Treat your partner to a romantic break at The Gallery Lodges.
Braunton is the gateway to North Devon’s sunset coast.
As I finished some hedgerow maintenance today, I was greeted by a stunning winter sunset over the reed grasses in the neighbouring nature reserve. I down-tooled and enjoyed the colours and the sounds of the birds going to roost. Caught up in the moment, I forgot to take a photo but inspired by the romance of the moment, I decided to share some ideas for the most romantic ways to enjoy the setting sun.
Romance at Sunset.Braunton is just a 5 minute drive from Saunton Sands. Here you can take a walk along the expansive beach and find your own private hollow in the dunes to tuck away and watch the setting sun. Take a cosy blanket to snuggle up together, against the sea breeze and maybe open a bottle of fizz (remember to bring all your bottles and waste away with you). I also recommend heading back to the excellent Beachside Grill for a G&T on their sea view terrace. With views from Hartland Point to Lundy Island, this is a big sunset scene.
Sunset Drive. Drive along Down End Headland between Saunton and Croyde and see the sunset in all it’s glory. You might find a pull in on the roadside or park up at Down End car park and take a short walk onto the rocky shoreline where you will discover the perfect Secluded Beaches for your sunset romance. This is also a wonderful place to collect some driftwood and make a small beach camp fire. Maybe cook some corn on the cob, jacket spuds or toast marshmallows. Bring out the guitar and serenade your loved one too!
Surf into the sunset. Saunton Sands and Croyde Bay are surfing hotspots and on a long, warm summer evening there is nothing like bobbing about in the waves as the sun goes down. Soak up the atmosphere beyond the break, where the sea takes on a new sparkle, the sky becomes ablaze with colour, and the sea quietens your mind. Whether you are a swimmer, surfer or stand up paddle boarder this can be a romance in itself, so don’t forget your partner on this one!!
Sunset Yoga. For a truly freeing, uplifting and relaxing experience how about having a yoga session on the beach at sunset. Relaxing to the sounds of the sea, with the sky above and the sand below is unforgettable. Croyde Yoga run a Wednesday drop in session at Croyde Village Hall and take to the beach on summer evenings. Find their up-to-date schedule on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/tiffany.shapland/ Or how about a private yoga session with SeatoSoul, just for you and your partner. https://www.seatosoul.co.uk/yoganew
Sunset View points. If you both enjoy a coastal walk we recommend the short climb up Middleborough Hill to see the views out to sea over Croyde Bay or walk along the coast path towards Baggy Point. Find a bench to watch the seabirds heading on shore to roost, and the waves rolling in. Both offer wonderful vantage points for watching the sunset and are easily accessed from the National Trust Car Park at Croyde.
And finally, simply unwind into an evening together at The Gallery Lodges. Sitting outside on your deck with a glass of wine or taking a walk in the meadow you will be able to see the colourful skies and watch nature turn in for another day, you might catch a fleeting glimpse of the barn owl. What’s more you will find at least one of Pete’s stunning sunset paintings in your lodge, which have been inspired by our life in Braunton and the beautiful sunset coast.
Autumn Apple Picking – share in our autumn fruit harvest during your stay.
The Gallery Lodges are set in 7 acres of land and since Pete started his art studio about 12 years ago, he has been planting lots of trees, including orchard trees. We’ve been adding to the orchard over the years and currently we have 70 apples trees, 9 pears, plums and cherries.
Some of the trees have grown quickly and fruited for a good few years now whilst others have struggled a bit in the wetter corners of the meadows, or been caught by the spring frosts and winds, and are yet to bear fruit. We’re still learning and getting to know all the varieties, and how and when to eat them.
This year we’ve had a fantastic crop of apples. I’ve been a part time volunteer ranger with the National Trust for the past year and one of my newly learned skills is orchard tree pruning, so this last winter I was opening the crowns and shaping the trees up a bit. I like to think that has contributed to a great crop this year, but I think the warm spring sunshine, which got the pollinators buzzing, and then the hot summer weather is mostly to credit!
Every year the trees grow and of course our apple harvest grows bigger too! We’d love to share our apples with our guests and so you are welcome to go scrumping and fill yourself a fruit bowl or a bag to take home! Different apple trees are ripening from August to November, but late September and October are the best months.
Pete’s tip to picking nice ripe fruit, is to give the apples a gentle twist and if they come off easily they are more likely to be ripe. Another sign that the fruit is ready to eat, is finding fallen apples at the foot of the tree. We will be happy to point you in the right direction and show you which are sweet eaters and which are best for cooking.
The Gloster with it’s strikingly ruby red hue is looking very eye-catching right now, but could do with a little longer to fully ripen. We’ve got eaters like the King of the Pippins which gets a pretty orange hue as it ripens – it’s great fresh off the tree for an afternoon snack.
A rosy variety of Bramley cookers is ideal for making apple sauce and has a waxy skin that helps it to be stored. Plenty of others are great for pies and juicing too. (We are still waiting for our sweet pink cider apples to have a bumper crop, so we can give this a try).
After all the picking and storing is done, (I was cooking with stored apples into March last year), we can look forward to next year’s buds and beautiful, abundant spring blossoms. So if you can’t make it for the autumn apples how about visiting when the blossoms are out in April instead?
When the sea is calm and the sun is out how about visiting Tunnels Beaches, Ilfracombe’s hidden seaside?
These private beaches charge £2.50 for adults. Accessed by tunnels carved in 1823, you can step into a secluded area beneath the cliffs, where there is still an original bathing pool as well as lots of rocky outcrops and beach.
The tunneled entrance has historic signs and old news paper stories from the beaches.
No dogs are allowed on the beaches, but expect a few seagulls nesting in the cliffs behind the beach.
We visited on a hot, still June afternoon and even dared a cooling swim in the cold water off the rocks, which was beautiful. Lots of seaweed in the rock pools is a testament to the clean waters and the beach was beautifully litter free too!
Most were bathing in the pool which no doubt warms up much more quickly than the open sea and is of course much safer as there are usually waves making rock swimming more hazardous!
If a dip isn’t for you, then deck chairs are available.
The beach has a small snack bar and shop. There was a limited choice of eats so we headed back into town for lunch, (we could have re-entered on the same entrance fee). There are a good selection of places to eat along the front at Ilfracombe near North Devon Theatre, including a busy Weatherspoons with a rooftop sun-terrace, which is open if the weather is right.
Whilst in Ilfracombe it’s also worth a walk to the lovely harbour and to take a look at Damien Hirst’s scuplture – Verity, who looms over the harbour mouth. Follow this link to see the sculpture. http://www.damienhirst.com/verity
North Devon has two of the finest links golf courses in England. Some of our guests come to stay especially to play these courses, whether for championship matches, competitions, or just for pleasure. I’m not a golfer but I drive past Saunton Sands Golf club on my way to the beach and you can be sure to see the car park bustling with life, even in the early morning, so clearly this course is very popular!
I’ve been looking into what makes them so special.
Both Saunton Sands Golf Club and The Royal North Devon Golf Club are coastal, links courses and are part of the 6 Atlantic Links Courses, which stretch from Burham in Somerset to St Ednoc in Cornwall following the Atlantic Highway (A39).
Saunton Golf Club is a championship links golf course with 36 holes. The courses are situated on the picturesque Braunton Burrows, which is an area of hilly sand dunes. It’s potentially a windy spot as it’s so close to the coast with a largely treeless landscape. Our visitors playing competitions often comment on the unforgiving nature of the wind when it’s up! English Championships are played on the 18 hole East course which was designed by Herbert Fowler in 1920’s. Its had the status of a premier course ever since.
Reviews on Trip Advisor suggest the course is in great condition, the greens are true and the golfing experience will not disappoint. The general manager, Russell Mayne, is clearly running a great Club.
The Royal North Devon Golf Club is the oldest Golf Course in England. Designed by Tom Morris in 1864, it got the royal title from King Edward VII in 1867. The course is situated on the other side of the Taw estuary at Westward Ho! The 170 acre course is located on the common land, part of the Northam Burrows. This is another coastal links course which is managed to look as natural as possible within the environment. This must be quite a challenge with wildlife and the sea itself threatening to swallow some of the holes in stormy conditions!
Reviews on Trip Advisor suggest the course has firm and fast greens and visiting golfers will receive a warm and friendly welcome from the Club house and members.
There are, of course, other golf courses in the area including Portmore Golf Club near Barnstaple, Willingcott Valley Golf Club near Woolacombe and the stunningly located Ilfracombe Golf Club with clifftop sea views.
The Tarka trail from Braunton to Instow and back. About a 20 mile round trip, or just 10 miles if you just go to Barnstaple and back. You can extend this trail with options at both ends. At the Braunton end you can add in Crow point if you are on mountain bikes setting off from the Gallery Lodges at Braunton, or just take the scenic route to the start of the Tarka trail through the Braunton Marshes and UNESCO biosphere reserve.
This route for the Tarka trail is from staying at The Gallery Lodges Braunton. https://thegallerylodges.petecaswell.co.uk/
Do bring bikes as this area has some excellent rides. But here is the Bike hire 20 min walk away if you need it. Otter cycle Hire phone number 01271 813339 near the start of the Tarka trail.
What a treat this trail is and this has been made all the better with a plethora of tempting food options along the way. You follow the estuary for nearly all of the trip and catch stunning views and spot all the estuary bird life.
Starting at The Gallery Lodges you head to the start of the Tarka trail about 1/2 mile or 1.5 miles via the scenic route or approx 3miles via Crow Point. Then along the first section of the trail about 2 miles in you come to the first breakfast stop at the Waterside Cafe with great views down the Estuary to Barnstaple. Then just metres on from there there is the Braunton Inn which you should bear in mind for the way back for a celebratory beer and wine with a stunning panoramic view over the estuary (Or Thursday and Fridays at the Waterside cafe).
3 or so more miles and you head over the new bridge or detour into Barnstaple. In Barnstaple there are such a range of food outlets that there is not enough space to cover them. but the cafe at the railway (cheap and simple) is on the trail, Fat Belly Freds (interesting sea food) & Tea by the Taw are interesting options.
For those of you on the long route you should head across the new bridge and on towards Instow. Next Tea stop is at Fremington Key which is pretty busy so if there is no room here head on, if your legs will cope, to Instow.
Instow is a bit of a jewel in the Tarka trail and has a great number of pubs, restaurants and great estuary views.
Check out the most scenic cricket ground in the world and The Oyster Shack for some Caribbean vibes and seafood. In Instow itself Johns Deli and cafe is a real treat with all sorts of fresh backed goodies, cakes, bread and some rather special boutique Gins. Don’t forget to save the GIn for when you have got back to Braunton!
For those of you with steam left there is an optional extension onto Bideford and Appledore by trail and road. And tide and weather dependent is a rather amazing ferry from Appledore back to Instow.
Westward hoe further around while not an amazing scenic beauty is getting some great restaurants with on of my favourite Thai restaurants locating here.
For the super fit you can carry on up the trail to Meeth and Torrington.
If you stay at the Gallery Lodges Braunton, then don’t forget your bikes and take this epic evening bike ride out to Crow Point from the Lodges down beautiful ancient lanes, dirt tracks, beaches and a private toll road.
Bays, beaches, inlets, boats,swans, and bags of wild flowers and wildlife are in abundance here alongside views over to Appledore and Bideford and up to Barnstaple.
You can hire bikes in Braunton if you forget them or use the nearby car parks to walk this stunning coastal walk. You can also do this walk directly from the Lodges also if you really want to stretch your legs by cutting through the ancient and rare Great Field Habitat on the edges of the Braunton Biosphere a UNESCO Site.
The Gallery Lodges lie on the edges of this rare habitat of the Braunton UNESCO biospehere and look over a Marshland SSSI reserve and another SSSI of ancient woodland. (SSSI is a site of special scientific interest for its unspoilt flowers and natural habitats.).
You can book the Gallery Lodges at www.thegallerylodges.co.uk and visit the Art gallery of Pete Caswell the owner, www.petecaswell.co.uk.
Perfect day out at the Gallery Lodges Braunton. Its so sunny and beautiful here.
The sea is warming up, surf is on the way and the sun seems to keep on shining. Just 2 minutes drive up the road from the Lodges we took one of our favourite walks. Past the stunning historic house and gardens through carpets of bue bells and wild garlic.
Over to look at Croyde Bay and then back through the trees down to Saunton Beach for a coffee and a cake and just squeezed in a pasty at the beach cafe. Rested and refreshed we headed back through the dunes to collect the car. Now you would think we couldn’t eat any more and life just couldn’t get better.
But then we took a short trip round the headland to Down End Car Park and took home a Sri Lankan curry Tambapanni (See food Guide) from the Saturday Take out van and ate it on the Headland at Croyde.
If you are going to stay at the Lodges, just remember the food vans at Croyde Down End Car Park. The sign by the entrance is updated with the van schedule this season.
Saturday is the Sri Lankan Curry and its absolutely wonderful, well cooked and hits the spot every time.
Booking for the Lodges at www.thegallerylodges.co.uk or pm me.
If you want to know where this stunning walk in you will have to visit ud at the Lodges or at the art studio www.petecaswell.co.uk
To make your stay a bit more fun, here are our food tips from the area near the Gallery Lodges, where we like to dine, including some gluten free options. Please do ask for further info.
Braunton top picks
The Riverside Café Pete’s favourite all round breakfast, lunch and evening café / restaurant. Very reliable chef and service with some really tasty food at a reasonable price. Lunch club sandwich and the black pudding sausage on the breakfast. Outside of the peak season this place does the most amazing restaurant style Sunday Lunch. Cater for Gluten Free. http://www.theriversidebraunton.co.uk/
Wild Thyme Café / Restaurant fun and trendy surf café for coffee, cakes, breakfast and lunch. Our favourite for atmosphere although can suffer from mothers & toddlers sometimes. Has gluten-free options, sometimes including GF scones. http://wildthymecafe.co.uk/
Squires Fish & Chips is a complete all rounder – filling, cheap and perfectly cooked Fish & Chips. BEST VALUE. At peak times you have to queue for the restaurant & Take Out. Try before 6pm at busy times of year. Can’t beat their chips they are perfect. The gluten-free among us should try Poached Cod. The chips are always fried separately too.
Siam Bistro if you like Thai try the take-out or eat in. Atmosphere in the restaurant can be a bit quiet at times but staff are nice and food is great. The mixed starter is recommended, best value and Pete’s favourite part of the meal. Will do gluten free if you ask (but check the soy sauce) http://www.thesiambistro.co.uk/
Stoned Wood Fired Pizzahttp://www.stoned.org.uk/ Cool new venue with take-out or eat. Proper pizzas cooked in a wood fired oven right in front of your eyes. Mouth watering toppings, and seasonal menu. Not to be missed. Gluten free base and vegan cheese also available. The best coffee in Braunton. Offers online orders and local delivery. Next to Squires Fish & Chips.
Tambapanni, Sri Lankan Food at Braunton. Our favourite food choice in 2017 returns for the 2018 season. Simply heaven. We eat here every week! Authentic Sri Lankan Food cooked with a passion. Served from their food van at Croyde and Braunton on certain days of the week (usually Friday and Saturday). It’s not the cheapest take out curry but I rate it among the best. Delicate flavours, meat, veg, gluten and dairy free and Vegan options. Heaven on a plate. Check out their facebook page for times and days. Don’t miss it. https://www.facebook.com/tambapannicurry/
As if one Sri Lankan Food option wasn’t enough here is another. Not quite as amazingly tasty, but close. If you get a sunny day with low winds sit and eat your curry on the beach and you could well be back at your favourite beach in Asia. Not in Braunton but top pick if you like authentic Sri Lankan food – Meat and Veg options. Barricane Beach Café, 20 min drive away at Woolacombe. Seasonal and weather dependent so do check on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Barricane-Beach-Woolacombe-163881457003060/
The top pick is a choice between The Riverside and Wild Thyme on the right and the left as you walk into Braunton. Both different to each other and both great for different reasons. Wild Thyme stands out for its juices and smoothies. Pete prefers The Riverside but then we really like the Fruit smoothies in Wild Thyme. As you walk further into Braunton there are more cafes, such as At One with more breakfast options so take your pick. As we said earlier, Stoned is our top pick for a morning coffee.
Blue Groove in Croyde and TheThatch Pub Croyde also do breakfasts if you fancy a drive. Another great coffee and cake stop is The Stores at Croyde next to the post office. https://www.thestorescroyde.co.uk/
Out of season The Riverside do amazing Sunday Lunches (and we mean really amazing) but you have to be hungry.
The Williams Arms is pretty reliable but a bit more of a walk (so best to drive), on the other side of Braunton but does a popular Sunday Carvery. The Aggi Inn nearer the village centre also does a great reasonably piced home cooked pub style Sunday Carvery. There are many pubs in Braunton which all do food and beer but we’re yet to try. http://www.williamsarms.co.uk/.
If you want more of the country pub experience and some great food try the two pubs in Georgeham. A bit of a drive so best to call and book ahead, about 10 to 20 mins but well worth it for that cosy country pub vibe. The Kings Arms – http://kingsarmsgeorgeham.co.uk/ and The Rock Inn –http://therockinn.biz/.
The Thatch at Croyde is popular place with live music. For a bit of younger atmosphere try The Thatch at Croyde which has a fun and lively young / surf atmosphere and reliable, but a little expensive, pub food. Live music is on most weekends which makes it a really good night out. This is one of those must see pubs being part of the surf culture so many regulars to the area head straight here for their first pint. Check out the facebook page for any live music. https://www.facebook.com/thatch.croyde
Saunton Road Studios just 10 minutes walk up the Saunton Road toward Braunton also has live music. If you are a music fan this small, unusual venue may prove interesting. Check out what live music is on the website – http://sauntonroadstudios.co.uk/
Sea Food Options If you are by the sea and want to sample the sea food:
Sands On The Beach at Saunton Beach. This has gone up in the ratings recently. On the beach. Great food and lots of locally sourced sea food. A real one to visit and out of season they do some offers on lunches. One of the few restaurants on the beach. Pay by the hour car parking at the beach now makes this a realistic option for an evening or lunch. Interesting modern menu. Not cheap but location is good. Lobster is a key feature and steak along with other locally sourced fish. Its one of the few beach side restaurants. I am putting this one on my favourites list for sure. Great place for a coffee and a gaze at the sea. https://www.beachsidegrill.co.uk/
Riverside restaurant always has a good fish option on the menue. SQ in Braunton has some sea food.
The only dedicated fish restaurant in the area I know of is Fat Belly Fred’s in Barnstaple (5 miles away) which receives good reviews. They really know their fish and get local fresh deliveries so you can be sure of the best catch of the day. The scallops are great. Gluten free options. http://fatbellyfreds.co.uk/.
Squires Fish and Chips is a must if you like your Fish and Chips.
Blue Groove and The Stores in the centre of Croyde. Park at the village hall by the hour. Blue Groove does great meals and and now The Croyde Stores cafe is competing for your business with lovely cakes and light lunches. Sandleigh National Trust café & Baggys Café are both at the start of the Baggy Headland near the National Trust Car Park. Nice headland walk and some good cake and coffee options. Great afternoon tea option too. Sandleigh always has a gluten free pasty, cake and scones.
National Trust Café at Riversmeet at Lymouth. Great location and some nice food and a great walk up the river starting in the village. See maps in the Lodge.
Hunters Inn Headdon Valley. Pub / restaurant in a great location and a beautiful walk to the beach or up around the headland. See maps in Lodge. Narrow scenic roads to access, plenty of parking. Not the cheapest pub but great location.
Marwood gardens and Cafe. If you want to get away from it all, here is the place about 20 min drive, peaceful valley and gardens with an old fashioned cafe run by volunteers. Go on Sunday and have a bargain afternoon tea at the village hall in real old Devon ways served by the WI.
One of my favourite mornings is to get up and set off up to Combe Martin about a 20 minute drive away.
Then take what I consider is the best breakfast in the world.
Its a little unimposing cafe near the beach called the Harbour Deli, on the left as you walk down the High Street to the beach.
A cooked breakfast and a coffee here costs about £5 and it is always perfect and great value.
Then after a great breakfast stock up on all the homemade cakes which I usually spend all morning drooling over.
They do a bread pudding which will feed an army and a selection of traditional home bakes your gran would be proud of.
Having consumed all these calories there is a perfect hill opposite to walk them off. Head up to Hangman’s peak and then back through a beautiful little stream back to the village, a couple of hours should do it.
A detour off to Wild Pear Beach (Can be steep a tricky at the bottom where the steps sometimes wash away – be careful) is an added bonus and a chance to eat all those cakes. Check out the maps in the Lodges for directions.
If you visit in July August you will get the treat of your life with the hills resplendent in the most beautiful purple heather and Gauze profusions of colour.
Simply magic when set against the jaw dropping cliffs plunging into the Bristol Channel and the chugging white clouds. Can’t beat it. And that’s the breakfast…