Meet the Expert: Sara Hughes in Devon
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Meet the Expert: Sara Hughes in Devon

“Living in the shadow of the Brecon Beacons as I do,  it’s easy to forget we are never more than 80 miles from the coast in the UK”, says Sara Hughes our UK Product Manager. “Luckily, I recently had the chance to spend a couple of days in South Devon, where the incredible scenery, numerous walking paths and pretty coastal towns completely reignited my passion for the British coastline”. From Devon’s South West Coast Path and the quaint coastal towns, of Salcombe and Dartmouth to the open moorlands and ancient granite tors of Dartmouth National Park, you’ll find Devon is a delightful place for a walking holiday in the UK. Read on as we find out how Sara got on during her enchanting stay in South Devon.  

Beginning in Plymouth, Sara spent the day with a representative of Visit Plymouth and was treated to a full historical tour of the city, its rejuvenated waterfront, the Barbican, and even sampled the region’s famous Plymouth Gin. “I had forgotten the important role Plymouth played in shaping the UK’s Maritime history,” Sara said. “ The Mayflower Steps Memorial and Museum tell the fascinating story of how ships that sailed from Plymouth in the 17th Century, founded the first European settlement in what is now Massachusetts, USA. Spending time walking around the waterfront, Plymouth Hoe and the Barbican brought it all back to life”.

She continued, “The waterfront is a vibrant and lively area of the city, with a number of old, characterful pubs, alongside many delicious eateries and the odd gin distillery! Treat yourself to a guided tour of the Plymouth Gin Distillery for a delicious dram tasting at the end.”, Sara recommends.

“In Plymouth, you quickly realise the importance of the local ferries, something we use extensively throughout our Devon Walking holidays. They are the lifeblood of this part of the UK coast, providing extensive options for walks and day trips out, using Plymouth as a base, as well as enabling locals to quickly get about this stunning coastline.”

“I was so impressed with the low cost, frequency and also the extensive network of ferries available from Plymouth”, says Sara, as she took a ferry out to Mount Batten and enjoyed a walk along the South West Coast Path. Making up part of our Walking South Devon’s Coastal Path, the coastal path is excellently signposted with charming cafes and hidden coves along the way. This trip takes you around the coastal path staying in small characterful hotels and charming inns. Our route notes also encourage you to make the most of the ferries and even wading across estuaries when necessary!”

“ This trip could be complicated to arrange, but with our excellent local partners on hand, the stress of any planning is taken care of, and options are always available if the tides and the weather don’t play nicely!” Sara explains. “Using the waterways on offer means that travellers experience a real coastal journey, from cliffs and unspoilt beaches to paths through ancient forests lining the coast.”

A place not to be missed is Burgh Island, which was recently featured on the BBC television series, Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing. This picturesque island is home to the iconic art deco Burgh Island Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote some of her most famous works at the Beach House, built specially for her visits. Accessed at low tide by walking across the estuary or high tide on the excellent sea tractor, the island has beautiful sandy beaches to explore, a quaint local pub for relaxed lunches and a formal tearoom at the famous hotel, which is perfect for those who may be looking to celebrate something special.

Our Walking South Devon’s Coastal Path trip ends in Dartmouth, another fabulous town with a characterful embankment, Baynards Cove and Dartmouth Castle. “The town itself is so charming, with lovely shops, restaurants and traditional pubs. There are many buildings of historical worth and so the Dartmouth Museum, housed in an atmospheric old merchant’s house is a great place to start”, Sara commented.

“There is also the Mayflower Heritage 400 Trail, which you can download to follow about the town. But the real attraction to me was the River Dart, as it offered ample choices for more exploration on the water.” She continued, “From taking a boat upriver to visit places such as Buckfast Abbey and Totnes, to guided trips on SUP boards and kayaks, there’s so much to do. Sadly there wasn’t time to do it all, so I’ll definitely be back to explore more in the future.” Similar to Plymouth, Dartmouth is the launching pad for many local ferries, in particular, the car ferry is used extensively by the locals to get from A to B. It’s fascinating to observe the expert driving on and off the ferries, something that you could sit and watch for hours, with a glass of cold beer in hand!”.

A  bonus to being in this area is the close proximity to one of the UK’s National Parks, Dartmoor. This can be combined with the coast path on our Contrasts of Devon Walking. Starting in Plymouth, this holiday begins by taking you along the coastal path and then heads inland, to the charming villages of Yealmpton, Holbeton and along the Erme Plym Trail to Ermington. Crossing some more rivers and following old tramways that once covered the whole region, you experience a completely different landscape, full of ancient moors and forests.

From Ivybridge, Sara took a walk up to South Dartmoor, which she found enchanting with its herds of wild ponies and breathtaking sea views in the distance. “ I was completely taken in by Dartmoor, somewhere I had never visited previously. The walk was occasionally challenging, with quite steep inclines and rocky underfoot in places but totally worth it. There is something very special about this area; such an ancient and beloved landscape, where you can still see the faint traces of its industrial past and history, which has now been almost entirely reclaimed by nature – you can clearly see why it’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

When it came to Sara’s top tip for customers looking to visit Devon, she said, “The art deco Burgh Island Hotel was a definite highlight for me. Hosting notable guests such as Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, and Winston Churchill since its opening in the 1920s, you can really feel that the building is steeped in history and charm, offering the perfect retreat to unwind for a couple of hours with a good book overlooking the coastline.”

If this has inspired you to visit Devon on a Headwater Walking Holiday click here.