Bright and breezy Sidmouth Harbour Hotel is an English manor house on the jaw-droppingly beautiful Jurassic coast in Devon. Spectacular sea views are enjoyed from your bed or table in the Upper Deck restaurant, via beachfront suites and the restaurant’s huge double-height windows. The decking-lined pool and its chic white sunloungers bring a touch of Miami flair to its cooler counterpart on this side of the Atlantic – but those prepared to brave the bracing British waters can stroll right down to the sea.
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A candle from the hotel’s own range of spa products
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm, but also flexible.
Double rooms from £122.50, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates include breakfast (freshly baked pastries, yoghurt, organic oats, cereals and juices).
Don’t miss the Devonshire tea, served with sea air on the terrace, or in the lounge, at 3.30pm daily. The hotel happily hosts seaside weddings – there’s room for up to 100 guests and a terrace supplies pictures with a beautiful bayside backdrop.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, parking and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, Nespresso coffee machine, kettle with a selection of teas, a minibar, free bottled water and White Company bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Keep watch over Lyme Bay in one of the sea-facing suites; opt for a Superior and you’ll have a balcony to admire it from, too. The Courtyard rooms are set away from the hotel in a separate two-storey building and might seem a little motel-like at first; don’t be fooled – they have all the breezy, beach-y charms of the main house.
There are two heated pools: a heated open-air pool with stylish sunloungers (open from July to September) for summertime swims in water that’s less chilly than the Channel, and a heated indoor pool in the spa. Both are family-friendly and welcome children from 8.30am to 10am, and 4.30pm to 6pm, daily.
The spoiling Harbour Spa offers all kinds of Espa-employing pampering, with facials, mani-pedis, pregnancy massages and body polishes, as well as options for children and men. There’s a gym, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, and steam room, and a sundeck by the pool to head to in a post-treatment trance.
Bring a fossil handbook for help identifying the archaeological relics strung along the coastline; and stylish swimwear for lounging on one of the white sunloungers around the pool.
The restaurant, bar and lounge are suitable for wheelchair access.
All ages welcome. Baby cots and extra beds can be added to certain room categories on request.
The Superior Double with Sea View and Balcony have space for a cot or extra bed.
Both pools are family-friendly, but only at certain times: 8.30am and 10am, and 4.30pm to 6pm.
Children are allowed in the restaurant and bar at all times. Highchair and Tommee Tippee bibs are available to borrow and the menu can be adapted to suit younger tastebuds. Staff will also happily froth up a babyccino or a create miniature ice-cream sundae.
No need to pack
Colouring books, bibs, travel cots and highchairs.
Bag a seat by the double-height windows for the best sea views with supper, or slump onto the cushion-strewn, camel-coloured banquette for added comfort.
Push the boat out with nautical navy and captain-worthy whites.
The Upper Deck Bar & Restaurant showcases the English Channel through vast windows. It has playful, sea-faring flourishes, such as hanging buoy-shaped lights and blue-glass candleholders. The chef champions British classics and regularly loots the fruits of the sea. Try various potted things (shrimps, crab, mackerel), the creamy cheesy soufflé with added oak-smoked haddock, salad Niçoise, Lyme Bay scallops or chargrilled pork and octopus. The menu’s predominately pescatarian but there’s a reassuringly carnivorous ‘cow and claret’ option on the menu: a Béarnaise-paired côte de boeuf for two, with thick-cut chips and the promised glass of plonk.
Order a vodka-enhanced rhubarb Bellini or a fragrant Bramley Smash and head out to the terrace for sundowners with a sea view. Sandwiches, salads and platters can be ordered here or in the lounge.
Breakfast is available from 7.30am to 10am during the week (8am to 11am at weekends). The restaurant serves food from noon right up until 9.30pm. The bar calls time at 11pm, but certain rooms have a free supply of gin and sherry to keep you going.
The bar’s menu can be transported by trolley to your room between noon and 9.30pm.
Sidmouth Harbour Hotel is on the south coast of Devon, between Lyme Regis and Exeter, in a spot of countryside so charming it’s recognised as an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The closest airport is Exeter (www.exeter-airport.co.uk), 10 miles away from the hotel by car; the drive should take around 25 minutes. Skybus services fly here from various destinations in the south west of the UK.
Honiton rail station is the nearest, a 20-minute drive away. 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 away by train.
From Exeter, the hotel’s a half-hour drive away. If you’re arriving from a northerly direction, leave the A30 just after Honiton and follow signs to Sidmouth. There’s free parking when you arrive.
Arrive via a Stuart Line Cruises ferry (www.stuartlinecruises.co.uk) from Exmouth if you want to get into the seafaring mood early – you’ll land directly onto the pebbled beach.
Worth getting out of bed for
Before you indulge in lashings of cream and yards of craft ale, the Jurassic Coast is on your doorstep and there are several ways to walk it, from the scenic (Sidmouth to Salcombe Hill) to the strenuous (Mutter’s Moor and the Lower Otter Valley). There’s even the annual Sidmouth Walking Festival in September paying homage to the art of ambling. In Sidmouth, improve your astronomy knowledge with a visit to the Norman Lockyer observatory or watch a film at the town’s art deco Scott Cinema. The hotel can help arrange evening cruises, kayaking along the coast or visits to the Donkey Sanctuary. Don’t miss a trip to cliff-backed Jacobs Ladder Beach, one of the biggest in the area and so-named for the series of wooden steps leading to it.
An outpost of gastronomic boutique hotel the Pig (a fellow Smith stay) can be found eight miles north of Sidmouth – The Pig at Combe and its freshly foraged menu awaits in the Otter Valley. In Lyme Regis, try Hix Oyster and Fish House for superb seafood in a superlative setting.
For a delicious Devonshire tea (top tip: it’s de rigeur to spread the cream on the scone first) and substantial slices of cake, visit Sidmouth’s Clock Tower Café. Axminster has a branch of the River Cottage, where the menu borrows the bounty of neighbouring counties; try Cornish sardines with apple, shallot and chervil salad; West Country goat and apricot tagine; and beetroot cakes with autumn vegetables.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel on England’s south coast and unpacked their jars of jam and pots of clotted cream, a full account of their coastal break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Sidmouth Harbour Hotel in Devon…
The weather might do its best to put a downer on it, but the British seaside puts up a good fight. Whether the sun’s out or not, refined redbrick manor Sidmouth Harbour Hotel on Devon’s Jurassic coast will dazzle discerning guests with its sea-facing suites and traditional white veranda. Set within the East Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the hotel’s surroundings are photogenic – but it keeps up the local standard with its nautical and New England-inspired sage, white and blue colour palette, vast countryside-showcasing windows and bright, breezy interiors. The heated pool, bordered by pristine wooden decking topped with white sunloungers, offers a bath-warm dip for those not up to braving British waters. Locally caught seafood stars in the dishes of the day in the restaurant, but huge hunks of steak and creative combinations such as pork and octopus also take pride of place. Other coastal towns could study Sidmouth for a lesson in ‘how to be kitsch and endearing but not faded and forlorn’. What’s a little rain when you’ve got buckets (and spades) of charm?