Knockin’ on Devon’s door

PUBLISHED: 14:28 30 September 2016 | UPDATED: 15:02 30 September 2016

The sun sets over Sidmouth beach

The sun sets over Sidmouth beach

Archant

Want a quick break from the Cotswolds, without spending half a day on the motorway or wedged into a seat on a cattle-class flight? A quick jaunt down the M5 and you too could be jumping the waves on a Devon beach

The hydrotherapy pool The hydrotherapy pool

Ah, Devon, let me count the ways I love thee…

1 Your golden beaches, wrapped around rolling, green sheep-strewn headland;

2 Your welcoming towns and villages with just the right blend of quirk and familiarity;

3 Your food that urges you to cast aside the calorie-counter and dive into creamy, hedonistic gorgeousness feet-first;

One of Hawkchurch's lodges One of Hawkchurch's lodges

4 Your ability to somehow allow time to slip effortlessly from one’s grasp and altogether forget why time ever mattered at all;

5 Your buildings, from sun-bleached, wind-beaten cottage to noble, gleaming-stoned castle and cathedral;

6 Your ability to entertain and inform, whether it be prehistory buried deep below the surface or farm life to get up-close-and-personal with in cuddle-fests;

7 Your cider. Oh yes, your cider.

East Devon and Dorset's Jurassic coastline East Devon and Dorset's Jurassic coastline

At the risk of sounding like a floozy whose dalliance with another bloke is making her forget her real love at home… Gloucestershire, I love you – I really love you – but Devon and I have a bit of a thing going on.

You see, Devon is a little like my home county of Gloucestershire, but she also has a few things on offer not to be found in our land-locked county. Yes, we have our lake and rivers – and the Severn is a wild beauty I can’t be away from for very long – but sometimes you feel the yen to look out across a stretch of water so wide the horizon offers up nothing but more horizon. And to escape to this familiar-yet-strange land is a mere two-hour skip down the M5. Paradise with no bag-drop queues.

On our latest excursion to Devonia, we chose a resort near the village of Hawkchurch, just north of Lyme Regis, a cat’s-spit away from Axminster, and a manageable jaunt off the M5…

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Your home in Devonia

Nicely tucked away off the B3165 is the collection of luxury lodges known as Hawkchurch Resort, featuring all the home comforts and mod-cons you could wish for when setting up your holiday base for a few days.

Although set fairly close together, each detached homely lodge has its own parking space, good-sized bedrooms, more TVs than you could possibly have use for, WiFi, sleek, modern kitchen and patio doors that open on to a verandah with views that go on for miles… and many even have their own hot-tubs to make the most of those views.

The real benefits of having this as your base, though, is the marvellous restaurant and on-site spa…

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Devon’s bountiful harvest

The Beeches restaurant is strolling distance from all of the Hawkchurch lodges, and prides itself on stocking some of the finest produce the area has to offer.

Yes, I got my cider needs met beautifully, but also on offer is an impressive selection of local ales, soft drinks, wines and more. Not only is the restaurant jolly convenient if you’re staying there and want a break from the kitchen, but we found the warm reception from the staff made you feel like part of the family – no stuffiness here; the welcome felt truly genuine.

Oh, by the way, the rump of lamb is to die for. Just saying.

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Get out and explore

There’s a bewildering array of things to do in this corner of Devon. If you don’t want to drive too far, you can pop down to Lyme Regis for a spot of fossil-hunting; you could take a tram ride through the seaside town of Seaton; or do a spot of shopping in the market towns of Honiton and Axminster.

We spent a fabulous few hours grubbing around in the stones at Lyme Regis being Jurassic detectives; we explored the streets of Axminster and even stumbled upon a street party in full flow; but one of the highlights had to be the Beer Quarry Caves.

Now, far from being a beverage – tho’ I’m sure The Anchor Inn serves a pint or two – Beer is actually an East Devon village where you can find a subterranean 2,000-year-old stone quarry. In the heat of the early summer sunshine, we were offered woolly ponchos to descend 200 feet below the ground to learn about the history of quarrying here from Roman times until the early 20th century. The quality of the stone here – the world-renowned Beer stone – is such that it has been sought-after to construct some of the world’s most stunning buildings, from Exeter Cathedral to Westminster Abbey. As you’d expect from this neck of the woods, a little contraband-stashing went on down here, too.

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And relax…

After you’ve spent the day exploring caves, skipping through the waves and chipping away at rocks with a fossil hammer, you may just be in need of a little R & R. Well, welcome to Ezina Spa…

Also based in the Hawkchurch Resort and right next to the restaurant is this little slice of heaven offering treats such as ‘The Ultimate Detox Reviver’, ‘Essential Rose Facial’ and ‘Gentlemen’s Club Hand and Nail Care’. Yes, really. There are also the delights of a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and hammam-style steam room.

As we were both in need of a little – or maybe a lot – of TLC, Tony and I were led into the couple’s room where we were treated to a relaxing facial and back massage that may have had me nodding off for a few minutes. I might have snored, a bit.

All the treatments use Aromatherapy Associate products, carefully chosen for your skin’s needs and your mental state on arriving… I think I was offered the equivalent of aromatherapy knock-out drops, which seemed to do the trick.

Bliss, turned up to 11.

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• Hawkchurch Resort & Spa, Axminster, Devon, EX13 5UL, tel: 01297 678402, www.darwinescapes.co.uk/parks/hawkchurch-resort-spa

• Beer Quarry Caves, tel: 01297 625830, www.beerquarrycaves.co.uk

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