Chalet Saunton: the perfect post-lockdown getaway
Chic Devonian home away from home with views to die for
As the UK’s coronavirus lockdown eases and British travellers set their sights on squeezing the best out of what remains of the summer, the notion of a “staycation” may seem an increasingly enticing option.
While going abroad may offer many obvious temptations, holidaying in the UK is infinitely simpler than having to contend with air bridges and quarantines.
So if your spirit of adventure is willing, but you are not yet ready to brave an aeroplane, a trip to Devon could be just the ticket, offering some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery, with surf to rival Australia, sand the equal of the Caribbean, and - just sometimes - enough sun to make you believe you are in the Mediterranean.
To experience it properly, the luxury apartments of Chalet Saunton, where The Week Portfolio visited just before coronavirus hit the UK, offer some of the highest end self-catering accommodation in the county.
The seven apartments that comprise Chalet Saunton have been outfitted expensively with a stylish yet minimalist aesthetic that would not look out of place in a Vogue photo shoot.
We stayed in one of the ground floor apartments - a vast space more than capable of hosting six friends or family members across its three bedrooms.
The most obvious selling point of the whole place is the vast kitchen-living-dining space, whose huge floor-to-ceiling windows look straight out to Saunton Sands beach.
Regardless of the weather, the view is spectacular. During our autumnal stay, we had days of broad sunshine, offering clear views out across the beach and over to the misty hills in the distance. Other days, when rain and wind whipped in, provided an atmospheric backdrop to our evenings in, cooking, drinking, dining and carousing together.
The master bedroom is - unsurprisingly - the best appointed of all the rooms, with a freestanding bath in the corner, perfect for an indulgent soak while staring out the window. Linen and towels are all five-star hotel standard, and everything gleams; the whole apartment is in pristine condition.
The decor is relatively understated - indeed some might find it too neutral - but it is certainly elegant and offers a perfect canvas upon which to project your own personality; ideal if you plan to rent the space for a wedding or special event, once such things become possible again.
What to see
The main attraction of a stay at Chalet Saunton will always be the view from the apartment itself, but a short walk down the hill brings you straight out onto Saunton Sands beach, a vast tract of sand with a very shallow drop-off that is popular all year round with surfers, but is also ideal for strolling, jogging, or sandcastle building.
Immediately next door is Saunton golf club, which offers two Championship courses and is listed in Golf World & Golf Monthly magazines’ 100 Best Courses in the UK.
Skern Lodge Outdoor Activity Centre offers a full day out with the family, hosting everything from abseiling, climbing, kayaking, zip lining, rafting and archery. It is already open and receiving guests, and promises enhanced sanitation measures to protect visitors from coronavirus infection.
Westward Ho! Beach, named after Charles Kingsley’s 1855 novel is a lovely spot for watersports or more surfing opportunities if you have tired of the surf at Saunton Sands and fancy a change of scene.
There are also amusement arcades and a putting green and at very low tides the remains of a mesolithic sunken forest and peat beds becomes visible, offering evidence of human activity that goes back 6,000 years.
Where to eat and drink
A very short walk brings you to the Beachside Grill, a restaurant that prides itself on its locally sourced ingredients, which are treated simply and then thrown onto the grill. The Exmoor steaks are thick and juicy and the burgers are uniformly excellent.
A little further afield (a half-hour drive to Bideford to be precise), Number Eight offers genuinely fine dining in a sophisticated yet casual setting. The food lives up to the promise too, with beautifully presented plates, featuring intense flavours and starring good cuts of meat.
The Farmers Arms
Just a bit further still in the small town of Woolsery, The Farmers Arms is possibly the pick of the bunch. This former local boozer was bought and expensively refurbished by Xochi and Michael Birch, the multi-millionaire founders of social networking website, Bebo. The old inn has now been transformed into a beautiful pub and restaurant, with two bars, an upstairs lounge and a beer garden. It oozes with ambition from the moment you step through the door, with its well chosen art and chic decor. The fare on offer is equally good, and is very affordable, given the quality on offer. A must if you are anywhere in the area.
When to go
There is no time like the present. Chalet Saunton is open for business right now and summer is a great time to visit. It is also the season that sees the most tourists come down to Devon though, so the cooler months will give you more of the coastline to yourself. Obviously the trade-off is a more bracing sea and a more biting wind, but for the hardy, off-season visits offer a quieter, more quintessentially Devonian experience.
Apartments sleeping up to six guests start from £500 per night on a self-catering basis. For more information and to book visit www.chaletsaunton.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01271 890514.