UK staycations: relax off-grid in Bantham, the Devon village with no phone reception

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“I want to know where you can go where there’s no wifi and you can’t use your phone the whole time,” Claudia told us during our editorial meeting. As instructed, Stylist contributor Francesca Babb brings Bantham in Devon into our wifi-less view.     

Back in 2014, the South Devon coastal village of Bantham went up for sale. Yes. For a mere £11.5million, you, too, could own an actual village. A beach! 20 thatched cottages! A village shop! And 728 acres of land! To be honest, if I had a few million sat in my bank account, I would have snapped it up. But I don’t, so it was up to someone else to buy it, enabling the rest of us to settle for the most perfect off-grid British holiday here instead.

Driving down the single-track road into the village, 4G dissolving to not a single bar of reception (there really is no reception here. None), you’ll catch your first sight of the sea. The beach is primarily what draws people to Bantham: a huge expanse of sand and rock pools nestled behind stretches of rolling dunes; Britain at its most unbroken. Precariously balanced houses peer down from the surrounding cliffs, toward Burgh Island, whose iconic art deco hotel makes you feel like you’re in an episode of Poirot (Agatha Christie did a lot of her writing here) and the waves of the Atlantic make it a surfer’s paradise. Bantham Surfing Academy sets up shop during the tourist season to rent wetsuits, boards (of the surf and paddle variety) or you can book in for a lesson if the beach’s slightly fearsome rip tide feels a bit too intimidating to ride solo.

The Old Boathouse in Bantham
The Old Boathouse in Bantham: you can Instagram it when you get home

After braving the waves, stop by the Gastrobus – a converted blue vintage Citroen van that pulls up at weekends and holidays to serve Cornish coffee, homemade burgers and local ice cream. Then head past the row of white thatched cottages to the village’s one pub, The Sloop Inn, a 14th century gem serving locally sourced food (a fish pie the size of your head is of particular note) and beer from nearby brewers. Final stop? Down the lane to the boathouse for some crabbing in a spot so idyllic you’ll think Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant are going to appear around the corner any minute with a film crew and some fake snow.

If you like a hike and want to put those Grensons to the test, the eight-mile round trip from Bantham to Hope Cove is an Instagram dream: heavenly views of the sea, with Hope Cove’s pastel cottages, pubs and lobster pots welcoming you at the other end. Stop off at the Beachhouse on your way back, a tiny hut at South Milton Sands serving seafood and simple but delicious dishes with a view out over Thurlestone Rock; best enjoyed when the sun is setting. If you prefer your feet up, as opposed to out, go over the headland to Thurlestone instead for a drink at The Village Inn, or a cream tea and a massage at the Thurlestone Hotel.

Greenway House – Christie’s holiday home, now owned and run by the National Trust – is an hour’s drive from Bantham but worth it for the best views down over the Dart Estuary, and the sort of gardens that will have you hankering for a window box. From the property’s bucolic boathouse, you can get the ferry over to Dartmouth, a little harbour town especially sweet on the fourth Saturday of the month when its artisan market invites craft makers from surrounding towns and villages to sell their wares.

oyster shack bigbury
For seafood as fresh as it gets, head to the oyster shack in bigbury

The sober curious among you be warned: booze is a big deal down in these parts. As well as Devon ales, nearby Salcombe is home to the Salcombe Distillery and Gin School, and Sharpham Vineyard in Ashprington offers wine- and cheese-tasting tours, which are delightful once you’ve decided on a designated driver. This may be a repeated theme throughout your break as the buses aren’t great and the closest train is 40 minutes away in Totnes, a brilliantly hippy little town with a thriving coffee culture; The Hairy Barista is well worth a visit if you’re missing your oat milk cappuccinos. 

For food, the South Hams, where Bantham resides, is increasingly spoilt for choice. The Oyster Shack in Bigbury is the place for fresh seafood (order the lobster thermidor; particularly good with sweet potato fries), while Twenty Seven by Jamie Rogers over in Kingsbridge is helmed by a MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist and includes a vegan tasting menu option; a rarity in an area where fish and chips and juicy steaks usually reign supreme. For an insider tip, it’s also worth following @wearewildartichokes on Instagram. Headed up by chef Jane Baxter and event organiser Samantha Miller, their pop-up nights are legendary among both locals and non. Even Ottolenghi is a fan.

With so many blissful exteriors, interiors here are straightforward with simple self-catering options and a few available rooms at The Sloop. For something more special, head out past the market town of Kingsbridge (also home to your closest supermarket) and rent the ridiculously beautiful, 16th-century Maberly, with a total of seven dreamily decorated bedrooms. Also teetering at the top of a cliff near Salcombe, is the very special Gara Rock Hotel (40 minutes’ drive from Bantham) and its recently opened Secret Suite, situated up a winding path away from the rest of the rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows from which you can’t see a soul. Gara Rock – the lunch spot for walkers – also has its own screening room showing five films a day, a spa, and both an indoor and outdoor pool for some R&R between your pasties and scones. Yes, there’s wifi here, but hopefully by this point you’ll have already lost your phone in the sea. And breathe…

Rooms at Gara Rock start from £150 per night. Book online at gararock.com or call 01548 845 946

Images: Gara Rock Hotel, Getty Images

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