Walk the picturesque South West Coast Path

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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!

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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!

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The route

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Misato’s chicken katsu curry is better than Wagamama’s

 

The long queue outside Japanese eatery, Misato, suggested that the food must be good, yet, looking inside, my confidence waned. Diners were crammed tightly together on basic wooden tables and chairs, and the plain beige walls lining the small space desperately needed some cheering up. It seemed to lack ambience, especially for a Chinatown restaurant. Still, every table was full and diners were chowing down on bountiful portions of sushi, noodle and curry dishes. I decided I had to leave my preconceptions at the door.

Following a twenty-minute wait in the queue, we were seated and quick to order. As the chicken katsu curry promptly arrived at our table, I was alarmed at the presentation. The rice was piled up messily and there was a huge breadcrumbed chicken portion resting on top with a generous drizzle of thick curry sauce. A mixed salad sat beside it all. The meal looked like it had been hastily thrown together by someone eager to clock off from their kitchen duty, but as I looked around, I noticed fellow diners’ dinners appeared in the same fashion.

As I got stuck in, I was pleasantly surprised. The fried chicken was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, and the curry sauce was flavourful. The salad was dressed well and complemented the flavours with every mouthful.

Misato gives Wagamama’s much-loved chicken katsu curry a run for its money – plus you get almost double the portion for less money (£6). Now the rice did not arrive in a perfectly-formed mound as you would get at Wagamama, but the salad portion was sprawling, and the overall taste of the meal was as good as, if not better than that you get at the restaurant chain.

At Misato, it seems the food is cheap and tasty and the portions are big. Our meal for two came to just £18 (payment is cash-only), with drinks and service included – something that’s often unheard of in London. The queue outside Misato is worth the wait and, as that old saying goes, looks can be deceiving. 

“Dope” times at hip hop brunch

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Don your chunky gold necklace, snapback hat and bandana headband for this daytime party with a hip hop twist.

It’s dubbed “brunch” but what you actually get is a five-hour party session comprising an hour of bottomless booze, a three-course sit-down meal and endless entertainment in a club venue.

Old and new hip hop beats, including the classics from Biggie and Tupac, blare out the speakers as you enter the location, which is kept secret until a few days before the event for added mystique.

There are inflatable boom boxes, microphones, and cardboard cut-outs spread across the venue, which you can stick your head through for Instagram-worthy shots.

The bar is crammed, especially for the first hour, as everybody gets their fill of bottomless booze. Just don’t go overboard and sink a few too many, such that you need to be Ubered home within half an hour (as I have done on a previous occasion).

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Join the queue at the temporary tattoo station where artists will draw hip hop icons on to your body, or sit back and enjoy the music. There’s a talented magician doing the rounds with his tricks to leave you gob-smacked, a beat-boxer comes up on stage, and you all crowd round in awe at his skills. The lively hosts keep things moving: if you’re brave enough to step up to the mic and do some hip hop karaoke, you better get your name down on the list.

Meanwhile, food is being served to your table. We were served a quiche Lorraine for starters, barbecue chicken, fries and slaw for mains and a brioche bun and ice cream for pudding. It was okay – not outstanding – but good. As you may have realised, while most brunches are designed around the food and eating experience, hip hop brunch definitely isn’t – you won’t find any avocado on toast on the pre-set menu – it’s all about the entertainment.

Go in a group and you’ll have your own dedicated area and table, so it really feels like a unique celebration. Go for your birthday and you’ll have your name screamed out by the hosts numerous times, and be called up for  shots on-stage.

The vibe is great: everybody is there to dance, drink and party like it isn’t just 3pm. What’s great is everybody also gets dressed up. You may ask, as I did, what to wear to hip hop brunch. You can always simply rock an all-black ensemble, but if you want to get in the mood, put on a baggy tee or crop top, chunky gold hoop earrings, dungarees, leggings or sweatpants and trainers, if you like.

By now almost everybody is up on their feet, singing and dancing together. A dance troupe puts on a performance, then it’s time for the closing hip hop karaoke, perhaps one of the highlights of the brunch.

The event sadly wraps up at 5pm, although it feels more like 5am as you exit the venue bleary-eyed and struck by daylight. Brave souls carry on the party elsewhere until the early hours. I only made it till 9pm.

Tickets start from £45, and you have to pre-book online.