A stylish new apart-hotel overlooking one of Britain's premier surf spots..
Chalet Saunton was a long time in the making. Over ten years, in fact – or at least that’s how long the local council blocked the owner’s attempts to make anything of the site. Eventually released from planning purgatory by more enlightened minds, the newly minted apart-hotel is well worth the wait. Standing on a low cliff overlooking North Devon’s Saunton Sands, the chalet-style property is divided into six spacious three-bed apartments and a two-bed penthouse suite, each of which looks out over lawned gardens to the breathtaking beach below. Interiors are pale, uncluttered and stylishly minimal – though the huge family bathroom does nod to opulence with its marble mosaic tiles and gleaming fittings. The oceanic splendour of the Devon coast seems to sit beside you in the living room, or in the roll-top bath beside the master bedroom window.
Take a deep breath before you arrive at Chalet Saunton, because you’ll be positively winded by the panorama that awaits. Saunton Sands is three miles of golden beach washed by the Atlantic and bounded by Britain’s most extensive dune system. On a sunny day or as the maritime night creeps across the sand, it’s the most jaw-dropping view I’ve encountered in England. The chalet’s current owner used to live here – the hotel is built on the site of his childhood home – and you find yourself wondering how he could bear to give it up, even partially. Sitting on a rattan chair on the apartment balcony, watching the tiny shapes of swimmers and surfers come and go on the beach below, you can’t help but be astonished that England still possesses beauty of such purity and on such a mesmerising scale.
WHAT TO DO
This corner of Devon is all about surfing, though walkers, wild-swimmers and sandcastle-architects will find it equally rich in pleasures. Saunton Sands is a great beach for board beginners; we took very enjoyable (and surprisingly fruitful) lessons from Walking on Waves, one of the surf schools situated on the beach directly below Chalet Saunton. And for hardened land-lubbers? The sun-dappled joys of Exmoor are a short drive away.
Saunton Sands lies a few minutes west of Braunton, a small town blessed with all you need – from surf shops and supermarkets to delis and pharmacies. Five minutes up the coast road is Croyde, another surfer’s paradise with a famously consistent break in its small bay and a brilliant deli-cum-coffee shop in the village centre. The Kings Arms in Georgeham, a few minutes beyond Croyde, was recommended to us as the best place to eat within easy reach of the chalet.
A stay at Chalet Saunton costs from £350 per night for a three-bedroom apartment (sleeps six) on a self-catering basis. This includes a welcome hamper of local produce and amenities by British organic skincare brand ilapothecary.