CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Stepping out in... Sidmouth, Devon

PUBLISHED: 11:52 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 17:40 20 February 2013

Stepping out in... Sidmouth, Devon

Stepping out in... Sidmouth, Devon

Anna Turns gets her bearings in sunny Sidmouth Photos by Martyn Norsworthy

Sidmouth lies between the dominating red cliffs along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the South West Coast Path, which owe their colour to the presence of iron. On first arrival to the town, the sound of the crashing waves washing on the pebbles makes a lasting first impression, as the sea water looks red-brown where it mixes with the red soil.



Sidmouth is a great spot for some serious people-watching. A stroll past the striped deckchairs along the promenade will clear away any cobwebs, for sure.



Getting your bearings



A great way to get a feel for the town is the free Hopper bus service put on by the Sidmouth Town Council and various local businesses. The bus runs from the Triangle in the town centre, up to Salcombe Hill and then comes back along the seafront to Peak Hill Ridge. Jim Tucker, who drives the bus, even helps some of the older locals across the road!



Why visit now?



August in Sidmouth is folk central, with its popular annual folk festival. For one week, the town fills with morris men, clog dancers, folk singers and musicians. While the sun is shining, the walking possibilities are endless, and you could always try a dip in the ocean for some good old-fashioned sea bathing! And year round, theres a club to suit all ages, from scuba-diving to croquet.




To the East



This year, the Hopper bus is stopping for the first time at the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary, just a couple of miles outside of town on the east side up Salcombe Hill, with its peaceful location and breathtaking views over the fields and down to the sea. Its free to wander around and see the rescued donkeys, of which there are many, and this charity is a great testament to Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE who, in 1969, rescued seven poor donkeys crammed into one pen. Today, the charity is international, and over 12,500 donkeys have been rescued in the UK and Ireland alone.



One lady who has a particular passion for the donkeys is Pat Whiting, who recently made a special visit to the Sidmouth-based Donkey Sanctuary to donate 44 knitted donkeys, beautifully crafted in all shapes and sizes, which the charity will sell to raise funds for its worldwide work.



For a scenic walk, try the coast path route accessed from the Norman Lockyer Observatory on Salcombe Hill. This site is also a fascinating stop-off in its own right, as it is one of the few public access observatories in the country, and thousands of people gather in the grounds on open days. Named after the well-known British astronomer, the observatory was built here in 1912 and houses many historical instruments including the worlds smallest telescope in daily use.



Dont miss



If people-watching is a favourite past-time then caf culture will be right up your street. Try the stylish Blinis on York Street for a decent cappuccino, or Dukes by the seafront for delicious al fresco dining. The caf in Connaught Gardens is a favourite with everyone, with a delightful setting on the clifftop in immaculately kept gardens. There is plenty of choice in town when it comes to ice creams too.



For shopping, Sidmouth market has lots of fresh local produce to tempt you. Across the street, Fields of Sidmouth is a must. One of the few family-owned independent department stores left in the country, Fields is well stocked and has been going since 1953. Other independent shops can be found selling anything from African art to unique handmade jewellery, and Flo and Us is a great little centre for holistic therapies. For evening entertainment theres the art deco cinema as well as the Manor Pavilion Theatre.



To the West



On the other side of town, the green flag Connaught Gardens is a lovely viewpoint, with the caf in the fort and the distinctive white Jacobs Ladder leading down to beach.



Along the verge, just above Connaught Gardens, the lawn is left long and wild as its home to some rare purple wild orchids. Another wildlife hotspot is Mutters Moor at the top of Peak Hill, where rare birds such as nightjars and hobbys are known to breed, so be careful not to stray from the footpaths.



This coastline was extremely popular with smugglers, especially those smuggling French brandy. John Mutter, from one of the local smuggling families, made the fatal mistake of whistleblowing to the customs officers. Legend goes he was murdered by his family and his body parts were buried across Mutters Moor, hence the name.




Enjoy the view



Along Peak Hill, the 1830s cottages are delightful, although many years ago the cottages were a lot further from the sea, and the coast has eroded so much that one cottage stands only 8ft away from the cliff. At The Gazebo at Peak Hill theres a boulder with a plaque in memory of author RF Delderfield, who lived in several homes in Sidmouth during his lifetime. And from here you can walk west to the village of Otterton, where there is an artisan bread mill, and then continue along the flat to Budleigh Salterton.


Getting there...


By road: Take the A3052 from Exeter to Sidmouth.


By bus: Regular buses run from Exeter bus station to Sidmouth. Call Traveline on 0870 6082608. The Sidmouth Hopper is a free bus service in town, which runs throughout the summer until the end of September. Main bus stop at the Triangle in Sidmouth town centre.



By train: Nearest station Exeter St Davids



Sidmouth Tourist Information Centre: Ham Lane, Sidmouth. 01395 516441



Sat Nav Ref: EX10 8XR


0 comments

More from Out & About

Tue, 11:06

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Away from the hustle of places like Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, North Devon is peppered with tiny coves, empty beaches and wooded walks leading to secluded bays that feel a million miles away from the tourist trail. BECKY DICKINSON reveals her pick of the best kept secrets on the North Devon coast

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

As part of her regular series where she visits Devon’s best places for 24 hours, Lydia Tewkesbury has this time been to Sidmouth

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ranging from rocky and windy walkways along the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches on the picturesque coastline, the district of North Devon is one of the prettiest coastal areas in the South West of England. In no particular order, here are 10 of the prettiest villages in the district of North Devon

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In Devon’s towns and cities there’s an awful lot you can do in just 24 hours. For her regular feature, Lydia Tewkesbury travels to see what you can do in a day in Kingsbridge

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dust off your walking shoes and head to South Devon – here are 6 reasons why the area is so good for a stroll writes Victoria Rogers

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

There is something quite life-enriching about being by the water and in Devon there are plenty of ways to enjoy it, writes Fran McElhone. Including surfing, wild swimming, water skiing and more, here are 10 great ways to enjoy Devon’s water

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Encompassing large swathes of Dartmoor and plenty of the county’s most distinctive sections of coastline, it’s no wonder that the South Hams district is home to some of Devon’s prettiest places. We pick out 10 of the best towns and villages the area has to offer

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Devon is as beautiful underwater as it is above. Chrissy Harris highlights the best places to discover our county’s hidden depths… Here are 6 great places for crabbing, rockpooling and diving

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search