Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Day 3 – South West Coast - Hope Cove - Don’t read this if you’re a tourist...

I’m sitting in a hotel room in a village that isn’t really on the maps or in the guide books. And, it’s got two names. Hope Cove is made up of Inner Hope and Outer Hope. It’s a tiny town that dates back to the 1300s, and apparently some of the thatched fishing houses in Inner Hope are the original ones from about 1600. The Norsemen got here long before that. And some iron-age folk got here long before that (there’s a remnant of an iron-age fort nearby). Those cavemen clearly knew a good spot to light a fire...

And crazily, it’s hardly mentioned in any guide books, and even on the Ordnance Survey map for the South West of England, the names are written in that small font that makes people drive past. Don’t. It’s got the feel of this part of the coast, with cliffs into the sea, peninsulas and rocky outcrops. But it’s better somehow. There aren’t any fancy yachts in the harbour like Dartmouth or Brixham, only a couple of small working fishing boats. The houses aren’t out of the real estate magazines – most are weather-beaten and covered in a layer of salt from the insistent sea breeze. And best of all there are hardly any tourists. So if you are a tourist reading this, press the Ctrl-Alt-Del button on your brain and forget everything you’ve just read.

The Cottage Hotel is a friendly, formal hotel run by the Ireland family for the past 35 years. I should be careful about talking up the views, because I thought the Cumberland Hotel in Bournemouth had a great view. But The Cottage Hotel’s is better. To the left is a cliff-faced peninsula. In front of the hotel is the tiny harbour, with a paltry breakwater that somehow stands up to the winter storms (check out the video from last winter). And to the right are several rocky outcrops jutting out above the sea. The Cottage Hotel’s view is the benchmark from now on..., and keep it as a benchmark for the rest of my journey.

Guests at the hotel are 80% returnees, and many are of the older vintage, which suits the place – because it’s a traditional, old-fashioned place, with friendly, yet formal staff. William (the brother) and Sarah (the sister) run the hotel – their parents bought it 35 years ago. William wears a dinner suit with bow-tie. The chef has been with the hotel for 30 years (some city food snobs might say that the five-course set menu probably hasn’t changed either, yet it’s tasty, and probably suited to the clientele’s needs). And although there are a few who surf in the bay just to the right of the hotel, Hope Cove isn’t going to be on any varsity student’s end of year celebrations. It’s too quiet, and too out of the way, and too traditional. And because the National Trust has control over the village, there ain’t going to be any gluttonous property developers lurking. Just perfect.

William recommends having a drink at the Hope & Anchor, one of the oldest, consistently-used pubs in the region. And spend time walking. It’s the best way to explore the coastline. The views from the roads don’t match up those from the paths. Unless you are sitting on your porch in one of the hotel’s sea-facing rooms: the videos and photos can do the talking for me.

The Cottage Hotel, Hope Cove

Sunset from the porch at The Cottage Hotel

Coastal path near Hope Cove

Aerial view of Hope Cove

Room in The Cottage Hotel

1 comment:

  1. I think I just found my next short break spot, that looks utterly perfect....