Before I begin, I must let you know that Devon wasn’t actually on our destination list to travel to this summer. However, following a nasty virus that decided to stick our oldest son’s lungs the night before we were supposed to fly to Majorca, we had to choose a destination that required no flight, had a beach, and where we hadn’t visited as a family before. So Salcombe was our choice.
Where to stay
Owing to the late-notice nature of our visit, and it being the first weekend of the school holidays, we were not overly hopeful of getting our first choice of accommodation in Salcombe. Luckily, (but not so lucky for some other family) when we called up The Harbour Hotel, which was in fact our first choice, we were told that they there had just been a cancellation and that they had an Estuary-view suite available for the next 3 nights. We took it.
The Harbour Hotel has a prime position on the Estuary bank at the top of the main Cliff Road, and is easy to locate, even when your sat nav has run out of battery and both your iPhones are dead. The entrance is steep and you need some good, strong thigh muscles to walk up and down if pushing a buggy. Although we didn’t see too many little people running around the hotel, the staff were very accommodating and had an apple juice ready for our 3-year old within minutes of us arriving at reception.
Our room was fantastic (room 412 if you are planning to go), and is the perfect size for a family of 4, with a fold out double bed, space for a travel cot and a large balcony over-looking the water. All the luxuries of a 5-star hotel, extremely comfy bath tub, White Company toiletries and slipper-flops for the whole family. The restaurant is busy and lively, so great for drowning out any tantrum noise, and plenty of food choices, including lots of fresh fish options, pastas, home-made burgers and salads. There is a great-sized pool, which has two sessions per day when kids can visit, although we still tried to remain relatively quiet, as not to harm the serene atmosphere for the other guests. Like I said, we “tried.”
At reception you can borrow buckets, spades, balls and fishing nets to accompany you to the beach, and also there is an endless supply of sugar rock, should your kids, or you, want to indulge. All in all, a fabulous, relaxed yet luxurious hotel, which we would definitely recommend for either couples or families to stay. Suite rooms cost around £350 per night and make sure you ask for an Estuary view.
Where to eat
Fish is obviously high on the menu agenda in Salcombe, so providing you love the stuff, you will be okay. We got take-out fish and chips from The Plaice on Fore Street, and ate them on the harbour front, whilst watching local families sitting on the walls, catching crabs and putting them in their brightly coloured buckets. Our 3-year old especially enjoyed teasing the seagulls with his chips and then devouring them quickly as soon as the birds encroached his territory. There is also a lovely little sandwich shop called The Salcombe Deli, again on Fore Street, where you can get deliciously-filled sandwiches and home-made cakes and pies for taking on your beach picnic.
If you want to eat out, then we would recommend The Crab Shed, The Winking Prawn or Dick and Wills. The Winking Prawn is a beach cafe on North Sands and is a white-washed, shack-style eatery. Perfect for a family lunch, after a morning of sand-castle building. There is also a treasure chest of dressing up gear for kids and a small play area for them to amuse themselves whilst you enjoy desert or finish off your glass of wine. On a lovely sunny evening, choose Dick and Wills Brasserie for al-fresco dining, a Salcombe lobster and some house fries.
What to do
After a recommendation from the hotel, we took the boat taxi over to South Sands, where we spent the day on the beach, building castles, making rock pools and chasing out the tide, which washes out quite drastically throughout the afternoon. The beach is overlooked by The South Sands Hotel, another top choice for accommodation in Salcombe, and where you can enjoy lunch or a cola on the terrace. To be honest, the beach is quite small and gets really busy, especially on a weekend, so we wished that we had veered over to one of the other, less popular beaches instead like Fisherman’s Cove or Sunny Cove, however, apparently access with small tiddlies isn’t supposed to be as easy at either of these.
If your kids are slightly older, then make sure you rent a boat via Salcombe Boat Hire. They rent out 12-16-foot fiberglass boats with steering wheels so you can spend the day cruising around the beautiful Estuary, fishing or popping to the various pubs and cafes sprinkled around Kinsbridge or Southpool.
For moms and dads, you should take it in turns to visit the shops on Fore Street, where there is some great nautical gear, as well as some cool independent boutiques. Our favorites were Amelia’s Attic, Bibbi & Mac and Quba & Co. Otherwise, persuade your child to be patient whilst you shop by promising them a visit to The Tree House toy shop on the way back to the hotel. We did!