Devon is often said to be Britain’s favourite county with good reason, there are plenty of hidden delights well off the tourist trail in our part of the world. We’ve picked out three of our favourite fishing villages in Devon which, while popular with locals and holidaymakers ‘in the know’, have kept their traditional charm and secluded, tranquil feel.
A quaint harbour village in the wooded valley of the Dart
Dittisham is one of the most idyllic fishing villages in Devon, instantly recognisable from picture postcards and holiday snaps taken from the sparkling waters of the River Dart. It sits around three miles from the Estuary at Dartmouth and some seven miles from Totnes. The village, known as ‘Ditsum’ by locals, has seen Viking raiders, medieval wine traders, fishing boats of all eras, paddle steamers and World War II landing craft either pass by or land on its shore. Luckily, the record suggests that the continental wine traders often unloaded at the village, whereas the Vikings longboats only seemed to have sailed on by in search of richer pickings upstream!
These days the most common sights on this stunning stretch of the River Dart are passenger ferries, yachts and pleasure boats rented from Dartmouth Boat Hire. Viewed from the water, he village’s cluster of colourful buildings, set against the steep green slopes of the Dart Valley, is one of South Devon’s most delightful sights. The views looking out over the river are similarly beautiful.
As one of the more secluded fishing villages in Devon, locals and visitors love Ditsum for its tranquillity, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a lot going on there. The Ferry Boat Inn, or FBI to locals, is a traditional pub that’s instantly recognisable for the pink building that houses it. Locals and holidaymakers make merry together in the FBI so it’s the place to go for a true flavour of community life, as well as its excellent menu. The Red Lion Inn, which has been operating since 1750, is the other pub in the village and has a similar community focus. It houses the local shop and Post Office as well as being a restaurant and pub, and serves a great range of local ales.
As regular visitors to our county would expect from most fishing villages in Devon, Dittisham offers no shortage of options to satisfy seafood lovers. The Anchorstone Café, just a stone’s throw from the FBI on the water’s edge, is renowned for its fish and shellfish dishes as well as other locally-sourced cuisine. If the sound of Start Bay crab, Elberry Cove mussels, lobster salad, local hand-dived scallops, Poole Farm pork pies and Sharpham cheese takes your fancy, you know where to head on your next holiday!
On the other hand, there’s a lot more to this village than delicacies and drink. Enjoy a river cruise to Dartmouth or Totnes, which are both beautiful medieval towns boasting a wide range of attractions. Alternatively, a shorter hop over the river will take you to Greenway Quay, the edge of the estate owned by the late Dame Agatha Christie. A visit to Greenway House and Gardens, now owned by the National Trust, is simply a must for anyone staying in South Devon.
Crabbing is another popular pastime in Ditsum, especially for families with young children. Kids can spend hours filling their buckets as you enjoy the scenery and atmosphere. Not many fishing villages in Devon can offer the variety of angling to be enjoyed here either – there’s plenty of good fishing on this stretch of the Dart, with flat fish, rays and the occasional bass landed at various marks. Boat trips from nearby Dartmouth are another way to get your fishing fix whilst on holiday here.
On the Quay, just a few short steps from the Anchorstone Café and the FBI you’ll find Berry Cottage, a beautifully presented Grade II listed waterfront holiday home. Luxurious yet cosy, this two-storey former fisherman’s cottage offers unbeatable views of the River Dart from the sitting room, master bedroom, and quayside ‘terrace’. Discover Berry Cottage here and start planning your holiday!
A hideaway for fishing, fine dining and fun with the family
Another of our favourite fishing villages in Devon is Beesands, a popular, yet unspoilt settlement in Start Bay, with its mile-long shingle beach that makes it a mecca for sailors and windsurfers. This is one of a dwindling number of fishing villages in Devon where commercial fishing, in this case for crab and lobster, is still a major part of the local economy, Therefore, whilst the village caters well for tourists, it has still retained a traditional, working feel.
The village itself was inhabited fairly late, probably because its exposed location made any settlements vulnerable to pirate raids. A handful of dwellings emerged in the 18th Century and now around 100 people call the village home.
Beesands may be the smallest entry on our list of top fishing villages in South Devon, but it might just have the most impressive claim to fame: Keith Richards’ family were regular visitors when the legendary guitarist was just a teenager – Richards and Mick Jagger even performed in the Cricket Inn as a duo in their first ever public performance!
You don’t need to be a Rolling Stones fan to appreciate the Cricket Inn, which is now renowned for the quality of its food. Everything is made from scratch and as much as possible is sourced locally. Dogs are welcome in the bar area where food can also be ordered, so there’s no need for Fido to miss out.
Almost all bases are covered at the nearby Britannia @ The Beach, with its combined role as a fishmonger, village shop, takeaway and café. The shaded outdoor eating area is the perfect spot to enjoy the view out to sea in the summer while you take a break from the beach. The hugely varied menu means that nobody should leave the village with an empty stomach, and well-behaved dogs are also welcome. Dogs are also permitted on the beach all year round, so it’s an excellent option for holidaymakers with four-legged friends.
25 metres from the Cricket Inn, you’ll find Arnold House, a three-bedroom cottage with sea views to the front and a well-equipped private sun terrace/courtyard at the back. Situated on the South West Coastal Path, it’s a great spot for hikers as well as anglers, sun-seekers and anyone looking for tranquillity on holiday. Explore more of what Arnold House has to offer here.
From a smuggler’s haunt to a sailors’ jaunt
The next on our list of fishing villages in Devon is the wonderful Hope Cove. The twin settlements of Inner and Outer Hope sit conveniently about five miles from both Salcombe and Kingsbridge, which makes this seaside village an ideal base for a holiday. The village’s long-earned reputation as centre of smuggling lives on in its evocative atmosphere. Its recorded history began in the 13th Century, and for most of its life it has relied primarily on fishing – albeit supplemented with some less respectable maritime activities!
These days, most of its economy is based on attracting tourists with its combination of stunning scenery, sailing opportunities and a remarkable range of pubs and eateries. Amongst the best on offer are:
- The Hope and Anchor, which is the place to go for traditional hearty ‘pub grub’ as well as excellent breakfasts for early-rising visitors. Sit outside on sunny days to soak up the scenery and ambience.
- The Cove, with a menu that includes pub classics and plenty of seafood, filling breakfast options and a wide range of pizzas. There’s also live music including regular open mic nights.
- The Sun Bay Restaurant and Bar, which boasts sumptuous views of the cove and a friendly casual atmosphere. Whether you’re looking for a fireside lunch in the winter or an al fresco dinner in the summer, it’s well worth considering a visit to Sun Bay.
Despite the village’s compact size, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the venue for your next meal.
Hope Cove’s larger beach, frequented by sandcastle builders and boating enthusiasts alike, welcomes dogs on leads all year round, but the smaller cove permits them only between October and April. For lovers of the great outdoors, there are rockpools to explore, good spots for fishing and access to the South West Coast Path. Find out more about the two Hope Cove beaches here.
Quay Cottage is a cosy two-bedroom holiday lodge in the heart of the village, just a few yards from the beach and all that the village has to offer. Enjoy stunning sea views, particularly from the living room and master bedroom, and make the most of the level garden and terrace area, complete with picnic bench. Take a look at Quay Cottage in more depth here.
Considering one of these Fishing villages in Devon for your next holiday?
We’ve mentioned just three fishing villages in Devon where Coast & Country Cottages can provide you with luxury holiday accommodation to suit all party sizes and requirements. Our locally based team can advise you on which of our over-400 luxury holiday homes in South Devon will suit you best, so please do not hesitate to call us on 01548 843773 or browse our full property listings.
If you’re interested in casting out a couple of times whilst on holiday here, take a look at our at-a-glance guide to fishing in South Devon for information about where to fish and the best places to pick up bait and tackle.