Beside the seaside in Salcombe – the UK’s most expensive coastal town

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Beside the seaside in Salcombe – the UK’s most expensive coastal town

Devon is home to outstanding natural beauty, superb food and drink, a shipwreck and one of the oldest synagogues in Britain

Salcombe Harbour hotel in Devon
Salcombe Harbour hotel in Devon

Salcombe has just been named as the most expensive seaside town in the UK to buy a property, ousting Sandbanks from its long-held pole position. The average cost of a new home now exceeds £1.2m.

Not only is it difficult to buy a property (unless you’re super rich), it is also quite tricky to reach, via narrow roads and windy lanes, but once there it is difficult not to be impressed with the arresting beauty of the views over the Kingsbridge Estuary, which is also a local nature reserve. The whole area lies within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and to top all that, a few years ago the world’s oldest shipwreck was discovered here; it dates back to 900BC and  was complete with gold jewellery and the raw materials to make bronze.

Salcombe has small public ferries and private boats, there are sandy beaches, there are independent shops which are varied and great to browse, but perhaps most importantly, the whole of Devon is known for its locally-sourced food and drink. This got me thinking it would be a good part of the world to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles 111.

Salcombe Harbour Hotel, Devon

We stayed at the popular Harbour Hotel and Spa with magnificent views over the estuary and complimentary gin, alongside an early evening room delivery of ice and lemon to accompany it. A great touch, and a nod to the Salcombe distillery, situated down the road. Dinner in The Jetty restaurant was outstanding. It specialises in produce from the sea and all diners are shown a hugely extensive wine list. I especially loved my beetroot and gin-cured salmon starter.

When I visited the hotel spa there were a few beefy men enjoying the pool, who turned out to be the builders of the many new homes appearing in the town. There are of course many unresolved arguments about this property boom; prosperity versus unaffordability for locals wanting to buy.

A half -hour drive north, on the less-expensive land on the edge of Dartmoor, I met Gabriel David, the owner and creator of Luscombe drinks, a company that produces pure organic soft beverages, entirely free from concentrates, additives, preservatives and colourings, and whose many clients include Highgrove and The National Trust.

Gabriel explained: “I was brought up on small cider farm and in order to see my friends when I first started to drive, I had to navigate two miles of country lanes to reach the pub. As I was desperate not to lose my license I wouldn’t drink alcohol,  but the soft drinks available then were really rather childish. It was this that gave me the idea of staring my own firm”.

Now, 26 years on, winning many prizes, Gabriel took inspiration from the rose that featured in the Coronation emblem – and crafted a Rose & Cherry Bubbly, a non-alcoholic fizz, to celebrate the crowning of our new sovereign. Delicious and especially suitable for street parties.

Winslade Manor. Photo: Nick Hook

Just outside Exeter, 27 miles north of  Luscombe Drinks, Winslade Manor is  a country house built in the early 19th century. This listed mansion surrounded by parkland reopened in February 2021 after being lovingly restored, and now it is  also a business centre, while the home, with its elegant high ceilings and stucco decorations, contains a  popular restaurant serving delicious food and offering three different menus –  standard, tasting and Sunday lunch.  An extensive wine list also caters for those not driving here, but there are also plenty of soft drinks and mocktails. My husband’s Shirley Temple was especially good. Chef, Matt  mainly uses produce from small local suppliers. The excellent service and generous portions means it is good value and so rather popular.

The View bar and restaurant. Photo: Mike Caldwell

Our sat nav seemed to reject the way to Courtyard by Marriott Hotel In Exeter. “All our customers go through that,” was the slightly curious reaction from the check-in staff, (why couldn’t they just signpost it better then?)  So to help any future visitors it is based next to the Sandy Park Rugby Club – home of the Exeter Chiefs. Despite this initial confusion Ewelina on reception was really helpful to us throughout our three-day stay, giving us clear directions to places we wanted to visit. The hotel is newly built and well designed and The View restaurant turned out to have tasty dishes, served expertly by our waitress Millie. And with a 360-degree, panoramic view of the Devonshire countryside.

While in Exeter I tried to find the synagogue which, despite being in a central position is quite hard to locate, nestled as it is next to a local bingo hall. I wanted to see it again after a long time, as it is the third oldest synagogue in the United Kingdom, carefully restored by successive generations. In 1763 Abraham Exekiel and Kitty Jacobs originally obtained the 99-year lease and Jewish people were once again to become an established part of Exeter community after the general expulsion in 1290. It was not possible to visit during my visit to Exeter but I know it exists for all those living in the larger area of  Devon, Somerset, Dorset and parts of Cornwall,  holding services every Friday night and Saturday.

Lucy was the guest of Devon Food and Drink, which represents 350 of Devon’s leading food and drink producers, retailers, hospitality venues and related businesses dedicated to serving up the best produce from the county.

Harbour Hotel

Luscombe drinks

Winslade Manor

Rooms at Marriott Exeter from £69.

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