Twenty minutes’ walk from Salcombe, the year-old South Sands hotel sits on its own beach: a perfectly secluded spot and just what posh old Salcombe needs. There’s a New England charm to the hotel – white-picket chic but unstuffy and airy – alongside a friendly laid-back feel from the Antipodean staff, who are unassumingly and effortlessly helpful.
The charming design of the hotel brings a little bit of the outdoors in. Portholes in the rooms, sailing ropes pinning the curtains back, and the marvellous hotel centrepiece – local blacksmith Joff Hopper’s spiral staircase supported by wrought iron that twists all the way up. The 22-rooms (some of which are dog-friendly) are just as airy as the rest of the hotel: all clean lines, hues of light blues and shades of white. Ordering our paper the day before with a cooked and continental breakfast, we relished settling down to a relaxed morning, with windows thrown open wide to the sound of the sea. Each room seems designed for indulgent lazing – deep free-standing baths, Molton Brown goodies, iPod docks, Scottish shortbread, and super-king size beds to sink in once you’ve finished the arduous task of lounging around nibbling treats.
Although it works in all weathers (we went in the dead of winter, with horizontal rain pounding from black skies), proximity to Salcombe means that this is a perfect summer hotel for watersports, and though it’s quiet in wintertime, you have a few shops (think Jack Wills), pubs and cafes to keep you occupied. But, situated on the estuary, cliff walks are a must. We spent a rather windy day taking a three-hour stroll along the coast past Overbecks, but felt virtuous as we clambered back, shedding our walking boots and cosying up at the fireside bar for a pot of tea.
Lunch and dinner at South Sands are welcome pleasures. The bar has a relaxed clubby feel about it - effortless service and no real pretence; a place to relax for a gin and tonic aperitif. The menu, which is overseen by chef Mitch Tonks (of Fishworks fame), is superbly simple – fresh catch with, sometimes, a Pacific Rim flair: think crayfish cocktail with mango and chilli salsa, mussels with Merguez sausage. My huge portion of baked bream with hollandaise sauce is stunning, and even the crisp fish and chips are perfectly cooked. If you’re visiting in warm weather, you must take pre-prandial drinks on the terrace: perfect for a pint of Doombar and a glass of wine to watch the sky change colour with a setting sun. And with most of the rooms facing the beach, the sound of both lapping waves and the occasional man and his dog are there to wake you. South Sands is truly a hotel for all seasons.
South Sands Hotel, Bolt Head, Salcombe, Devon. TQ8 8LL, 01548 859 000, www.southsands.com. Rooms from £135 per night. Helena was a guest of South Sands Hotel and stayed in the Dragon (high). Nearest train station: Totnes. South Sands can arrange to pick you up.