Location, location, location is a surefire winner
C ERTAIN places you stay can take a real hold on your psyche and leave an indelible mark in your mind. Soar Mill Cove Hotel in South Devon does just that for my wife and myself.
We have visited a few times down the years and, as soon as we reach the narrow road leading to it from the village of Malborough, on the edge of Salcombe, it feels as if you're on your way to meet an old friend.
And within minutes of checking in we find ourselves chafing at the bit to be taking a stroll down through the meadows to the beach which shares its name with the hotel and spa.
For, if location, location, location is what a hotel should be all about, this one is a surefire winner.
This week's delicious £5 5 O'CLOCKTAIL is a refreshing Tequila Sunrise. Available everyday from our Bar for only £5 between 5pm & 7pm.
Terms: £5 cocktail applies to the cocktail of the week.
Contact: 0117 2448281
Valid until: Monday, May 27 2013
The final approach road gets squeakily narrow, then, in an instant you find yourself heading up and around a sweeping drive to the front of the hotel.
It's a single storey building, set into a convenient dip in the coastal hillside. Stretching out in front, past its gardens, are meadows, sandwiched between two plunging headlands and, at the base where they meet, the beach.
Past the hotel grounds all the land belongs to the National Trust and, trust me, there is absolutely nothing to spoil the view.
It had been three or four years since our previous visit and there have been changes at the hotel.
We stayed in its Jenny Wren suite which had been given a contemporary makeover. Extremely spacious it had its own sea-facing patio area, as do many of the rooms, with chairs and loungers. It was fantastic to wake to the wonderful view and, at sunset, watch the fiery orb sink slowly in the west over the sea.
Our short break covered a Saturday and Sunday night stay.
The journey's about as straightforward as it can be out of Bristol, down the M4, follow the Plymouth signs, then turn off towards Totnes.
We did a small detour to Kingsbridge, though. A pleasant, bustling water's-edge town, then drove on to Salcombe.
Never the easiest place to drive through, we headed for the largest of its car parks and strolled into the centre. It wasn't open when we were there but I'd always recommend Salcombe's edge-of-town park-and-ride service in high season. Salcombe's a magnet for anyone keen on boating and boasts some high-end shops to service their needs, too.
Then it was off to our hotel mid-afternoon and a chance to soak up its lovely surroundings. We dined in the Serendipity restaurant, with its superb view and food to match.
Sunday morning offered up some more brilliant blue skies and glorious sunshine (Bristol was not having the same, so praise be for South Devon's famous micro-climate) and we decided on a walk from the hotel along the coastal path to Hope Cove.
There's a decent, friendly pub, the Hope and Anchor, when you get there – and should thirst or famine occur around half-way along the route, there's the Bolt Light hotel for a refreshment stop.
We were, initially, booked into the hotel restaurant for just one of our nights but in fact quickly decided to change that. So we ate there both evenings. I mean, why bother to drive around looking for somewhere when the food on offer on your doorstep is absolutely spot on.
Monday was a day for really rolling back the years.
After another excellent breakfast (fab marmalade, by the way) we headed back through Kingsbridge then along past Slapton Sands, with its D-Day associations, and Blackpool Sands through a string of pretty villages towards the tiny community of Kellaton. We had stayed there many years before when our children were very young.
Past Kellaton is one of South Devon's secret places, Lannacombe beach. It's private, I think, and the car parking is most definitely finite. If there's no space, you just have to turn round and go back.
And it's not the easiest journey. A tree-shrouded, very narrow road- cum-track takes you there. Just pray you don't meet anything coming the other way. But, boy, just like Soar Mill Cove, it's worth the effort.
Finally, before we left this part of the peninsula, we also took time to visit East Prawle, home of the Pig's Nose Inn, an establishment renowned far and wide.
It wasn't opening time so we took coffee at the Pig's Nose cafe and wandered the lanes for a while before heading back towards the M4 and home. Our two days away in this smashing part of the country, still unspoilt despite its popularity, had been really relaxing.
Just who could be stressed in a place as picture perfect as Soar Mill Cove?