The southern half of England's second largest county is synomous with childhood holidays spent splashing in the sea and eating barbeque sausages on one of the regions' many glorious beaches. Aesthetically, little has changed in this pretty corner of the West Country over the years and today visitors continue to fall in love with the gentle countryside and superb coastline.
Recent times have seen something of a gastronomical revolution in South Devon as local foodies caught on to the increased demand for quality local produce and the abundance of fresh food available on their doorstep. Consequently, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing what and where to eat.
Away from the beaches, days can be lost wondering the streets of historic market towns like Dartmouth and Totnes, which retain their traditional charm whilst offering great places to eat and excellent shopping. Or head to Salcombe, South Devon's most popular holiday destination, to spot celebrities, super yachts and sports cars in this glimmering jewel of a coastal town.
Whether you are on a family holiday, a romantic getaway or have your dog in tow, you can't help but fall for the otherworldly pace of life that makes a South Devon holiday the perfect escape from the 9-5.
A relatively short coastal walk away from Thurlestone is Hope Cove, another firm favourite and home to some of the finest seaside holiday homes in Devon. Formed around the idyllic twin villages of Inner and Outer Hope, the cove contains two great family-friendly beaches, and a local pub and a couple of cafes, which are conveniently situated within staggering distance of many of our Hope Cove holiday cottages.
Picturesque Thurlestone, with its thatched cottages and colourful gardens, benefits from its own microclimate and more sunny days per year than neighbouring villages just a mile or two further inland. With a range of sandy beaches to choose from within walking distance of our holiday properties - great for games, splashing about and sunset barbecues - Thurlestone is the perfect destination for those wanting a traditional British coastal holiday.
Kingsbridge, the capital of the South Hams and our home, offers an assortment of things to do and see, including an excellent range of shops; from clothing boutiques to delis and a three screen cinema. In addition, two large supermarkets service Kingsbridge and the surrounding villages, and there is a large indoor public pool that is great for those rare (cough) rainy days.
There are a selection of great pubs and restaurants including the brilliantly located Crabshell Inn on the estuary banks and the Creeks End on the town square which becomes the venue for various events throughout the summer including the Toad Hall Cottages sponsored Food and Music Festival!
As one of the region’s most desirable destinations, a holiday cottage in Salcombe is a popular choice for visitors to South Devon. During the summer months the town becomes a playground for the rich and famous, and a mecca for sailors and water sports enthusiast. Salcombe is the UK's answer to Saint-Tropez, offering a wonderful blend of old and new in the most stunning coastal surroundings. Book a break in one of our Salcombe holiday cottages to discover its unique charm and breath-taking scenery for yourself.
Across the water lies quieter East Portlemouth village, which offers exceptional access to the South West Coast Path, and is home to a cluster of small, but beautiful, sandy beaches, each looking across the water to the village’s more prominent neighbour. A year-round ferry service between East Portlemouth and Salcombe allows guests to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Beyond Slapton, comes the Dart Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that delights visitors with fantastic scenery and pristine waterside villages - like Dittisham, Tuckenhay, Ashprington and Stoke Gabriel - that make this area unique with their country pubs and fabulous settings. For a day out with a difference, a wine and cheese tasting tour at the Sharpham Estate is a must.
Dartmouth itself, like many coastal towns, is built on the side of a steep, wooded valley overlooking the river and is a picture postcard location. The Britannia Royal Naval College stands proudly on the hillside overlooking the town which offers a stunning array of bistros, pubs, restaurants, boutiques, galleries and specialist shops, all lining its narrow streets and passageways. Boat trips make the gentle journey up river to Totnes, another castle town with a bohemian charm and wonderful for shopping, dining and general mooching.
On an industrial estate close to Plymouth, Plymouth Karting is the ultimate playground for grown ups and nearly grown ups complete with indoor and outdoor karting, combat gaming and laser tag. This is your chance to get involved with the latest in motor-sports with features including challenging circuits, separate adult and children or family sessions, a coffee lounge and spectator area, LCD screening to detail scoring, washroom facilities and free parking, and exclusive booking for birthdays and special events available. You can just turn up but it’s advisable to phone ahead to check availability, particularly in larger groups. All equipment, clothing and safety information is provided but do wear trainers rather than flip-flops or sandals, and remember that children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
On Fore Street in Kingsbridge, The Art Café is one of those joyous places where children and adults can enjoy visiting thanks to good coffee, good cake, toasted sandwiches and tea cakes alongside a welcoming, peaceful environment. Here you can paint ceramics to your heart’s content. Open from 10am-5pm daily, they offer pottery parties and takeaway ceramic painting if you want to take the experience home to your South Devon holiday cottage. Prices vary according to what you paint and staff are wonderfully helpful. It’s the perfect place to visit on a rainy day with the kids (they happen occasionally), or for a little peace and quiet after a long day outdoors.
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Great place for kids and adults on a rainy day
Really good place to visit (especially if weather isnt great) that'll keep kids happy for a few hours. Be warned that whatever you make will need firing in the kiln, so will be a day or two until picking it back up usually!
Brilliant country pub, good homemade food, great real ales (listed in the good beer guide 2017) Child & dog friendly, gets very busy for Sunday lunches. Closed Mondays
A light and bright café in a beautiful location overlooking the estuary. While the kids go crabbing you can sit and enjoy the views with lunch or a snack, accompanied perhaps by a locally brewed beer or Stoke Gabriel village Yarde cider.
The River Shack The Quay, Stoke Gabriel TQ9 6RD (T: 01803 782520)
Relax in the friendly atmosphere of this pub by the cosy log fire in the winter or outside overlooking the river in the warmer months. Enjoy Devon’s finest produce accompanied by good beer and wine. Children will enjoy paddling in the river as well as the play area. Dogs welcome.
The Watermans Arms Bow Bridge, Ashprington, Totnes TQ9 7EG (T: 01803 732214)
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amazing pub. Great location by the river, really nice food and friendly staff. The dogs loved it too and we made to feel very welcome :)
Set in a beautiful location alongside Bow Creek and with a predominantly fish menu, this is a great place to enjoy some delicious food or a cold beer in the sunshine. Watch boats mooring, kayaks launching and children crabbing during the summer, or enjoy the cosy atmosphere and open fires in colder months.
The Maltsters Arms Tuckenhay, Totnes TQ9 7EH (T: 01803 732350)
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Only stopped for a drink on the way to Dittisham but loved sitting out by the river and watching all the wildlife passing by
Between Dartmouth and Slapton, Blackpool Sands is a beautiful shingle bay on the South West Coast Path, surrounded by evergreens and pine trees. It really is a treasure of a beach to visit while you’re in the area. Award-winning, the privately owned, blue flag beach boasts a sense of being in the Mediterranean on a good day in the summer, although a good jumper never goes amiss in this part of the world! You will no doubt not be surprised to hear that it is in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, however it also boasts ample facilities and things to do. There are showers, toilets and disabled facilities, as well as paddle board, kayak and wetsuit hire available for those wishing to earn their visit to The Venus Beach Café, where light bites and refreshments are served. The Venus Shop also sells all the bits and pieces you might want for fun and games on the beach if you have forgotten them or are in need of extra buckets and spades. The water at Blackpool Sands is known for being clean and clear and tested by the Environment Agency, and lifeguards are on hand in the summer (July to September) so there’s every reason to pop in for a dip. However, dogs are not allowed on the beach in the high season (12th March to 30th October) so keep the walking for the cooler months. There is parking available at the beach with seasonal charges, and you can find out more information on those from the Blackpool Sands information line on 01803 771800. This beach is easy to get to and quite literally fun and games for the whole family, as well as a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year to take in the view!
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Absolutely love this place! Perfect for families, safe swimming and and lots of rock pools to explore. Our kids were down there every day. Can't wait to come back next year. Mrs Sutton
Rugged and unspoiled, Lannacombe is the beach for those looking for total escapism on their South West holiday. Small and perfect for escaping from the summer crowds, it’s one of the best places to visit to simply enjoy the Devon scenery in all its natural glory. There’s a small car park just behind the beach so do get there early in order to guarantee a space, although there is further parking a short walk away if need be. Dogs are welcome at the beach throughout the year and as it offers access to the Coast Path it’s a good idea to combine your visit with a walk to take in the views of sea and countryside, perhaps towards Start Point where there is further parking around 30-40 minutes away on foot. At low tide the beach offers gentle rock pooling so it’s a lovely spot to head to for a quiet afternoon with the family, building sandcastles and eating sandwiches if you remember to bring them. There aren’t any cafes and restaurants immediately on site, so do remember to take anything you need with you, and there aren’t any toilets in the near vicinity either, so that’s worth keeping in mind when you plan your day. If you have been on holidays in Devon and Cornwall before you will also know that you need to watch our for the tide at many of the beaches, including this one in order to avoid disappointment or getting wet, you can pick up a tide timetable at local post offices!
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A bit of a walk down from the car park but so worth it, arguably the best beach in the South Hams
One of South Devon’s quieter beaches, Mothecombe is a large and unspoiled, privately owned stretch of sand that’s open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Having won an award from the Marine Conservation Society for its clean sea and sand, you can be assured that relaxing here and pottering about in the water is going to be a happy, healthy and pleasant experience for all in this sheltered corner of Devon. For those wanting to try out water sports, Mothecombe offers the ideal conditions for windsurfing, kayaking, body boarding and generally enjoying the water, particularly for beginners as it’s a comparatively gentle environment in which to give it a go. Given its pristine nature, it will probably come as no surprise that dogs are not allowed on the beach in high season, so keep an eye out for signs for more information, but best to steer clear with furry friends from May to September. There is a car park from which you can access the beach down a narrow path, so it’s not ideal for wheelchair users, but is otherwise conveniently close by. There’s also a tea house in the car park for drinks and snacks and there are toilets nearby as well, so pending the tides you can spend a good day here enjoying the natural scenery and all the fun that it brings with it, whether that’s for the whole family, on a romantic afternoon in the summer sun, or simply enjoying the peace and quiet of this less populated park of the coastline.
A long stretch of beach with spectacular views of the sea stretching into the distance, Slapton Sands is in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and for good reason. Adjacent to Slapton Ley, a freshwater lake that’s home to an abundance of wildlife and one of the many reasons people come to visit the area, the beach has a history of welcoming families in the summer for long days in the sunshine, building sandcastles, surfing, windsurfing and kayaking. It’s amazing to believe that this peaceful corner of South Devon has its place in military history as in 1943 the beach was taken over by allied forces to use as a rehearsal area for the D-Day landings. However, live ammunition and poor visibility ended in the deaths of more than 700 servicemen, so today there is a stone monument in place for Operation Tiger, as it was called, as well as a Sherman Tank at nearby Torcross. On a more current note, there is a beachside café at Slapton Sands for teas, coffees and other light bites, and there are also toilets nearby. The beach has disabled access, and also allows dogs throughout the year, so it really is fun for everyone and very easy to get to. There is parking nearby and in the summer months from May to September there is lifeguard cover. Last, but not least, a small collection of pubs reside in Torcross for those who are feeling peckish after a long day in the fresh air, or if you have been for a nice walk along the sand!
A long stretch of sand broken only by the South Milton Ley freshwater reed bed, South Milton Sands is a dramatic beach that’s exposed to the elements, making it something of a chameleon throughout the year. Rugged in its beauty, there’s nothing quite like watching the sun set at this beach behind an iconic rock archway in the water; it really is spectacular, particularly if you do so over dinner in the summer months from The Beach Café, a small but perfectly formed restaurant and café that’s perched just above the sand. If you want a table inside then you really do have to book this one, but if the weather is fine then eating outside is a joy. The beach is sandy and popular on windy days with kite surfers and windsurfers, but in calmer weather is perfect for a summer swim. Dogs are welcome at South Milton throughout the year, there’s a National Trust car park by the beach which costs from £5 for the day, £3 after 4pm or is free for National Trust members. There are also toilets nearby. It’s also worth knowing that in the summer months lifeguards are in situ from 6th July until 8th September, keeping everyone safe in the sun, sea and sand. When the weather is less conducive to sitting and admiring the view, South Milton is perfectly placed for a stroll along the coast path either towards Hope Cove and around towards Salcombe if you fancy making a day of it, or in the opposite direction you can walk towards Bantham and Bigbury on Sea. It’s a wonderful place to explore and watch Devon’s wildlife in all its glory.
Accessed either by boat, via a 10-minute walk through the woods from parking at Mill Bay, or a stroll from the Salcombe to East Portlemouth Ferry, Sunny Cove is a sandy beach which, as you might expect, catches the sun throughout the day, weather pending. It’s on the East Portlemouth side of the Salcombe Estuary opposite North Sands beach and Fort Charles, the ruined fortification that was originally constructed during the reign of Henry VIII to defend the Kingsbridge Estuary against French and Spanish Pirates. It’s a relatively gentle spot for swimming and ideal for picnics, lazy summer afternoons, and reaching on kayaks and paddle boards from other nearby beaches as well as being the perfect spot for building sandcastles. That said, the tide can come in quite quickly so make sure you don’t get caught out and be careful of the swell when bringing boats into the beach. Head there for the day in the summer or as a stop off en route to the café at Gara Rock or a longer walk along the coast path towards Prawle Point. Dogs are welcome all year round but keep in mind that there aren’t any facilities in the immediate vicinity (it would be a 10-15-minute walk along wooded footpaths) so take your sandwiches with you!