It’s always nice to have something special in mind when you go on vacation. A target. Something to strive for.
When you go to the Lake District you want to see lakes. When you go to the coast, you want to spend time by the sea.
So when some of us went to Salcombe recently, we decided the aim of the game was simple. We went in search of good food, well done. Foodie heaven, in Devon. Not the fancy stuff, nothing with Michelin stars or fancy rosettes. More like Sunday roasts, sundaes, fish’n’chips. In short, treats galore.
Comfort food for comfortable times. Obviously we would do some walking, swimming and sightseeing along the way, but our primary goal was food, great food.
It didn’t take us long to find what we were looking for. Paradise in portion size pieces. Mmm.
We were heading for the coast, somewhere between Plymouth and Torquay, to South Hams, a lovely green pocket nestled in the south west.
The name comes from an Old English word, “hamme”, meaning enclosed or sheltered place. And so called because the area is in the south and has one of the mildest climates in the country, thanks to the sheltered granite columns of nearby Dartmoor.
If you’re going to explore the South Hams, you obviously need a nice place to stay. We chose the pretty seaside town of Salcombe, known as the jewel in the crown of Devon. Very glad we did too.
Salcombe is a charming, picturesque hotchpotch of colorful houses and hotels sloping down to the shoreline. Little lobster pot alleys, cobbled lanes, semi-hidden stairways, all lead to Fore Street, a winding high street lined with pedestrians, shops, cafes and bars.
There are also plenty of independent boutiques selling premium clothing, including the original Jack Wills store, which has the ‘ShipSmith and Ironmonger’ sign out the front. As intriguing as that was, we had no time for such frivolities, for we were looking for paradise.
We’ve certainly found it with our dog-friendly accommodation, a cute Edwardian cottage with parking for two cars outside and plenty of modern conveniences inside.
It looks like it has also been recently refurbished, making it comfortable, cosy, beautiful and bright. All sprinkled with cute seaside trinkets, my favorite is a photo in the downstairs toilet of the Spice Gulls.
The front door opens into a wonderfully warm living room, large enough for lounging, napping or just spending quality time with friends and family.
Sprawl out on sofas, chairs, a huge bean bag chair or the signature window seat, which comes with its own pillow just for dogs.
For those of us who like to cook up a storm, there is a well-stocked, well-equipped eat-in kitchen. A definite bonus for those seeking home cooked bliss, it was a sight to behold.
Upstairs there are three bedrooms, enough to sleep six lucky souls, along with a bright, sparkling bathroom complete with rain shower, wide enough to waltz in, if that’s your thing.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there is also a small lane at the top of the garden, which leads to the local corner shop and post office. Very useful for late night snack attacks. If you prefer to go to the city center it is only a few minutes walk downhill.
Meat from the Aune Valley
I’ve learned over the years to get to interesting places, to find the nearest farm shop. Virtually every ingredient you could wish for, all under one roof.
It will also have a lot more. Stuff that you absolutely do not need, but that you still like to browse. In this case, it was Aune Valley Meat, which, in addition to offering meaty goodness through the grill full, also walks a fine line in tasty groceries.
We walked away with enough provisions for a nice supper, along with a round of Devon Cream Teas. Very nice.
Breakfast in beach huts
The next morning we went to the local beach, North Sands, just minutes away, for a swim in the sea. You can swim from the heart of the city if you want, but we wanted to feel the sand under our toes.
My bright pink drycoat came in very handy after a few minutes of splashing in the chilly, choppy water. Then we retired to The Winking Prawn, a wonderfully cozy beach hut cafe, just yards from the sand, decked out in cheery streamers, decorated in hot pink all over, to match my drying coat.
They do a fine line in light snacks so I went for toast and coffee. But others enjoyed a very impressive breakfast buffet, easily large enough to satisfy the biggest appetite.
On the way home, we picked up some homemade rhubarb and ginger jam from a tray of tempting jams, left on a wall, sold for the air ambulance. Goodness everywhere.
We had decided to pass the time by walking, swimming and stopping to eat whenever something tasty appeared. Which meant we spent several happy hours poking around Salcombe itself.
The steps and sloping streets make it a great place to explore. One afternoon we followed our noses and headed up the side of Batsons Creek to Lower Batson, a small hamlet of thatched cottages and flowered gardens.
Looks like Miss Marple would love to visit such a place. While strolling home we stopped at Salcombe Dairy and decided we had earned some delicious sundaes.
Delicious Sunday roasts
The next day was Sunday and that could only mean one thing. A roast dinner. After walking down Fore Street we realized there were some lovely pubs directly opposite each other.
Since they both seemed equally inviting, we tossed a coin and then headed to the Victoria Inn. Where we made our choices from a reasonably fine Sunday lunch menu; beef, pork or vegetarian, with all the trimmings. It was great too. Did everything a Sunday Roast should do.
Coffee and Cake
There is a passenger ferry from Salcombe which takes you across the estuary to East Portlemouth. Once there you can walk barefoot on the sand and when the tide is right you can explore the delights of Mill Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches around.
After watching the surfers do their thing among the waves tossed by the wind, we headed to the Venus Company Cafe, for a monstrous slice of Victoria sponge washed down with steaming hot sips of coffee. Perfect.
Fish & Chips
You can’t go to the coast without eating fish and chips, that wouldn’t be good. One day, while watching the floodwaters crash over the harbor wall at nearby Hope Cove, we popped into The Cove, Cafe Bar, where we enjoyed the best breadcrumb-battered hake fillet and chips with mushy peas I’ve ever had. have encountered. Magnificently.
Also top tip, it’s a great place to watch the sun set over the sea.
Of course we humans were not the only ones on holiday, we had Rufus the hunting dog with us, who also deserved a treat. The next morning we drove to Kingsbridge, the nearest town, to visit the Doggy Deli. One of the UK’s most popular suppliers of natural dog treats.
I’m not sure Rufus knows what that means, but I do know he was very happy with the box of dog treats we picked up.
Catch of the day
On our last afternoon we met up with friends who live locally. They took us to their favorite seafood platter specialist, The Cricket Inn, Beesands.
A stone’s throw from the sea, with locally caught, fresh fish and shellfish, it’s the perfect place to find the perfect plaice. Or cod. Or, in my case, fried sea bream.
Was also the perfect place to end our fantastic foodie tour of South Hams. A journey that had taken us from hopeful anticipation to joyful satiety.
Turns out if you’re looking for foodie heaven, and want to find it in Devon, then Salcombe is the place to be. It is a coastal town full of secret stairways, charming corners and tasty treats for everyone. Heaven in Devon indeed!
The Salcombe Information the site has lots more on what to do in and around Salcombe.
About the cottage
Tor Cottage sleeps six people, is within walking distance of Salcombe and has off road parking for two cars. Prices start from £570 per week. Visit Coast and country watch or book. Property reference 1102739.
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- Brixham on the English Riviera from Torbay
- Jamaica Inn Cornwall – The famous smugglers inn
- Highcliffe House, Lynton – 5-star bed and breakfast