A trip to East Devon would not be complete without a visit to Sidmouth’s Donkey Sanctuary.
Before our first visit here two years ago I was no great donkey fan. In fact, I was largely opposed to the idea of visiting the sanctuary in the first place.
How wrong I was. This is a wondrous place. From the moment you walk in, past a couple of lone donkeys on your left-hand side, you find yourself wandering around with a sub-conscious smile on your face.
Lots of changes have taken place since our last visit. Construction of a new animal hospital is underway, to further the rescue and rehabilitation work that the sanctuary does with its donkeys.
There is no admission fee at the sanctuary, though a donation is encouraged. With a shop and restaurant as well as plenty of facilities for children and dogs, there is plenty to keep everyone occupied.
A short walk down the entrance path leads you into the main yard where donkeys are gathered in the barn and stables on either side.
On our visit back in 2014, we chose to adopt one of the available donkeys from the programme. Teddy was our choice. We were taken in by his story. Teddy is blind and relies on the help of his close friend Lucky to get around the stables. It’s enough to thaw even the coldest of hearts.
Last time though we were unable to see Teddy. We harboured some fears that, given his constant ill-health, he may not still be with us.
But we were sent to a stable deep down a track leading away from the main car park, where we found Teddy with Lucky by his side. That is the kind of joy that is found at the sanctuary.
Donkeys are friendly, welcoming animals and the valuable work that the Donkey Sanctuary centres do across the country cannot be overlooked.
It’s a fantastic way to spend a day, and a visit is highly recommended. You could arrive at sunrise and leave and sunset, spending the entire day sat marvelling at these delightful donkeys, and the place would not lose one ounce of its charm.
Next on our agenda however was the short trip to the small coastal town of Seaton, built built largely around its sea front and promenade.
The town is also home to the Seaton tramway, which offers a trip up the river to Colyton, as well as a wide range of small independent shops and some larger chain stores and supermarkets.
We pop in for a bite to eat at Finishing Touches café just off the sea front where a smashing bacon sandwich and cup of tea is on offer, before moving on to spend a while soaking up some sun along the beach.
Restless for some more sightseeing, we jump back in the car and take the short journey along the road to another of our favourite places from two years ago – Beer.
No, not the alcoholic variety, but rather the quaint and charming fishing village between Seaton and Branscombe on the coastline.
Beer doesn’t go in for mainstream shops or amenities. This is a local village packed with independent gift, souvenir and craft shops as well as art galleries and clothing outlets. Fore Street is lined with them and the allure of the village is enhanced by the stream that runs in a channel alongside the pavement on each side of the road.
The Anchor Inn dominates the end of Fore Street, offering a hearty meal and friendly service all-year-round, but in summer has a particularly welcoming garden area overlooking the beach.
Across the road, the Bay View tea rooms specialise in afternoon tea and cakes which are lapped up by locals and visitors alike after a wander around the beach and cliffs.
The beach is a hive of activity, lined with fishing boats and nets, but boasts plenty of areas where you can get away from the main crowd.
A particularly tempting set of rocks emerge from the water, where a sit on the beach surrounded by the lapping tide is a joyful way to spend an afternoon.
But similarly, a walk beyond the RNLI shop and up the steps through parks and along the cliffs above the beach offers a terrific view back across the beach, as well as being home to a number of cafés and ice cream stalls.
Beer is a different kind of place to Seaton. Whereas its neighbour offers more shops and day-to-day amenities, Beer delivers a more relaxed vibe and a historic British fishing village.
Both have their appeal and, as coastal neighbours, work hand-in-hand to make this a delightful stretch of the East Devon coast.
Donkey Sanctuary: https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/visit-us/sidmouth
The Anchor Inn, Beer: https://www.oldenglishinns.co.uk/our-locations/the-anchor-inn-beer