Since Georgian times Teignmouth has been a favourite seaside getaway. But don’t use that to convince your kids it’s a great time. Instead, you can use the things that made my daughter and her friend love it when we visited.
These days it’s become a foodie haven and most recently is hitting the big screen in a film featuring Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz about the tragic story of Donald Crowhurst. The Mercy, out in early 2018, tells the story of the yachtsman who set off from the town in an around-the-world race before sending false reports about his position and, upon discovering he was ostensibly going to “win”, disappearing at sea. Watch the trailer to see some spectactular scenes in Teignmouth.
The story is tragic but it lends this appealing port town an intriguing backstory. The town is bordered by sandstone cliffs and has all the things that make the British seaside so iconic: classic Regency architecture, a pier with good old-fashioned pasttimes (I can’t resist sweet shops and a few goes with a 2p cash fall), artisanal ice cream (or the kind serve with a Flake) and the great chance to wander with your kids, whatever their age. It’s a true promenade.
Our accommodation and some of our outings were covered by Visit South Devon. All opinions are my own.
Here, my top the reasons of why you should think of South Devon for your next long family weekend.
1. Stroll the Regency seafront, pier and Back Beach
A walk around Teignmouth is great when it’s sunny but sunshine isn’t essential. We stood mesmerized watching the waves and the people go by on the seafront and pier, and the beach is dotted with picturesque boats. Does it help to say that we were able to find a parking space easily on the seafront? Yes, it does!
2. Have a game of truly awesome mini golf
Teignmouth has the honour of hosting, right on its seafront, the Gleneagles of mini-golf. We are aficionados of this particular pasttime in our family – seriously – and rank the Jurassic Adventure Golf here as one of the best versions we’ve ever played. How exciting to play a course that requires a special tool to scoop errant balls out of the water hazards? We whooped on the rare holes-in-one, cursed one particularly challenging hill, and watched a group of adults act as childish as we were at 10am. Plus there are model dinosaurs. (It must be a law that every mini-golf course have these.)
3. Clamber around at The Den
A great playground is a delight for kids and parents. The Den, another area right on the seafront, has a Green Flag award and an awesome play area, with equipment for climbing. The park itself was created way back in 1889, so you know they take their enjoyments seriously here. How many times have I sent up a little prayer because of a great selection of swings, climbing frames, monkey bars and seesaws? The laughter of children is your guide to how good this place is.
4. Eat ice cream
We went twice to Cherry on Top, an adorable place off the green, just by the pier. It’s a hut with a yummy array of flavours and a sweet olde time feel. The first time we all got a scoop. The second time we replaced my daughter’s ice cream after an encounter with a seagull meant she needed a new one!
5. Take the oldest passenger ferry to Shaldon
Shaldon sits just across the water from Teignmouth and is home to a cute little seafront in its own right as well as the ODE group of award-winning eateries. (See the food entry below for more info — http://odetruefood.com.) We loved walking around the lanes looking at the picturesque houses and cottages and picking up some supplies from a local butcher for our self-catered meal that night. The ferry, topped with colourful fluttering flags, offers continuous daily service – adults £1.50, children 70p per crossing. http://www.teignmouthshaldonferry.co.uk/
6. Explore Dawlish and admire the black swans
These beautiful black birds are rightfully famous — they are striking. They’re right in the middle of town – a fun walk down a row of small shops that includes some established brands, some that seem local. The train tracks run right along the waterfront — this was the place where the railway was swept away by storms in 2014. It was quite exciting to talk to the kids about being right here – a place they saw on the news at the time. The walk out on the jetty, jumping over the wet puddles and laughing as the waves splashed up was exhilarating. Obviously be careful! You could use this as a ocean safety briefing moment like we did. Just ignore the eye rolls from the teens. There’s a small parking lot at the end of the street for easy pay-and-display parking.
These beauties are ready to be admired right in the middle of town
7. Eat seafood
Do I even have to say this? Cockles on the seafront. A delicious piece of fish at a local pub. Their area’s growing foodie reputation is buoyed by Tim Bouget’s award-winning ODE True Food empire, including a ODE&Co pizza restaurant and Café ODE, which is celebrated for its sustainability and brews a range of beers onsite. I loved the Crowhurst chowder, which was literally swimming with fresh seafood. (Café ODE covered a portion of the cost of our lunch.) In September The Taste of the Teign Food & Drink Festival showcases producers along the river with fun demonstrations, tastings and more. Other notable stops: Red Rock Brewery and Old Walls Vineyard, the steepest vineyard in England.
8. Get some culture
The Pavilions Teignmouth seems to have every type of entertainment — dance performances, plays, comedy, music and films. The queues were out the door when tickets for The Mercy went on sale. Don’t miss the café overlooking the Grand Pier. The Laura Wall gallery was voted the best of Devon in 2017. AndtThe new Reuben Lenkiewicz gallery, opened by the son of the controversial Plymouth-based artist Robert Lenkiewicz, transforms a formerly derelict building in Teignmouth’s Arts Quarter to a gallery & art hub.
9. Visit a beach with a shady history
To get to Ness beach in Shaldon you have to walk through a smuggler’s tunnel. Once there, you find a beach that’s secluded, picturesque and sheltered — perfect for a family day out. I’m told the beach was definitely used by smugglers, and while the tunnel could have just been a route for access from a nearby house, surely it’s more fun to imagine the booty you’ll be sneaking down to intercept on the shore. You can book the beach for evening barbecues with the Teignmouth District Council and don’t worry about your pooch — dogs are welcome! Just up the SW Coast Path is inviting Ness pub, whose sloping lawn is ideal for playing tag.
10. Splash about with watersports
For more than a decade SeaSports South West has been getting people wet with kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, windsurfing, jet skiing, even powerboating. For thrill-seeking teens this is a great option. We ran out of time on our trip but I’d love to go back and get onto the waves. http://www.seasports-sw.com
Where to stay: The Linney: The best self-catering cottage in South Devon?
Teign Heritage Centre – Where to catch up on local history
Shopdeadgorgeous – Quirky things for your shopaholic
Forest Fungi – A great little farm shop and cafe with mushrooms galore just outside Dawlish http://www.forestfungi.co.uk/