Food & Drink,  Lifestyle,  Photography,  Travel

Exploring Devon on the way to Dartmouth

James and I haven’t really taken any holidays this year, with Mum going through Chemotherapy and our self build project, we’ve not really wanted to be anywhere else but home or plan too far in advance incase we needed to be elsewhere. We’ve taken to booking more spontaneous trips over long weekends instead with one of our most recent being a lovely few days down in Devon.

I had booked us into a spa hotel for one night in Dartmouth but James decided we should extend our trip so booked up a Bed and Breakfast in Torquay for the night before. We headed off on the Saturday morning from Bristol, with no plans and no deadlines to meet. It was wonderful.

To break up the journey we stopped at the Otter Sanctuary in Buckfastleigh on the outskirts of Dartmoor National Park and managed to arrive just in time for feeding time. Meaning you actually got to see the Otters scurrying around and playing up to the audience. There was also a butterfly farm where I found myself being both mesmerised by their colours and freaked out that I’ll get one stuck in my hair.

Our next stop was Paignton, which was only a short drive away from Torquay but we fancied another pitstop and a bit of exploring. We walked through the town which was very missable and headed to the beach where we played a game of mini golf. The weather was intermittent with bright sunny skies and lashings of rain which added to the excitement of the game.

I was totally smashing it which was winding James up until the last few holes where he just edged in front and took the crown.

Loser had to buy the sugary doughnuts from one of the stands along the beach, with our next challenge being, making sure we didn’t get robbed by a seagull. We wandered along the pier before deciding we’d probably seen all we needed to see of Paignton and made our way to our final stop for the day, Torquay.

We checked into our Bed and Breakfast after being warmly greeted by the resident cat (a sure-fire way of getting a 5 star review out of me), freshened up and headed back out for some drinks. Torquay Harbour was a pleasant surprise with a lovely sandy beach, a handful of chain and independent restaurants and a large ferris wheel.

It looked like a fairly recent development for the seaside town and was bursting with people, so much so that after a few rounds of drinks we struggled to get a table for dinner before 9pm! In the end we settled for a few bits from Las Iguanas, along with a couple of jugs of cocktails!

The following day, feeling slightly perkier than predicted, we enjoyed a full cooked breakfast. I say full, James opted for 4 hash browns and some beans whilst I went for the full works minus the beans. We took a walk along to the marina, stopping in some of the gift shops and galleries where we bought a whale shaped water jug before making our way back along the beach.

After packing up, we got back on the road and made some headway to Dartmouth. We almost made it all the way before getting distracted by a small quaint town known as Totnes. Unfortunately, as it was Sunday most of the shops were closed but I think we could have easily spent a couple of hours meandering in and out of them. Luckily, one of the open shops was a bakery so we tucked into a couple of Cornish pasties whilst we did some window shopping.

I’ll final port of call was Dart Marina Hotel and Spa and with our first deadline of the weekend: a couple of spa treatments at 3pm. We said farewell to Totnes and made a plan to visit again soon when we had a little more time and a chance to look in some of the shops.

Dart Marina Hotel had prime spot in Dartmouth, right on the edge of the Marina and we even managed to bag a room with a balcony with beautiful views of the surprisingly blue estuary and greenery on the opposite side.

After check-in we had a few hours in the spa, where we had some very relaxing massages and a swim. They had a decent sized pool, a jacuzzi and a steam room to really help you unwind. Later that evening, feeling fully rejuvenated, we changed into our glad rags and popped the free bottle of prosecco for a couple of drinks in the room before heading out.

We went for a pre-dinner walk along the Marina where we spotted some impressive boats including a large naval yacht, that we started to imagine living on and discussed what features we would include. It looked like it could handle most luxuries and extravagances.

There was also a large ferry that took both people and cars across the estuary until late in the evening which was pretty impressive, especially when we considered our little ferry in Bristol that only works until 6pm.

The hotel had an outside bar and seating area which we would have made the most of had it been a bit warmer, however we opted to go straight to our table inside and get our food order on. We had a great spot by the huge windows so it almost felt like we were outside.

The food was a little underwhelming which was a shame, having been impressed by everything else so far. They did keep offering the mini rolls of bread though which didn’t go unnoticed.

For starters I had the asparagus and ricotta, James had the paté. He was a little disappointed in the lack of flavour but my dish was okay, the asparagus was perhaps a little overcooked so it didn’t have a good bite to it.

For mains James had the curry, which he liked but wasn’t blown away with. I had the hake which was very delicious and the seasoning was spot-on.

For dessert we shared the cheese platter which had a good selection of types of cheese but they lacked distinctive flavours.

Overall a satisfying meal but not something we’d rush back for. We took another short walk after dinner around the town and discovered some cute, boutique shops that needed to be visited the following morning.

After a great sleep, we headed down to breakfast where we ordered our usual (me: all the works and no beans, James: all the hash browns and beans). The breakfast was definitely an improvement on dinner and set us up well for a morning of wanderings around Dartmouth.

The town is really lovely and we felt as though we had stumbled upon a real hidden gem. There were plenty of restaurants, pubs and cafes too that we would have loved to try out had we had more time. Luckily enough, we’re visiting the area again at the end of August for a family holiday so we’ll be sure to drop by.

The Dart Marina Hotel was certainly a highlight of the trip and we can forgive the evening meal, as the rest was first class and the staff couldn’t have been more attentive. They even give you a little bag for the drive home that had two bottles of water, some Devon fudge and a thank you note. We would both recommend a stay there, you can find all the details on their website here.

The long weekend trips are lovely and very much needed every now and then, but I’m ready for a longer break now…so any suggestions welcome!

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