Croyde Bay, North Devon, England
5 minute read
Amusement arcades and slot machines, kiss-me-quick hats and donkey rides, sticks of rock and candy floss. These are the immediate images that come to mind whenever I think of a typical English seaside town, and as a result, I really despise typical English seaside towns.
There’s just something about walking along a crowded seafront full of screaming kids, the ‘bing bing boing’ of amusement arcades, and the constant smell of fish and chips which hangs in the air like a Los Angeles smog; for some reason, all of this drives me to the point of wanting to scream out loud, de-robe myself, and then run across the road and dive headfirst off the pier.
However, and I reiterate, HOWEVER; there are some gems to be discovered along this country’s coastline which are a haven for those who don’t like cheese. And when I say cheese I’m not referring to a slab of brie or a nice creamy camembert.
Don’t get me a wrong, it’s a question of taste and I fully accept that. What I like, you may not. What you love, I may hate. But if you’re like myself and get fed up of all the same things as I do then stick with me and I’ll see you right. The English seaside holiday can be something different entirely.
The very first time I entered this part of Devon, something about it felt entirely different. After passing through Braunton and heading along the coastal route via the B3231 Saunton Road/Croyde Road, my breath was taken away by the sheer beauty of this area. It was a scorching hot summer’s day with clear blue skies, and as I drove along with my windows down listening to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Physical Graffiti’, I looked to my left and caught sight of the sea crashing in onto Saunton Sands.
The road then boomeranged back on itself as I rounded the corner, and at this point the full beauty of Croyde Bay was revealed as I descended the road and down towards the village. With surfers riding the waves and while relatively compact in size, Croyde Beach looked every bit the picture postcard.
The village of Croyde itself is beautiful and quaint with stunning stone-built cottages, each offering their own sense of character and individuality. It has the feel of being a place that knows just how good it is and so it really doesn’t have to try any harder; it has what its visitors need, and the people there love it, so why change anything? The philosophy here seems to be quality over quantity because if you were to count up the total number of pubs, restaurants, and shops, you may actually only just hit double figures. But that’s more than fine and you never really feel like anything is missing.
There’s a culture of surfing and bodyboarding in this part of the country and so the clothes shops in Croyde cater mainly for this market. If colourful shorts, t shirts, hoodies, and flip flops are your kind of thing, then bring extra cash and stock up while you’re here. Even during the evenings when visiting the pubs and restaurants, the dress-code doesn’t seem to change all that much. It’s certainly a very laid-back approach, and is a very welcome change to how things are back home.
My favourite two places to visit in the evenings for food and drinks were Blue Groove and The Thatch.
Blue Groove has a very modern and light decor which serves some incredible food; the Caribbean lamb curry was sublime. It has a very open and welcome feeling at any time of day, and the staff are beyond just being friendly; they genuinely seem to give a damn, and that is a priceless attribute. It’s also a fantastic place to sit outside of and watch the world go by with a cup of coffee.
The Thatch is a really pretty pub and restaurant with accommodation also available. It’s wonderfully cosy and has a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere, with regular live music also on the cards. They serve some great beer and while on my most recent stay I also managed to get introduced to an incredible whisky that I’d never come across before; Lagavulin. There were other places to grab a drink in Croyde, but in all honesty The Thatch gave me all I needed and so I never really ventured beyond it.
During the daytime, well, the order of the day is to hit the beach. Croyde is able to offer a delightful stretch of powdery sand which is neither too big nor too small, and is always clean and full of life. I’ve never really been big into water or beach sports, but this time I did have a go at bodyboarding which was awesome fun. I didn’t quite understand what I was doing, but when you’re having fun that doesn’t always matter. However when I did manage to catch a sweet wave (and I admit it was more by pure luck rather than judgement) it was a great feeling and I certainly enjoyed my time in the water.
Devon and Cornwall are always a joy to visit, and it very often feels like being in another country entirely. Once you’ve taken the M5 as far as you can go, there are no more motorways, and only a smattering of ‘A’ roads. The rest of the time you’re creeping through country roads, which can very often be an adventure in themselves. The landscape is picturesque, with lush green hills and fields surrounding you. The food is fantastic, the beer is great, the pace is slower, and the people are wonderful.
This year was actually my second time visiting Croyde, and while I’d already been impressed the first time round, this second time actually surpassed my already-very-high expectations. It’s a place where I always feel at home, where I always feel welcome, and where I very much feel like it’s a place that I could return to again and again. And that doesn’t happen very often.
If a busy seaside town catering for pub crawls and fish and chip connoisseurs is your kind of thing, then Croyde really isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a quiet place to just cut off, kick back, and live the Jack Johnson lifestyle, then it’s definitely worth checking out.
Only don’t tell too many people about it, because I’d really like to be selfish and keep this place all to myself.
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