for some fresh air and some good old fashioned out door fun we would all go slowly mad. That’s when we succumbed to the siren call of Salcombe (a place we had visited some three years previously), a beautiful and vibrant hillside town overlooking the Kingsbridge Estuary with glorious golden beaches, hidden coves and so much to see and do we’d be hard-pressed to cram everything in to our allotted week.
Sam’s parents were keen to accompany us and after some scouting we found the ideal property. All that was left to do was pack the buckets and spades and set off down the motorway for the five-hour journey – taking in a service station pit-stop for a quick sandwich along the way.
Even after such a long journey, complete with the customary bickering (the children, not us, I hasten to add), the drive down the steep hill into Salcombe cannot fail to set the spirits soaring. The view of the harbour with all the yachts and tugboats bobbing about in the unfeasibly blue, almost Mediterranean-like water is truly a sight to behold. Having located the Coast & Country Cottages office we collected the keys from the lovely Tina (who not only suggested an excellent itinerary but after our visit, realising we’d left a mobile phone behind, kindly returned it, so a huge thanks for that). We were booked into a property called Leylands just a few minutes uphill from the centre of town and the bustling waterfront. An elegant late Victorian terrace house, originally built for a local sea captain, and painted a fetching shade of baby blue (many of Salcombe’s properties boast colourful frontages, leading the children to declare it “just like Balamory”) we were immediately bowled over.
Inside couldn’t fail to impress either, being decorated to the very highest specification with every conceivable mod con. We have rented a fair few holiday homes in our time, and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that Leyland’s is one of the finest. It’s layout is perfect for large families such as ours, having two separate sitting rooms, so the children could occupy one, with the adults in the other, leading to a light and airy open plan dining room and kitchen where a pre-arranged Delimann Traditional Devonshire Afternoon Tea hamper awaited us, well we were on holiday after all! Also downstairs is a third large bathroom with walk in shower, great for when everyone’s rushing to get ready in the mornings.
Upstairs we immediately ‘bagsied’ the master bedroom with en suite and magnificent views of the harbour – not that the second double was anything other than fabulous as Barbara and Bruce quickly discovered. The children meanwhile opted to go their separate ways, with Kit occupying one of the bunk beds at the front of the house, while Natasha took a single in the middle. Once settled we ventured out into the sloping garden where at the top we discovered a terrace complete with table and chairs plus barbecue. While we didn’t use the latter on our visit we certainly used the former, soaking up the late spring sunshine on many an afternoon while enjoying a cold glass of Prosecco – bliss!
Whether a salty seadog or an avowed landlubber, Salcombe, known as the jewel in the English Riviera, has something for everybody, which goes some way to explaining its popularity – indeed, it has the highest property prices in the UK, recently overtaking Sandbanks in Poole. Yet despite this it has a very real and thriving underbelly, where boatyards, marine stores and an active shell fishing fleet sit happily alongside the many bars, restaurants and boutiques. It makes for a fascinating and alluring mix – no wonder it’s become such a tourist mecca. Added to this is the fact that it’s surrounded by some of the country’s (in some cases, I’d even hazard the world’s) most stunning beaches and coastline, made accessible through the coastal path and a network of ferries, plus a warm and temperate climate that sees palm trees and all manner of exotic foliage flourish.
THINGS TO DO
My children are on the cusp of finding electronic gadgetry more fascinating than real life, so this holiday we were determined to turn the tide (an apt idiom considering our seaside location). With this in mind, on our first full day we took the ferry over to South Sand where upon approach we were collected by the delightfully quirky sea tractor before being deposited on the beach. What followed was an idyllic afternoon devouring pasties purchased beforehand at Salcombe’s renowned Bake House and digging huge craters in the sand. Such fun was had that no nearby beach went undiscovered during our stay, with the adjacent North Sands and the opposite Smalls Cove and Millbay all proving just as popular. Beaches aside, one of the highlights of the holiday was a Triocean Surf paddle boarding session with the wonderful Dave and Tom (trioceansurf.co.uk) at the quayside in neighbouring Kingsbridge.
The children had a brilliant time, deliberately hurling themselves into the water, and even knocking poor Dave in at one point too, while Sam and Bruce did their darndest to stay dry, but not altogether successfully in Bruce’s case. Okay, confession time, both myself and Barbara opted out, preferring to seek refuge in The Crabshell Inn where we could watch their antics from a safe distance. Afterwards everyone joined us for a well-earned drink followed by a delicious and hearty meal. Of particular note was the Panko king prawns with tomato chili jam and the homemade crab tagliatelle, garlic, chili, lemon and parsley. That said, everybody cleaned their plates with gusto! A riverboat cruise down the River Dart is also a must if you’re in this neck of the woods. If you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll also receive an impromptu, and at times hilarious, history lesson from the captain.
This day was topped off with a meal of fish and chips at Mitch Tonk’s acclaimed The Rockfish where for once the entire family were in agreement – it was the best we’ve ever tasted! On our last day, and with the sky practically cloudless, we made the 20-minute walk from Salcombe to Overbecks, a National Trust property (nationaltrust.org.uk/overbecks) once owned by the eccentric inventor Otto Overbecks (his claim to fame was The Rejuvinator, a device that could evidently make you look younger by employing electrical impulses to the face… heck, I’d give it a shot). The house itself is packed with all sorts of natural history specimens and a doll’s collection that gave Kit and Natasha the creeps, while outside is the most fabulous tropical garden, spanning seven acres, and overlooking the Estuary, a scene so breathtaking it reminded me of the Amalfi Coast!
A stay at Leylands, Salcombe, through Coast & Country Cottages starts from £709 a week. For more information on Leylands and more than 400 other self-catering properties across Salcombe, Dartmouth and surrounding South Devon visit coastandcountry.co.uk or telephone 01548 843773