East Devon & Dorset: Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton & Otterton

The East Devon coast boasts many delightful seaside towns. Few fit this bill better than the sensational Sidmouth.

Nestled equidistant between Seaton and Exmouth, Sidmouth boasts everything you could want and expect from a seaside town.

Its beach and seafront are delightful. With regal architecture lining the promenade, which is also scattered with hotels and guest houses, the beach is both picturesque and welcoming.

The beach is pebbled but that didn’t seem to deter those who were making the most of the return of the sunshine after two or three days of rain and mist. Water sports activities were also in evidence, with the waves welcoming to those wishing to indulge in a little surfing.

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The beach at Sidmouth. Pic: Scott Hunt

A walk up Peak Hill Road, to where the coastal path begins is tiring but well worth it. The views back down across the town and along the bay are spectacular – especially when the sun shines.

The town bustles, even more so in peak summer, with both the sea front and the town centre a particular attraction.

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The view across the bay from Peak Hill Road. Pic: Scott Hunt

Fore Street has all the mainstays of every shopping area, with the likes of Boots, New Look and a couple of newsagents providing day-to-day necessities. But there are also a plethora of delightful independent shops selling a variety of goods from jewellery and crafts, to art and local food produce.

There are pedestrian-only areas leading around to Sidmouth market in the centre of a shopping square, which sells local fruit and veg as well as a wide range of fish. You could find yourself wandering around this town all day and never getting bored.

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Sidmouth Market. Pic: Scott Hunt

Lunch options were plentiful in and around the promenade and the main streets. The Victoria Hotel on the sea front came highly recommended but was a little too far from where we had parked. Instead we chanced upon the Black Horse located halfway along Fore Street and opposite the main car park.

From the street this looked like a smallish old-English pub, with a vast menu, but once inside it became clear that there was more to this place than initially met the eye. Honestly it was like the TARDIS in there, going on for what seemed like miles, past the bar area into a well-laid-out restaurant.

The food, once it arrived, was traditional pub fare and was very nice all-round. The barman offered us some local advice and suggested we visited nearby Otterton where they have beavers in the river.

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we heeded that advice and set off on the short trip east to the small and charming village of Otterton. Beavers were not to be found on this occasion, but the trip was far from a waste.

The village is full of character-laden thatched cottages and is aided by the River Otter flowing through the centre. There you will also find the wonderful Otterton Mill, which offers a gift shop, bakery, coffee shop and the chance to look around the historic watermill. We indulged in a pot of tea sat alongside the river which was a wonderful way to round off the afternoon.

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Tea by the river at Otterton Mill. Pic: Scott Hunt

It was a day that had started in pouring rain and was soon joined by a miserable covering of mist. Optimism of fine weather was thin on the ground but, refusing to be dictated to by the skies, we ventured boldly to Budleigh Salterton – a touch further west along the coast than Sidmouth.

This is another delight of a town. One main street is lined with a whole range of shops, from typical amenities such as pharmacies and convenience stores, to local independent card and gift shops as well as a scattering of galleries and craft shops.

While in the town, a call-in at ‘The Dolphin’ tearoom is an absolute must. Run by a husband and wife team in their 60’s, this is clearly a favourite haunt of the locals and allows you to indulge in some old-English charm while immersing yourself in the area. With friendly service and a smashing cup of tea, it’s sure to put a smile on your face.

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The Dolphin tearoom in Budleigh Salterton. Pic: Scott Hunt

This stretch of the East Devon coast perhaps doesn’t get the press or the attention of some of its more western county contemporaries. But that doesn’t mean it is any less impressive or visit-worthy.

Quite the opposite in fact, with shopping and coastal views and activities all catered for, these towns have everything you could possibly want from a trip to the seaside.

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