A couple of months ago, I was asked to recommend somewhere for a half term holiday. The brief, from Dad-of-two Steve Clift, read as follows: “need massive indoor swimming pool to entertain/exhaust young kids, nice food, rain plan and low hassle. Am thinking UK as can’t be chored to fly. Please help!”
My recommendation to Steve was the Soar Mill Cove Hotel, Salcombe. A risk, as I had not been myself. But I’d come across in previous holiday research and on paper (well, online) it seemed to tick the boxes. Well, Steve’s back and here’s what he has to say.
Great place. The location is absolutely stunning. Uninterrupted view of an idyllic cove, with only a short walk to get to a truly beautiful and secluded beach. I would imagine it is less secluded in the summer, and that part of Devon with its single-track roads would quickly become a nightmare. But going at this time of year it wasn’t a problem at all. Neither did it feel deserted, which was nice.
The staff in the hotel are wonderfully welcoming, and you get a very strong feeling that it is genuine, rather than because the owner told them to be or because they went on a welcoming course. The rooms are clean and bright, not palatial but perfectly OK. The pool is tiny – which suited us fine (3 year old non swimmer and a 5 year old who is Olympic standard in his head). The dining areas and hallways were a bit tired, but I understand they and the swimming pool are set for a refurb this Feb. The hotel has an absolutely wonderful lounge area with big squashy sofas and a picture window onto the main view, which was fantastic for chilling out with kids post swimming pool exhaustion.
There aren’t that many specific facilities to differentiate it from a non kid-friendly hotel (small games annexe with pool table but a bit of an afterthought, no designated childminding arrangements, though babysitting can be organised). However, the one thing which did it for us was the attitude – your kids are genuinely welcome. Staff remember their names and play with them rather than allowing any shrift to the tutting older generation. Brochures just can’t convey that.
The only real minus point was the food. Good, don’t get me wrong, but priced and positioned as gourmet, and wasn’t quite up to that. A week of the menu is fine, but I often found myself craving the extremes – either a full-on celebration dinner with a price tag to match, or a simple sandwich which doesn’t cost £11. Breakfast was great – very generous and involved a lot of local produce.
If food is a big factor in your holiday choice, go to Italy. If you want more challenging, designated facilities for older kids go to Centre Parks or Mark Warner. If you want a chilled out week in a beautiful part of our own country, with people who welcome you as a family rather than shunning the noisy new generation, go here.
We spent 2½ grand on a week for 4, plus a few evening meals out as extra. Not cheap by any measure, but very reasonable (off-season) accommodation costs offset the food prices and the relaxed family time was worth every penny.