Things are pretty quiet here at Stonehayes Farm with the world in lockdown, but we thought we’d use this time to tell you about our 10 best beaches on the Devon coast, all within easy reach of our family friendly holiday cottages. Something for less troubled times, when we’re all allowed out again and we can look forward to welcoming guests for their holidays in Devon.
We’re very lucky to live in such a beautiful area, we never forget that. It’s not just the incredible views over the glorious Otter Valley that we wake up to each morning, but we’re also fortunate to have some fantastic family attractions and beaches on our doorstep or within a very short drive. The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is just a few miles from our Devon holiday cottages so this blog is all about the lovely beaches in this part of the world - after all, some things are worth shouting about. Whether you’re a family who like to spend all day on the beach, or whether you're a couple who prefer a quiet stroll along the shore in the evening, you’ll find somewhere that will appeal to you on the East Devon coast. Come and see.
We've cheated a little here because Seatown is actually in Dorset, but it’s only just over the border and we feel we have to tell you about some of the gorgeous beaches over that way. Seatown is a peaceful coastal hamlet, reached by a long winding lane dotted with centuries old cottages; this time of year the hedges are full of wild flowers, the frothy white of cow parsley dancing amongst pink campions, purple vetch and the first bluebells. It’s like something from Enid Blyton holidays, the drive down to Seatown; the sea views open up, along with miles and miles of vast green fields that roll gently down to the clifftops. No wonder it’s part of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty! The River Winniford winds its way down to meet the English Channel; pull up in the car park, get out and take a deep breath of that invigorating sea air. The beach is shingle with rockpools exposed at low tide so take a bucket and have a spuddle about. Virtually on the beach is the award winning Anchor Inn where you can sit outside with a long cold pint of the local brew and tuck into freshly caught seafood. Stroll up over the clifftop to Golden Cap or to Langdon Hill, carpeted with bluebells in May, well worth the climb.
Charmouth is another quiet village on the Dorset coast, one of those places where time seems to have stood still which is why people come here at all hours of the day; an early morning stroll with the dog, an afternoon spent sunbathing, or an evening just watching the sunset. The beaches here are renowned for the fossils that can be found and right on the seafront by the car park there's a Heritage Centre where you can see what’s been discovered and join a guided fossil hunt. You’ll find a mix of sand, shingle and pebbles so it’s possible to build castles, sit and throw skimmers into the sea, or dig about for sea glass; the rockpools are good too, so it's easy to while away a few hours at Charmouth. There’s a café next to the Heritage Centre and just a short stroll away in the village you'll find pubs, a good bakery, a general store and a fish and chip shop.
We couldn’t possibly not mention Lyme Regis! This small Dorset town is well known for its charm so it can get busy in the season, but don't let that put you off. The main street slopes steeply down to the sea and is lined with mostly independent shops selling all manner of wares - books, fudge, jewellery, gifts, fossils, antiques, and scrumptious hot pasties, and of course, there are plenty of cafes and pubs for when you're peckish. You can park down by the sea or at the top of the hill where there's a huge car park with more spaces; have a wander down through the town gardens, stop off for a game of crazy golf, admire the views over Lyme Bay. One thing you have to do at Lyme Regis is stroll along the historic harbour wall, known as The Cobb; right out the end you can see the fishing boats bring in the day's catch and if you fancy it, take a trip out and try your hand at mackerel fishing. There’s a small aquarium where you can get up close to some curious marine life – hold a starfish, feed the mullet, see bass, wrasse, blennies, dogfish and lobsters. Of the three beaches, Monmouth Beach is a pebbly and is dog friendly year round, backed by a row of beach huts and a boat club, the main beach is sandy and tends to be busier, and out towards the end of the town is the best place for rockpools. The Museum and Dinosaurland Fossil Museum are well worth a visit.
Seaton is the first town over the border in East Devon. The main beach is long and pebbly and is a draw to families and to fishermen who set their rods up and wait to catch mackerel, bass, whiting, pouting and even cod in the winter months. It’s nice to stroll along the beach of an evening and up over the cliffs at Seaton Hole, or to go to The Hideaway Café snuggled in the cliffs at the end of the beach, for breakfast. The kids will enjoy a visit to Seaton Jurassic for a prehistoric adventure, and a ride on the tram to Colyton. Just before you cross the bridge into Seaton is Axmouth, a traditional village of thatched cottages and two very good pubs, The Harbour and The Ship. Walk along the estuary where the River Axe joins the sea, a haven for wildlife; across the river is Seaton Marshes Nature Reserve where there are boardwalks among the reed beds, and hides where you can settle down for a quiet spell with your binoculars. Axmouth harbour beach tends to be quieter and it’s good to amble out past the fishermen bringing in their nets and lobster pots; if you’re there earlier in the day stop at Jean’s Tea Caddy Café for a bacon sandwich.
Beer is an idyllic little fishing village just a couple of miles from Seaton, in fact, you can walk there on the South West Coast Path, which is a lovely thing to do and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of Lyme Bay. There’s a car park just off the main street and then it’s a short stroll down to the pebbly beach, which has the loveliest ambience and a charm completely of its own. In the summer months people gather outside their beach huts or rent deckchairs by the shore and they all just get on with their own thing; having a swim, exploring the rockpools, watching the boats come and go, and buying food and drink from the cafes on the beach. Go early for a cooked breakfast, or have a crab sandwich from Ducky’s, otherwise you can go to The Anchor and sit in the clifftop beer garden with a long cold pint of local ale or cider. There are cafes and pubs in the town and at Beer Heights is Pecorama, a fabulous family attraction where you can ride the miniature train, play crazy golf and wander round the landscaped gardens. Also worth a visit is Beer Quarry Caves, where stone was quarried and used in the building of such landmarks as St Pauls and Exeter cathedrals.
Branscombe is another of those idyllic coastal villages where the pace of life slows down and it all feels so laid back it’s almost horizontal! Follow the meandering lanes to the village, and down over the hill past flower hung cottages to the car park by the beach. If you’re looking for a bite to eat head back up the man street to The Masons Arms or The Fountain Head; if you’re keen to soak up the sun, stroll across the pebbles to the Sea Shanty Beach Café. Whilst you’re here you should have a potter round The Old Bakery and if there’s time, enjoy a big fat Devon cream tea in the pretty tea garden; visit the working Forge and the Manor Mill, take an amble along the South West Coast Path. If you need some respite from the glaring heat of the sun, it won’t hurt to pop in the cool of the church to discover a little more of Branscombe’s history.
This one's not for the faint hearted because the access isn't exactly easy, so if you have any issues with your physical health, you'd be wise not to attempt it. Littlecombe Shoot is a tiny, quiet bay that can only be reached if you stroll up behind the church at Branscombe, cross over the coast path and head down the cliff. Be brave because the path zigzags very steeply, with rope rails to hold on to, and it’s very narrow so if you meet anyone on the way up, you’ll all have to breathe in! The other thing to bear in mind of course is that you have to go back up the cliff – there’s no other way, but take it steady and you’ll be fine. Once you’re down on the beach it’s great – usually nice and quiet, good for paddling and swimming, and there’s a pleasant backdrop of cabins and shacks dotted amongst the cliffs. You won’t find any cafes or anything down on the beach so take a picnic, spread your rug and make the most of the sunshine.
Sidmouth is a bigger town, with some very good independent shops and a long promenade with several very elegant Regency buildings including pubs, cafes and hotels where you can stop by for lunch or afternoon tea. The main beach is Town Beach, a long stretch of sand and shingle where you can hire kayaks and SUPs. To the west of the town, backed by dramatic red sandstone cliffs is Jacob’s Ladder beach which is popular with families because although mostly pebbly, it has a big expanse of sand and rockpools to explore at low tide. Climb the wooden steps (Jacob's Ladder) to Connaught Gardens and stop for a cream tea at The Clock Tower tea rooms, or amble along The Byes Riverside Park and through the meadows. The town has a lot of community spirit so it's possible that you might catch one of the lively annual events, like the Regatta or the Duck Race on the River Sid; go during the famous Sidmouth Folk Festival, and you'll find a very frisky vibe with heaps of entertainment all over the town, if you're here at Christmas time join in the Boxing Day swim (we dare you!).
Another upbeat town on the Devon coast where there’s plenty going on and a lot of family fun to be had on the two mile long sandy beach. Apart from swimming and building sandcastles you can try kite surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, or paddleboarding, and on the esplanade there's plenty of traditional seasidey atmosphere with swing boats and crazy golf. Hire beach huts or deck chairs and just sit and watch the world go by, or book up with Stuart Line Cruises for a boat trip around the bay. When it's lunchtime catch a water taxi out to the River Exe Cafe floating in the estuary and tuck into freshly caught seafood. You’ll find no shortage of pubs, restaurants and cafes at Exmouth, and if you have a good wander round you’ll find plenty to do. Ride around the town on the Land Train, visit the quirky A La Ronde (National Trust), stroll along the South West Coast Paths; high on the clifftops the views across the bay are stunning.
At Budleigh Salterton there’s a 2.5 mile long pebbly beach backed on either side by towering red sandstone cliffs, but what’s really nice is the quiet, unspoilt feel that pervades the whole town. Hire a beach hut, buy refreshments from the seafront cafes and enjoy the safe bathing – but be warned, one end of the beach is ‘optional clothing’ so if you don’t want to see bodily bits that aren’t usually exposed avoid that area! There are several little tea rooms and cafes in the town and some interesting independent shops so it's worth a browse round whilst you're here. The mostly older community is a very active one, with several festivals held throughout the year including a Jazz Festival in April, a Music Festival in July and a Literary Festival in September.
And there we are. A quick round up of our 10 best beaches on the Devon coast, all within a short drive from our family friendly and dog friendly holiday cottages at Stonehayes Farm. Stay with us and enjoy a proper summer holiday, peace and quiet, fresh air and heaps to see and do nearby. It’s fair to say that these places are a delight any time of year though, come in the autumn and the chances are the weather is still good and things will certainly be a little quieter; come in the winter for unhurried walks along the shore, time to stop and stare, to appreciate the simple things in life. Time to unwind.