Sidmouth, United Kingdom

Sidmouth’s popularity swelled like its beach-caressing tides in the Regency and Georgian eras; their genteel charm lives on in the town’s graceful esplanade and ice-cream-coloured town houses. However, the former fishing village’s most picturesque parts – namely its cliff-backed beaches – along the Jurassic Coast look as wild and wonderful as they did 185 million years ago. This World Heritage site has been naturally sculpted by the River Sid, and visitors can admire its handiwork from the modern Millennium Walkway, or from Jacob’s Ladder Beach (the eponymous ladder isn’t as rickety as its name would suggest). The dedicated can plot a route along the South West Coast Path to Ladram Bay (around an hour’s walk); the decadent can climb to the scone-topped summits of the cake tiers in Sidmouth’s array of cafés. Don’t stay in a cream-infused daze for too long; concerts in Connaught Gardens, and theatre and folk festivals liven up proceedings and the Norman Lockyer Observatory guarantees you’ll see stars from its sci fi-esque dome.

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When to go

British summertime, when the weather is fine (sometimes), is at its sunniest from June to August, but it’s worth arriving with a back-up brolly in May to score quieter sands. Sidmouth Folk Week kicks off in early April.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Exeter Airport (www.exeter-airport.co.uk) is a 20-minute drive from Sidmouth. Skybus services fly here from various destinations in the south-west of the UK; Flybe has arrivals from major European cities.
  • Trains

    Honiton rail station is a 20-minute drive from Sidmouth. Great Western trains (www.gwr.com) arrive from London; there are direct routes from Waterloo (around a three-hour journey), but the train from Paddington takes two-and-a-half hours; from Exeter St Davids, Honiton is half an hour by train.
  • Automobiles

    From Exeter, Sidmouth’s a half-hour drive. If you’re arriving from a northerly direction, leave the A30 just after Honiton and follow signs to Sidmouth.