As the weather starts to show the first hints of thawing and we can see a tease of spring on the horizon it’s only natural to start plotting holidays. Given the seemingly endless summer last year, we dare to dream of a repeat performance, making staycations within our own beautiful isle all the more appealing. And where more enthralling than Devon, the county aptly coined the English Riviera due to its chic harbour towns and stunning coastline.
With so much to see and a surprising amount of ground to cover, we recommend a dual site stay to ensure you make the most of your time.
First stop: Experience glamping at its finest in North Devon with Longlands
It’s not surprising that Longlands have been the winners of numerous boutique glamping awards, tucked away in an area of outstanding beauty this a glamping experience like no other. The site is made up of 5 safari-style tents, each of which sleep 6 people (and two dogs if you are so inclined), and includes all the luxuries and stylised finishes you would expect from a chic country hotel. The perfect battered chesterfield in front of the roaring wood fire, sumptuous natural aromatherapy products in the bathroom and cosy White Company bedding in the bedrooms.
Though hardcore camping traditionalists need not fear; there are just enough activities to give you the hint of camping which I know many enjoy, the satisfying task of fire making being one of them. It seems it’s only the undesirable aspects of traditional camping have been ejected from this new improved model. Gone are the mad dashes and queues for the bathroom block for example, instead you can relax in your own private bathroom complete with shower within the privacy of your tent.
Take time to enjoy the fresh air and explore the beauty of the area. There is a picturesque lake on site complete with row boats, however should you be like me the hot tub is my water destination of choice. Make a booking for you and your party at sundown and bring a chilled bottle with you to watch the sun set on the sea and over the valley.
Longlands is the perfect base (if you can tear yourself away) to explore the beautiful coastline. Culture vultures, be sure to make a special pit stop to visit Ilfracombe to see Damien Hirst’s striking and forboding ‘Verity’ statue. It would be unfair to deny yourself a visit to the seemingly endless sandy plains of neighbouring Woolacombe beach, voted Best British Beach and deservedly so for the last 2 years on TripAdvisor – not to mention the obligatory chip shop dinner for true nostalgia.
Another favourite spot of mine was the honesty shop, known as ‘The Larder’, full of fresh local and homemade produce and open 24 hours a day, perfect for a midnight feast. Taking all the hassle out of self-catering you can pre-order with the team before you stay, letting them know your party size and dietary requirements and simply pick up your delicious home cooked food daily. Perfect for a camping novice like myself. Pop in the oven or on the BBQ back at your tent and feel like Delia with none of the effort. Due to its uniqueness and high end finish, it is unsurprising that availability can be tricky, but exclusive hire is available and would allow for a truly unforgettable experience whatever the occasion. Now you just need to find an excuse!
It’s worth noting that although your stay at Longlands is all about the unwinding, there is a power socket included in each tent, but I implore you to step away from your phone and truly disconnect. Maybe don’t tell the rest of your guests about its existence? Just a suggestion. For those suffering from Candy Crush withdrawal why not have a rummage through the games trunk, we reignited the age old love (and horrific competitiveness) of Monopoly during our stay. This is grown-up camping at its best, escaping the hustle and bustle of town living without neglecting any of life’s luxuries.
Pricing from £595 for a weekend stay and from £495 for a mid week stay, full weeks from £925. longlandsdevon.co.uk
Second stop: Embrace your inner foodie with the family in South Devon at The Soar Mill Cove Hotel
Its striking graphic single story architecture has a touch of Palm Springs feel about it, effortlessly cutting in to the wild natural beauty of the Devonshire countryside. Its exotic design aside, everything about this long established family-run hotel holds true to traditional British values.
Named for its prime location above Soar Mill Cove Beach, a secluded sandy beach on the South West Coast Path between Hope Cove and Salcombe. A stunning wild spot, perfect for dog walking or exploring caves with the family, easily accessed via a short footpath from the hotel. If you aren’t feeling adventurous enough to brave the waves, I would recommend heading back to the hotel and plunging into their spring-fed heated saltwater indoor pool. And if that doesn’t relax you enough, indulge further by booking a treatment from the extensive Temple Spa range.
The mid-century modern design does everything to bring the outside in: expect spacious light rooms with lots of family and animal friendly options depending on who you are travelling with. Always be sure to pay the premium for a cove-facing room, you will never be disappointed. Binoculars and walking maps are provided in every room. Or better yet ask the dedicated team, many of whom have been with the hotel for years (there is nothing they don’t know and they are always happy to help – recommended if your map reading skills are as ropey as mine). If you are looking for a day trip hop in the car and you will be in the idyllic and chic Salcombe town in less than 10 minutes.
It’s not only the views and service people travel to Soar Mill Cove hotel for, it’s the award winning (2 Rosettes, last time I checked) food offering from chef Ian MacDonald that pulls in the crowds. Focusing on the very best in local produce the delightfully seafood heavy offering, including the famed Salcombe lobster, is a gloriously modern yet traditionally English assortment of crowd pleasers. And how can you not instantly fall in love with somewhere that has its own gin, an indulgent mix of honey, samphire and gorse blossom all sourced from the cove beneath you and distilled and bottled onsite. Look out for the gin sorbet a perfect end to a summer’s evening.
For the best seat in the house, nab one of the wicker swing seats in the lounge area, to indulge in the sea views from the comfort of indoors, ideal if the weather isn’t quite behaving. Take a book with you and enjoy the quiet – or even better enjoy a traditional Devon cream tea, while the champagne bar caters for boozier tastes. What is a trip to Devon without a cream tea mention?
Just so you know the Devonian method is to split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream, and then add strawberry jam on top. As with any trip, it is vitally important you to fully immerse yourself in local culture!
Prices from £239 per night for a Cove View Room, soarmillcove.co.uk
Review by Lucy Coghlan