Travel Review: Gitcombe House Country Cottages, Devon
- Credit: nicholas yarsley/www.nicholasyar
Customers rave about these family-friendly luxury cottages in the gorgeous Devon countryside complete with indoor and outdoor pools, tennis court and play area
If you didn’t have directions, you could easily miss the turning down to Gitcombe estate.
But somewhere off the road between Totnes and Dartmouth we descended down a farmtrack to find a pretty Georgian farmhouse sheltering in a natural bowl with an outdoor pool occupying a terrific sun trap.
Further investigation revealed a tennis court, a cluster of outbuildings converted into cottages, and up the hill, an indoor pool, steam and sauna, and outdoor hot tub with to-die-for views of the rolling Devon countryside.
A few days at Gitcombe offered the perfect rest and relaxation we needed at the tail end of the summer holidays before returning to the hurly burly of work and school.
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We have always loved Cornwall but had not yet discovered the delights of this corner of Devon known as The South Hams.
The wooded slopes and pretty waterside villages around the tidal Dart estuary make this a holiday haven, with sailing, paddle-boarding canoeing and even surfing - as we discovered.
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At nearby Dittisham (pronounced Disham) you can crab off the jetty - a fistful of smoked rashers in a net lowered on a line should do it - or take a river taxi over to the National Trust-owned Greenway, where Agatha Christie spent her holidays when she wasn’t at her Hampstead pied a terre in the Isokon flats.
Christie fans can also drive 30 minutes to Bigbury where a quaintly old fashioned ‘sea tractor’ transports daytrippers to tiny Burgh Island.
It was the author’s stay in the hotel here that inspired Evil Under The Sun and And Then There Were None.
As it turned out, the huge sweep of golden sand at Bigbury and its sister beach Bantham offered the best surfing and bodyboarding in this part of Devon.
Hiring boards and wetsuits from Bantham car park, our kids disappeared into the waves like happy seals, while we joined the holidaying local families, and lapped up the cool surfy vibe.
There are even vintage vans, happy to dispense cold beer, burgers and ice cream after a day on the beach.
We stopped off in Kingsbridge for top fish and chips at The Cod Father, which lays claim to being the best in Devon (if it’s not then it’s pretty damn near)
The next day we did it all again but this time bought freshly caught John Dory in Kingsbridge market and cooked a delicious fish supper back at our cottage.
On another day we skirted the edge of the city and follwed a winding road to the promontory at Dartmouth Castle.
A chain once linked it with Kingswear Castle on the opposite side of the river, which for centuries kept the city safe from marauders. It was last used in World War II, but we learned that the dangers of German torpedo boats were very real for the people of Devon.
It was on nearby Slapton Sands in May 1944 that more than 700 American soldiers died during a practise exercise for D Day, when their landing craft were struck and sunk by surprise.
Today Slapton is a nature reserve and nearby Blackpool Sands is a delightful family seaside resort.
After visiting the castle, we followed steps down to the tiny cove and had a picnic in the sunshine – the footpath takes you on to Sugary Cove, and it’s a fine spot to sit and watch the sailing boats heading out of Dartmouth to the open sea.
The market town of Totnes is also a foodie hotspot famed for its New Age vibe green and veggie credentials, where we picked up Italian sourdough and delicious pasties.
Wherever we ventured forth it was always a pleasure returning to Gitcombe.
With no smoking and cars parked to one side, the children could be free range, whether roaming the adventure play area, enjoying a game of tennis or an outdoor swim.
Everything has been thought of; there’s a shed full of crabbing, bodyboarding and sports equipment, and board games in your cottage so you don’t have to overload the car. For those with toddlers the cottages are well equipped and there’s even a soft playroom next to the pool.
We also appreciated that all the applicances, beds and linen are top of the range - there were even my favourite REN smellies in our shower.
In Meavy, our oldest son was intalled on a mezzanine level, while downstairs there were two bedrooms, one leading onto an outdoor terrace with barbecue.
There are also log burners which along with the indoor leisure facilities means this is a great spot for all year round R&R.
It really feels like a family affair, Peter the owner, his father and dog were all very friendly and hands on.
Their latest baby is a beautifully designed timber-framed house which next season will take Gitcombe’s capacity over 60 in eight different properties - but there is enough space and faciliies here to never feel crowded.
Gitcombe has a Valentine offer February 13-16 including a box of delicious West Country home made chocolates and a chilling bottle of local Sharpham pink sparkling wine.
Guests can cosy up next to log baskets full to bursting to keep the stoves burning nicely. They can wrap up and walk to the local pub before returning to snuggle up with their loved one.
£385 for two night stay in any of these Gitcombe cottages: Yennadon, Coach, Haytor, Burrator, Marristow or Meavy
Check the website for last minute deals on Christmas, and January availability: gitcombe.co.uk