The South Hams is renowned for its gorgeous countryside and pretty coastline. We spent a few days in the area and loved the narrow hedge-lined roads, the charming villages and small seaside coves.
The South Hams is known as ‘An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in the UK and is well worth a visit. It is located in the south-eastern part of Devon, just over 3 hours drive from London’s Heathrow Airport, via the M4 and M5 motorways.
Here are some recommendations on what to see and do.
Coleton Fishacre House and Garden
Coleton Fishacre Garden
Coleton Fishacre, with its 1920’s Arts & Crafts style home and 24 acres of gardens running down to the sea, was the holiday retreat of the D’Oyly Carte family, proprietors of the Savoy and Claridges hotels in London.
Coleton Fishacre House and Garden is operated by the National Trust and is truly a beautiful place.
Take time to walk through the glorious gardens, visit the house, enjoy delicious food in Café Coleton and don’t forget to pop into the gift shop.
We were visiting in late May and strolled along pathways lined with wild garlic and bluebells. From the ‘hill walk’ there were views of the coast and across the gardens of azaleas, rhododendrons and Japanese maple. Misty rain was falling but that wasn’t a problem as we were given big umbrellas on entry to keep us dry.
Lunch in Café Coleton was scrumptious and the shop an ideal place to buy unique and stylish gifts.
If time permits, another interesting National Trust property in this area is Greenway, the holiday home of author Agatha Christie and her family – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway/
From Coleton Fishacre, it is a short drive to Dartmouth.
Take the car/passenger ferry from Kingswear across the River Dart to Dartmouth, park the car and stroll around the charming narrow streets lined with attractive galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
Take a walk in Foss Street – one of the prettiest shopping streets. In Duke Street you will find one of the oldest buildings in Dartmouth – The Butterwalk – home to Dartmouth Museum.
Off Duke Street, go down Anzac Street and you will come to historic St Saviour’s Church, dating back to 1335. This is a beautiful church – be sure to go inside to see the medieval South Door, the highly decorative Pulpit, etc.
Across the road, drop in for a drink at Dartmouth’s oldest pub – The Seven Stars. Nearby is Higher Street and another of Dartmouth’s oldest buildings – The Cherub Pub.
Take a stroll along The Quay, through the pretty Royal Avenue Gardens (the Information Centre is there) to the Embankment for lovely views of the River Dart.
If time permits, take the ferry from South Embankment across to medieval Dartmouth Castle. You can also walk (about 30 minutes) or drive to the castle. The Castle Tea Rooms offer delicious cream teas and fabulous views.
High St, Totnes
From Dartmouth we travelled to Totnes – about a 30-minute drive.
Totnes is a charming, historic market town with an alternative vibe. Wander the streets to see an eclectic mix of shops and galleries plus a mix of architecture from Norman, Medieval, Tudor and Elizabethan times.
Of interest are Totnes Castle, the Elizabethan Museum, the Brutus Stone, Eastgate in High Street, the Butterwalk, Totnes Guildhall and St Marys Church.
If time permits, there are cruises on the River Dart between Totnes and Dartmouth, and a steam train between Totnes and Buckfastleigh through scenic countryside.
We finished our visit to Totnes with a cool drink at the Steam Packet Inn overlooking the River Dart.
Salcombe is a very attractive town on the South Hams coastline. It has a very pretty setting at the top of a long narrow bay – with sandy beaches along either side of the bay.
We visited on a cold day in May so there were very few people around however in summer it is reputed to be ‘Chelsea by the sea’ with crowds of people filling the narrow streets. This is evident by the upmarket shops and the many fine establishments to eat and stay.
We had lunch at the Victoria Inn, in the middle of Fore Street – a traditional English pub with good food, beer and wine – and a very warm welcome. Our table had a view across the street to the harbour.
Also recommended to us was The Winking Prawn, and The Salcombe Harbour Hotel (the hotel will re-open in August 2013 after refurbishment).
After a quick wander around the village, we drove along Cliff Road towards the Salcombe YHA, parked the car, and took a walk along the headland path. This track is part of the South West Coast Path – the views are spectacular.
Salcombe is a place where we would have loved to spend more time to explore the coast and nearby villages, enjoy long walks, shop, eat and stay.
The Cary Arms (near Torquay)
At the suggestion of a friend who lives in the area, we visited the Cary Arms Hotel at Babbacombe Bay near Torquay. It is a hidden gem that we would never have found on our own. We took a steep, narrow road down to a sheltered bay and there was the Cary Arms – a charming collection of whitewashed buildings overlooking the sea. It is a boutique inn and highly recommended for its food, fabulous views and accommodation.
We enjoyed a drink on the terrace soaking up the sun and the view, before moving to the cosy dining area for a delicious meal. I could have moved in and stayed for breakfast.
You will find the Cary Arms at Babbacombe Beach, South Devon TQI 3LX. Visit the Cary Arms website for more information.