I remember how surprised my friends and family were when I announced that I was going to spend a significant part of my summer in the UK. Not in the exotic waters of Mallorca, Algarve or even Miami. The UK, more precisely in England. Why? Because it took me the last 8 years to realise how wonderful this part of the world is – seriously pretty – and I felt that I should give it a bit more of Mrs. O’s love.
Needless to say, I am not totally mad. The weather people were predicting a heat wave lasting longer than the usual 2-3 days (which in other countries are not defined as heatwaves, but anyway, I digress!). And we got 2 weeks, in the summer of 2013, of pure bliss. Too hot, possibly, to be honest… (ok, I will not complain!)
Immediately after the Henley Royal Regatta, one of my favourite summer events in the British social calendar, I headed to the South West of England, more specifically, to Devon. I know Devon better than any other English county as there are a lot of O’Reillys living here. It is a good place!
One of the prettiest places in the area, has to be Salcombe – a small fishing village, with stunning views of the sea (and bay) and possibly some of the best shopping in this part of the world. I am not going to lie, there is something more to Salcombe than its outstanding natural beauty!
Did I tell you about the shopping? Well well well. In the main street, you can actually hit quite some nice “English-style” clothes shops within a few blocks. Home of Jack Wills (seriously!), you can also help the British economy at local favourites such as Joules, Crew, Salt, Cath Kidstow, etc – there is a common theme between them, so you just need to find out.
After a wander around town (strict parking restrictions may limit you to one hour), it was time to head to the beach.
Before we reached our destination, we headed towards North Sands for lunch. And with a view like this, we kind of stayed there for almost 3 hours.
We had the laziest lunch ever at the Winking Prawn, a very relaxed seaside restaurant with incredible seafood (this platter for 2 was £21!). One of the things I miss about Portugal the most is the food, but especially seafood – which we barely cook. I can’t tell you how nice it was to find exactly that. And with a side of rose, it was pretty perfect.
After lunch, it was time to head to our hotel, the fab and cool South Sands Hotel, which we adored! Right on South Sands beach, it was a lovely place to stay. Recently refurbished (I did get a hint of New England style, which I loved), it was perfect for us! What I need to mention? The drive between North and South Sands (possibly a mile long) can be horrendous if you get two-way traffic in one of Devon’s epic narrow lanes). Certainly adds a bit of excitement (not!).
Upon arrival, we were led to our Beach Suite, which had 2 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a great living room and independent access (to the street and the beach) from the main hotel.
As we checked-in, we were surprised by a glass of bubbly as we got to our room. Where did we enjoy it? At the stunning beach. I must confess it was my first time at the beach in England and it was lovely (interestingly, it was a bit cooler than I expected, so no dips to report!)
We saw a lot of brave people swim, play, or indulge in more adventurous watersports. My favourite was a 80-year old couple who got in their dingy intending to get to Salcombe for dinner. How sweet was that? Well, for those seeking a more relaxed way to get to Salcombe for dinner or a drink, they could always take the ferry. I knew there was a ferry, and I was expecting some sort of proper boat. I can’t tell you how surprised I was with the South Sands ferry. A tractor which got into the sea and then transferred you over to a little boat. I thought it was adorable and promise to get in it next time I am over!
Dinner took place at the Beachside restaurant, which we adored. If you are in the area and not staying at the hotel, it is absolutely worth a visit. Fish and seafood are highly featured on the menu. And the view.. oh my God. Staff were also friendly but very relaxed, which really made our evening and stay quite special.
Before we knew it, and after a great night’s sleep, it was time to head back home. Saying goodbye to South Sands wasn’t easy, but other UK pleasures awaited.
What I know for sure? That I will be back for more, come rain or that incredible sunshine that sometimes blesses this part of the world.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the South Sands Hotel who looked after us incredibly well.