From cliff top views and country lanes to rolling fields, moors and wild adventures on land and sea, South Devon is an incredible area to visit, packed with activities, personality and amazing places to explore. With over 120 miles of coastline, no less than three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, a national park, the South West Coast Path and a host of nature reserves, this wonderful part of the world is just aching to be explored.
If you’ve never been to South Devon, or maybe you haven’t been there for a while, think stunning coastline, rolling hills, beautiful period towns and fishing villages, lovely cottages and holiday homes set in amazing locations. If that doesn’t cast an image for you then you won’t have to wait long before Hollywood does it for you, and it’s all down to one man; Donald Crowhurst.
Never heard of him? Well you soon will when his story appears in cinemas across the globe later this year. Starring Colin Firth as Crowhurst and Rachel Weisz as his wife, The Mercy charts the ill-fated voyage of local businessman Donald Crowhurst and the Teignmouth Electron in the 1968 Golden Globe Race.
Filmed largely in Teignmouth against the beguiling beautiful backdrop of the Teign Estuary, the film is set to make this stunning part of South Devon a must visit location in 2017.
The film tells how Crowhurst duped his family, race organisers and the public into believing he had spent 240 days circumnavigating the globe in a single-handed, non-stop odyssey.
In fact, Crowhurst was so far behind the others he set in motion a plan to deceive the world by falsifying his locations, cutting out a big chunk of dangerous sailing on the Southern Ocean.
His fake reports led those following the race to think he was winning, and locals prepared to give him a hero’s welcome home — however in the end his boat was discovered unmanned and drifting, with Crowhurst assumed to have drowned himself.
Later, it was discovered that he’d faked his logs and never left the Atlantic. It is these logs and the mystery that surrounded his disappearance that sparked James Marsh, director of the Oscar Winning Theory of Everything, to create The Mercy filmed extensively in and around Teignmouth and the South Devon coastline.
So, if the film inspires you to visit South Devon and the Teign Estuary this year, where should you go and what should you see?
1. Food Trail
If you visit Teignmouth do try out the Taste of the Teign Trail food and drink trail. This brand new self-guided trail takes visitors on a journey of culinary discovery around the beautiful Teign Estuary. The trail takes in: Old Walls, the steepest vineyard in England; Red Rock Brewery, renowned for its craft beers and real ales; Shute Fruit and produce, where you can pick your own fruit and even learn how to make preserves; Milltop Orchards, where you can enjoy seasonal fruit, apple juice and cider; and Luscombe Farm Shop, where you can buy seasonal vegetables picked from the fields above the estuary.
On the tour you’ll discover the location of the Teign Estuary’s world renowned mussel and oyster beds, and you’ll be taken to a host of local cafes, restaurants and pubs surrounding the estuary where produce from its fields and waters, alongside fresh fish and crustacean landed at Teignmouth Harbour, can all be enjoyed.
Created for foodies hungry for a new destination to discover, the trail has emerged from the Taste of the Teign food and drink festival, which is devoted to celebrating produce caught, raised or harvested in and around the Teign Estuary, thought to be one of the most bounteous estuaries in the country. The 2017 festival starts on 25th September and lasts through to 01 October.
2. Wood-fired food – yum!
If that’s tickled your taste buds you’ll be glad to know that award-winning South Devon restaurant and cafe business Ode ‘true food’ has opened a new concept in pizza restaurants; Ode&Co ‘true pizza’ in Shaldon.
An Ode to pizza
The new Ode ‘true pizza’ restaurant is a 100-seat venue with views across Lyme Bay serving artisan sour dough pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, fresh pasta and grills from an open kitchen.
The pizza chef is Mario from Naples, who has spent the last three years in London at one of the capital’s top pizzeria, so he knows a thing or two about fine fresh food as does owner Tim Bouget, whose Café Ode and ODE Dining restaurant are also well worth a visit.
3. Activities and experiences in and around Teignmouth
If you love crab you’ve certainly come to the right part of the world as Teignmouth is home to the fantastic Crab Shack deli and seafood restaurant. While in town you can discover the town’s Grand Pier and don’t forget the visit the River Beach, which overlooks the enchanting village of Shaldon.
Here you can take a trip on board the oldest footpassenger ferry in England, crossing the Teign Estuary to Shaldon where you’ll find lovely pubs, the highly regarded Clipper Café, and the award-winning ODE-dining and café-ODE. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to descend through the smugglers’ tunnel, which is carved through the red rock of The Ness, to a hidden beach on the other side. The fact that this was ever created is quite simply mind-boggling. You’ll also find Shaldon Zoo – the smallest in England – right next to the entrance to the smugglers’ tunnel, so you can manage both in one hit, if you like.
Sunset at Teignmouth Back Beach
On your return trip over the tidal waters of the Teign, you’ll see gigs laid out on the sand and pretty beach huts that make their way on to the spit every summer, before retreating to safety over the wilder winter months. You’ll also see the location for dozens of scenes shot in The Mercy and you’ll stumble across not only a host of great local pubs, but also SeaSports Southwest who offer Kayaking, Stand up Paddle Boarding, Sea Kayaking, Sailing, Windsurfing, Jet Skiing and Powerboating. For this and more information on things to do and see, visit www.visitsouthdevon.co.uk
Where to stay?
Well, there are plenty of cottages, guests houses and B&Bs to try in the local area with Shaldon, Teignmouth and Bishopsteignton all close by, but one location that comes highly recommended, partly because you can camp, caravan, book a cottage, apartment or holiday home there, is Cofton Country Holidays. A little further round the coast, it’s close to Powderham Castle and is set in 80 acres of parkland.
Just 20 minutes from the M5 and the charming cathedral city of Exeter, it’s easy to get to and when you arrive you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice. The impressive all-year round heated indoor pool is much loved by children for its splash pad area and 30° waters, and by parents for its in-pool hydrotherapy loungers. But that’s not all; there’s a steam room, sauna, gym, restaurant, pub, fitness studio, soft play area, playground, sports wall, woodland adventure area and a great outdoor pool too.
Cofton Country Park outdoor pool
There are even five well-stocked coarse fishing lakes if that takes your fancy, and over the main holiday periods you can look forward to everything from falconry displays and family entertainment to Zorbing and even Segwaying. I’m certainly looking forward to visiting there at Easter, so I’ll be able to update you on a host of other places to visit and things to do on my return.
Have you visited South Devon? I would love to hear your recommendations of places to visit and things to do in the comments.