A recent all-too-brief trip to Devon saw me fall in love with a beautiful cove. It hid behind lush green hills on the approach, and sat between brooding rocky outcrops when viewed from the rumbling ocean that keeps fishing and tourism alive and kicking… I give you Hope Cove.
The jolly down south centred around a reunion with an old friend, Toby. Nearly three years ago he took the plunge and uprooted from Cheshire to start afresh and fulfil an ambition that many of us have only dreamt about – to run a bar/restaurant on the coast.
We arrived late afternoon. The final miles were a cat-and-mouse challenge as cars, vans and the occasional lorry jostled for precious space along lanes more suited to horse and cart. But when the cove came into view as we finally slipped into the village, there was a sense of space, time seemed to slow and a sea breeze filled our lungs.
Hope Cove itself has a rich history of smuggling, ship wrecks and fishing. It even hosted cast and crew when the 1985 cult British film “The Supergrass” was filmed there in the mid-1980s. And yet, despite a few years in the county as a teenager at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth during that era, the quaint seaside town never appeared on my radar.
Now it’s all about the tourism trade. Countless reviews online (all positive), inviting photos and enticing tweets paint an alluring picture. And what a masterpiece it has become.
For us it was a series of romantic seaside pleasures as we stepped out to explore our home for three days. Delicate pastel colours adorned walls, fishing boats and dinghies lolled on the sands awaiting the next tide, kids dashed through surf towards rock pools armed with nets and hopeful smiles, and the delicious waft of early evening meals slowly cooking filled the air.
There was soft sand, pebbles, waters turbulent enough for water sport enthusiasts, and benches dotted all around for those who craved nothing more than the chance to stop and stare.
And then the handshake and brief hug as I met up with my old friend. It had been a while. But with a gorgeous pint of “Cwtch” (Welsh Red Ale) in hand, and food ordered, the conversation was easy as we chewed the fat and reminisced about old times back in Crewe.
The bar bustled, orders flew out to tables indoor and out, the darkness fell and the café bar and surrounding area was lit up by candle and fairy lights. Magic.
My mate’s business, The Cove, felt like a pair of comfy slippers. A raft of craft beers, wines, coffees and home-made foodie favourites gave it a country kitchen feel, but uber-cool touches, stylish fittings and a clever playlist set a hipster tone.
Locals mixed with strangers, staff welcomed passers-by and customers alike, and even the dogs enjoyed a bowl of water and their own menu! Chilled-out somehow doesn’t do it justice.
We dropped by the bar several times over a few relaxed days, supped coffees at other cafes along the coast, enjoyed ice-cream, cake and scones – the usual delicious Devon trappings. Walks through countryside and along winding coastal paths provided stunning scenery, peace and the occasional friendly exchange with other smitten visitors. Oh, and the camera was rarely out of hand!
There were views aplenty, all demanding attention. From high up above the cove, the tumble of houses could be seen clinging precariously to the hillside. Thatched cottages sat alongside new-build (but subtle) holiday homes, a church, lifeboat launch, lobster pots, panting dogs enjoying their freedom, and people going about their coastal business. Life trickled by at an irresistibly steady pace.
I revisited old haunts in Dartmouth, supped coffee in sublime artisan cafes in Salcombe, and browsed art galleries and craft shops in Kingsbridge. But it was Hope Cove that kept calling. It gets a hold on you. Simple, honest, inviting, warm, friendly, safe, fascinating and somewhat secret. It had it all without a hint of holiday town wear and tear to be seen. It was authentic, lived in and, well, perfect.
One day, perhaps in a cute VW Camper Van when time permits, I’ll chance those winding roads again to enjoy the subtle charms of Hope Cover once more…