Archive for category Devon

If You Love the Ocean, Try Surfing in Devon

The American big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton once said, “The biggest sin in the world would be if I lost my love for the ocean.” For ocean-lovers seeking a UK- based holiday, Devon is an ideal destination. Of course Cornwall has Newquay, usually regarded as Britain’s surf-capital; but Devon offers some intriguing, and less well-known, alternatives to its neighbour.


The North Devon Coast offers surfers less in the way of frenetic social activity but more than makes up for it in waves. This surfing scene has as its hub the village of Braunton. Here you’ll find a range of accommodation, including holiday cottages, and plenty of restaurants and cafés serving homemade food. Most importantly for the surfer, Braunton provides easy access to North Devon’s stunning coastline and beaches.


At Saunton, there is a big stretch of sand, and at the northern end of the beach, where the waves are bigger, is the area known as The Cave. Located next to a cave (naturally!), this part of the beach attracts world-class longboarders wanting to ride the impressive peaks forming off the coastline.


Putsborough is sometimes overlooked as a surfing destination in favour of its better-known neighbours, but here the waves peak in size the further north you travel. The beach stretches from Putsborough Sands to Woolacombe and the area has two caravan parks and a number of charming holiday cottages.


In the summer season, Croyde is bustling with activity. Croyde Bay has become a magnet for surfers and the area has a number of surf schools that welcome both beginners and more experienced surfers. The surfing ranges from beginner-friendly waves when the tide’s in to challenging low-tide barrels. Again there’s plenty of holiday accommodation available in the area.


Not to be outdone, South Devon has Bantham Beach. With beautiful views across Bigbury Bay, Bantham picks up the Atlantic swells coming up through the English Channel that make it ideal for surfers. The surrounding area of the South Hams is attractive and the beach is within easy driving distance of Salcombe and Kingsbridge. Both are attractive towns providing plenty of holiday home accommodation, alongside places to eat and other visitor attractions.


Surfing is a pretty-much universal activity; it’s not limited to professionals or those more athletic individuals. Many of the destinations featured have surf schools and training academies that have lessons and short courses tailored to suit novice surfers and people just wanting to try it out.


If, however, you’re a dedicated surfer, Devon can also provide the kind of peaks that will more than satisfy your need to ride the waves and your love of the ocean.

Make Tracks for a Change of Scene: Railways in Devon

Sometimes the means is as important as the end. Journeys can become key parts of the holiday experience. So it is with Devon’s scenic rail routes, where you can relax and watch a world of green countryside, coastal views and dramatic landscapes pass before your eyes.


The Avocet Line links Exeter with Exmouth. This route takes you from Exeter St David’s station through Topsham to Exmouth, passing alongside the Exe Estuary. Topsham is full of interesting independent shops and excellent restaurants, and with the station right in the middle of town, it’s an excellent place to stop off in en route.


Exmouth has two miles of sandy beach to enjoy, but for those wanting more activity, you can explore the South West Coast Path along the seafront – beautiful for birdwatchers. Exmouth also has its own arts festival in May. For great views of the estuary take the Starcross Ferry from Exmouth Marina.


The Riviera Line connects Exeter to Paignton, running through Starcross and along the Exe Estuary before hitting the coast through Dawlish and Teignmouth. After a stop further inland at Newton Abbot, the line runs back along the coast through Torquay to Paignton.


On this journey you can combine the cosmopolitan attractions of Exeter, from its historic quayside and cathedral to its shopping centre, with the Regency splendour of Dawlish, where the railway line runs along the seafront. Torquay combines seaside charm with the zestfulness of its busy harbour. Finally, Paignton provides award winning sandy-beaches, a splendid Victorian pier and even a zoo.


For a different Devon experience, ride the Tarka Line running between Barnstaple and Exeter. For an hour and a quarter you’ll experience the beauty of the Devon countryside, as the line follows the valleys of the Yeo and Taw rivers. Highlights along the route include the market town of Crediton and the picturesque charm of Barnstaple itself.

Barnstaple has one of the largest indoor markets in the country and, if you like cycling, from the station you can also easily access the Tarka Trail.


From historic Plymouth you can catch a train on the Tamar Valley Line. Initially this takes you through beautiful countryside, but the highlight is when you pass over the magnificent Calstock Viaduct, 120 feet above the River Tamar. The train also calls at the lovely riverside village of Bere Ferrers, home to a real ale trail and beautiful countryside.


Stopping off in Calstock, you’ll find a couple of charming local pubs serving great food and, a short walk away, Cotehele House and Gardens. This is a Tudor-period house run by the National Trust with an impressive art and artefact collection and a large garden that combines formal terraces and an orchard with a wild valley garden accessed through a secret tunnel.

Calstock also hosts a jazz and blues festival in the autumn.

Where to Go for the Definitive Devon Cream Tea

There are certain things you simply must do when you visit Devon. Having a proper Devon cream tea is one of them. It doesn’t matter if you’re older or younger, a regular holidaymaker, a backpacker or even a visiting hipster: the Devon cream tea is non-negotiable.


What makes the Devon cream tea an essential component for anyone visiting the area? It’s the winning combination of tradition and sheer indulgence. You’ve not really experienced decadence until you’ve munched on a Devon-baked scone topped with jam and clotted cream. All washed down with the archetypal British drink, tea.

But you might ask, where should I go to experience the archetypal cream tea; are there not numerous places offering this up? True, the cream tea is something of an institution in these parts, so for reasons of space, we’re only recommending a handful, based on the excellence of the produce and the beauty of the setting in which you can consume it.


Barnstaple’s Cream Tea Café does exactly what it says on the tin – freshly made food with locally-sourced ingredients, providing an ideal break for walkers on the Tarka Trail. The generous portions will provide suitable fuel for those continuing their trek.


The Sunday Times has sung the praises of the afternoon tea at Otterton Mill, and it is indeed a lovely setting to sample the delights baked on the premises. It’s beside the River Otter, in East Devon, and there’s an historic working water mill to go with the stunning scenery, and the food and drink of course.


The Southern Cross Guest House and Tea Rooms located near Sidmouth, in Newton Poppleford, provides a sumptuous cream tea with freshly baked scones generously crammed with clotted cream and jam. This can also be enjoyed in the confines of an exquisite walled, country garden, weather permitting.


In Plymouth you’ll find The Strand Tea Rooms, situated in an original Elizabethan building that overlooks the quay. It provides a friendly and charming setting where you can enjoy the delights of a traditional Devon cream tea right in the heart of Plymouth’s historic Barbican district.


On the banks of the Teign, in Dewsteignton, you’ll find the Fingle Bridge Inn. The setting is truly idyllic and the views breathtaking. Cream teas are served all afternoon, and if you feel you need to burn off the calories, you can easily explore the area on a number of walks starting from Fingle Bridge itself.


This is just a taster of what you can sample in Devon when it comes to the legendary cream tea; and wherever you choose to eat your scone, and however you decide what goes on first, the jam or the cream, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to make the most of your beautiful surroundings.

Captivating Castles in Devon

It’s not that castles are suddenly fashionable, though Game of Thrones has probably helped make them so, but they are always fascinating.

What attracts us to castles? There’s something about how they can be a very physical reminder of our past, our culture and our history. And they come in all shapes and sizes, spanning hundreds of years in origin. Some are little more than ruins, some much more grandiose. They’re more often than not pretty imposing, because that’s one of the reasons they were built in the first place.

Castles conjure up powerful images and associations, both historical and fictional. They’re great places for taking the kids to for this reason.

If you like the idea of visiting castles, then Devon is a great holiday destination for you.


Old Haunts

The seclusion of Berry Pomeroy castle and the fact that it was left to ruin in 1700 have given it the reputation of being haunted. You enter through a huge gatehouse, to the remains of the Elizabethan manor within the castle walls, built by the Pomeroy family. Berry Pomeroy is in Totnes.


Totnes Castle is another relic of a bygone age, a wooden Norman fortress supplanted by a stone structure, then rebuilt by William de la Zouche in 1326.


Another supposedly haunted site is Okehampton Castle, set on a high ridge overlooking the River Okement in Okehampton. When the owner fell out of favour with Henry VIII the castle fell to decay and ruin.


Grand Designs

Set in a popular picnic spot, Dartmouth Castle guards the entrance to the Dart Estuary and the port of Dartmouth itself. Work first began on the castle in 1388 but it saw action in the English Civil War and was being used as recently as the Second World War. It was the first castle to be built specifically to accommodate artillery and there are a number of cannons on display. Visitors can climb to the top of the battlements for a fantastic view of Dartmouth town.


Tiverton Castle has a history spanning an impressive 900 years. It was originally built in the 1100s but during the 14th century it extended its fortifications. It is a location steeped in history, with both medieval and Elizabethan buildings. It was the site of fierce conflict during the English Civil War, suffering a siege by Parliamentary troops. The interior of the house is filled with memorabilia from the siege. The grounds include an impressively maintained three acre garden.


Castles are full of mystery and they bring history alive. They’re great for a day out if you’re holidaying in Devon, with plenty to see and do.

Father’s day, teddy bears, pints and scarecrows

Scarecrow picture by Flickr user Tim Green

Scarecrow picture by Flickr user Tim Green

This Sunday is Father’s Day and it’s shaping up to be a lovely weekend for lots of activities!

It’s a special Father’s Day teddy bear picnic at Newquay Zoo on Sunday. Great fun for the family and fathers get special half price entry. Children under 15 will get in for free if they bring their teddy bear for the picnic! Face painting will be available throughout the day, and find out about the animals at the daily keeper talks.

Dads go free at Newquay‘s Blue Reef Aquarium this Sunday. Learn about the roles of fathers in the ocean, from dedicated seahorses and not so dedicated sea turtles.

How about a pasty and a pint courtesy of Pennywell Farm, Buckfastleigh? Dads will also be able to have a go at some falconry or have a blast on the Red Rocket.

This weekend is the annual Scarecrow Festival in Devon‘s East Budleigh. Expect all the lovely festivities, foods and drinks from a normal village fete, but with a surreal but wonderful display of scarecrows throughout the village!

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Cornwall most family-friendly destination in the world

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall picture by Flickr user Fraser Reid

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall picture by Flickr user Fraser Reid

That’s right, our beloved Cornwall has been voted the most child-friendly holiday destination in the whole world, with Devon, Somerset, Dorset and the Isle of Wight also appearing in the top ten.

The results are from a recent poll of 2,000 parents by an international lettings agency, with Cornwall recommended as the best place for family-friendly holidays. The news comes shortly after Cornwall was granted national minority status within the UK, officially recognising it’s distinct culture and heritage.

Top priorities to ensure the best child-friendly holiday included nearby play areas, a good choice of food to cater for fussy eaters, and a shallow sea. Half of the parents polled said the ideal holiday destination must have nice beaches, and 28% said kids’ swimming pools are essential.

Cornwall pipped Orlando in Florida to the top spot because even though Orlando boasts vast theme parks and near-perfect sunny weather, it was marked down for the long flying time of around nine hours.

The study also found that the ideal length of time for a family holiday would be around 10 days, and travelling time to the destination would be under five hours.

Other UK destinations to feature in the top 50 include West Wales, the Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and the Scottish Highlands.

The results are unsurprising to us at Holiday Cottages, where we have holiday accommodation at all of the high-ranking areas voted on in the poll.


Top Ten Child-Friendly Holiday Destinations

1. Cornwall, UK

2. Orlando, USA

3. Devon, UK

4. Majorca

5. Costa Del Sol, Spain

6. Isle of Wight

7. Menorca

8. Dorset, UK

9. Somerset, UK

10. Tenerife


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May special offers

The Easter and school holidays may nearly be over, but with two more bank holidays coming up in May then why not take a mini-break in the West Country and save your work-entitled holidays for another time? Our friends at Helpful Holidays have plenty of special offers on for bookings throughout next month, so you’ll also be saving cash as well!

Gulworthy J35

J35 Gulworthy

Save 20% on the remaining weeks of May, including both bank holidays at The Granary (J35) near Gulworthy, a hamlet three miles from Tavistock. This single-storey cottage (sleeps 4) is converted from an old granary on a 250 acre dairy farm. Inside, enjoy open-plan living/dining/kitchen and French windows to terrace; two bedrooms – a double, and one with two singles; and a bathroom (suite plus hand-shower). A good spot for relaxing, listening to birdsong and avoiding the rush of everyday life.

P326 view from top bedroom

P326 view from top bedroom

Or how about saving 20% on this three-storey cottage in Port Issac P326 (sleeps 7) on week commencing 17th May? The exceptionally pretty fishing village is famously the setting for popular TV series ‘Doc Martin’. The property has four bedrooms, two doubles, a twin and a single. There is a lovely, sunny living room with a bay window with a sea view, a kitchen/dining room, upstairs bathroom and downstairs shower room.

P306 waterside views

P306 waterside views

Another 20% saving on week commencing 24th May at Little Petherick, North Cornwall P306 (sleeps 4) a peaceful location just two miles from Padstow. There’s an enclosed, waterside, decked terrace and a first-floor balcony to enjoy the views. A ground floor twin bedroom with en suite shower room; an open-plan living/dining/kitchen. French doors to the terrace and stable doors to a little summer room with foldaway chairs and more French windows to decking. The first floor has a double bedroom with balcony and a bathroom. Neat and compact; a lovely, peaceful waterside spot, excellent for walking or cycling.

For these and more holiday cottages, visit the main website.



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Flybe launches new domestic flights from London City

Flybe is to launch new domestic and international flights from London City Airport in October. 

Flights are on sale now to Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Exeter and Inverness with departures launching on 27th October. The airline is also planning to offer off-peak leisure flights to selected ski, regional French and Northern Spanish destinations.

Flybe will base three aircraft at regional airports and two at London City, where it expects to carry around 500,000 passengers a year.

Flybe’s chief executive officer Saad Hammad said: “Today’s announcement is a significant landmark in the re-birth of Flybe. We are delighted to re-enter the London market at London’s most convenient airport following a rigorous profitability analysis utilising our strict route assessment model.

“Dedicating five growth aircraft initially to these new routes is a major statement of intent and we look forward to building a successful and growing presence there over the coming years.

“Flybe is today already connecting over seven million passengers a year across the UK and Europe. With a major London connection, we reaffirm our place as the UK’s largest regional airline.”

Initially there will be four daily flights to and from Edinburgh and Dublin, three flights a day to and from Belfast and Exeter, and twice daily flights to and from Inverness.

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Easter events in Devon 2014

Easter Bunny by Flickr user somewhereintheworldtoday

Easter Bunny by Flickr user somewhereintheworldtoday

Here are some family friendly events taking place this Easter in Devon. If you haven’t already booked your accommodation, make sure to visit our Devon holiday cottages.

Easter weekend at Living Coasts, Torquay’s costal zoo and aquarium. Meet the cute little chicks and take part in the Easter egg trail, games and craft activities, as well as meeting all the playful penguins and many more fascinating creatures!

Visit Kents Cavern, prehistoric caves in Torquay for a Dinosaur themed Easter. Piece together the Dino facts around the caves, solve the T-REX riddles and see if you can win an Easter surprise.

Easter egg trails at Coleton Fishacre, Dartmouth. Part of the National Trust, you can explore this lovely RHS accredited garden with winding paths through glades, past tranquil ponds, and see many wonderful plants from the Mediterranean, South Africa and New Zealand thriving in this sheltered valley.

Go ‘Beyond the Book‘ in Bovey Tracey at this exhibition of artists that examine the book as a physical form as well as a container of ideas and concepts. Expect a variety of sculpture, installation and jewellery.

Family Rock Days in Okehampton. Suitable for ages 8 and up, this tour of some of the famous Dartmoor tors will cover a range of activities such as rock climbing, weaselling and bouldering.

Also in Okehampton is the Finch Foundry rag rug making workshop on Easter Monday.

The Big Sheep near Bideford, North Devon, is holding an Easter egg hunt to end all Easter egg hunts. Over 30,000 miniature chocolate eggs will be hidden throughout the site, plus, if you find three of them, you can claim a big egg! The Easter Bunny will also be making an appearance for a special breakfast!



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Easter availability in the West Country

There is still time to book a break away for this Easter. Here are a few holiday cottages in the wonderful West Country!

Q10 - View from the balcony

Q10 – View from the balcony

Q10 - spacious living/dining/kitchen area

Q10 – spacious living/dining/kitchen area

This absolutely stunning custom-built detached house (sleeps 8) is positioned on a quiet, private lane on the northern edge of Mawgan Porth. The village has pubs, restaurants, deli, wine bar and beach shops clustered around a beautiful cove. It’s great for bodyboarding, and close to pony-trekking and golf. It’s also not too far from other magnificent beaches and international surfing facilities at Newquay (airport).

The property (Q10) is full of large windows to showcase the view and let light stream in to the generously sized rooms. The living/dining/kitchen area of this house is upstairs to take advantage of the wonderful sea views. Downstairs are four bedrooms (two double, two twin) with three en suite bathrooms and French windows to the garden. Everything about this property is sleek and modern in design for a comfortable holiday.


R54 - kitchen/living room

R54 – kitchen/living room


R54 - view from patio and garden

R54 – view from patio and garden

Another holiday cottage from Helpful Holidays is this large detached bungalow (R54) (sleeps 6) in the hamlet of Freathy overlooking the fine sandy beach of Whitsand Bay. It has a sunlit living room and fitted kitchen and glazed doors to the patio and peaceful garden. There are three bedrooms, two double, one twin, and one bathroom and a shower room. An excellent holiday home with good links to nearby Plymouth.


L153 - view from the front

L153 – view from the front

L153 - inside/outside dining

L153 – inside/outside dining


Perfect for a group or large family in the South Hams is this large, split-level, detached house (L153) (sleeps 12) with panoramic views over the bay to Burgh Island. Just 200 yards up from the magnificent sandy beach in Bigbury-on-Sea stands this contemporary home designed with the latest green technology. The interiors are light, bright and spacious. Consisting of four large en suite bedrooms (three twins, one double) on the lower ground floor, and another huge master bedroom with walk in dressing/cot room and en suite bathroom from the hall. A light-filled kitchen/dining room with glossy, modern units and a kitchen island. Through to a large living area with floor to ceiling glass doors here and in the kitchen to give panoramic views and access to the deck and steps down to the garden, hot tub and little summer house, plus much, much more.

These are just a few of the stunning properties still with availability for the Easter holidays, so make sure to visit the main site to discover even more!

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