Rachel Getzels selects the best of the south-west’s summer destinations.
The town of Honiton is a gateway to the Jurassic Coast and a centre for antiques dealing. At the lower end of the High Street is Yarrow Antiques, where reclaimed sash windows jostle for space with Buddhist statues. The Holt (178 High Street, 01404 47707, www.theholt-honiton.com) is an award-winning gastropub, dispensing superb beers from the local Otter Brewery along with tapas dishes and modern British fare. Stay at Combe House (01404 540400, www.coombehousedevon.com), a Grade I-listed country house set in rolling parkland where Arabian horses and pheasants roam. The rooms range from floralsprigged doubles, to light and airy grand suites, sumptuously furnished with rich fabrics and antiques. Rooms from £179 including breakfast.
Braunton to Mortehoe
The small town of Braunton is the surfing capital of Devon, thanks to its proximity to Saunton, Croyde and Woolacombe beaches. The other draw is the Unesco-designated biosphere of Braunton Burrows: towering dunes rich in flora and fauna. Visit the Tourist Information Centre on Caen Street (01271 816400) to join a guided tour.
The back roads from Braunton to Mortehoe take you through fashionable Croyde and classic seaside resort Woolacoombe. Indulge in fish caught on the family boat at Mortehoe Shellfish (5 Kinevar Close, 01271 870633, www.mortehoeshellfish.co.uk). There is lovely accommodation all along the coast, but Saunton Sands Hotel (01271 890212, www.brend-hotels.co.uk) boasts stupendous sea views and has rooms from £150 including breakfast.
Cornwall’s ‘forgotten corner’ is one of the country’s most beautiful areas. The villages here are disproportionately well equipped with a mix of gastropubs and nostalgically styled alehouses. The View (Treninnow Cliff Road, Milbrook, 01752 822345, www.theview-restaurant.co.uk) serves superb local fish and seafood, ranging from linecaught sea bass with crab risotto and lime to watercress risotto with greenrinded Cornish goat’s cheese. The Rame Peninsula is delightfully undeveloped, so accommodation tends to be small scale. Nowhere is quite so quirky to stay in as a dinky old train carriage, which is on offer at the Old Luggage Van at sleepy St German’s station (Nut Tree Hill, 01503 230783, www.railholiday.co.uk). Rooms start from £280 for a week, April to October.
The Lizard and around
Like Land’s End, Lizard Point – Britain’s southernmost tip – is a tourist magnet. Other than stopping for one of Ann’s legendary pasties at the Lizard Pasty Shop (Beacon Terrace, 01326 290889), there’s no cause to dally in Lizard village. But the surrounding area is home to some of Cornwall’s most alluring coastal beauty. In the right light, the combination of brilliant seas and the pinkish sands of Kynance Cove calls to mind Bermuda. The best place for a pint is Halzephron Inn (Gunwalloe, 01326 240406, www.halzephron-inn.co.uk), on top of a formidable stretch of cliff. Eccentric campsites dot the peninsula, but the more luxury-inclined should head to the The Pollurian (01326 240421, www.pollurianhotel.com) at Mullion. Rooms cost from £122 including breakfast.
Cobbled streets lead to the hubbub of the harbour, where tourists and locals congregate at Rick Stein’s chippy (South Quay, www.rickstein.com) against a backdrop of working boats and pleasure yachts. Work off lunch with a bike ride along the ‘Camel Trail’ – flat and ideal for families. There’s plenty of accommodation in Padstow but book ahead in peak season. Recommended is St Edmund’s House (01814 532700), a Hamptons-style beach house, with six luxurious rooms overlooking private gardens and the Camel estuary. Rooms cost from £270 including breakfast.
Stop at Plymouth on your way to the south-west and visit Black Friars Distillery, which has been making gin since 1793. Master distiller Sean Harrison shares his secrets.
Why is Plymouth associated with gin? ‘Fate, location and the Royal Navy: the Navy grew as the Empire did and a business opportunity presented itself.’
How is gin made? ‘It’s alcohol distilled with natural botanicals – juniper, orange and lemon peel, orris root, angelica root, cardamom pods and coriander seeds – to create a juniper-based flavour.’
What do visitors to thedistillery see? ‘The historic and working parts; they also get to see the ingredients and try samples of both Plymouth Gin and Plymouth Sloe Gin. At the end of the tour they can sit in the Refectory Bar and enjoy a free Plymouth and tonic.’
Any tips on mixers to try other than tonic water? ‘Water, ginger ale, vermouth, or try lime cordial which makes a gimlet.’ 60 Southside St, PL1 2LQ (01752 665292, www.plymouthgin.com).
Time Out Britain guidebooks
Devon & Cornwall
The definitive guide to two of England's best loved counties, highlighting their contemporary appeal as well as their traditional charms. Cultural events and attractions are covered alongside our favourite pubs, restaurants and hotels. We explore the great outdoors in all its glory, as well as the best villages and towns; we suggest things to do, and places to visit. Providing information and inspiration, the Time Out Devon & Cornwall guide is invaluable, whether you're a resident, a regular visitor or new to the region.
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