Stay Here: Cliff House
One of our fave luxury self-catering stays in South Devon has just re-opened after a snazzy refurb. So what's new? Well, *that* hot tub for starters...
UPDATE – THIS HOUSE WAS SOLD IN 2020 AND IS NO LONGER A HOLIDAY LET.
You know how some things (wine, George Clooney) just become more appealing over time? Well, happily I’m just back from a nose around Cliff House, a self-catering cottage in the South Hams village of Torcross and what a difference a year makes. You might remember I told you about this little beauty last year; you might also recall that it *stormed* the Muddy Awards 2017, winning Best Boutique Stay (yep, that’s quite a fan base). What you might not realise is that the house has just been through a mega-refurb and I was invited to cut the ribbon and smash a bottle of wine* over what is now a ridiculously luxurious bolthole (*made that bit up. Because that would just be a waste of wine). It’s now so pretty, you may have to avert your eyes at times as you read on for the juicy update deets.
So where do in-the-know travellers stay when they’re coming to South Devon? The most logical base is often Dartmouth, with its easy vibe, great shops and civilisation all on your doorstep. I wouldn’t blame you, but consider staying somewhere nearby and then you won’t risk missing the bigger – panoramic – picture that is the gorgeous stretch of the South Hams coastline. This part of the world wins awards for its beaches and food, with idyllic coves ripe for discovery on family walks, or putters along the water.
Cliff House is perched high on a, well, cliff in Torcross, a village about twenty minutes’ drive from Dartmouth (it’s actually only a hop and a skip along the coast, but you know what the roads can be like). Once you’ve parked up in your own private spot (another bonus to being out of town), you’ll be utterly smitten by the views, before you’ve even stepped through the front door.
To your left is Slapton Beach, to your right is Cove beach and straight ahead and beyond is the whole of Start Bay. Grab the the binoculars and keep your eyes peeled, you might just spot the odd humpback whale on his own little vaycay!
So this is one of the biggest updates to tell you about. Where once, Cliff House was all about relaxed, white-washed walls and beach-themed decor, the cottage now majors on sophistication, too.
Don’t worry, it’s still reassuringly unstuffy enough for a laidback family hol, but the colours and furnishings have all been updated and the whole vibe is probably what I’d describe as more fun. Owners Tracy and David have definitely embraced the interior design bit of this painstaking project and it’s paid off.
The house will probably have you hankering after a rainy day, just so that you can properly enjoy it without feeling guilty.
And there is plenty of space to kick back and make the most of it, too. A wood burner and cosy beamed rooms mean you’re set for all seasons, but when the weather behaves, a gorgeous new kitchen/dining area with bifold doors leads out onto a terrace with wood-fired hot tub (hello!) and *those* views. Literally. Everywhere.
Here comes update no. 2. Not only has the interior been seriously spruced, but the whole layout of this super-spacious house has changed so it can now sleep 10 across 5 bedrooms (previously sleeping 8).
Stylish en-suites do the business and I still have a serious soft spot for the bathroom in the master bedroom where you can sneak off for a nice long bath and a glass of wine and enjoy the panoramic outlook.
Big tick on both counts. The house is absolutely perfect for families – especially those looking to come and enjoy beach days.
There’s a games room, too and the layout means that there’s enough room for everyone not to feel on top of each other, indoors and out.
Pups will love lazing out on the terrace in warmer months.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The new kitchen/diner will make self-catering a pleasure (if that’s even possible) and, just a minute or two’s drive from Cliff House is Stokeley Farm Shop, which is everything you want from a farm shop; butchers, deli, cafe, gifts and plant centre all in one easy-to-mooch-around space. But, for those evenings when both going out and cooking at home feel like too much hard work (holidays can be knackering, too), Polly and Gemma, The Galley Girls come highly recommended by the owners of Cliff House. They specialise in catering for holiday rentals in South Devon, using locally sourced produce wherever possible.
For easy dining nearby (ie. you can literally see it from the window), The Boathouse is a fab spot between the sea and the ley for fish and chips and is reassuringly family-friendly. You can eat in, or take-away if you want to keep it alfresco. The gorgeous white-washed thatched cottage with blue shutters on the beachfront is the Seabreeze Cafe, which I’m told is an excellent place for breakfasts and does a mean cream tea. And the Start Bay Inn is a charming historic 14th century pub, which majors on locally sourced food and drink.
But for something a little different, you have to try Britannia @ The Beach, known locally as The Shack (Tim Henman’s a fan and is raving about it in our Muddy interview); it’s a combination of fishmongers, village stores and cafe all under one crazy roof, right on the beach. The owners, a fishing family, have their own boat from which they fish and bring back the day’s catch and the cafe has won awards for its grub.
AROUND AND ABOUT
This part of the county ticks every goddam box, whether you’re coming for a weekend or summer hol, even in the depths of winter. Steps from the house lead straight down to the beach and the coastal path is on your doorstep (well, not literally, because that would be awkward). Slapton beach is a lovely soft shingle beach with a poignant history, as this was the site used by allied forces in 1943 to rehearse the D-Day Landings. The ill-fated exercise resulted in the death of 749 American servicemen and you’ll see a stone monument to commemorate the event, as well as a Sherman Tank at Torcross.
Just behind the beach, you’ll see Slapton Ley, a nature reserve based around a freshwater lake, which is great for taking the kids to spot wildlife amidst the flora and fauna.
For an easy 30-minute stroll, check out Limpet Rocks and head towards the village of Beesands, where you’ll find a bit of old-school Devon, with a mile-long shingle beach, which has been awarded a Blue Flag, for its crystal clear waters. For a longer, more adventurous walk, you can go all the way to Start Point Lighthouse, on the western side of Start Bay, which you’ll see flickering on and off from Cliff House. This is the southernmost tip of Devon and overlooks the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
And of course, you won’t be able to resist a mooch around Dartmouth, while the estuary town of Kingsbridge is just twenty minutes away. Further afield, you’ll need a good day to do the shops and boutiques of neighbouring Totnes and Dartington. Round it all off with a visit to Sharpham Vineyard and bring home a supper of award-winning wine and cheese. Heaven, right?!
If you like the look of this place, but still fancy being in Dartmouth, then it’s worth knowing that the owners will also be letting a second property, Speedwell House for a very limited number of weeks from early summer 2019. Overlooking the town, this one sleeps 8 (dogs welcome), with outdoor kitchen/bar space and parking for 2 cars (a rarity in Dartmouth!) – you can see more about this pad here.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Families and groups looking for the best of both worlds; a secluded coastal spot that feels a world away from anywhere, while being close to south Devon’s most treasured towns.
Not for: It’s not the easiest drive to reach the house and you’ll definitely need a car for the duration to get around. But that’s kind of par for the course of holidaying in this neck of the woods, so just embrace the rural quirks!
££: Whetted your appetite? A week staying at Cliff House, Torcross, sleeping up to 10, plus four-legged friends costs from £2099 – £4365. Visit luxuryholidaysindevon.co.uk or holidaycottages.co.uk to enquire and book.
Cliff House, Torcross, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 2TH. Tel: 07788 964588