Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Devon, the English Riviera

How much do you know about Devon? Our answer was not much until the weekend.

Last year we celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary in Santorini, it was wonderful.

This year we stayed closer to home and the destination of the  'English Rivera' had a certain charm. Heading to Devon from Birmingham was actually a lot easier than expected, a 2 and a half hour drive down the M5 gets you to Exeter and an extra half an hour will get you to Devon's area of natural beauty, Dartmoor National Park and the English Riviera.

Our destination was East Allington which is best described as the middle of nowhere. I chose the Airbnb for three reasons 1) it sounded delightful and 2) it was dog friendly 3) it was near beaches

For a number of reasons if we travel in the UK it is now an absolute requirement that Bisbee comes with us and Devon was an amazing destination for a dog friendly getaway.

Devon is a county in the southwest of England, further west than Bristol but not as far west as Cornwall. In any part of Devon you are never more than 25 miles from a beach! Those beaches can be sandy or pebbly but in all most all cases they are stunning locations.

On checking into our Airbnb we tucked into our Chinese takeaway picked up on route, thanks JustEat, and I started rifling through the suggested walks and places to visit. I am so glad that almost all Airbnb's we have stayed at have local guides on offer. After half an hour our weekend was planned.

Saturday Morning
After an amazing nights sleep we were up fairly early to head to South Milton Sands, a sandy beach that's dog friendly all year. There are other beaches that are dog friendly in the area but only October to April. On arrival we were met by a National Trust tent that wanted to charge £5 for parking. Slightly horrified at the cost and our lack of cash we made a quick decision to join the National Trust. This wasn't to get out of paying for parking - although that was a plus - it was actually on my birthday wish list as I having a growing list of National Trust places to visit.

After sorting out membership and parking we headed to the beach. The weather wasn't great but on arrival we walked into a surfing event that meant the place was bustling. We decided to stretch our legs and walk to the far end of the beach. With interesting rocks to climb and plenty of space for Bisbee to run it was the perfect morning.

As we went to leave and find somewhere for lunch we spotted rock pools that led out to the stone arch we had admired from the beach and the adventurers in us took over - before we knew it we were knee deep in seaweed and avoiding the crabs and slippy rocks. Thankfully we survived the experience without injury!

Lunch was at a lovely cafe over looking the River Avon at Bantham, a lucky find after arriving at Bantham beach to find another £5 charge for car parking.

As per UK weather we had all seasons
A quick pit stop home to charge phones, refill water bottles and we were off again. This time to Dartmouth.

Saturday Evening
On driving into Dartmouth we had no idea what to expect. On arrival we were met with a marina full of boats and a cute town hanging on the banks of the River Dart. As we explored we found out that Dartmouth - Bayards Cove specifically -  was actually the launch point for the Pilgrim Fathers heading to America on the Mayflower and Speedwell. Well it was until the Speedwell sprung leaks and both ships returned to Plymouth. They both departed again but some 300 miles out the Speedwell sprung further leaks and was deemed un-seaworthy returning to England while the Mayflower continued. Rumour had it that the Speedwell crew didn't fancy a life in America and sabotaged the voyage!

At the edge of the town are ruins of the castle and forts that once protected the town from attack. There are also buildings dating back to medieval and Elizabethan times, including the Butterwalk built in 1635 that hosted Charles II. The earliest street is Smith Street - recorded in the 13th century. We found a lovely pub/restaurant called Bayards Cove for dinner and had a delicious chicken, bacon, spinach, cream cheese and gratin dauphinoise potatoes meal - so, so good! Oh and dog friendly :)

Sunday Morning
First stop of the day was Paignton. A traditional British seaside town that seemed a little run down. We arrived as a half marathon was finishing which may of been bad timing but it helped us decide quickly that it wasn't where we wanted to spend the day.

Our next stop was Cockington, half a mile from Torquay and the most picture perfect village. Full of thatched cottages that are home to restaurants, shops and plenty of other things to explore. The village is a must see if you are heading to the area. Parking was a reasonable £1 an hour in the main car park that is opposite the Country Park. We headed to Cockington Court a manor hall set in a massive park that includes lakes, a mill and a cricket pitch. Perfect for letting the dog run free.

After strolling for almost an hour we headed for a Devonshire Cream Tea at the Weavers Cottage Tea Room. It was as quaint as it sounds, flowery tea cups, traditional tea pots and a cake stand with fresh, warm scones and delicious thick cream and jam.

The sun was shining, the flowers were out and we were having a thoroughly lovely time.

Sunday Afternoon
The heart of the English Riviera is Torquay and this was where we spent our Sunday soaking up the sun, strolling the promenade and admiring the views. On one side of Torquay is the sandy beach, unfortunately not dog friendly at this time of the year, but lovely to see all the same. On the other side is the marina stretching as far as the eye could see. In the distance the hills frame the bay, it is a beautiful location.

Just behind the seafront is a town centre jam packed with a mix of traditional seaside shops and the usual high street offering. It really has everything and i'm not sure an afternoon was enough to do it justice. We spent our afternoon walking to Torre Abbey and back to the marina. It took less than a hour but allowed us to see what was on offer. There were market stands and a band set up by the gardens that meant we were entertained as we walked.

You can see why Torquay has been a holiday destination since Victorian times.

We finished the day with fish and chips from Rock Salt, highly recommended, they were everything we wanted from our day at the seaside - even if I had to fight the seagulls off!

We were sad to leave and will definitely be back, who knew there was so much to see so close to home. Birmingham may be in a landlocked part of the country but a 3 hour drive to the English Riviera is well worth it.


  1. Looks lovelt! Can't believe we live so close to these places, and never get a chance to actually go!

  2. Enjoyed a little tour of Devon. Yes, we love the place for many reasons.


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