As well as ivy-clad turrets and excellent food there’s one thing Glenapp Castle has plenty of: fresh air. It sits in 36 acres of grounds, all detailed for guests in a beautifully illustrated map. We spent hours watching birds in the Victorian walled garden, keeping quiet in the red squirrel play area, sniffing the candy floss scent of Katsura trees – and chasing the path of a gurgling stream through a wooded glen, rich with deer and the tallest fir trees in Britain.
And for lunch? Let the team pack you a bespoke picnic, eaten by the azalea pond with a background view of Glenapp Castle’s sandstone battlements. Or walk a little further, beyond the estate to the Stinchar Valley, and have them meet you half-way with hot soup and crusty bread… they won’t even judge you if you ask for a lift back (we did!).
Double rooms from £295, b&b (glenappcastle.com)
Staying at Tom’s Cottage in foodie Porthleven means you are both on one of the most beautiful parts of the South West Coast Path and in prime cream tea, pasty and fish and chips territory. Fortunately the harbor-side house is one of Beach Retreats’ hideaways, which means we could get some balance with the help of the company’s specially commissioned running routes: a sharp left out of town took us on a stunning seafront run (you could also walk it) down to Loe Bar and around the creek and forest.
The town’s culinary credentials means eating out is a highlight of staying here but if you’re too tired to stumble more than a few steps after a particularly taxing workout, Beach Retreats has also partnered with The Mindful Chef; guests get 25% off a healthy meal box, where local ingredients (including organic beef from Dartmoor and fish from St Ives) and a recipe can be delivered to the door for you to cook up at home. If you’ve got more time to spend exploring Cornwall, why not check out some of our other favourite seaside cafés and restaurants here?
Cottage sleeps 2, from £329 per week (beachretreats.co.uk)
Booking through Cyclexperience, a specialist hire company, we linked together two of its suggested Sat Nav-aided routes. In this case two circular itineraries that began and ended at Brockenhurst train station and, over two days, led us through spectacular, off-the-beaten-track forest cycle paths (no chance of getting lost with that Sat Nav) via a glut of culinary pitstops.
Among the highlights were scoops of New Forest ginger ice cream, a lunch of meatballs made with wild boar mince at the genteel Master Builders hotel and supper at the Montagu Arms’ Michelin-starred Terrace restaurant. It’s unlikely that all our bike rides this year will end with plates of delicate golden scallops, and south coast turbot with wild mushrooms and creamy pearl barley. We’re starting as we mean to go on, though.
Bike, helmet & Sat Nav hire from £17 per day (newforestcyclehire.co.uk).
Babbacombe is the kind of place Agatha Christie might have sent a recuperating character to: there’s Devon sunshine, blue seas, charming Oddicombe beach made for long walks and even an art deco funicular railway linking the beach to Babbacombe’s pretty clifftop green.
The Cary Arms, right above the beach, dates back to the 1800s and feels custom-designed to embrace the view. Hotel bedrooms have a fresh, coastal feel, or rent one of the adjoining blue-and-white fisherman’s cottages with their log fires and fancy bathrooms. Back at the main building, get some fresh air on the outside terraces or make the most of the log fire inside at a seawards-pointing table.
For breakfast, try grilled kippers or the Devon full English, for lunch a succulent local white crab meat and lemon mayonnaise bloomer. Dinner centres around fish – pick one of the chef’s specials for the freshest catch, delicately poached John Dory with basil pesto and seasonal vegetables, perhaps, or Lyme Bay lobster. The wine list is extensive and each week the De Savary family (the inn’s owners) choose a different house white and red.
Double rooms at The Cary Arms start from £195, b&b (caryarms.co.uk)
Whether in bright sunshine or under dishwater skies, Wales’ west coastline always seems picture-perfect. For walkers and dog-owners there are miles of wind-whipped sand and dunes to wander and, directly behind the village, rolling green hills. Aberdovey, a picturesque estuary village, itself is a creative little place, with art galleries, cafés and a deli.
For a mixed generation get-together, book one of the handful of cottages at the Trefeddian Hotel. A classic family-friendly retreat (complete with games room and swimming pool) with a bit of old-fashioned grandeur, it’s in a quiet position just outside the village, separated from the sand dunes by a golf course.
Aberdovey has a fish restaurant, pubs and a decent fish and chip shop, but it’s worth booking a table at the Salt Marsh Kitchen in neighbouring Tywyn. This small bistro is particularly good on fish and local meat; check the specials board for adeptly cooked scallops, hake or bouillabaisse. If you really don’t want to step outside, hunker down at the Trefeddian with a Welsh afternoon tea: buttered bara brith, homemade Welsh cakes and tea or coffee. Spending a bit longer in Wales? Take a look at our pick of the best restaurants.
Cottage rental at the Trefeddian Hotel starts from £285 per week for six (trefwales.com)