Soar Mill Cove Hotel
Last week, I started the long weekend early as I was invited to review the stunning Soar Mill Cove Hotel, a haven of luxury nestled in the South Hams, Devon. I took Mum with me to enjoy the sea air and a relaxing escape from London. We stayed for three days, exploring the beautiful countryside around the hotel and its nearest town, Salcombe, as well as getting plenty of R&R.
I had never been to Devon’s south coast before, and I was so impressed by its beautiful, rugged landscape. Spring was a perfect time to visit, as the apple trees were still in blossom, wisteria clambered over thatched country cottages, and blue tits were busy buildings nests in the nooks and crannies of the walls outside our hotel room. We were blessed with spectacular weather, and I got to dabble my toes in the sea, even though I couldn’t quite brave the cold waves for a swim!
A Family Run Business
A complimentary cream tea is offered to guests who book direct. We enjoyed ours in the lounge, looking out to the cove.
I was impressed by Soar Mill Cove Hotel even before my arrival in Devon, as I’d received such courteous and prompt emails from the reception team, arranging the details of my stay and booking my afternoon tea and spa appointments.
This warm hospitality was a key feature in making our stay at the hotel so special, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that Soar Mill Cove has been a family-run business for three generations. There is such a cosy, home-away-from-home feel to the place, and you’re made to feel welcome as soon you step across the threshold (even the friendly yellow Labrador behind the reception desk jumps up to say hello!).
Above photos: Soar Mill Cove Hotel Lounge
Although certainly luxurious, the hotel has a cosy, unpretentious atmosphere, and it’s clearly a favourite amongst locals, as well as visitors from farther afield. Guests regularly return again and again for the tranquil, comfortable environment (one couple who was there at the same time as us apparently stay at the hotel three times a year!).
Soar Mill Cove Bolly Bar
Soar Mill Cove Hotel is both dog and child friendly, making it an ideal family destination, but it’s also a brilliant choice for a romantic escape or for some solitary relaxation. I thought it the ideal atmosphere for a writing retreat, and once I finally get started on my novel, I would love to hole up at Soar Mill Cove for a week, writing in the mornings and heading out for refreshing walks in the afternoons. One can but dream!
Beyond the attentive service, it is of course the spectacular setting that draws so many loyal guests to Soar Mill Cove Hotel. Much of the surrounding landscape is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the stretch of coastline is renowned for its breathtaking views. The South West Coast Path is on the hotel’s doorstep, and there are many stunning walks to be had. I enjoyed clambering up the cliff path to admire the views, as well as making my way down to the cove, a 10 minute walk from the hotel, which I was often lucky enough to have to myself.
I was awed by the clear blue waters and loved watching the beautiful sailing boats that regularly glided across the horizon, their white sails standing tall and proud against the forget-me-not blue skies.
The local wildlife is spectacular too, and I got very excited when I was told that a herd of deer usually grazed on the slopes of the valley and sometimes wandered down to the beach. I looked out eagerly for any sign of deer, camera in hand, but sadly the photography Gods weren’t smiling on me to quite that extent, and I only saw sheep and cows clustered on the hills (still very picturesque!).
On one walk, though, a single deer startled me by suddenly leaping out of a bush and springing away, quick as a flash, so at least I got to glimpse one, even if I wasn’t fast enough with my camera!
Our Twin Bed Cove View Room
I was so thrilled by our room, which had a private patio and spectacular views of the cove. Mum and I loved sitting outside, or in the armchairs just inside, drinking tea, chatting and admiring the sea, which seemed constantly to change colour.
The room was spacious and exceedingly comfortable. It was useful to have a big desk to sit at, as well as the ample armchairs, and there was plenty of closet space with a large wardrobe and chest of drawers. WiFi was offered free of charge throughout the hotel, although it worked best in the lounge. It was very pleasant to disconnect and simply ‘be’ during our holiday, though!
We very much appreciated the big bathroom, too, with its spacious tub and shower. Lovely Molton Brown products were provided, and I delighted in having a piping hot bubble bath after muddy walks in the evenings!
The hotel offers a complimentary cream tea on arrival to guests who book direct through their website, which I thought was a lovely touch, and the homemade jams are to-die-for! We bought jars of jam (as well as mini bottles of homemade gin) as gifts for friends back in London. I’m looking forward to sharing them out soon!
On our second day, we decided to try the grander afternoon tea option, and I went for the Luxury Afternoon Tea, which came with a glass of champagne, whereas Mum chose the Salcombe Tea, which had a G&T made with gin from the local Salcombe Gin Distillery. Our teas were set up on one of the tables outside, so we could admire the view as we spread our clotted cream and tucked into crab sandwiches and dainty chocolate cakes. Everything was delicious, and I don’t think I’ve ever had afternoon tea in such lovely surroundings before!
Pre-Supper Walk in the Sunset
All the delicious food meant I was keen to get some exercise, and one evening before supper I climbed the hill to admire the glorious landscape, tinged golden and pink by the setting sun. It had been a bit overcast during the day, but in the evening the clouds cleared and the sun shone, promising a fine day to come.
It was a magical evening, and I felt a million miles from the minor worries and stresses of daily life in London.
The Hotel Restaurant
Both Mum and I looked forward to our supper at the hotel’s two AA Rosette restaurant, which is run by Head Chef Ian MacDonald. The restaurant menu features local specialities, such as Start Bay scallops and hand-picked Salcombe crab, and the majority of the seafood, fish and other fresh ingredients are sourced within a 9 mile radius of the hotel.
The restaurant space is light and airy, and we were pleased to get a table right by the window looking out to the cove. Mum and I decided to start with one each of the local specialities; dressed crab for Mum and scallops with slow cooked pork belly for me!
Both appetisers were fantastic; my scallops melted in the mouth, and I had a taste of the crab cocktail too, which was superb and incredibly fresh. Apparently, Salcombe crab is a little sweeter than other crab found along the south west coast in Dorset or Cornwall, and I highly recommend trying it if you’re ever in the area!
Being so close to the sea, we both decided to take advantage of the variety of local catches, and I ordered Hake with parmesan and herb crunch, spring onion creamed potatoes, rainbow chard and white wine butter sauce. It was delicious – I loved the tasty topping on the fish, and the sauce had a wonderful flavour. Mum went for a classic bouillabaisse, which she very much enjoyed too. Everything was washed down with glasses of prosecco to start, followed by a crisp and refreshing white wine.
I knew instantly what I wanted for pudding! Audrey Hepburn was apparently a fan of the hotel when it was first established, and she very much enjoyed the original Mrs Makepeace’s berry pavlova, pronouncing it ‘simply delightful’ (you can download the pavlova recipe here). Of course, I couldn’t resist ordering the pavlova myself, and entirely agreed with Audrey’s judgement! It was the perfect choice for a warm spring evening and a lovely end to my meal. Mum went for a lemon posset with shortbread biscuits and polished off every bite!
Breakfast in Bed
Despite all the good eating the day before, we thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast the next morning. Guests may dine in the restaurant, or ask for breakfast in bed. I decided to order ours to the room, so we could enjoy a relaxed morning before heading into Salcombe. Mum and I both went for the Full Devonshire: sausages, bacon, tomato, mushrooms and eggs (scrambled for me, poached for Mum). I always think a poached egg is a good test for a restaurant, and Mum’s arrived still piping hot and perfectly cooked.
We also had some croissants, warm from the oven and beautifully buttery on the inside and flakey outside. Pots of tea, grapefruit and orange juice, and some more of that gorgeous jam and Devonshire butter completed our meal. I think it was the best breakfast I’ve ever had!
The Hotel Spa and Salt Water Pool
On our final morning at Soar Mill Cove Hotel, I’d booked a treatment at the Discovery Spa. As I felt my skin had been somewhat ravaged by the extremely cold start to spring we’d had in London, I thought a hydrating facial would be a good idea, so I’d booked the Renewed Radiance Hydrating Mud Facial, which lasted an hour. It was utter bliss, and I felt a new woman after, with soft, glowing skin. Mum had booked a pedicure at the Spa and loved her treatment too. We both felt thoroughly pampered!
Another lovely feature of the hotel’s spa area was the saltwater pool, which is perfect for enjoying a swim when the sea is too cold.
Besides enjoying the local scenery and country walks, there’s lots to do in the area surrounding the Soar Mill Cove Hotel. Later in the week, I’ll be writing up a proper post about Salcombe, a charming fishing town near the hotel, so do check back for that, but I also wanted to list a few other suggestions for outings in the area.
Overbeck’s is the former home of the scientist and inventor, Otto Overbeck, and is now a National Trust property. There are stunning subtropical gardens that offer dazzling views of the cliffs and sea.
Another National Trust Property, Coleton Fishacre, sounds lovely for those who enjoy pretty gardens and Arts & Crafts style.
The small seaside village of Hope Cove is meant to be well worth a visit for its charming setting, and The Winking Prawn is a restaurant overlooking the beach just outside of the centre of Salcombe that lots of people recommended.
Soar Mill Cove Hotel, Devon – www.soarmillcove.co.uk
Room rates at Soar Mill Cove Hotel are from £199 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes breakfast. To book, please visit www.soarmillcove.co.uk, or call 01548 561566.
Note: My stay at The Soar Mill Cove Hotel was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.