We spend a lot of time dreaming of holidays overseas, but here in the UK we have some of the most beautiful destinations, including South Devon. Here are some of our favourite things to do in this gorgeous part of the South West.
For family holidays and romantic breaks or even solo trips, South Devon has a wealth of beautiful locations, spas and hotels in which to spend quality time. Salcombe, for example, in the South Hams is amongst the best known holiday destinations and a sailor’s paradise, while Dartmouth is a historic port town offering old world charm in abundance and Dartmoor has the kind of rugged beauty usually reserved for novels.
Nothing could be more idyllic than a beach holiday, whether it's buckets and spades on the sand or surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and kite surfing. South Devon's coastline is one of its biggest draw cards, from the surfer's paradise at Bantham to sandy Sunny Cove, family-friendly North Sands to dramatic Torcross, there are plenty of options, whether you're looking for vast beaches or hidden coves. Another favourite is Bigbury-on-Sea, which leads to Burgh Island, a private island only accessible by a stretch of sand where the sea comes in from both sides. Visit when the tide's in and take a ride on the sea tractor to the other side!
Walking along the coast path
The South West Coast Path stretches for 630 miles, running from Minehead in Somerset, including running through Devon. Undulating past beaches, through fields, via dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, sunshine yellow gorse and grazing sheep and cattle, heading out for a walk is one of the most exhilarating and beautiful experiences South Devon has to offer.
The South West is well known for its food, from cream teas (cream first, jam second) to seafood (locally caught crab is a particular favourite), clotted cream and more. The popular seaside town of Salcombe is home to its own ice cream factory, Salcombe Dairy (honeycombe is a favourite), as well as its own gin distillery, Salcombe Gin. As you can imagine, all that foodie gloriousness is reflected in the restaurants and cafes, whether you head out for a three-course dinner at the Salcombe Harbour Hotel or tuck into fish and chips by the beach.
Family days out
There's a wealth of experiences across South Devon for families to experience. Dartmouth Zoo always holds appeal, not least as the inspiration for the movie We Bought a Zoo, featuring Matt Damon. In Plymouth the Plymouth Aquarium is a favourite for all age groups, while the Butterfly Farm at Buckfastleigh or the Model Village at Babbacombe is a classic favourite. Fans of Agatha Christie might also enjoy visiting Greenway, a National Trust property and the former home of the famous murder mystery writer.
Life by the sea is characterised by outdoor activities. We've mentioned surfing at the famed Bantham beach where you can hire all the kit and even get a beachside cup of tea to warm up afterwards. Sailing is also a popular past time. You can also hire paddle boards or kayaks at a variety of beaches, book tours that will take you into caves and past local shipwrecks. Or you might simply prefer to splash in the water on a sunny day with a bodyboard - it is wellness in its truest form and for all ages.
Many of the coastal towns and villages in South Devon also have seasonal events that are top attractions. For example, Salcombe has a town regatta in August which sees a week of games and traditional events (think tug of war, spot the bloomer, mud races in the estuary at low tide and a fancy dress competitions), all culminating in a theatrical evening of fun and fireworks. Dartmouth too has a similar regatta, and both towns have dedicated sailing regattas for eager sportsmen and women.
Where to go on a South Devon spa break
The Thurlestone Hotel, Kingsbridge
A family friendly hotel with all the luxury credentials for a romantic break overlooking the beach and adjacent to the golf course, The Thurlestone Hotel has just the right amount of old school charm set alongside contemporary style and service. It is complete with The Voyage Spa, a recently renovated addition to the hotel, combining top class modern facilities with a touch of classic nostalgia from the golden age of ocean travel.
Gaia Spa at Boringdon Hall, Plymouth
A lavish hotel for romantic breaks, and a contemporary spa that’s perfect for groups, Boringdon Hall is postcard perfect with views over Dartmoor and an abundance of history - it is said that Lady Jane Grey stayed here once upon a time. The hotel has been renovated in recent years to achieve five star status, and amongst its assets, the top floor of the spa is a dedicated Spatisserie where they have recently introduced brunch to the menu divided into awakening, balancing and calming meals.
Lincombe Hall, Torquay
This pristine Manor House hotel in Torquay is adult-only and all about luxury. A short walk from Torquay marina where you can stroll by the water, it's also just a short drive from all those beautiful beaches we mentioned. The hotel is immaculate while the spa is a real jewel of an experience, complete with beautiful experiences like a 13-metre hydro pool complete with bubbling volcanoes, a Scandinavian sauna, aromatherapy steam room using essences of coconut, orange blossom, eucalyptus and vanilla, a Himalayan salt room, a beautifully lit ice room, Nordic inspired bucket showers, and treatments from Temple Spa.
Salcombe Harbour Hotel and Spa, Salcombe
Overhanging the Salcombe estuary, Salcombe Harbour Hotel and Spa is a luxury spa hotel in the heart of this popular seaside town. Walking distance from the pretty shops as well as beaches and coastal walks, it enjoys spectacular views. Inside, it's luxurious and elegant but also family friendly and welcoming. Meals are served in The Jetty restaurant which is all glass down one side, so you can watch the boats bob by over breakfast, lunch and dinner. The HarSPA is small and beautifully formed with a small pool for relaxing swims as well as a gym, and ESPA treatments available.