20th September 2023
Setting out from Serenity on foot reveals a hidden coffee hut, a quiet tree-lined footpath and an adrenalin-spiked coasteering adventure away from the jostling beach crowds…
It’s mid-morning on the late August Bank Holiday in Croyde. The village thrums with the excited babble of beachgoers looking to make the most of the generous surf lapping the shore. We escape the throngs and head into the village centre; its quaint whitewashed stone cottages and thatched roofs teasing stories of a bygone age.
Foregoing the ice cream shops and stores that sell surfing paraphernalia, we opt to amble down the lane behind Billy Budd’s pub to pick up a cortado from The Coffee Hatch. This quirky converted horsebox with comfy outdoor sofas and bench seating is tucked away from the main thoroughfare. We then calmly catch our breath while perusing the limited-edition surf tees and hoodies from Stolen Goods art studio next door.
Caffeine fix found, we meander back towards the beach, following the tree-lined footpath which cuts through the village centre. The path dissects across serene green fields where the only sound is the rustle of leaves and the hypnotic noise of a flock of house martins who duck, dive and dance across the landscape. We pause to take in the moment, struck that this haven can be found in the centre of a bustling village.
Energised, we follow the coastal path towards Baggy Point which offers exceptional views back towards Croyde Beach. Wave after wave sends holidaymakers bouncing, bobbing and bellowing with delight as they surf, swim and bodyboard on the incoming tide.
The coastline then transforms into a series of folds and fractures with rocky outcrops spilling out into the sea and reaches a crescendo of dramatic cliffs once we cross the headland. We stop to admire the vistas across to Lundy Island and Morte Point, amused by the guttural squawking of herring gulls who skim the cliff face to chastise the humans intruding on their patch.
Glad to be wearing our sturdy walking boots, we plough onwards over stiles and gorse towards the unspoilt oasis of Putsborough Sands. However, its silky white shores are an adventure for another day. Instead we ascend the hills and hedgerows back towards Baggy Point car park.
We find refreshment in the form of a Devon cream tea (clotted cream before jam!) within the beautiful walled gardens at Sandleigh Tea-Room. We then wander back to Serenity to pick up our beach towels and swimwear in anticipation of an afternoon’s rock jumping with Coasteering Croyde Bay.
Kitted out with wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets – and armed with useful safety tips – we walk the few hundred yards back along the path towards Baggy Point. Our instructor Albi guides us down onto the craggy rocks which are to be our playground for the next couple of hours. Taking a few moments to find our feet, we soon scramble along the coast, in and out of gullies, discovering the marine life, fauna and seabirds which call this shoreline home as we go.
Blood pumping, we take turns to plunge feet first into a natural swimming pool. As we surrender ourselves to the briny blue and spring back to the surface, it’s hard not to feel pure exhilaration.
After a day of sea air, it’s tempting to stay at Serenity and pick up a takeaway from one of the seasonal street food vans at our neighbouring campsites. Instead, keen to catch a glimpse of a spectacular sunset, we stroll across the now much quieter beach towards Downend at the opposite end of the bay.
Although the temperature is starting to dip, we give in to kicking off our shoes. Barefoot, the cool grains of sand rub between our toes and sweet sanderlings scurry away from the tide nipping at their heels.
At Downend car park, The Beach Cafe dishes up lip-puckeringly-good Sri Lankan curries during the summer months, which we tuck into, chased with ice-cool beers from Bodhi’s Surf Bar next door. As we gaze out over the horizon, the sun calls time on another day, casting a spectacular glow across the rippling ocean. We take it all in – before slowly strolling back to Serenity.
Quirky coffee stop-offs, havens found, and exhilarating exploration – leave the car behind for the day when you stay by the sea…