I have a new happy place.
I thought the height of zen for me was perched on the end of a long pier in the Maldives, overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean, watching as the stingray floated lazily past.
Or watching the sun go down over the Gulf of Mexico from the shores of Anna Maria Island whilst sipping a frozen margarita.
However, my latest inclusion to the catalogue of calming memories I have collated thus far is sitting in a steaming hot tub with only the sound of the birds tweeting gaily and the rain lashing all around whilst watching the stillness of the endless folds of the hillsides of deepest darkest Devon.
We popped our Devon cherry a few weekends ago, I’d heard so much about it but never felt the need to make the trek to see it for myself. The catalyst for our road trip was a flurry of invitations to review restaurants and holiday homes and we found ourselves drawn to Gitcombe cottages, a collection of 6 fully refurbed homes from home on a property choc full of family friendly facilities and award winning amenities.
Our hosts Joanne and Peter were the most welcoming couple bubbling with pride and enthusiasm for their labour of love. They live on site in their chic hayloft abode at a respectful distance, ensuring they are on hand to tend to any need you may have.
Gitcombe also has a huge period home which comfortably sleeps 12 and a smaller version which can accommodate 8. Basically, whatever your need, they have it covered.
A heated outdoor pool which operates from May onwards, full size tennis courts, wooden children’s outdoor play area, huge gardens, indoor softplay, sauna, steam room and the piece-de-resistance – an huge indoor heated pool!
That is all without the mention of the many splendours of the surrounding areas outwith Gitcombe if you can bear to actually venture out!
We loved out cottage – the Burrator – Fully equipped with all mod cons as well as a thoughtful balcony overlooking those rolling hills, the perfect spot to watch the kids play safely outside in the vast grounds and tennis courts below.
Under floor heating downstairs makes for a cosy exit from the power showers and crisp white bedlinen and plump pillows ensure a hearty nights sleep.
As the whole place is only accessible by car and the driveway of Gitcombe is a lengthy 0.3mile stretch – the most striking thing about the place is the safety factor for the children.
Miles away from the daily worries of security and stranger danger, the kids can play basketball, tennis or anything they choose while you watch over them from the balcony with a glass of wine in hand. Sounds perfect? It was!
We really made the most of the facilities – it would have been rude not to!
Our days were spent with lazy rises, then packed up and out for adventures, before returning early evening back to base for dinner and fun in the pool. A pool so inviting it even got this Mama in her cozzie – something that rarely happens these days!
We had a real mix of weather, mainly rain lashing so hard you just wanted to snuggle down and stay put and a brief treat of some stunning sunshine which sent us beach bound and brought us home freckled and spent.
The weather was irrelevant as there is so much do both on and off-site, so it’s a year-round attraction. Watch the vlog of our trip to get the full experience here.
We went device free for the four days we spent there – not so difficult when you have have so much natural entertainment on tap and we benefitted just as much as the kids did from this.
Reading with them, imaginative play with each other, getting mucky rolling down hills and generally just having stripped back, good old fashioned family fun!
Our first day was spent getting to know the local area and with too many beaches to choose from, we factored in the forecast and opted to go crabbing at Hope Cove – how darling is that name? – and set out on the short 25-minute drive there.
We had a wonderful, if not blustery day and the kids were in their element, exploring the rock pools and nooks and crannies.
After a long (long!!!) stint on the beach, we were shattered and it was time to think about our next move – unanimously we opted to get back to base and get the log burner going and cosy up for the evening!
The boys then went off for a swim while I prepped a feast and popped the cork on the Prosecco – bliss!
Next morning we all lazily slept late – the joys when the whole family synchs their internal clocks, we must have needed it! After a filling breakfast on the balcony, we packed up for the day and it was off to SouthSands for us as we had lunch booked there for us to review and enjoy.
The sun had kindly come out for us and we eagerly drove to our destination, hungrily taking in the glimpses of stunning settings as we wound past beach after beach. Had we not had a pre-set destination, we’d have been spoilt for choice on where to settle for the day. This is probably my favourite picture I took on the trip!
As it was, we were set for the South Sands Hotel, set on a stunning part of the Salcombe Estuary and is just how I pictured Devon to be.
A dog walkers delight, this place is so picturesque and inviting, you could easily lose an entire day here just drinking in the view and sampling the delights of the hotel’s formidable restaurant.
The head chef, Allister Bishop, is ex-Harrods and Hilton and it shows but he has returned to his Devon roots to create delicious dishes all crafted using local fayre really spoiled us, with the boys giving it a fitting eleven out of ten.
Whilst the starters and main were marvellous in themselves, the showstopper was definitely dessert! Each of us had our own Instagram hit, just look at these beauties!
After a lengthy and delectable lunch, we headed out to the beach to soak up the sunshine we had been blessed with. The South Sands Ferry was in full effect and that was a spectacle in itself, with the beach bus transporting passengers out to the water to transfer them over.
The children got brave and ditched their shoes and socks (well it might have been sunny but was still really breezy!) and paddled to their hearts content. We loved watching them delight in each other’s company and their imaginations were in full effect with the backdrop of their own natural setting.
It wasn’t too long though before us homebodies yearned once more for the comfort and security of Gitcombe and no one faltered for a second when the plan was hatched to head back for a repeat performance of early evening swimming and a blinding buffet, prepared by yours truly in our well equipped cottage kitchen.
We detoured via Dartmouth en route home to M&S where I did a trolley dash and filled it with goodies for the evening ahead.
No staying out late partying for us four- we couldn’t wait to get back!
Our stay was whizzing by and already the children were talking about ‘when we come back here’ – a true sign of a wonderful time when we hadn’t even left yet and they wanted to return!
Day 3 was a miserable sight to behold as the rain lashed down, but it mattered not a jot to us, as a post breakfast hot tub overlooking the hillside beckoned and we hatched our plan for the day.
There really are limitless options for entertainment in and around the surrounding areas to Gitcombe – enough to fill a week or a fortnight easily. We crammed as much in as we could but we have so much more to explore on a future return visit.
Our venue of choice on that rainy Sunday was the local attraction, Salcombe Crab Festival which coincided with our stay and I was really keen to go. Despite the pouring rain and a severe lack of wellies (to my eternal dismay and epic mothering fail I left them at home!) our spirits weren’t dampened as we mixed with the locals and enjoyed crab themed everything with lashings of Prosecco to wash it down – these guys are my kinda people! Landrovers converted into bubble bars? Yes please!
Soggy but satisfied we popped back to Gitcombe to dry out and get a refresh before our next review which was – yep, you’ve guessed it – another restaurant! We do love our food in this family and it’s a fab perk of the job we are asked to review so many esteemed establishments.
First we had to make a pit stop to the must visit gallery of renowned artist Yvonne Coomber. She lovingly creates the most wonderful, colourful delights – one of which now takes pride of place in our home. She glides her brush with compassion and is inspired by the Devon countryside and her work just dances with colour and vibrancy – oils, glitter, gold leaf and mixed media sparkle with love and magic.
This stunning print ‘Mermaids Song’ commands centre stage in our lounge.
If you are in or remotely around Totnes, please do not pass through without a visit to Yvonne!
Off to The Riverford Field Kitchen – what an amazing place! Really nearby in Totnes, this was a short drive from Gitcombe cottages and I highly recommend booking in a visit to this award-winning delight when staying here.
We are a fussy bunch when it comes to our Sunday roasts and I was really worried if the kids would get along at such a veggie heavy eaterie, but shouldn’t have stressed as the main feature was blade of beef, as succulent as we have ever tasted, in a jus of dreams, bordered by perfectly seasoned seasonal vegetables.
It was notch up on all of our belts upon departure!
The full review of Riverford will be up next week so make sure you pop back and check that out where you get the full dessert effect – not to be missed!
So we rolled back home that evening, stuffed full of the finest foods Devon had to offer and sadly licked our wounds because our stay was coming to an end.
Joanne and Peter went to great lengths to ensure we didn’t feel rushed on our last day and told us to enjoy the facilities for as long as we wanted that day. They couldn’t have been more accommodating. we chatted lots on that last day and they are so warm and friendly, we missed them after we left! The boys cant wait to go back!
So as our final day dawned – cue dramatic music of doom! – we enjoyed another lazy lie-in (wish we could replicate this back home – must be all that fresh air!) and after breakfast we felt like we had to trolley dash all the facilities so we had a two hour stint in the pool (prune skin central), hot tub session and played on the swings plus a spot of tennis! Phew!
I don’t know about you but I’m the packer of the family (I’m so bad at it but the hubby would have no clue!) so I easily got all the boys sorted with various activities so they wouldn’t be under my feet and set about a whizz around packing up all our stuff.
We were really sad to leave as it truly had become our home from home, but all good things must come to an end and it was with great fondness we were waved off from Gitcombe, ready for the sleepy journey home.
Have you ever been to Devon? Or Gitcombe Cottages? I’d love to know!