A blog about getting out of the big smoke and escaping to special places by the sea. Here is a four day, child and dog-friendly itinerary for visiting Plymouth.
COVID state of mind
Mr Maven and I have always enjoyed a bit of property porn, keeping an eye on local house prices and how much more we could get for our money outside of London.
Last week, feeling claustrophobic, I stepped up my Rightmove game. I felt a physical urge to be near the sea. Mr Maven was surprised to be presented with a grand design for sale in Devon. I mean literally – a house that featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs is on sale at an affordable price. If we bought it, we’d be living in a luxurious, state of the art, eco-friendly house surrounded by incredible countryside.
There’s just one downside – it’s in rural Devon. We have no links to that part of the world. Although it’s true coronavirus has changed the way we work, Mr Maven still needs to be in London, or at least within commuting distance. Our townie kids would need to be completely uprooted. How would they even get around in such a remote part of the world?
I know people do this kind of thing and I admire their chutzpah. But as much as I like change, I couldn’t do it.
I decided to settle on the next best thing – a temporary escape to the sea – booking an Airbnb near the Devon coast for a four-day staycation.
Not quite what we had planned
We had two holidays planned this year. One in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival following last year’s successful trip; and another in Turkey. For obvious reasons, we had to cancel both. I didn’t anticipate we’d get a break at all, but the walls were closing in on me last week and I had to take action.
I found a lovely townhouse a couple of miles from the centre of Plymouth, which I chose for its proximity to Burgh Island (more on that later). Five days later, we were off.
Because of the lateness of the booking, Mr Maven had to work for much of our stay, being unable to rearrange his busy schedule of virtual meetings. He was happy with a change of scene and planned to join us when he could. Our bedroom doubled up as his office.
As soon as we’d unpacked, three of us plus Coco the poodle headed into town, parked on the seafront and walked up to the lighthouse at Plymouth Hoe. There were kids swimming in the sea, and half-naked men walking around in wet suits undone to the waist. I took in the sea air and admired the scenery.
We had dinner at Prezzo in King William’s Yard, with this view:
That night I wrote in my diary: “I’m so bloody happy to be here.”
Today we visited Burgh Island. Mr Maven had a ‘sod it’ moment, downed tools for the day and joined us.
Burgh Island is a little lump of land off the coast of Devon, with one cottage, a pub and an art deco hotel, where Agatha Christie used to stay and wrote many of her thrillers.
When the tide is high, the island is cut off from the mainland. Not so bad when you can sit in the Pilchard Inn and watch the waves crashing passed the window. At low tide, there is a huge beach with the sea on both sides.
I spent many weekends here in my 20s with a group of girlfriends. One of our group knew the owner of the cottage and she let us stay. We spent our days in the pub and donned cocktail dresses for dinner and drinks at the hotel. The last time I was on Burgh Island was 14 years ago to celebrate Mr Maven’s 40th birthday.
The hotel was more shabby than chic back then, there was no gift shop or toilets at the beach and barely any tourists. Those are the only things that have changed. Oh yeah, and I’ve had 2 kids.
For me, it is one of the most special places on earth.
We ran around on the sand, played frisbee, laughed at Coco going wild with excitement and paddled in the sea. We ate fish and chips and drank lashings of ginger beer outside The Pilchard Inn, before climbing to the top of the island and admiring the amazing view.
The Tween complained that there was nothing to do at the top. The Teen ventured much too close to the edge for my liking. He loved Burgh Island and said he wanted to come back.
It was a great day and I was so happy to share this place with the kids.
Today we drove to Barbican, an area of cobbled streets and quaint shops next to the harbour. I treated the kids to ice cream for breakfast – irresponsible yes, but f**k it we’re on holiday.
Then we drove to Noss Mayo for lunch at The Ship overlooking the Yealm estuary. En route I had a very scary experience with an oncoming van on a narrow lane with a sheer drop. You need to have a strong constitution for driving around here. It was worth it though. The view over the dry estuary was lovely and the food was fresh and delicious.
We returned to Plymouth in the afternoon and walked up to Devil’s Point. The kids played on the rocks and paddled in the sea.
We drove to Tregantle Beach in Whitsand Bay in Cornwall, a beach we never would have found had it not been for one of my Instagram friends. Access to the beach is down a steep and rocky path, signposted as a military training area. The path emerges onto a vast expanse of soft sand. It was almost deserted.
The weather was perfect, warm with a light breeze. The kids waded in the sea and Coco went bonkers.
The walk back up to the car was arduous. It nearly broke the dog after her exertions on the beach. We drove home via the Torpoint Ferry for a bit of added adventure.
We didn’t have to adapt our behaviour to the virus during our stay. We self-catered, drove everywhere rather than taking public transport and most of our activities were outside.
The caution taken by restaurants over coronavirus varied massively. On one end of the scale was a pub in Wiltshire where we stopped for lunch on the way to Devon. No masks or signs and the waiting staff stood much too close for my liking. Perhaps being in a small remote village, they hadn’t experienced the virus themselves, but if they’re welcoming visitors from the outside, they should have taken more care.
On the other end of the scale, Prezzo at King William’s Yard in Plymouth had hand sanitisers, a one-way system and ordering via an app, to minimise contact with staff. They took our contact details in case they need to track us down later. Everyone was professional and courteous. It was a joy to eat out and there was none of the anxiety I had expected.
We returned to London yesterday. I’m not sure I’ve got the sea out of my system yet. We now have six weeks of school holidays stretching out in front of us, with only a three-night short stay in Suffolk to look forward to. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to keep the kids from killing each other. If we’re all still here next week, I’ll let you know.
Thanks for those of you who made suggestions for places to visit in Devon and Cornwall. Let me know if you have a favourite place I’ve missed.
Much love, Vx