What to do with a holiday booked but not happening? Cancel and keep working? Book something else? I had a week in July to do some more guiding in Scotland. In fact, it would’ve been my first tour in Scotland and the most “mountainous” one so far. A step up as a guide for me and I had looked forward to it very much. But it became clear as the pandemic carried on, that a tour with a group was simply not happening.
We could’ve booked a self-catering cottage somewhere, but then thought, why not go to South Devon where Rich’s parents still own a nice big cottage? Save some money as we’re currently looking to buy a house? Easy decision, so Sunday July 19 we packed our bags and drove down to Hansel Cottage near Slapton and the South Devon coast.
We’d been there a few times now and knew the area well, still there was enough for us to explore and places we hadn’t been to yet.
We both had trouble relaxing once we had unpacked and felt a bit stressed. Rich suggested heading down to Torcross and chill by the beach. I wasn’t really in the mood, but thought it’d still be a good idea to go and how right he was. We sat on the wall overlooking the beach just watching people. It wasn’t very busy at all. Yes a few people around, but nowhere near as packed as you would’ve thought a Sunday in summer would be like.
Walked a little bit along the path by the beach then went back to the cottage to cook up some dinner and relax. Holiday mood, finally.
Park, Coastline and Wartime Relics
Monday weather looked amazing! Sunny, low 20s, not much wind. I had booked us a slot at the National Trust property of Fishacre which lies right between Kingswear and Brixham.
Arrived bang on 11:30, parked up and had a coffee at the cafe first, then walked around picking paths randomly. Lovely estate which felt like an elegant blend of park, garden and arboretum. We could’ve spent a long time in here, just taking it all in, but we had a walk ahead of us and didn’t want to have to rush at the end to get back to the car before that car park closed.
A gate at the bottom of the estate led straight to the coast path at Pudcombe Cove. We turned South and West and climbed easily up skirting the cliffs with views opening up the higher we got.
Had lunch at Kelly’s Cove, a lovely spot with some dramatic rocks down below, watching some canoeists enjoying the brilliant weather paddling around. Onwards past Inner Froward point and another change in scenery. A mixed wood provided some shade and soon we could spot the first remnants of the lookouts built into the cliffs as part of Brownstone Battery in 1940. The battery was manned by up to 300 soldiers who spent their time training and waiting for an invasion that never happened.
Had some lovely views across to Dartmouth before we emerged out of the woods after a steep uphill slope onto a tarmac road turning North on our way back to the car. Passed a few very nice cottages and most of them were holiday cottages owned by the National Trust. Good to know, should we fancy renting one some day.
Over to Brixham on our way back for a wander around. Parked by the coast near Berry Head, but walked into town along the coast. We had both not been here before and judging from some photos on the internet, the place looked quite alright (not as disappointingly dull as Paignton).
The walk along the waterfront was rather nice and both being on the hunt for proper (i.e. scoops, not Mr. Whippy or packaged ice cream) Rich spotted it first. A cafe selling the right kind down at Breakwater Beach. It was fairly busy on the small beach, but no queue and scoops were massive! Another great taste of Yard Ice Cream which we both had not had on any of our previous trips down here.
Walked past the huge Marina into the harbour. Really nice atmosphere, but probably rather quiet like all the tourist places. Pubs, restaurants, gift shops, chippy… the usual fare. Sat outside on a first floor terrace of a restaurant right by the harbour with a cold drink, chilling. We both decided we rather liked Brixham. Certainly nothing to rave about, but great for a couple of hours of spare time.
Back at the cottage around 7pm, cooked dinner, put the fire on. Ahhhh. Fantastic first day! Such variation on the walk. It turned out much nicer than I had thought when planning it and we both had genuinely enjoyed every single bit of it.
Bleak Hills, an Ancient Settlement and Granite Fun
With a fantastic day already in the bag, we opted for a change of setting and drove into Dartmoor on Tuesday. I had plotted a longer route starting in Widecombe in the Moor. We had already done walks nearby around Haytor, Rippon Tor and Holne. Starting from Widecome we added another puzzle piece to the big picture.
Parked up 10:30am in the quiet village. Lovely little place with gorgeous houses, a couple of shops and two large car parks. Had coffees and a slice of cake, then set off on our walk. Our legs were hardly warmed up when we scaled a steep tarmac road before heading off South for a quick there and back to bag Wind Tor.
Back across the tarmac road and up over the long broad ridge of Hameldown. Had lunch at Hameldown Beacon and for the first time since we were here in South Devon we got a jacket out to layer up. The sun had vanished behind clouds by now and the wind was just enough to be chilly.
It was typical Dartmoor bleakness up here. Round grassy hills and not much to feast your eyes on. Other than maybe the odd tor in the far distance. That changed when we left the ridge after Hameldown Cross and laid eyes on Grimspound, a late Bronze Age settlement consisting of a set of 24 hut circles surrounded by a low stone wall. Stunning view seeing it from above sitting there between two hills.
As we left Hameldown behind heading East the path led to a small tarmac road and once more we had a nice change of scenery. Bleak rounded hills gave way to more bushes and trees and green grass. The sun had won the fight against the clouds and the sky cleared up more and more as we turned onto a small dirt track after a quick break with tea and apples.
Up ahead more typical Dartmoor scenery. This time tors. Namely Honeybag Tor and Chinkwell Tor. A short leg busting ascent up a grassy slope later we had great fun wandering around between the huge rocks of Honeybag Tor enjoying fantastic views over to famous Haytor and Hound Tor.
With great views of Bell Tor and Bonehill Rocks we descended onto a small road leading us back into Widecome in the Moor. Headed straight for the lovely garden of The Old Inn for a couple of cold drinks before it was time head back.
Another fantastic day with an interesting walk through different landscapes with brilliant views supported by equally brilliant weather. We felt a bit bleached as we climbed into the car, but happy nonetheless.
Back via Ashburton around 4pm. Quick top up shop in Totnes, then over to Torcross for the fish & chips we had ordered for 18:30 for collection whilst up on Hameldown and with a signal. Sat there for around an hour hungry and waiting whilst people just ordered it from the counter and got it within 15mins or so. Next time we just join the queue and won’t bother ordering for collection.
The small portion we got was huge! I really don’t want to know what large looks like. It was easily the best fish and chips take away ever as the chips were crisp and not soggy and soft as many take aways have them. We faceplanted it all whilst sitting on top of the wall by the beach. Then headed back to cottage after another fantastic day. 2/2 so far.
Sea Cliffs, Golden Fields and a Meal Denied
After now two fantastic days with walks that turned out exceeding expectations, Wednesday promised to be another corker… at least weather-wise. Parked up 10:30am-ish in Bigbury-on-Sea after manoeuvring a busy narrow road for the last bit of the journey. Another new place for both of us.
Again it was rather nice. Nothing special but a good vibe, relaxed atmosphere and not as many people as probably normal. It’s a small little village with holiday homes, two beaches, a beach cafe, a little shop and a huge car park. That’s pretty much it.
Burgh Island sat prominently at the other end of a tidal beach and offered along with the coast to the South and Bigbury Bay a fantastic backdrop whilst we enjoyed another pre-walk coffee.
The coastline was stunning as we walked the short bit over to Challaborough, another one of those coastal trailer holiday parks. After that is was just the coast and the amazing unique cliffs, clear water and blue skies. Another brilliant sunny day!
Views on descending into Ayrmer Cove were most amazing, with spectacular rock on both sides. Shortly after we turned off the coast to make our way inland to Ringmore where we intended to have lunch at The Journey’s End Inn.
We walked along a small brook lined with trees leading into woodland. Once more such a variety in the walk! Loved walking under the trees for a bit just to be out of the sun which was burning relentlessly today (Not that we were complaining at all!)
Had a short lunch break just at the outskirts of Kingston. A field on the map, it was really more like a small park or garden and a lovely spot for a cuppa tea and an apple. Then we walked along some fields full of crops in the golden sunshine before plunging into more shade at Okenbury Plantation. Lovely grassy paths, trees, a stream. Brilliant.
Arrived in Ringmore, a stunning village with thatched roof houses. Had no trouble finding The Journey’s End Inn and it looked every bit the cosy charming country pub we had hoped it would be. Found the last table in the quaint beer garden, had a look at the lunch menu only to realise we were like ten minutes late for lunch!!! Ahhhhh! We hadn’t known that the kitchen closes at 2pm and we had been looking forward to it so much. So it was just cold drinks and nibbling on packets of crips whilst watching people stuff their faces with burgers, sandwiches and chunky chips. Torture! We vowed to come back one day for lunch or dinner.
To get back to Bigbury-on-Sea we scaled some steep hills via grassy paths with legs burning a bit, but again different landscape, so we didn’t mind the last bit of exercise at all.
Back in Bigbury-on-sea for 4pm. Chilled with a cold drink at The Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island both feeling quite bleached and sunned-out. Still enjoyed watching people and the tide coming in quickly. Walked back, hung out by the cafe, then drove to Malborough to pick up some beers at the Co-Op for meeting Rich’s sister and a great cousin of his with their kids at a campsite nearby. We also ordered some Indian take-away to be delivered to the campsite. £140! Never had a take-away for £140, haha. But then it was for eight people. Google had found us an “award winning” one nearby and we got a delivery slot for 20:20. Ouch. Late.
Over to the campsite. Good fun just chatting and a bit of banter going on. Curry arrived much earlier 19:40 instead of 20:20 and it was a great curry!!! As good as the best in Bristol! Yummy. We even had some leftovers for breakfast.
Drove home 22:00,it was getting a bit chilly and we were tired as well. The roads were empty but driving still demanded full concentration. Found out that my car is pretty good at automatically going to full beam and also turning it off when there are cars coming the other way or when in built up areas. Great tech and it worked a treat so I only had to concentrate on driving. Home just before 11pm. Super tired by still a bit wired.
Three amazing days we had with walks that were full of variation, superb weather, lovely little places, great food! I rarely ever have newly plotted routes that turn out to be 100% perfect. There is always a maybe not so exciting bit, a boggy patch or generally parts were I go “Meh, could do without it.” Not so here. Never mind three bloody days in a row!!! I wonder if I’ve used up all my route planning mojo for the remainder of the year now? We shall see. More fun to come.