Having thoroughly enjoyed our Family Spa Break At Beyond Escapes in January, we headed back to South Devon for February half-term, staying at Bigbury-on-Sea to explore Burgh Island and a small part of the South West Coast Path.
Whether you want an active holiday or something more laid back, there is plenty to enjoy and fall in love with here, especially with the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covering 60 glorious miles of coastline, estuaries and countryside between Plymouth and Torbay.
Bigbury-on-Sea is a small village on the coast facing Bigbury Bay, with the largest sandy beach in South Devon. The area is very popular for windsurfing and kite surfing.
The South West Coast Path stretches 630 miles running from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour, following the coastlines of Devon and Cornwall. Blessed with extensive wildlife, scenery, heritage, it is the longest National Trail in the UK. It is perfect for all skill levels as you can enjoy long hikes as well as shorter family walks.
Our last visit to Burgh Island was 17 years ago for the wedding of our friends Tina & Lucas Seskis. It was a cold and rainy day, with a beautiful wedding ceremony taking place in Burgh Island Hotel overlooking the atmospheric stormy sea, in stark contrast with the unseasonable weather that embraced half-term this year. We arrived on a warm day wearing shorts and tee-shirts.
Our home for the week was a beautiful and spacious apartment on Burgh Island Causeway, with a terrace overlooking the sea and Burgh Island. Our apartment complex had a pool which proved invaluable with the kids. In spite of long walks they always seem to have more energy to spend.
Burgh Island is a small tidal island, home to Burgh Island Hotel and the Pilchard Inn. Depending on the tide you can either cross by foot from the mainland or hop on the sea tractor, which ensures high tide crossings and is a fun experience.
Arriving on Burgh Island feels like steeping into an Agatha Christie novel. It is no wonder that the Art Deco Burgh Island Hotel inspired the novelist for the settings of both And Then There Were None and the Hercule Poirot’s Evil Under the Sun.
The island is a small network of footpaths that can easily be walked around in less than an hour. The views are beautiful and you can also enjoy seabird watching on the rugged cliffs. At the top of the island sits the remains of a former chapel. Graham managed a few morning runs up Burgh Island, which he found challenging as the hill is quite steep.
Before going back to the mainland, you can relax with a stop at the Pilchard Inn. Dating back to 1336, it is linked to 18th century smugglers who found refuge on the island. It has a nice terrace where you can enjoy a pint of ‘Pilchard’ (local Devon ale) as well as a meal while watching the world go by. The menu includes only a couple of vegetarian options (soup, mushroom appetiser and veggie pie) alongside steak, curry, stew and fish & chips.
Our plan for the week involved family coastal walks, beach walks and cycling.
Walk #1 included a route around the mouth of river Erme, Mothecombe Beach and part of the coastal walk (OS Explorer map: OL20: South Devon click here for Ordonance Survey details)
We parked a little beyond Tor Wood Tea House and started to walk at low tide at the mouth of river Erme. The view to the sea is really beautiful and we had a picnic lunch on Wonwell Beach. By then the tide was coming in so it was time to reach higher ground and we headed to the coastal path towards The Beacon. The coastal path runs next to big farm fields where sheep graze peacefully and we caught some great views towards Burgh Island. This is really a lovely walk, suitable for all walking abilities.
For Walk #2 we picked this circular walk around Hope (OS Explorer map: OL20: South Devon). Hope is a really attractive village with two coves: Inner Hope and Outer Hope. The starting point for this walk is the Sun Bay Inn at Inner Hope. There is a small car park there with a larger one at Outer Hope. The 8km/5 mile walk follows the coastal path overlooking cliffs and sandy beaches, looping through several fields, Bolt Tail (site of an Iron Age cliff fort) and Bolberry Down.
Starting quite late on the day, we ended our walk at dusk and enjoyed a beautiful coastal sunset. Some of the fields have a rich red colour, which gave local sheep a cute terracota appearance. Another lovely walk, suitable for all walking abilities.
Another highlight of our week, was an afternoon spent rockpooling on Wembury beach. A National Trust site, set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this is a picture perfect location. According to the National Trust wesbite, you can find “many limpets, anemones, shore crabs, pipe fish, sea scorpions, spiny star fish, Cornish sucker fish and edible crabs“. We were not that lucky, collecting seashells on the beach instead while thoroughly enjoying our afternoon.
Narrow lanes and rolling hills put a damper on our family cycling ambitions. It quickly proved too difficult to manage passing traffic and cycling uphill with the two children. off the road were some paths which turned out to be too muddy and tricky to undertake. So after a few miles we gave in, stopped at a pub, and played board games for an hour or two.
Whenever we go on self-catering holidays, we tend to balance our meals in and out. The closest food store to Burgh Island is Holywell Store in St Ann’s Chapel
On the way there you cannot help noticing Mount Folly Farm, with its 650 acres of cereals, sheep, beef, camping, car parking and self-catering cottages. The farm has a handy selection of seasonal veg and an honesty box by the side of the road. Peering across you can see the fields where these were grown which makes for pretty low food miles!
On our way back from Wembury beach we stumbled by accident across Ben’s Farm Shop, located between Kingsbridge and Plymouth, in Yealmpton. Farm fresh produce, deli, cafe, butcher, drinks: this shop has it all! It is stocked with all the organic brands and products you could ever wish for. I realised afterwards that the farm shop belongs in fact to the Watson family which also runs Riverford. We piled up supplies for the rest of our stay.
The Pickwick Inn
St Anns Chapel TQ7 4HQ
A little piece of Italy in South Devon, The Pickwick Inn has a lovely atmosphere and great selection of food from delicious pizzas and curries to traditional British fare. A variety of vegan and vegetarian options are also available.
The Dolphin Inn
Kingsbridge, TQ7 4QE
This quaint 16th century country pub prides itself on having a great selection of home-cooked meals using local produce. I was pleasantly surprised to see vegan options clearly marked on the menu. After our hike around Hope, these vegan quinoa cakes and vegetable tart defineitely hit the spot.
The Pilchard Inn
A quaint and cosy atmosphere for a very enjoyable stop before heading back to the mainland. The menu includes a couple of vegetarian options (soup, mushroom appetiser and veggie pie) alongside steak, curry, stew and fish & chips.
The Ferry Inn
Fore St, Salcombe TQ8 8ET
Pub food with amazing views over the water which you can enjoy from inside or on the large outside terrace. Some vegan and vegetarian options and extra generous sandwich plates.