Destination Inspiration: Salcombe, Devon
Salcombe’s water-facing boozers, seafood shacks and surrounding swathes of green are at their best in autumn. Tag along with us as we stay at a sublime spa hotel, visit a legendary gin distillery and scoff wood-fired pizzas on the sand
10 October, 2022
Located on Devon's southern coast, the sunny seaside town of Salcombe sits at the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary. With its soothing landscape of rolling hills, gin-clear waters and a postcard-pretty high street, it's no surprise that this place is staycation central in the warmer months. But it's in the autumn that we suggest visiting, when the secluded coves are no longer cluttered with buckets and spades, the streets are uncrowded and the weather begins to lend itself to cosy afternoons spent snuggled by an open fire.
A major shipping hub for the region's fruit and vegetable trade in the 19th century, the town's calm waters are today home to a small but active shell fishing fleet, and are a playground for activities such as paddleboarding, kayaking and sailing. Active travellers will want to check out sandy hotspots such as Sunny Cove, Mill Bay and Cable Cove, which are accessed either by boat or via a hearty hike across steep hills. Later, dip into seafood shacks serving top-notch local fare, then bed down at a sublime spa hotel. Ready to dive in? Read on for our round-up of Salcombe's best bits.
You don't need to be a gin drinker to have heard about how sensational Salcombe Gin is. Join one of Salcombe Distilling Co's regular tasting tours to see where the magic happens, or opt for a course where you can create your own product. From bottling your bespoke concoction to choosing suitable garnishings and tonics, this hands-on class makes for a great date-night idea. Both sessions are available from Tuesday to Friday.
Lobster pots and local catch sales, left, and fishing boats at shore. | Photo credit: Tim Edwards & Rob Wicks / Unsplash.com / Shutterstock.com
Where to stay?
We're basing ourselves at the newly opened Harbour Beach Club. Set just a pebble's throw from South Sands beach, the three-storey glass and cedarwood property is backed by verdant valleys and craggy cliffs. All 50 rooms and suites share an airy, minimalist feel, softened by half-moon wicker headboards, plush cushions and tactile throws. Start your day with a fresh juice and flaky pastry from the breakfast banquet, then slip into the slick spa for a session in the sauna, steam room and indoor pool. Special occasion? Treat yourself to the spa's signature marine massage - the top-to-toe polish and exfoliation followed by a mud wrap provides a whole new level of relaxation. When you get peckish, the in-house restaurant has you covered. Pull up a chair and go to town on the likes of tiger prawns, peppery squid and creamy burrata.
Where to go for dinner?
Fore Street is brimming with stellar eateries. Whether you're after street-food nibbles or a full five-course meal, this is the place to come. The Crab Shed gets our vote for its ridiculously delicious prawn salads, crab linguine and pan-seared scallops. The wooden shack might not be known for its decor, but the homey vibe is all part of the charm. Aim to arrive in time to enjoy spectacular sunset views as you graze on sharing platters laden with caught-that-day seafood. For relaxed all-day dining, make a beeline to The Winking Prawn, where bunting-clad beams, flower-topped tables and blanket-draped chairs draw crowds on a drizzly afternoon. The laid-back Bo's Beach Café, meanwhile, is a great spot for wood-fired pizzas and singalong tunes.
And for a drink…
A trip to Salcombe wouldn't be complete without an evening spent sipping cocktails at the town's oldest watering hole, The Ferry Inn, which has been in business since 1842. The water-facing terrace is where you'll find the cool kids on a Friday night.
A cosy suite corner at Harbour Beach Club, left, and a pot of fresh mussels at the hotel's in-house restaurant.
Who to take with you?
That friend who prefers a rainy countryside getaway to a balmy beach escape. They'll appreciate wrapping up warm and taking a blustery coastal walk.
Essentials to pack
There's a reason that every Londoner has at least four pairs of Vejas lurking on their shoe rack. Pack these Veja white leather trainers to stomp around Salcombe's hills in style.
How to get there
From London, it's a five-hour drive via the M4. Alternatively, catch the train from Paddington Station to Totnes, from where Salcombe is just a 45-minute drive. There are also regular buses that run from the station's forecourt to the town.