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South Devon & Dartmoor - Eating and sleeping
Devon’s best-known and most addictive dairy product is clotted cream, thick, velvety and yellow. To make it, milk is heated very slowly and then cooled, so that the cream rises to the top and can be skimmed off. A ‘Devon cream tea’ is a sumptuous feast: freshly baked scones spread thickly with clotted cream and jam (preferably strawberry), accompanied by a pot of tea. In Devon, the jam usually goes on top of the cream, in Cornwall underneath. Then there are multi-textured cheeses, ranging from hard and nutty to soft and squashy, enriched with all manner of local herbs and flavours. Different dairies have their own specialities, some from centuries-old family farms; many have won international prizes.
As you might expect from a county with two sea coasts, Devon’s seafood is spectacularly fresh, from luxurious lobster to simple, locally caught dabs and mackerel. Meat-lovers can enjoy succulent marbled steaks from red ruby Devon cattle, and many restaurants source their menus from small animal-friendly farms nearby.
Finally there’s the Devon pasty – distinguished from the Cornish pasty by having its join or crimp along the top, rather than (as in Cornwall) along the side. You’ll find them everywhere, hot or cold and perfect for a quick snack.
You could wash down all of the above with a good draught of Devon cider or scrumpy. Local pubs stock the particular ciders of their region; scrumpy is made from windfall apples and its potency can catch you unawares – but never mind, you’re on a Slow holiday!
For our authors’ selection of recommended places to eat see Slow Travel: South Devon & Dartmoor.
The following places to stay in South Devon & Dartmoor are extracted from Slow Travel: South Devon & Dartmoor. They have been selected for their good location and because they embrace the Slow mindset, either in terms of their overall feel or because they embody a ‘green’ approach.
Buckland Tout-Saints Hotel Buckland Tout Saints, near Kingsbridge TQ7 2DS; 01548 853055; www.tout-saints.co.uk. This luxury country-house hotel, tucked away in its own 4½-acre gardens, was once the old Buckland Manor House and the high ceilings, oak panelling and gracious rooms reflect its history. With 16 comfortable bedrooms and surrounded by open country, it’s the perfect retreat. It’s well worth checking out the off-season breaks and special offers. Food comes fresh from local farms and fishing boats or is grown in the hotel’s own garden; menus are of a high standard and dishes (local crab, venison, lamb, duck and the like) are beautifully presented. Even the cream teas are in a class of their own, with champagne available if you feel like an added treat – and there are pleasant walks nearby to counteract the calories.
Church Farm Haccombe, Newton Abbot TQ12 4SJ; 01626 872310; www.wildlink.org. This elegant Georgian farmhouse, set in a tranquil valley rich with wildlife, is the home of TV wildlife producer Andrew Cooper; he and his wife offer B&B in two luxury en-suite double bedrooms (one with bath, one with shower) complete with badger-watching in comfort. There’s a choice of full or continental breakfast, also of ‘Special Breaks’ which include dinner and a guided walk with Andrew around the valley. It’s such a beautiful area. Visitors can be collected from Exeter Airport or Newton Abbot rail station if necessary.
The Palace Hotel Torquay, TQ1 3TG; 01803 200200; www.palacetorquay.co.uk. The original, much smaller, building was the Bishop’s Palace, built for Bishop Henry Philpotts in 1841. Converted and greatly extended into a hotel in the 1920s, it is notable for its position, within walking distance along lovely Bishop’s Walk to Anstey’s Cove, and has spacious grounds, golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, and so on. Good bargains are available off-season. You can also walk across the fields to Babbacombe, with its two bookshops and interesting church.
Dartington Hall Totnes TQ9 6EL; 01803 847147; www.dartingtonhall.com. Dartington Hall is proud of its 50 bedrooms, in all shapes and sizes, in the East and West Wings around the beautiful medieval courtyard. Some overlook the courtyard, some the gardens. For meals, there’s the refurbished White Hart Bar and Restaurant, just across the courtyard; and the 1,200-acre estate offers plenty of peaceful strolling. As the Dartington website says: ‘We’re not a hotel or a country house, we’re an inspiring destination,’ and profits from your stay will support the charitable work of the Dartington Hall Trust.
Kilbury Manor Colston Rd, Buckfastleigh TQ11 0LN; 01364 644079; www.kilburymanor.co.uk. Tucked away in the countryside between Buckfastleigh and Totnes, this 17th-century Devon longhouse is a clean, cosy, peaceful and friendly place, with good-quality furnishings and lots of thoughtful touches. Hosts Julia and Martin look after their guests well. Julia is an excellent cook – her breakfasts have won an AA award – and don’t miss her homemade marmalade. The house has four comfortable en-suite bedrooms and a self-catering apartment, set in four acres of gardens and meadow. There are good walks nearby, and safe parking.
Gara Rock East Portlemouth; 01647 433593; www.helpfulholidays.com. Currently four apartments and two cottages, each sleeping four or five people, are available. This is all about location – if you don’t like remote, don’t stay here. If you love walking, and want some luxury at the end of the day, this is the place. Unsurpassable cliff-top location, indoor and outdoor swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna, and all the expected mod cons. The restaurant with its wide sea views is open to the public.
The Chapel Lettaford, North Bovey; 01628 825920; www.landmarktrust.org.uk. A tiny converted chapel, where you live and sleep (maximum two) in one room although the bathroom is separate. Charming and different. Nearby is another, larger, Landmark Trust property, Sanders, a longhouse, which sleeps five.
Helena Drysdale writes: we have a much loved family retreat to let beside the sea in South Devon. Sheltered seclusion, private beach with stream and waterfall, 5 acres of woods and gardens, sensational views. Located a 1/2 mile from the village with shop/post office and pub, and 3 miles from Dartmouth. it is also accessible via the South West Coast Path. Sleeps 5: 1 double, 1 twin with en-suite shower, 1 single; family bathroom; open fire, Wi-Fi. Rates from £400 to £900 per week. If you’d like further details please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is for you if you like privacy, beauty and peace. Perfect for family holidays or as an artist's or writer’s retreat. It’s comfortable but not for you if you want super deluxe, TV or matching plates.
Harford Bridge Holiday Park Peter Tavy, Tavistock PL19 9LS; 01822 810349 ; www.harfordbridge.co.uk. Conveniently close to the A386, right on the edge of Dartmoor and adjacent to National Cycle Route 27, this well-kept park is a family-run affair, with two brothers and a sister carrying on what their parents started 30 years ago. ‘We’re continually enhancing it.’ one of them told me, stressing their commitment to sustainable tourism and respect for the environment. There’s a peaceful, shaded camping area beside a stream, well-spaced selfcatering caravans and holiday lodges, and a lovingly built and cosy ‘shepherd’s hut’. Facilities are modern, with free hot water and showers. Nature is very close: one visitor mentioned spotting, from the stream-side campsite, kingfishers, dippers, nuthatches, tree creepers, bats and even mink. Only native species of shrubs and trees are planted; and some areas are left untrimmed to protect wildlife. Prices vary seasonally and are shown on the website.
Poppy Yurt near Harbertonford, between Totnes and Dartmouth; 01326 555555; www.classicglamping.co.uk. A very comfortable yurt set on a raised wooden platform in a wild-flower meadow with woods for children to play in and a small lake. The yurt has an outdoor sink and a gas-fired barbecue; inside there’s a loo and shower, and even a woodburning stove. Sleeps four. No dogs.