East Dorset and Devon Coast Path
Posted on October 2, 2014
The Dorset and Devon coastline has long been a favourite travel destination of mine, so last weekend I took a trip down there to enjoy the Indian Summer while it lasts as it is bound to go out with a hefty bang sometime soon.
The trip started by dropping off our bags at the Kingswood and Devoran Hotel on Sidmouth sea front before nipping off to see my old friends Howard and Sylvia Page down in Beer, a seaside village that is about as quintessential as it gets.
When you stroll down the hill to the beach, you will see that Beer is so unspoilt it is almost like walking into an Enid Blyton adventure book. It is a place that is trapped in time and remains relatively unknown to the outside world, apart from a brief foray in the national news when, in 2007, hundreds of opportunists descended on the local villages in an attempt at gaining a booty from the stricken cargo ship MSC Napoli, that was sat upturned in Branscombe Bay.
It was great to see them both for a few beers and a catch up before taking the road back out to Sidmouth and the delights of our hotel. In keeping with the time warp essence of this trip, the Kingswood & Devoran Hotel offers up an aroma that immediately sends your memory spinning back to trips to see your grandmother in the 1970’s.
With the heating on a bit too high, the smell of fish pie, anaglypta covering the walls and ceiling, terrifying 1970’s escalators and staff like friendly but efficient librarians, this pleasant hotel could easily leave you wondering if you have stumbled on to the set of the hit BBC series Life on Mars.
When I saw a Ford Cortina pass by, I genuinely wondered if I was descending into a mental breakdown.
After settling in, as luck would have it, we discovered that it was the Sidmouth carnival weekend, so getting a meal on the seafront was out of the question. Our overwhelming desire to eat meant that we missed the much anticipated procession, instead choosing to wander into town and discover a restaurant called The Loft, which was, would you believe, in a loft, above some shops.
After initially being rejected because it was full, the owner came to our rescue and found us a table and it really was a blessing as the food was fantastic and the ambiance and friendliness of the staff and the owners was second to none. If you are down that way, I really do recommend The Loft because at around £60.00 for two (with wine) it is an excellent and fun place to eat.
Whilst chatting after the meal, the owners informed us that they had two gay friends who had considered buying out the hotel where we were staying and turning it in to a flamboyant and quirky boutique. Whilst this didn’t seem such a bad idea to me, my minds eye began to see that such a draconian change in style would result in the winding streets of Sidmouth being engulfed by an uncontrollable flow of OAP vomit.
Whilst the majority of society has evolved and is accepting of homosexuality, I don’t think the hotels of Sidmouth are quite ready yet, though they would be excellent venues for the UKIP annual conference, or The Daily Express ‘Scaremongering Headline awards.’
In the early hours, after a decent sleep, I realised that I had to get up and put a ticket on my car, so I headed off along the quiet coast road only to embark on what is now my obligatory habit of walking headlong into the village idiot. Now, I have met some crackpots in my time, but this chap was handsomely beating everyone I have witnessed before him.
“SIDMOUTH IS ON LOCK DOWN , THE MUSLIM TERRORISTS ARE COMING!!”
“THEY LOCKED ME UP IN CLEVELAND MENTAL HOSPITAL FOR TWENTY ONE DAYS WHEN I DUG UP THAT BITCH THATCHER!”
“SEE THIS RED FLAG BOY (It was actually a flannel) THIS IS A WARNING TO THE BASTARD WHO TRIED TO NICK MY BOAT…THE NEXT ONE IS A JOLLY ROGER…THAT’S WHEN I BLOW THE FUCKERS UP!”
He was smaller and older than me, so I didn’t feel particularly threatened, but it wasn’t long before he had exhausted my patience and I was having fantasies of landing a blow to his head to remove him from my personal space. However, he obviously didn’t like Thatcher, so realising he wasn’t a complete fool, I found room in my heart for tolerance.
We had a respectable breakfast at the hotel but the high room temperature and a hearty bite into a vomit inducing sausage made from pigs arses and elastic bands enhanced my hangover from light to moderate, to moderately severe. I had to get out and walk along the front again but this time, fortunately, we avoided the madman and successfully blew away the muggy heads in the fresh and unseasonably warm sea air.
We then headed off to Lyme Regis and decided that if we could find some reasonably priced accommodation at late notice, we would behave like foolhardy mavericks by smashing down boundaries that make mere mortals conformists, and stay over on Sunday night as well. This, we decided, would allow us a full day of walking and a few drinks without the nagging fear of flipping the car over on to the centre reservation of the A303 in the early hours of Monday morning.
The hotel halfway up the hill in Lyme Regis (Its name escapes me) was offering a stunning deal on its plethora of empty rooms, dropping the price from £165.00 to £145.00 in act of of generosity that was so outrageous, I found hard to resist. However, I did resist, declining the deal of a lifetime, hoping for somewhere better, which we soon found at the Rock Point Inn at the bottom of the hill.
We sealed this deal whilst we were strolling around West Bay, a slightly over rated harbour village that is decorated with restaurants a couple of pubs and several snack bars. West Bay is a pretty little place made famous by TV dramas such as the Harbour Master and Broadchurch but I am not sure if the modern apartment blocks that have sprung up around the harbour exactly look the part. They kind of look like the ones casting a shadow over Basingstoke train station, so I imagine there must have been some feisty planning meetings before handsome backhanders and basic human greed took centre stage.
After a drink in The George, we decided against a gourmet burger at £13.00 and opted instead for a couple of Cornish pasties served to us by a teenage girl who wore the expression of someone who had endured a decade of wet weekends. I really can’t understand why so many restaurant owners employ all these bubbly and attractive Eastern European girls when they can give a job to a local lass who treats you like you have just sexually assaulted her Grandmother.
Vote UKIP and that’s what you will get…No more foreigners coming over here, stealing our jobs, etc etc etc…
Oh by the way, when we were in the pub, there was a couple (London Sounding) next to us, talking loudly to a friend on the phone and the guy said this…“Sorry mate, can’t ‘ear ya…Na signal ‘ere, we’re in Cornwall.”
Nice try cretin, only two counties out.
So it was back to Lyme Regis to see what £90.00 would get us at the Rock Point Inn. Well, it got us the top floor “Penthouse” which, actually, was pretty luxurious, with views right the way along the seafront as well excellent facilities. The staff seemed a bit abrasive and our only real communication was being chucked a key on arrival and a card machine when we paid. However, as a room to stay in, I would recommend it, though I am not sure about the pub itself as we took a trip out to Seatown near Chideock.
Seatown (Not to be mistaken for Seaton, God’s waiting room) is everything about West Dorset I love. To call it a town is outrageously ambitious as it is, essentially, a pub (The Anchor) and a couple of houses at the end of a narrow lane near Chideock. Calling it a town maybe an overstatement but what a fantastic place and pub it is.
The Anchor at Seatown
With garden view looking east towards the Golden Cap and west over Lyme Bay, Seatown has a perpetual knack of making me feel a million miles away from any woes. It is an area of outstanding beauty where I feel so at peace I must remind my kids to throw my ashes in the sea there with Bounty Hunter by The Men They Couldn’t Hang playing in the background.
We had a couple of drinks in the garden overlooking a stunning sunset and eventually decided we might as well eat in there too. It surpassed all expectations, with excellent food, great service and a lovely atmosphere ensuring a really nice evening all round, chatting with other diners from as far away as Aberdeen and as near as Devizes. If you are ever in this area, don’t miss out on The Anchor, it is an absolute hidden gem, featuring fine food, beer and wine at really reasonable prices.
So, it was with some reluctance we headed back to Lyme Regis and a few drinks on the front with the company of some pleasant locals who were absolutely smashed but not in a threatening way. One guy chatting to us claimed to know Billy Bragg, the musician, but he was so incoherent, I didn’t really get what he was saying, though he provided some great entertainment as he miraculously stayed on his feet despite numerous near misses straight from a Laurel and Hardy sketch.
After a long interesting and entertaining day, it was time to crash out and in the morning there was just time for a tasty breakfast on the sea front before a trip back to the rat race that is a life the suburbs.
Get yourself down to this part of the world sometime, you will have no regrets, even if you do meet Sidmouth’s very own village idiot.