Alternative, Fromage-Free ideas for Valentines Day
My head hit the table today at speed when I realised that V-day is creeping up on us like a red velvet-caped assassin. For crying out loud, just as we’ve got Christmas done and dusted, now the pressure is on to roll out a massive show of affection for our loved ones. I’ll tell you what, this year shall we make a pact not to go too over the top on the roses and dodgy poetry and, instead treat the day as a chance to simply enjoy doing something a bit different to the mundane and ordinary? Before you weep ‘how am I meant to find the time to even think about this?!’ let me help you, with a few cheese-free Valentines ideas that’ll hit the spot (ooh you naughty people, not that spot!)
Snap up tickets to a Champagne tasting
Ok, this one will feel romantic, taste good and takes ‘a little of what you fancy’ to the kind of extremes only allowed on special occasions. You’ll be slurring ‘j’adore’ before you know it.
For £45 a ticket, spend the evening at Plymouth’s Le Vignoble, a cool little wine lounge tucked away in the historic Royal William Yard on the waterfront, where they have some serious love for the vine. On Valentines evening you’ll be taken through some of the best sparkling stuff out there and taught a thing or two about bubbles. Each of the six tipples will be paired with indulgent tapas to soak up the fizz, but do try not to get too piddled, won’t you? You don’t want V-day to descend into carnage.
14 Feb, 7.30pm levignoble.co.uk Tel: 01752 222892
Spread a little magic with Jamie Raven
Want Valentines to be magic this year? Simples. Let Jamie take care of it. You might have seen this magician on Britain’s Got Talent back in 2015, when the ever-dubious Cowell declared, ‘I now finally believe in magic’. Since then, the man of mystery has headlined in the record-breaking production The Illusionists at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End; now his own UK theatre tour has shazammed its way to Torquay’s Princess Theatre, just in time for a Valentines Eve-Eve warm-up ahead of the big day. And if it’s a first date and he’s not all that, you can always do a *cough* vanishing act…mwha ha!
13 Feb, 7.30pm. Tickets £25.15 + £2.85 fee. atgtickets.com
Take ’em up the TreeHouse
No, that’s not a euphemism, you filthy-minded muddies. Who fancies a stay at Deer Park Hotel’s sexy new treehouse? Form an orderly queue…behind me.
For those who want to spring a little surprise that’ll feel like going back to nature without any of the faff of real camping, this little thatched roofed love nest is it. Overlooking the River Otter Valley, you’ll be peacefully secluded in the rooftops, with all the conveniences of the hotel nearby. You can pop a cork, stick Barry White on the Bluetooth system, run the roll top bath, load up the log burner and promptly fall asleep. What? What I wouldn’t do for eight hours straight….
From £345 per night. deerparkcountryhotel.co.uk
Put your highest heels on and have a ball
Perhaps you’ve been granted a pass to have a night off from the kids and you want to revisit those heady nights of partying? It’s possible to go out and not talk about the kids/look at pics of the kids/check in with the babysitter on the kids/leave early to get back to the kids, you know. Get yourself glammed up, head to Exeter’s coolest new rooftop bar and lounge The Terrace and lose yourself for a while at their ‘Once Upon a Time’ enchanted ball.
Dress Code: fantasy fairytale, Tickets: £10 in advance, £15 on the door theterraceexeter.com
Feel alive with a b-r-r-racing couples surf lesson
Maybe you’re the type of people who like to embrace mother nature once in a while and find goose pimples and wetsuits sexy? Well, I have an idea that’s seriously sub-zero for you crazy lot. A walk along North Devon’s beaches in winter is a wildly exhilarating experience alone, but I’m suggesting you get yourself booked on to one of Croyde Surf Academy’s surfing lessons. For Valentines, there’s a special 2-4-1 offer on, so the pair of you can indulge in some wet and wild fun for £40. And if you want to make a night of it, check in to the Saunton Sands Hotel for a post-surf pamper, a hot toddy and a slumber. Cobwebs, be gone!
A two-night Valentines Surprise break at Saunton Sands costs from £440. sauntonsands.co.uk
Enjoy a gorgeous walk and dinner
I recently re-discovered Torbay and, with my Muddy (well, nosey) head on, asked a local if there were any decent walks to be had around Brixham. Would you believe it, the first place I was told to scope out was called Marriage Woods; I mean you couldn’t make this stuff up.
Oh alright then, maybe it’s spelt differently but come on, allow me some creative license, people. Anyway, this woodland walk leads to parks, coves – where you might be lucky enough to spot seals – and beaches, looking out across the English Riviera. And when you’re done, you can mooch around the boutiques and cafes of Brixham itself. My tip? Book ahead for a table at the fab Curious Kitchen for dinner, headed up by the friendliest chef you’ll ever meet, Ash. My review of this very cool spot is coming soon. The only cheese you’ll find here will be on the plate and it’ll be devoured in seconds.
Forget M&S chocolates this year
I mean, chocolates on Valentines day is almost as bad as flowers from the petrol station, isn’t it? But that doesn’t mean that the melty stuff should be banished altogether, far from it. If you’ve a sweet tooth, I suggest you book onto Exeter Cookery School’s chocolate-making workshop this Valentines. You’ll spend a whole day talking about it, making it and of course, eating it (or inhaling it, if you’re me). You’ll get to take home some of your creations too, but if your sweet cravings have been satiated by that point, then I’m sure you can find some other uses for it. What is it they say about the couple that cooks together…?
14 Feb, one-day course costs £155 pp exetercookeryschool.co.uk
Push the boat out -literally – and Escape to Burgh Island
If you’re a hardcore fan of Art Deco design and the glamour of the 1930s, then you’ll be utterly seduced by an escape from the mainland to the Burgh Island Hotel. Perched like a gleaming ocean liner on the south coast, just off the stunning beaches of Bigbury and Bantham, this hotel has been hailed Britain’s Most Romantic. I won’t pretend you don’t need some serious spondoolies to stay there, (a special winter mid-week dinner, B&B rate in the smallest room is still £325), but this is the kind of experience that we should all have at least once in our lifetimes, right? Right.
Arrive on foot, or on the quirky sea tractor, soak up the iconic hotel, rich in history and nostalgia; people come from all over the world to marvel at the original design and to live in a Gatsbyesque bygone era for a bit, just as the likes of Noel Coward and other pre-war luminaries once did. Sup cocktails in the Palm Court Bar and dine in the ballroom where you can watch the waves crashing around you. If you’re really going for it, opt for the secluded beach house, which was built in the thirties as a writers retreat for Agatha Christie and where she penned two novels. Or take the more bohemian Artist’s Studio in the 700 year-old Pilchard Inn. Someone, please make sure Mr Muddy gets the memo, ok?!
burghisland.com Tel: 01548 810514