An idyllic hotel and isolated beach in South Devon – Soar Mill Cove:
The West Country is an area I grew up in and still love to visit. I know Cornwall particularly well, it makes it easy for me to explore and suggest places that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve recently stayed at the Beach Hotel in Bude and Chapel House in Penzance both of which I would recommend for short breaks.
Devon is Cornwall’s nearest neighbour and apart from opposing views on the intricacies of clotted cream and jam on scones which we’ll come to later, for the most part, the two counties have a lot in common. So, given the opportunity to review the Soar Mill Cove Hotel, in South Devon, I was more than happy to do so. I have fond memories of shopping trips to Plymouth and going to Dartmoor, when I was a child, but have never visited the area around Salcombe, part of the South Devon area of outstanding beauty. And, it’s en-route back to London.
I set off from Boscastle in Cornwall, where I have a holiday cottage, slowly making my way to Soar Mill Cove by the scenic route, about seventy miles. It took longer than I thought, the roads from the A38 were typical West Country style, narrow and winding. I didn’t get lost though and arrived safely at the Soar Mill Cove Hotel which is signposted from Marlborough – the road to the hotel is a single track road but thankfully I didn’t meet anyone coming the other way.
A very warm welcome when I finally arrived, from Keith Makepeace, the owner, who showed me to my room and helped me with my luggage. The spacious Eddystone Suite would be perfect for a family with a separate twin bedded room in addition to as the main bedroom. Everything was spotlessly clean, the room was very light and spacious with ample storage, there was a bowl of fresh fruit, and tea and coffee making facilities. Stripy towels for the saltwater pool were laid out on the bed, a nice touch. The bathroom had a modern suite a bath and a walk-in shower, with luxurious Molton Brown toiletries.
The rooms had full-length French windows with an amazing view of the surrounding cliffs, with grassy slopes running down to the cove which was just out of sight. This contemporary hotel is built into the hillside so blends in with the countryside rather than detracting from it. Everything has been beautifully renovated by the owners of the family run hotel, from the exterior to the coastal theming in the lounge and coffee shop.
Hearing that the hotel offers a complimentary cream tea on arrival was perfect. I’m a big fan of cream teas, although the way they eat the scones in Devon just doesn’t seem right to a Cornish person; jam is first and then the cream on top! Having made myself at home I took my tea in the lounge, another room with floor to ceiling glass windows to make the most of the view, together with comfy chairs and sofas and modern paintings commissioned from a Cornish artist.
The cream tea was just what everyone should be offered after a long journey, the scones were generous and warm with homemade raspberry jam and a pot of Devonshire clotted cream – perfect!
Feeling revitalised after an excellent tea it was time to venture out and explore the cove, a short walk down from the hotel. The land is owned by the National Trust, with the coastal footpath wending its way through it, making the hotel an ideal base for walkers. Sheep and cattle were grazing in the fields; having been spooked by cows when I was growing up in Cornwall, I took the path through the field with the sheep and arrived safely!
The cove itself was magical, almost deserted but for a family walking their dog. It’s a small stretch of golden sand with rocks protruding out of the sand and the sea was crashing down as the tide was coming in. It’s rare to find a spot so unspoilt in the West Country, probably due to the fact that the road is just for the Soar Mill Cove Hotel making it inaccessible for the general public. I slowly made my way back up to my room, the uphill walk took a little longer than going down but despite taking my time to enjoy the view, it was still only fifteen minutes.
There was plenty of time to freshen up before dinner so I decided to have a soak, the Molton Brown shower and bath gel adding fragrance and bubbles, always good. A large bathtub was perfect to stretch out and relax too before wrapping up in one of the soft bathrobes that were provided by the hotel. Refreshed and changed I realised that dusk was drawing in, mellow golden light streamed in through the windows, it was going to be a gorgeous sunset. I went outside and sat watching the sun slowly setting on the horizon out at sea. I wasn’t disappointed at all. Determined to catch the last rays of light I retreated to the lounge to continue watching through the windows whilst I sipped one of the house cocktails, homemade gin, Jen’s Gin, with elderflower and prosecco, a great end to the day.
Dinner was in the coffee bar, which also serves as the restaurant and breakfast room. Spacious and light with comfortable chairs and muted green paintwork and of course the floor to ceiling glass windows, through which I could see the backdrop of the hills and the sea, though by this time it was getting dark outside.
There is a fixed price menu or A La Carte options and the menu has dishes to suit every taste or dietary requirement with plenty of meat and fish alternatives.
I love crab and was delighted to see a crab starter on the A La Carte menu, as the stormy weather on this trip had meant I didn’t venture far from home while I was in Cornwall. Handpicked, Salcombe, crab cocktail with apple and cauliflower, it was a generous portion and delicious. To follow I chose the Cornish hake with parmesan and herb crunch, spring onion creamed potatoes, rainbow chard and white wine butter sauce. To drink a glass of Sauvignon Blanc perfectly complemented the fish. Sated, I looked for the light dessert option, a lemon posset with poached strawberries and shortbread was perfect.
During the course of the evening, little jugs of fresh milk are laid out on the reception desk, so much nicer than the plastic pots and perfect for the small fridge in my room.
The bed was very comfortable, the room was dark and cosy, it was so quiet that I had a blissful sleep. I woke refreshed and drew the curtains to feast my eyes on the breathtaking view.
Breakfast was served in the coffee-room; cereals, fresh fruit, fruit juices, warm croissants and hot options. I chose the bacon sandwich and it was very tasty indeed. There were pots of homemade marmalade and blackcurrant jam and plentiful toast. Freshly brewed coffee arrived to complete my breakfast and to set me up for the drive home.
I would have loved to have stayed longer than one night at Soar Mill Cove Hotel, an idyllic setting where you can truly escape and unwind. I was intrigued by the idea of the seawater heated pool and would have loved to have tried for myself, but will save that for another time.
The hotel offers rooms on a bed & breakfast basis or with dinner included. For guests looking for self-catering accommodation, there are two self-contained spaces, the Ocean Villas each with their own entrance, just in front of the main hotel reception.
For more details on the Soar Mill Cove Hotel, and to check availability, visit www.soarmillcove.co.uk.
Complimentary cream tea on arrival is for customers booking with the hotel direct though there is a full tea menu available to order.
Soar Mill Cove is a remote location where you really need to drive. A car is essential for exploring this beautiful part of Devon. It’s around four and a half to five hours by car from London depending on traffic.
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