A Re-education in Devon Beaches

I spent many a school holiday exploring parts of Devon as a kid, with my family. However we never really explored the beaches. My family are not really “beach people” so our holidays would never revolve around a beach. Plus I remember horror stories of syringes being found on the beach. I have no doubt this was true, but upon reflection it was definitely the exception rather than the rule.

Boat at Branscombe, Devon

As a fully fledged adult I spent much time fleeing these shores in search of nicer beaches, until lack of funds meant I looked closer to home again. And I was surprised about what I found. From sandy beaches in North Devon to pebbles and red cliffs of South Devon, I really enjoyed exploring this area.

We started with Budleigh Salterton, which is a beach of pebbles (or a pebbley beach, if you will). We enjoyed a blustery walk, watching birds in the marshland behind the spit. At the end of the spit there is a channel of deep water here some people were paddling, so my boyfriend gladly joined them! We tried skimming stones with varying degrees of success, and watched the waves crash against the beach.

This was followed by a stroll around the sleepy town, which has some nice craft shops, tea rooms, and fudge/ice cream shops. Budleigh Salterton is not short of famous residents – Sir Walter Raleigh (the explorer who sailed to North America and South America) was born just outside Budleigh.  We also found a blue plaque telling us that John Graves Simcoe (the founder of the City of Toronto, Canada) had a holiday house there (and was brought up in Exeter). Plus Roger Conant (founder of Salem, Massachusetts) was also born just outside Budleigh. It’s pretty amazing to think of all these people hailing from this sleepy Devon town.

Budleigh Salterton, DevonWe also explored Branscombe Bay, another pebbley beach on the South Coast of Devon. The drive down to this beach was hair-raising for me – the lane was not wide enough for 2 cars and there was much traffic going both ways – cue much reversing, pulling into the hedge and choice language from me. We had a rental car and I was terrified that I would scratch it! My BF decided it would be a good idea to pipe up that he could do better (even though he did not have a driving licence!). Cue more choice language from me.

Anyway after the nightmare drive and a small hike we reached Branscombe beach, and it was really pretty. Unfortunately I decided to get an ice cream and so spent most of the time flapping around screaming “WASPPPPP!!”. Just a normal day really…

Branscombe, Devon  I was surprised to find out that only the South Devon beaches are pebbley. North Devon beaches are wide and sandy – a revelation to me!

Woolacombe in North Devon was a gorgeous day out – a sandy beach, cute town with ice cream and souvenir shops, and rock pools to play in. To my delight we found a large starfish in one of the rockpools! I didn’t know that these existed in the UK. Sadly we spent so much time looking at the starfish that we forgot about the incoming tides. I was furious at myself – it was such a school-boy error! We had the choice of climbing over sharp jagged rocks to the beach, or wading into the sea around the rocks, back to the beach. We chose to wade. I carried all the bags and my BF carried my Mum. So we waded, fully clothed, through the waves which were up to my crotch. Come to think of it, I used some choice language then too! We were all fine, but this is not to be advised. This is precisely the type of behaviour that lifeguards must despair of as it could have been a lot worse!

Woolacombe is split into two halves – the dog beach and the no-dogs beach. This is handy as you can enjoy your day free from dogs pooing everywhere. And equally dog owners can walk the dog in peace.

Around the headland to Woolacombe is Slapton Sands – another vast sandy beach which reminded me of New Zealand more than the UK! (the tiny dots in the photo below are not ants, but people – which gives you an idea of the size of the beach!).

Slapton Sands, DevonIlfracombe is also worth a visit – a small quaint fishing village in North Devon. I definitely want to explore this area more.

We also managed to pay a flying visit to Torquay and Paignton. I wasn’t very keen on these as they were a tad touristy and tacky, but I liked the palm trees and we enjoyed a lovely sunset over the marina.

Torquay Marina, Devon I learnt that there are lots of nice beaches in Devon, contrary to my preconceptions. And we didn’t see a single syringe. I will definitely be back for more! 🙂

Next blog: Exeter, UK

Previous blog: Burgh Island, UK

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