48 Hours in Devon, Part 1: Dartington Estate

M. Reza Amirinia discovers the English Riviera

I’d always planned to visit South Devon so, after months of isolation due to COVID and it being springtime, I at last set out to explore its hidden treasures. I had passed through Torquay a few times in the past but now I had the opportunity to stay for 48 hours and discover those pristine seaside, picturesque villages, and charming landscapes and taste the local foods that I had heard about.

While regularly holidaying overseas we forget about the many beautiful destinations that are just a few hours by train from London. One such county is Devonshire, home to the so-called English Riviera, where sun, sea, sand and good food abound. It reminds of my trip to the South of France, visiting the charming beauty of St Tropez, Cannes and Nice.

Late on a Friday night in April I arrived at Dartington Hall in pitch darkness. It’s a long winding driveway from the main gate to the hotel itself. In the eerie darkness, it looked more like a palace than a hotel. The main office was closed but I was guided to the restaurant bar where a helpful lady checked us in. The room was very spacious and had an antiquey feel about it, helped by a large wooden beam in the ceiling dating back from an older period. The room was cosy and equipped with a fridge and a coffee maker machine. I could not wait to see the place in daylight.

In the morning buffet breakfast was served in the restaurant and offered an excellent selection of dishes both hot and cold including vegetarian and vegan options. Afterwards, I was given a guided tour of Dartington Hall including the main hall, a selection of rooms and the hotel’s facilities. Then it was time to check out and have a nice stroll around the extensive gardens.

The Dartington estate has a serious history which goes back more than a thousand years. A Royal charter from 833 AD shows evidence of Roman occupation around the Dartington estate. Dartington Hall was built on the site in the 13th Century. St Mary’s Church was built on the grounds of Dartington in 1215 but sadly all that remains today is the tower. In 1925 the Elmhirst family bought the estate with the thought of rural regeneration. In the early 20th century the Hall was in ruins but thanks to architect William Weir, rebuilding commenced retaining the structure and features of the original medieval country manor.

I enjoyed strolling through the spectacular gardens and woodlands that have been awarded a Grade II Listing. The most interesting feature of the garden is a 1,500 years old yew tree. There are also Lucombe Oaks, a row of Sweet Chestnuts and a spectacular magnolia collection. I also encountered a fountain and several sculptures during my enjoyable explorations of these magnificent gardens. I spent half a day in Dartington, just getting a glimpse of this creative and enlightening site. It would be good to have longer there in the future.

Leaving Dartington Hal, l I headed towards the coastline and arrived in the village of Shaldon, which is located at the mouth of River Teign and opposite the town of Teignmouth. It is a very peaceful and relaxing place. I spent some time at the Teignmouth Lighthouse and Grand Pier before lunching at the Bucket & Spade Restaurant on Torquay Road in Shaldon. This impressive establishment was awarded Gold in the Best Restaurant & Pub category and Silver in the Best Bar category at the Food Drink Devon Awards which is a fantastic accolade.

They used to be Shaldon’s best-kept secret, but so many locals and visitors in the area have now discovered this gastronomic gem and seen what fantastic locally sourced food they offer. They are passionate about supporting local artisan producers and celebrating the incredibly high-quality produce available on their doorstep. It provides its diners with a view of the English Channel while they enjoy its fine cuisine.

I finished off my fine lunch with a helping of homemade apple pie and ice cream. If you are in South Devon, I recommend you dine at the Bucket & Spade.

Click here to read “48 Hours in Devon, Part 2: On to Torquay“.

More information

For more information about Devon and the best food and drink news, offers and events in the region visit fooddrinkdevon.co.uk.

Stay at Dartington in the B&B Courtyard rooms (double room) from £95.45 per room per night.

To reserve your table at the Bucket & Spade, visit https://thebucketandspade.com.

To see more of Reza’s images of Devon, go to https://www.amirinia.com/uk/.

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Mohammad Reza Amirinia

Freelance journalist, photojournalist & travel writer

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