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Dr John Hawkins

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Tuesday in Dartmouth

Posted on 2011/12/30 10:31:00 (December 2011).

[Tuesday 27th December 2011]
Having stayed in and around Dartmouth the past couple of days we decided to be a bit more ambitious today, and venture a bit further afield.

We started by heading to Salcombe, which is a bit like another Darmouth in a way, being on one side of a river estuary, and having a largely yachty sort of population. It was a flying visit as we only paid for 30 minutes parking, but we managed to fit in a whizz around the shops and an espresso at the Salcombe Coffee Company, which was surprisingly not bad.

From there we headed to Hope Cove, where we had a stroll along the cliffs, and had our interest piqued by Burgh Island off in the distance. We had lunch at the Hope & Anchor, which wasn't bad I suppose. The pub felt a bit modern really. Still, it was a pleasant enough spot.

The next stop on our tour of the coast was Bantham, where family legend has it that Vera once got drenched in a sudden downpour on the beach and had to take refuge in the Sloop Inn. Alas by the time we arrived the Sloop was just closing for the afternoon, but we did have a bracing stroll along the beach with more intriguing views over to Burgh Island, which was still inaccessible as the Bantham side of the beach is across the river from the bit of the beach that connects Burgh Island to the mainland.

By this point I had become determined to get to Burgh Island, so we headed inland once more to where the nearest road bridge was over the river, then back out to the coast along an existing "tidal road" to Bigbury-on-Sea, from where it is short walk across the beach (it being still low tide) to Burgh Island. The closer I got the more I developed the distinct feeling that I'd been before - I think as part of a summer holiday with Dad - although I might be confusing it with St. Michael's Mount.

Our short time in the Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island was one of the highlights of the week for me. It apparently dates back to the 14th Century, and the interior was very atmospheric, split up into lots of little nooks and crannies. There are actually two separate bar rooms, and it was only afterwards that I realised whilst one of them is for the general public, the other is reserved for hotel guests and "local regulars". Maybe because it was out of season, or perhaps because we just looked the right sort, we were invited by the barman through to the nicer of the two. There's something really quite special about the Pilchard Inn, and it made for an excellent spot to sit out and admire the view as we approached dusk. We were treated to a flock of birds racing back and forth across the sand while we were there - and watched as the colour of the flock appeared to change when they changed direction. I wish I'd been able to get a picture - it was really very special.

I'd actually looked at staying in the hotel on Burgh Island a while back, and Chie had talked me out of it as it is really expensive (the cheapest rooms are about 400 a night). I have to admit despite the slightly faded appearance of the hotel now I was only more keen to come and stay here, but Chie spent our walk back to the car listing reasons why it wouldn't be worth the money. Ever the pragmatist - bless her.

Back in Dartmouth in the evening we fended for ourselves for dinner. I made a porcini risotto for me and Chie which I rather enjoyed. After dinner the two of us decided to go out for the evening to Kingswear for a couple of drinks, which was particularly fun as we went there and back on the lower ferry. It's a wonderfully simple affair - a raft tied to a tugboat, and both ways we had it to ourselves. In Kingswear we visited two of the three pubs - the Steam Packet Inn, and the Ship Inn. The latter definitely being the nicer of the two in my opinion, but in the Steam Packet's favour they have a pool table upstairs, which was quite fun.

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