We had a really lovely time and loved exploring the area and the ramble to the sea which you recommended.
Georgie & Nick, July 2013
The South Hams area of South Devon is somewhere special - one of the most beautiful and unspoilt parts of Britain providing an exclusive and special holiday location. Dittiscombe Holiday Cottages is an ideal base from which discover its secrets.
With its gentle year-round climate and pretty estuaries, dramatic coastline, beautiful beaches, historic villages and great food and drink producers, this area has so much to offer visitors. Here is just a small selection of places to visit and things to do which we hope will appeal to all types of visitor, whether here for a dog-friendly holiday, a summer vacation, a romantic break, or an out-of-season getaway.
To explore what’s on the doorstep why not enjoy a car free day and walk from Dittiscombe to Slapton Village (1½ miles) and a further ½ mile to Slapton Sands beach. You will find our walking instructions here. When you arrive at the sea you can join the South West Coast Path and view the spectacular coastline of Start Bay which stretches from Blackpool Sands to Start Point Lighthouse. Several small villages invite you to stop off along the way. For instance at Torcross pick up a cream tea at the beachside Sea Breeze Café or a plate of the finest fish and chips at the Start Bay Inn; or take a guided tour of Start Point Lighthouse.
There is much to recommend our local village, Slapton. Its 13th Century Monastic Tower and quaint and peaceful ambience belies its history of army occupation during the D-Day landing practices of the Second World War. Visit the Tower Inn pub or The Queens Arms (both of which serve excellent, locally produced menus and accept dogs), and immerse yourself in the history of this period with books and pamphlets to read up on whilst sitting around the log fires. Winding lanes (drivers take note) and pretty cottages with roses round the door are typical of this type of South Hams village.
But what sets Slapton apart from any other of the area is its proximity to Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve . This vast freshwater lagoon sits behind a shingle bar, protected from the salty water of the sea and is of national scientific importance, managed by Slapton Field Study Centre located in the centre of the village. This is a great wildlife watching area, and the Field Study Centre offer coastal walks, bird, bat and badger days, guided tours and nature safaris in and around the area.
Nearby the small village of Torcross is welll worth a visit. A Sherman Tank, dredged from the seabed a few years ago, provides a fitting memorial to the men who lost their lives in the tragic events. Here you will also find a seats next to the freshwater Ley where you can feed the ducks and wildfowl, and there are two cafes, a pub and a shop.
A little further along the coast path Beesands and Hallsands both sit close to the water's edge although Hallsands was just a little too close for comfort as in 1917 over thirty homes fell into the sea due to dredging which took place out in the bay and following a teriffic storm. You'll find a visitor information plaque on the coast path which tells the story. Beesands is fortunately still a thriving small village with a football pitch, small children's play area, free car parking, a great stretch of unspoilt beach suitable for swimming and beach fishing, and an adder conservation area!. The Cricket Inn pub and Britannia@thebeach both look out to sea and towards the lighthouse at Start Point and serve excellent fish menus, cream teas and ice creams all year round.
The thriving and bustling market towns of Kingsbridge and Totnes are well worth a visit, and the coastal and estuary towns of Dartmouth and Salcombe with their colourful shops and gentle waterways make for a relaxing day by the water.
Further afield there are other stunning coastal walks between Salcombe and Dartmouth taking in East Prawle, Bolt Head, Hope Cove, Thurlestone, Bantham and Bigbury. In contrast several pretty green lane walks offer a slower pace where walkers can get up close to the hidden delights of the South Hams. And of course for a walk on the wild side Dartmoor National Park (approximately 20 miles from Dittiscombe) is the inspiring setting for War Horse, with vast open spaces, woodland walks, rivers and streams, and cycling and horse-riding opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
The South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Visit South Devon websites will give you more details with downloadable walks and trails. We provide maps, guides and leaflets in all our cottages too, and we can personally recommend walks to our guests.
Rolling hills and steep cliffs are not for everyone, but there really are some easier walks which are accessible to families with small children and people with limited mobility. These few suggestions include cafes, pubs and toilets, but if you would like more information we suggest you contact the local tourist information centres who will be able to give you more detailed information.
Beesands (see picture left) has a car park, seating overlooking the beach, a flat walk by the freshwater lake. At low tide you can walk to Torcross.
Start Point Lighthouse is a fitting beacon for the most southerly point in Devon. There is a car park with memorable views of Start Bay and a straight metalled road with a slight decline to the Lighthouse.
Bantham beach is perfect for sandcastle making, surfing, bodyboarding, and dog walking. From the car park the beach is accessed over a sandy path to a flat, wide beach at low tide and far reaching views of Bigbury and Burgh Island. There is a dog ban on the beach from May to October but during this time there is access to one side of the beach along the Avon estuary. There are toilets and dog bins here, and The S loop pub, ideal for children and dogs and offering a varied menu.
Bolberry Down is situated on the coast and has a short tarmac path leading from the large car park to breathtaking views of the coast. Walk length is approx 1 mile and further details can be found on the National Trust website www.nationaltrust.org.uk and search for Bolberry Down. There is also the dog-friendly Port Light Hotel serving coffee, lunch and dinner.
In Totnes there is an attractive path which runs from Totnes Railway Station to Shinner's Bridge at Dartington and is suitable for all. Totnes Station path runs alongside the River Dart with interesting wildlife habitats and at Shinner's Bridge you will find Dartington College of Arts and the Cider Press Crafts Centre with a cafe and toilets.
Bigbury on Sea is situated opposite the famous Burgh Island Hotel. There is a car park and excellent beach cafe run by the multi-award winning Venus Cafe. There is a good-sized beach and flat walks over to Burgh Island and along the estuary at low tide.
South Hams boasts many of the finest and most unspoilt beaches in the country. For families there is great choice: sheltered coves and fine sand at Mill Bay and Hope Cove, or the sweeping, safe beach with the award-winning Venus Cafe at Blackpool Sands; rock-pooling at Thurlestone; surfing on the magnificent beach at Bantham; and for visitors with dogs there are many beaches to explore all year round at Slapton, Torcross and Beesands, East Prawle, Rickham Sands and many more.
Many of our previous guests have enjoyed a National Trust day out at Agatha Christie’s house and garden at Greenway on the River Dart. As parking is limited visitors are encouraged to take the ‘green way’ to the house by using the ferry service which runs either from Dittisham on the banks of the river or from Totnes using the Greenway Ferry Service. Other historic houses such as Colyton Fishacre, Saltram House & Gardens and Overbecks are within an hour’s drive.
Woodlands Leisure Park near Dartmouth offers an exciting range of rides, and plenty of indoor play areas too. Paignton Zoo, Dartmoor Zoological Park, Living Coasts, Pennywell Farm, and the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth are just some of a number of wildlife centres in this area. There is indoor swimming at the Kingsbridge Quayside Leisure Centre and at the Dartmouth Golf & Country Club (we provide temporary membership for our guests with a 25% discount off health and beauty facilities). The Reel Cinema is our local cinema in Fore Street, Kingsbridge. The Eden Project is about 1- 2 hours drive from Dittiscombe, and is well worth a visit
The local heritage centre at the Cookworthy Museum displays the history of rural life in and around Kingsbridge, and three castles at Totnes, Dartmouth and Berry Pomeroy are all run by English Heritage. Several cultural trails have been produced and these can be found on the South Devon website. Cruise from Dartmouth to Slapton Sands on the Fairmile, a WW2 Heritage Ship, and submerse yourself in two hours of beautiful scenery, a full commentary on the history and tragedy of the D-Day training exercises in the area, and a cream tea.
The thriving market towns of Kingsbridge and Totnes and the estuary towns of Salcombe and Dartmouth all have a good variety of small, specialist shops, galleries, food, gift and clothing shops. The Dartington Cider Press Centre is a unique visitor centre with 15 shops, cafes, galleries and wide variety of arts and crafts including the famous Dartington Glass.
Riverford near Totnes, is well known for its organic food and vegetables and the owner Guy Watson, a local farming champion, has won the BBC's Farmer of the Year Award 2012. At Riverford visitors can shop for local produce, or wander around the farm on a self-guided tour and whilst there book a meal at the award winning Field Kitchen restaurant on the farm to taste the produce.
There are a number of different travel opportunities in the area:
the South Devon Railway starts in Totnes and finishes in Buckfastleigh with a Heritage Bus Service or a trip to the Otter & Butterfly Sanctuary – a great day out for young and old alike. The Round Robin bus, boat and steam train runs through enchanting landscape and includes Paignton, Kingswear, Dartmouth and Totnes en-route. River Link cruise boats based in Dartmouth offer coastal and wildlife cruises, and a daily service to Totnes and Greenway Gardens. Boat hire, boat trips, fishing and sailing lessons are available in Kingsbridge, Dartmouth and Salcombe. Park and ride schemes for Salcombe, Dartmouth and Exeter operate during the main season. And a local bus route from Slapton goes to Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and Plymouth - further information about the bus timetables can be found on www.devon.gov.uk/devonbus.
Non-vehicular transport such as canoeing, cycling, horse-riding, sailing and surfing are all possible and further information can be obtained from the local tourist information centres.
For information and availability in the Slapton area go to www.visitslapton.co.uk.
Dittiscombe Holiday Cottages is listed on Justcottages.co.uk also other holiday cottages to rent in Devon.
A UK Green Holiday website featuring Green Tourism Award accommodation including Dittiscombe Holiday Cottages go to Ecoholidayshop.co.uk.
Green Day Out is a site for days out in the UK, with much to see and do for all ages, whatever the weather, and Dittiscombe is listed here too.