In the first of our new series we spend 48 hours in Devon and discover some of the best the county has to offer, from an attractive sailing village and tucked-away beach, to an exhilarating coastal walk and an enchanting riverside garden.
For sailing and shopping: Salcombe
An idyllic town on the Kingsbridge Estuary, Salcombe lies within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a sheltered harbour means it has always been known for boat building, and sailing and yachting are still big business today. Head past candy-coloured cottages towards the famous Fore Street in the heart of the town, where artists’ galleries and cafés abound – during the summer months crowds of out-of-towners flock to this fashionable spot, recently dubbed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’. The preppy clothing company Jack Wills was founded in Salcombe and a proliferation of chic clothes boutiques sit side by side with traditional pubs, upmarket eateries and quaint sweet shops and tearooms.
For beachy relaxation: South Sands
The South Sands passenger ferry runs between Whitestrand, in the centre of Salcombe, and the picturesque beach of South Sands, located at the entrance to the harbour, providing a wonderful way to take in views of the town from the water. South Sands boutique hotel is situated right on the gorgeous golden beach, and has a summery New England style with a cosy log fire that is welcoming in any weather. Make the most of the restaurant with its floor-to-ceiling windows affording views over the bay.
For spectacular sea views: Coastal Path
Setting off from South Sands, you’ll find Overbeck’s, a hidden paradise of subtropical gardens owned by the National Trust, a five-minute walk from the hotel. Enjoying a unique microclimate, which allows the garden to thrive, Overbeck’s is home to an array of rare and exotic plants, some of which have been successfully cultivated for over a century. From Overbeck’s, continue up past the sign for Tor Woods, Sharp Tor and Bolt Head and you will find the spectacular coastal path with its panorama across miles of beautiful coastline and estuary. Kestrels ride the wind along cliffs that drop down to shimmering turquoise sea and dramatic rock formations tower over colourful heathland bursting with flowers. If you can drag your eyes away from the sweeping views, you might spot the concrete platforms perched on the rocks at Bolt Head that are the remains of WWII observation posts, or the dark outline of the wrecked ship Herzogin Cecilie during low tide at Starehole Bay.
For woodland walks: Hotel Endsleigh
Hotel Endsleigh is nestled in unspoilt woodland beside the River Tamar. As you start down the endless driveway it’s like entering a secret world. The gardens, designed by the great English landscape designer Humphry Repton, are a wondrous, Eden-like example of the English picturesque style. There are Rivendell-like waterfalls, moss-covered bridges and sheltered valleys that steam in the sun, and even a wildly romantic grotto decorated with thousands of shells that has dazzling views down to the river.
It’s a remarkable find and one of the best hidden gems in Devon. And as with so many places in this beautiful county of contrasts, once you discover your favourite spot, you may never want to leave.