Staycation holidays: Devon

Posted on: 06 July 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

Top tips for a cheap or chic day out in Devon - weather permitting!

I’m not a UK holiday kind of girl, but with the arrival of a nephew just 5 months ago, the family decided that the Greek Islands might be a bit too hot for the little blighter, so, we headed to Devon for our very first staycation!

We hired an apartment through Blue Chip holidays, 3 the Pines became home for the six days we spent in sunny Devon (well, slightly sunny with cloud and the odd shower, but it’s the UK - we weren’t expecting a heat wave). 

Kingswear is a small town perched on the waterfront opposite the much busier Dartmouth. With just 3 pubs, a village shop and post office, Kingswear really is the perfect retreat for a quiet holiday.It’s also an easy downhill stroll (slightly harder uphill!) to the car and passenger ferries, which operate continuously from 7am to 11pm (this may change seasonally). As we found out, our base was also the perfect location to allow us to explore the surrounding bays. Here are my top places to visit during a holiday in south Devon.

Alf Resco

For the foodie

Have breakfast at Alf Resco. 

A short potter along the back street in Dartmouth is Cafe Alf Resco. It is a chic and stress-free cafe, which serves a killer breakfast. Everything from full English through to smoothies and granola are all served in a relaxed and no fuss atmosphere. Their emphasis is on freshly cooked food sourced locally, from their freshly-squeezed orange juice to their locally roasted coffee beans, this place is the talk of the town. The interior is cosmopolitan with an Italian vibe, I wish I’d had the time to spend an evening here listening to the bands and enjoying a cocktail – definitely next time! 

Dart Marina Spa

For the frazzled

Go to the Dart Marina Hotel and Spa

We ladies treated ourselves to a morning at the Dart Marina Hotel and Spa, a beautiful hotel set on the marina in Dartmouth. While myself and Sue indulged in the pool, Jacuzzi and steam room, new mum. Jo, had a the Sensory Stone Heaven & Exotic Visible Facial. The pool has a great current machine for exercise (which we promptly turned off) a Jacuzzi with massage jets and a relaxing menthol steam room. We had lunch from the adjoining Bistro in the relaxation room of melt in the mouth rare roast beef, brie and Devon crab sandwiches. Jo came out of the massage a new woman – I couldn’t recommend this spa more highly and is perfect for a girls’ day out.


For the family

Visit the UK's largest Aquarium

With a five month old baby in tow (and a family full of big kids) we ventured to Plymouth for the day to visit the UK’s largest Aquarium. With a collection of over 70 sharks, rays, jellyfish, crabs, starfish and pretty much the entire cast of Finding Nemo, this is the perfect day out for the family. You can walk through the shark aquarium tunnel (which was pretty terrifying for the adults) but baby Jake seemed to absolutely love it! Just over the roundabout is the Barbican Centre, which has a series of chain restaurants, a cinema and bowling alley which makes it a great place to have in reserve for a rainy day.


For the fashionable

Take a trip to Salcombe

One of my favourite holiday pasttimes is people watching - and you couldn’t pick a better place to envy the rich than in Salcombe

With lavish holiday homes overlooking the sea on both sides of the bay, boats as big as houses, and a plethora of great bars and cafes lining the front, Salcombe feels like a chic European marina. We headed to The Ferry Inn, which is right on the estuary and gave us a great view of how the other half live! There are also lots of great boutiques for those who enjoy picking up the latest trends on their travels. It would be a great place to spend a week but I imagine it is pretty busy in high season.

The Malsters

For the fortunate

Stay at this hidden gem (shhhhh... don't tell anyone!)

I’m revealing a well kept secret here, but for those who don’t mind travelling further a field for a wonderfully romantic spot, then The Malsters Arms in Tuckenhay is a must. We arrived on a beautifully clear day and basked in the sunshine of the quayside until dinner a delicious fresh treat overlooking the bay.

 If you’re a smoker you’ll love their dedication to the habit on their specially built smoker’s deck which we guessed was left over from Keith Floyd’s days running the pub. We arrived just a week after George, the new owner had taken it on and his father gave us a lift through to Totnes the following day, which all added to the wonderful family feel of the place. If you’re sailing in the south put this on your route, we wanted to stay all summer.

Top tips for a staycation in Devon

  • Take a car. 

Unless you’re planning on sitting in your hotel for the week make sure you have a car to potter about in. Not only is there the possibility of bad weather but you’d be crazy not to take advantage of all the great places to visit.

  • Give yourself plenty of time.

It may only be 10 miles away but due to the windy and narrow roads every journey seems to take 45 minutes. They’re all beautiful drives though, so take it slow and be warned that many of the roads can only just fit one car, never mind  two!

  • Stay in an apartment.

If there’s a group of you going then an apartment works out so much cheaper. Not only is the accommodation less but you’ll save tons on food and drink. Having breakfast and many of our main meals in the house meant we had more money to spend in the bar and on cream teas!

  • Get frugal. 

Holidaying in the UK means you can still benefit from all of the great voucher sites out there, and as you’re in the UK, browsing on a smart-phone won’t cost you the earth. We took advantage of 2 for 1 at Pizza Express while we were at the Aquarium in Plymouth saving us over £40 so do your research before you go.

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