A perfect seaside festival town
Budleigh Salterton is famous for its quaint charm but is also an ideal holiday base from which to explore East Devon, with loads of activities on offer. Its annual celebrations of music, both jazz and classical, science and literature have led it recently to be described as "the perfect festival town."
Budleigh still has the feel of a village, with its main street lined with interesting independent shops, cafés and restaurants and it's quieter than its busier Jurassic Coast neighbours Exmouth and Sidmouth. Stroll along the Cliff Path and Marine Parade to see why so many artists and photographers are drawn to record picturesque scenes of fishing boats and beach huts.
The gently curving two-mile pebble beach with its famous red sandstone cliffs fringes a bay which makes for safe bathing. This part of the coast is also popular with sea anglers. At the eastern end is the Otter estuary, an ideal location for birdwatching. A popular riverside walk leads to the ancient Otterton Mill with its galleries, restaurant, and regular flour-milling. Monks at the priory in Otterton owned the rights to salt manufacturing on the coast, hence Budleigh's original name of Salterne.
Other local attractions in the area include the 60 acres of Bicton Park Gardens and the World of Country Life at Littleham, just a few miles west of Budleigh.
Budleigh boasts some fine old buildings including thatched cottages, some of them perched high up giving wonderful views of the bay. Fairlynch, built around 1811 by a local ship owner and merchant, is one of the few thatched museums in Britain. Along with exhibitions of rare costumes there's a 'Smugglers' Cellar' reminding us that illicit trade across the Channel flourished for centuries in this area.
The museum also has displays about the Bronze Age settlements on Woodbury Common a few miles to the north of the town. The Common itself consists of nearly 3,000 acres of wild heathlands, a perfect habitat for rare species of butterfly, dragonfly and birds. It can be explored on foot, by mountain bike or even on horseback from the popular Budleigh Salterton Riding School.
Next to Fairlynch is the Octagon, where Sir John Everett Millais worked on his famous painting The Boyhood of Raleigh when he stayed here in 1870. Across the road is the sea wall depicted in the painting, showing the young Walter Raleigh, born just a few miles away in East Budleigh.
The big hotels of Budleigh's past have been converted to flats, but there is plenty of accommodation in the area. In the town itself are the Long Range Hotel and the Hansard House Hotel as well as many bed & breakfast establishments. For camping and caravanning in a rural setting there is Pooh Cottage in the nearby village of Knowle. To the west and east of Budleigh are the major caravan holiday parks of Devon Cliffs at Sandy Bay and Ladram Bay.
Budleigh Salterton has an unspoilt character which is all its own. And in an era of production line package holidays that's something to be cherished.
© Michael Downes 2012
Cottage Holiday Guide