This year I’m really trying to make the most of what the UK has to offer. As well as continuing to explore the rest of the world I’m enjoying visiting new places in my own country. (My last trip was a lovely long weekend in Cornwall.) A trip to the tiny seaside town of Shaldon in Devon a few weekends ago was my next UK break, and a very special one at that as it was a surprise trip for my husbands 30th birthday!
Six months ago I booked ‘Beach Hut number 1’after watching a programme on Channel 4 called George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. The series focused on the use of small buildings and spaces including boats, buses and everything in between and followed the progress of turning them into unusual dwellings and holiday homes. The beach huts in Shaldon featured on the programme and stood out for me, as I’m a big fan of all things to do with the sea. I instantly fell in love with it and thought it would be a fantastic place to take Matt to celebrate turning 30. The hardest part was keeping it a secret for so long! I gave Matt three envelopes containing clues about where we were going. He guessed on clue three; so I think I did a pretty good job! We excitedly set off on a sunny Saturday morning and arrived three hours later. Pulling up outside Beach Hut One, sun shining and seagulls soaring high in the sky I knew we were in for a great weekend. As we opened the door we were greeted with a glow of white washed walls and nautical décor. A modern twist to a traditional beach hut this one came with everything including the kitchen sink! A galley kitchen, light and airy living space, a mezzanine level with a cosy bedroom complete with comfy futon mattress and a compact bathroom under the stairs. Bi-folding doors which opened up along the full width of the building onto our own private terrace and under floor heating (I love little touches like these!) completed this small but perfectly formed beach dwelling. The beach hut also had a TV and wi-fi, but I tried to leave the wi-fi alone as I wanted to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. This tiny space is so cleverly thought out and elegantly designed, it’s amazing that so much can fit into such a small area. Overlooking the Teign estuary, Teignmouth and the beach this was definitely the ultimate glamping weekend and we were very excited! With the champagne chilling ready for a birthday cheers we headed out to explore the village. Shaldon is full of West Country charm; it has a few pubs, a bakery, The Yummy Shop, (love this name!) a coffee shop full of local treats, a few great shabby chic style gift shops and some good-looking restaurants. We had dinner at The Ness a lovely hotel and gastro pub with fantastic views overlooking the estuary and Teignmouth. I had steak and ale pie washed down with a large glass of red and finished off with a salted caramel sundae, it was just what I wanted!
The following day we explored the area in more detail, taking the passenger ferry from the beach at Shaldon over to Teignmouth. The journey takes about 5 minutes and cost £1.50 each way! We had some lunch and a stroll along the promenade and then headed back over to Sheldon. Don’t miss Ness Cove; this lovely beach is accessed by a smugglers tunnel, very cool! Also follow the South West Coast Path up to Ness Point; there is a nice view through the trees at the top of the hill looking towards Teignmouth and the rest of the coastline. I loved taking photos and capturing the essence of the lovely English seaside in the sunshine. After this we retired back to our beach hut and chilled out on the terrace. Reading and drinking wine, while watching the changing tide and boats bobbing on the water were the main items on the agenda! We were only there for two nights but it felt like a lot longer, it was such a great place to unwind. Living in England knowing how changeable the weather can be we were very lucky that the sun shone all weekend too. I loved nothing more than opening up the doors onto the terrace first thing in the morning and seeing the golden sunlight shimmering on the water. It felt like I was letting the beach right into the hut and so relaxing to read my book in bed listening to the waves lapping at the shore while admiring the lovely view. Time seemed to slow down, making me appreciate the simple things in life. I love beach hut living!
Now that spring is on its way in the UK the days are getting longer and the sun is starting to shine, which means that it’s time to come out of hibernation and head to the coast. I for one cannot wait to pack up my surfboard and wetsuit in the campervan and embrace the chilly British waters. This time of year is perfect for hitting the surf especially as the days are getting brighter and right now the beaches aren’t so crowded. This can mean only one thing: you have those waves all to yourself! Plus with all the crazy weather the UK has been experiencing there has been some great swell pushing in. So much so that during the storms in February top surfers from all over the world headed to the UK to catch some monster waves on the Cornish coast.
Being able to surf in just a bikini in warmer climates is great, nothing can beat it and I am lucky that I get my fix by surfing in Barbados every couple of months. But there’s something I love about warming up in a campervan with a post surf hot chocolate and bacon butty on a crisp spring morning in England. My top tip for warming up after a chilly surf is to wrap a hot water bottle in your towel; perfect after you’ve peeled off your cold wetsuit! Throw on your hoody, jeans and uggs and hey presto you can start to feel your toes again.
Make sure you’ve got the right gear for colder waters; a winter wetsuit, booties, gloves and hood should keep you nice and toasty in the water. My wetsuit is a 5mm and came with a hood, my gloves are 3mm and my boots are 6.5mm, they keep my feet so warm and the split toe design means there are really comfortable and easy to surf in.
If you have never surfed before, I thoroughly recommend giving it a try. It is a great way to keep fit and have fun at the same time. It may take a while to get the hang of it and can involve a lot of falling in and getting rolled around in the waves, but this is all part of the fun and is confidence building! It is also a great way to make new friends. After you’ve had a few lessons hire or buy your own board and just keep practising. It’s addictive!
Some of my favourite surfing beaches in the UK are:
Putsborough – This beach in Devon is a real treat! There are fab views of the water from the car park making it perfect for checking the surf and for picnics. There is a small campsite here too and you can hire surfboards and wetsuits if you don’t have your own. The nearby village of Georgeham has a lovely pub called the Kings Arms, it’s a good place to stop for a pint or two after a surf. You can also walk along the beach to Woolacombe from Putsborough. Which leads me onto my next beach…
Woolacombe – Great beach for beginners and long boarders. There are plenty of surf schools in the area, so do a web search before you go. If the surfs not so great the small town is a nice place to grab a pasty and do some shopping. SaltRock, and a few other surf shops will keep you busy on a flat day along with some nice arty and jewellery shops. Failing that, the Red Barn is a great stop for a cider.
Saunton Sands – Six miles down the road from Woolacombe this beautiful beach has around three miles of uninterrupted shoreline so you can spread out. Surf wise if the conditions are right there can be lots of nice long, clean sets; perfect for beginners. There is a good surf schooland hire shop on the beach too.
Fistral – Cornwall’s answer to Byron Bay, this beach is split in to North and South. Fistral is world famous for its surf and holds lots of big surf competitions and festivals such as Boardmasters and the English National Surfing Championships. North Fistral has mostly right hand breaks and is usually slightly bigger than South. Fistral Beach Surf School is found right on the beach and provides lessons and board rental.
Rhossili – This beautiful beach in Wales has recently been awarded the number one spot on the TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Awards 2014 – top 25 UK beaches. I can understand why this 5km stretch of beach was voted as one of the best, it really shows off Britain’s beauty and its consistent beach breaks make it a great place to surf.
Closer to home I am pretty spoilt with some half decent beaches to surf at; these include the Witterings, Highcliffe and Bournemouth. East Wittering, West Wittering and Bracklesham Bay are all nearby one another, if the surfs no good at one you can head to one of the others. There are two great surf shops in East Wittering: Shore and Witterings Surf Shop. Drift In coffee shop is part of Witterings Surf Shop and is a nice place to head to after a surf or beach walk. Both Shore and Witterings surf shop provide board, wetsuit hire and lessons.
I am so lucky to live near the sea but I definitely do not make the most of it! My plan this summer is to surf closer to home and use these lovely beaches nearby, aswell as the odd trip to Barbados for some bikini surfing!
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