Hope Cove – Salcombe Sunsets, Sea and Sand my dog friendly itinerary
Hope Cove is one of the UK’s most desirable hidden gems. Hope Cove is a tiny seaside village nestled in the South Hams District of South Devon, just a few miles from its swanky neighbour of Salcombe.
Hope Cove an ideal base for exploring the South Hams
Hope Cove is one of the UK’s most desirable hidden gems, I remember Richard & Judy talking about it on This Morning years ago as it was a favourite holiday destination of theirs, and it is clear to see why. In fact, my photo of a sunset of Hope Cove is my most liked on Instagram.
Hope Cove is a tiny seaside village nestled in the South Hams District of South Devon, just a few miles from its swanky neighbour of Salcombe. Once you leave the Kingsbridge to Salcombe road you wind your way down through the many cottages and holiday lets towards Hope Coves two beaches.
We visited during the February half term week and so beach restrictions for dogs were not an issue but note that between May & September there is a doggie ban on Mouthwell Sands, so if you are planning a break with your 4 legged friend during the summer months then you might have to leave him at home or put him on a lead to make the most of your visit.
There is one small-ish carpark which does get very busy in the summer as does the Hope and Anchor pub serving local fayre in traditional rustic chic style. Booking was essential even in February but we enjoyed a very delicious dinner of Moules Marinières and freshly caught fish in their welcoming restaurant and then watched the sun go down casting rays of golden light on the sand, making glittering rivulets of water drifting towards the shore and into the many rock pools that adorn Hope Cove’s beaches.
As a group of 4 and a lively dog we needed dog friendly accommodation and we chose to stay at Lower Court Barn booked through Toad Hall Cottages.
This luxurious barn conversion met our every need and more. Not only did it have views across the rolling Devon Hills, it was within walking distance of Hope Cove. Route number 1 was up the very steep hill behind the cottage and along the top before descending into Inner Hope Cove – this walk wasn’t for the faint hearted and we caught the wind from every direction whilst making our way down to the pub for a warming hot chocolate. We took the more civilised route back along the winding road to Galpton where our home for the week is, it is still an uphill walk though so if you don’t fancy an energising heart pumping march then a car will be your best bet.
We were very grateful of the 2 roaring fires we lit in the log burners and enough bathrooms for all of us to use and a warm and toasty utility room for drying boots, coats and the dog of course.
The Barn was spacious, modern, easy to keep clean with the dog, we had a lovely welcome basket on arrival and a selection of books and games should we have not had enough to occupy us in the local area. This cost us around £900 during half term week and the barn would comfortably sleep 6 which we thought was very good value.
We had a large enclosed garden with outdoor furniture and a BBQ for use in warmer weather although we were blessed with sunshine during most of our stay here. It was a joy to watch the sheep be herded down into nearby fields with the team of sheepdogs rounding them up just like in the old TV show one man and his dog, We were really living the country life now.
Hope Cove's nearby beaches
Bigbury On sea
Just up the road from Hope Cove is the stunning beach of Bigbury, this is really a beach with a split personality, when the tide is in, the beach is a contained bay with views across to Burgh Island only accessible by their unique sea tractor. This transports you to the magnificent Art Deco Hotel aptly named Burgh Island Hotel surrounded by sea on all sides, and a wonderful choice for those wanting a bit of glamour and retro luxury for their South Devon stay.
When the tide is out this beach transforms into a vast expanse of golden sand, the change is almost unrecognisable, you can now walk across to Burgh Island on foot and the gilded landscape stretches for what seems like miles. This is a paradise for the adrenalin junkies and water babies alike with surfers, body boarders, kite surfers and windsurfers in abundance. Hire is available right on the beach. For those like me who are a little less adventurous you can explore the numerous rock pools and indulge in some ice cream from the café.
Dogs are allowed all year round but limited to certain areas during the summer months.
Other beaches you might want to visit during your stay are:
Bantham Beach, another stunning beach in an area of outstanding national beauty, a shallow sandy beach and more rock pools for crab spotting.
Blackpool Sands, surrounded by pines and stretches of yet more golden sands, this beach is another must visit not too far from Hope Cove and with a café and lifeguards during the summer months you can test out your sea legs safely or relax in the sun.
Thurlestone Beach was another of our favourites, with 2 beaches, the first by the golf course and the second further along the coast, we found it almost deserted in February and by all accounts it is one of the less crowded beaches during peak visitor times. The beach has won an award from the Marine Conservation Society thanks to its clear, clean waters. We spent several hours exploring the rugged rock formations with the rock pools and all that hide within them. The dog especially loved this beach digging in the sand, standing proud on the rocks and of course cooling off in the sea.
Salcombe - Hope Coves upmarket neighbour
Just up the road from our Hope Cove base is the popular town of Salcombe, built on the banks of the Kingsbridge Estuary it’s not hard to see why this seaside haven has become a getaway for any Instagram influencer and seafarers alike. For a pretty small town there is something to suit everyone.
We visited several times during our week, firstly parking at North Sands a year round dog friendly beach, popular with our furry friends and kids alike, investigating rock pools, swimming in warmer months or in a wetsuit, and tucking into lunch at the Winking Prawn before walking along the Cliff Road into the top of Salcombe town.
Our next Salcombe adventure was catching the small passenger ferry across to Mill Bay, East Portlemouth and Sunny Cove, the ferry has an on board card payment facility and is just a short ride across the harbour. If you can’t fit on board this time the boat will come back for you after dropping off its excited explorers and day trippers. You can walk through South West Coast Path along to Gara Rock or just watch the world go by in the harbour and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Take what you need with you as this area is unspoiled and free of cafes and facilities. There is a very small National Trust carpark if you are approaching via roads and not from the harbour.
Back in Salcombe town, you can peruse the many galleries full of nautical themed prints and originals, visit Cranch’s traditional sweetshop est. 1869 and bursting with sweets from floor to ceiling, it is a utopia of pink from the décor to the pink and white striped bags, relive your childhood memories with bon bons, black jacks and fruit salads, in fact any sweet you can remember you will find, although the price has increased a bit since the 1p sweets of my childhood.
Salcombe Gin & Distillery was next on our hit list, if you’re not aware of the explosion of gin over the past few years where have you been hiding? (You can check out my blog of Dorset Gins on our website)
Hand crafted and distilled in Salcombe this award winning gin should be amongst your to do’s whilst in town. We admired their pretty bottles and ‘Seamist liquid garnish’ housed in intricate crystal bottles much like the perfume bottles of days gone by but with a modern twist - ‘our unique liquid garnishes have been handcrafted with coastal botanicals and Cornish sea salt to elevate your ‘Start Point & Tonic’ and ‘Rosé & Tonic’ experience and encapsulate the essence of the sea’
Obviously, we had to sample their gin and did so in their Boatyard Bar, snuggled in the traditional boat building and artsy quarter of town whilst watching the distilling process going on behind a big glass screen in their stunning 450l copper still.
There’s lots to do here from taster sessions to their gin school all info on their website listed below in my handy links. Even if you are not a gin drinker you will still find this an interesting experience and the bar is fully stocked with your tipple of choice.
We enjoyed a traditional and delicious Sunday roast in The Ferry Inn and a tasty dinner from the Fortescue Inn during our Hope Cove Holiday, we also bought a selection of local cheeses and cold cuts from the Salcombe Deli to eat at home.
Everywhere we visited in Salcombe was dog friendly.
Dartmouth - an easy day trip from Hope Cove
Dartmouth a lovely coastal town about a 40-minute drive from our Hope Cove base is well worth a visit, the bustling town centre is crammed full of galleries, cafes, quirky shops and fish and chip restaurants you can easily while away a few hours strolling through the streets or along the promenade and exploring Bayards Cove Fort, a Tudor Fort built between 1522 and 1536 to protect Dartmouth harbour from attack. This is a free attraction.
You can hire a boat, visit gardens or historic houses, or take a trip back in time to Dartmouth Castle, an English Heritage site, explore inside the castle or take a boat trip from the quay to the castles doorstep. Tickets do not need to be pre booked and at time of writing are around £9pp. entry.
We treated ourselves to fish and chips from the Rockfish takeaway, who serve sustainable seafood sourced daily from a local Brixham fleet and impressively from the most sustainable fisheries in the world. We sat on the quay with the local resident seagulls eagerly hoping we’d accidentally drop a few chips for them and watched the boats bobbing around in Dartmouth harbour. Rockfish also have a restaurant nearby if you’d prefer a less alfresco experience.
Farm shops near Hope Cove
Not far from our Hope Cove hideaway are farm shops aplenty, jam-packed full of local produce, we visited a few during our stay, as part of the girl about ethos supporting local business’ is our thing, and with the luxury of self-catering we were able to source locally produced items to enjoy back in the warmth of our cosy barn and refectory style dining table.
Our favourite was Aune Valley Meat and Aune Valley Café, right in the heart of the South Hams between Loddiswell and Kingsbridge this traditional family run business sells amazing sausages and handmade pies which we sampled along with a full range of meats (ideal for a BBQ) local fruit and veg and a wide selection of breads, jams and local goodies.
The adjoining valley View Café serves cooked breakfasts, a huge lunch selection, scrumptious looking cakes, pastries and scones, pre-ordered fish and chip Wednesdays and a Friday night takeaway showcasing some of their meats and a vegetarian option of halloumi burgers, pre order is essential, check their website for menu changes.
We loved this place so much we stopped off on our way home for a takeaway hot drink for the journey and a selection of their farm shop goodies to bring back with us.
Where to stay in Hope Cove
You are spoilt for choice in Hope Cove & it’s nearby villages – there is a plentitude of holiday lets, from tiny cottages for 2, big spacious barn conversions similar to our choice, waterfront terraces or country retreats. There are also many hotels such as Salcombe Harbour Hotel right on the water in the town, or the exclusive Gara Rock Resort and Spa if your budget allows.
Getting around Hope Cove
Staying in and around the Hope Cove area in my opinion really needs a car, unless you are staying right in the centre of one of the bigger towns such as Salcombe or Dartmouth. Walking or cycling is another option but be prepare for off roading and hill climbs.
Driving can also take you down bumpy unmade roads, steep hills and narrow twisty turny lanes, for us this was part of the fun and enabled us to find the off the beaten track unspoiled areas away from the crowds, but if you are a bit precious with your car or a nervous driver then you might find you don’t enjoy the driving quite so much.
Summary of our visit to Hope Cove
The South Hams in particular, Hope Cove & Salcombe makes a wonderful break, whether you self-cater like us, or stay in a hotel. There are so many places to explore, from the beautiful beaches with water sports or sailing, the stunning countryside, local attractions and gardens, English Heritage and National Trust properties, farm shops, award winning restaurants, country pubs and quaint tearooms the area has something special to offer any age group, children are well provided for and most places are dog friendly, we didn’t have any problem at all. For a real taste of Devon look no further than Hope Cove for a truly memorable holiday. People go back year on year and I can see why.