All hail the British seaside: where fresh sea air and ice creams are always the order of the day, and cheerful Brits will determinedly jump in the sea come rain or shine.
Free of the glitz, glamour and glowing tans of the Mediterranean, there’s something about the fuss-free and often drizzly English coast that feels particularly wholesome and pure. Even Salcombe – a haven of second homes and boating fanatics – has quintessential British charm in bucketloads, made trendy by its bohemian surfer edge. There’s a reason why it’s officially classified an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Whether you’re hoping to catch some waves, walk the coast or wile away the hours with some wine, here’s how to spend a weekend by this popular and diverse stretch of Devon’s South Coast.
THE PACKING EDIT
Where to sleep
Salcombe Harbour Hotel & Spa
If you’re looking for luxury, peace and tranquillity right in the heart of Salcombe, the Harbour Hotel & Spa is your place. Situated right on the shore of the beautiful Salcombe estuary, this popular boutique hotel boasts great views and the perfect setting for a slow and rejuvenating weekend in Salcombe.
If a romantic break away from the hustle and bustle is what you’re after, you’ll also enjoy making use of the state-of-the-art spa complete with hydrotherapy pool and outdoor sun terrace. When you’re feeling suitably refreshed, Salcombe’s best pubs are right on your doorstep ripe for exploration.
South Sands Hotel & Restaurant
If you’re into beachside luxury, then you want to check out South Sands Hotel. It’s a short drive from Salcombe’s main thoroughfare and offers beautiful boutique rooms with sea views. A critically acclaimed restaurant and bustling cocktail bar can be found on site, so you won’t need to travel far for great food and drink after a long day on the beach. A great spot if you’re after a hotel that feels secluded, whilst having Salcombe’s best bits within reaching distance.
If modern, fashionable and highly Instagrammable interiors are more your bag, then head to Gara Rock. Make like an influencer with secret suites and open plan apartments that deliver on both style and substance. Visit the spa (complete with indoor and outdoor pools) before soaking up the sea views from your balcony and sinking into your king-size bed to admire the decor.
There’s even a 10-seater cinema on site with five screenings a day seven days a week, from new Hollywood blockbusters to quirky old favourites. I wouldn’t blame you if you never wanted to leave this veritable haven of style and tranquillity.
Soar Mill Cove Hotel
Soar Mill Cove is ideal for families looking for great value, comfort and flexibility. Dogs are allowed and there’s plenty of space to hang up sandy towels and wetsuits after frolics on the beach. A ten minute drive from Salcombe Harbour up on the cliffs, Soar Mill Cove has plenty of space for children to run around and offers beautiful panoramic views along the coast.
Where to eat and drink
The Bake House
A weekend in Devon wouldn’t be complete without a humble pasty; and The Bake House serves up the best in the business. These hearty treats go down particularly well if you’ve worked up an appetite after a long walk along the coast (more on this later) or a bracing dip in the sea. The crispy crust on the cheese and onion pasty is the stuff of (my) dreams, but traditional beef and onion is also on the menu for the meat eaters. On a busy summer weekend they often sell out, so get down early to avoid the bitter disappointment that comes with not getting the pasty you’ve set your sights on all day (it’s real).
The Winking Prawn
This characterful little restaurant on North Sands is the perfect spot for a casual lunch between swims, completed by a beautiful beach view.
You can sit outdoors in the summer or indoors if it’s chilly to enjoy the extensive menu featuring plenty of fresh fish and locally caught crab. A personal favourite is the Salcombe crab baguette (it’s definitely big enough for two).
Dick and Wills
Whatever the occasion, Dick and Wills has the waterside location, understated sophistication and great food to suit your vibe. Sit outside and listen to the sounds of the sea whilst enjoying the freshest local produce and happy ambience. The perfect setting for a relaxed dinner or waterside drinks.
If it’s a cosy coffee or a warming soup you’re after, look no further than Sailor V in the heart of Salcombe. This quaint little haven – complete with exposed brick, friendly staff and delicious scones – is the perfect place to carve out some quality time with a book and a pot of tea.
The Old Bakery
Seven miles from Salcombe you’ll find Kingsbridge: another delightful tourist hub home to great pubs, a pretty stretch of estuary and an intimate little gem called The Old Bakery. This is warm, romantic and relaxed dining at its best, with cosy upstairs seating, Victorian beams, lovely staff and a mouth-watering menu of tapas, seasonal specials and classic cocktails. There’s no better place for a leisurely and romantic dinner date accompanied by great wine that won’t break the bank. Be sure to book ahead as space is limited.
The Ferry Inn
The Ferry Inn bursts into life in the summer, when the waterside terrace is bathed in sunshine and you can enjoy your drink whilst watching the sea glitter. It really is one of the best spots in Salcombe for a beer with a view and is not to be missed if you’re in the area.
What to do
Paddle Board on North Sands
North Sands is Salcombe’s prettiest beach. In the summer it’s always packed with tourists, so visit out of season if you’re after peace and quiet. I wouldn’t suggest paddle boarding in the winter, but if you’re heading to Salcombe in the spring or summer this is a lovely place to do it. The sea is relatively still and the beach is contained, not to mention the lovely views along the coast when you paddle past the outcrop of rocks.
Walk along the coast
There are a number of pretty cliff top walks you can do from Salcombe, depending on your stamina and penchant for hills. The walk to Hope Cove is really lovely. It’s around 8.5 miles and is moderately hilly, but with all the benefits of beautiful coastal and estuary views.
Indulge in an ice cream from Salcombe Dairy Ice Cream
Salcombe Dairy Ice Cream is famed throughout the land; and come rain or shine a weekend in Salcombe would not be complete without a scoop or two. It really is that simple.
Head to Bantham for a beautiful beach stroll
Bantham is just twenty minutes’ drive from Salcombe and is home to a huge stretch of beach that’s great for a walk and some salty sea air. It’s dog friendly too, and a great place to let the doggos run free. If the weather is good, take a picnic (and your surfboard if that’s your thing) and make an afternoon of it. The coffee cart in the car park will keep you fuelled and there are some pretty pubs within walking distance.
Take a trip to Dartmouth and walk to the Castle and Sugar Cove
Dartmouth is a little further afield – around 45 minutes’ drive from Salcombe – but if you fancy a change of scene this can make for an enjoyable day trip during a long weekend. Dartmouth is a little bigger than Salcombe with lots of nice shops, cafes and restaurants to pop your head into. You can take a pleasant walk from the centre of town along the coast to Dartmouth Castle and Sugar Cove, where you can grab a coffee or hot chocolate before strolling back.
Explore Dartmoor National Park
Last but not least one of the best bits of Devon: the sprawling and dramatic moors of Dartmoor, which are oh-so reminiscent of Great Expectations. If you’re a keen walker and the weather isn’t too wet, head to the moors for a pretty drive, a leisurely walk and a quick climb. Clambering up the tors is a lot of fun so long as you’re wearing the right shoes! You might be lucky enough to spot some wild ponies roaming free, but refrain from feeding them unless you’re willing to feel the wrath of protective locals. A lovely way to spend an afternoon immersed in nature.
Where to shop
A trip to Salcombe wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down the main thoroughfare and a mooch around the shops.
If you ever indulged in a cheeky series of Made in Chelsea, you may have spotted Cheska Hull from the earlier ones. She has made her way here and you’ll find her boutique ‘Amelia’s Attic‘, where she is often behind the counter.
If the surfer brands are more your thing there’s Fat Face, Joules and Crew. Cranch’s Pantry is famous for its traditional sweets and fudge which make a thoughtful gift, as do the popular personalised bags, purses and notebooks from Will Bees Bespoke (but be warned, they don’t come cheap!).
If you’re after a tipple, head to Salcombe Gin’s glass emporium to sample a shot or two. Fun fact: it’s tasty but it isn’t actually made in Salcombe. The gift sets are great for the gin-connoisseurs in your life.