Seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of London life? Want to swap the blue light of your always-on smartphone or laptop for the gorgeous, soft blues of the sea and sky, and the greens of nature? The Bank Holiday presents the perfect opportunity to escape.
We took advantage of the first Bank Holiday in May to make our getaway to East Devon. The Dorset and East Devon coast (aka the Jurassic Coast) is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, so what better way to see it than by foot? We’d packed our hiking boots and decided we would cover a section of the South West Coast Path (an easy, gentle, well sign-posted and popular route, we soon found out).
The South West Coast Path is the longest National Trail in the UK – it follows 630 miles of coastline from Somerset all the way to Poole Harbour – so it makes sense to split it into small chunks and complete it between several holidays!
Our base for this trip was Budleigh Salterton – a small, sleepy village with a tiny high street lined by charity shops – conveniently located by the beach and the South West Coast Path.
We stayed in the most beautiful annex located only a few minutes’ walk from the beach. The annex came complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, living room, full kitchen, and a big bath tub that was handy a good soak after the big walk – and we were delighted by the cake that the owner had left for us upon arrival!
Our plan was to follow the South West Coast Path up to Exmouth, stop for lunch there, then return back (approx 5.7 miles each way). It was easy to locate the starting point of the South West Coast Path – it was up a few steps from the beach (which had gorgeous pastel-coloured beach huts and the smoothest, prettiest pebbles) and easy to find.
From there onwards it was almost impossible to get lost. We encountered an incredible variety of landscapes on our way; endless sunshine-yellow fields of rapeseed flowers; crumbling red sandstone rocks; ancient cliffs (some more than 100 million years old); cows grazing in green hills; blue sea for miles ahead of us – a delight for the eyes and soul!
We were lucky that the coast was bathed in warm sunshine the weekend of our visit – it was actually much hotter than London, where it was pouring with rain! We came across many people on the route: dog walkers, families, walking groups and runners.
What I loved most about this walking weekend were the opportunities it presented for long, deep chats – uninhibited by smartphones – and the ability to slow down and really take in the colours and beauty of our surroundings. My mind was able to relax and I felt a sense of inner peace.
The trail doesn’t necessarily require walking boots, but they were still good to have. It took us about 2.5 hours gently ambling along the coast to get to our lunch spot: seafood restaurant Rockfish (reserve a table in advance if you can; we had to wait 30 minutes for ours). The waitress here explained every kind of fish available, what had been caught fresh that day, and even explained the taste and mouthfeel of the lesser-known ones – very helpful. Plus, unlimited portions of chips were available, if you could stomach them… this was wasted on us as we were full after our first helping!
Next we walked up the seafront to the Exmouth Ice Creamery, its exterior lined by gigantic blackboards listing all the different flavours, for dessert. I’m sure there were more than 40 flavours available! The ice cream only cost £2.50 and went down a treat in the sunshine.
On our return journey, we didn’t follow the South West Coast Path back to Budleigh Salterton but we took a few inroads that led us to another non-coastal path (again, signposted) which was slightly quicker. It’s possible to take a bus back also. Having completed more than 29,000 steps that day in total, it’s safe to say we were knackered come nightfall and I fell into bed quickly after a long hot bath.
The following day we spent a few hours at the long, pebbled Budleigh beach. There were fishermen selling their catch of the day along the shore. We explored the seafront and walked right the way to the end of the beach and back before slipping into one of the beachside cafés for a hot drink and slice of cake before heading to our car for the return journey home. If we had the time and energy, we could have followed the South West Coast Path in the other direction towards Sidmouth.
On our drive home, we happened to pass the Otter Valley Ice Cream & Field Kitchen (EX14 9QN), and boy were we glad we stopped there. This is a family-run restaurant and farm, and their homemade, creamy and indulgent ice cream is definitely worth queueing for. If you’d like more of a sit down meal before the long drive home, the sourdough pizza is a good shout, and don’t leave without having some of that irresistible ice cream!
Have you walked a section of the South West Coast Path? What did you think? I’d love to cover the other sections of the path on future weekend trips!