Things to do in Devon when you’re 4

This weekend, Flea and I were in Devon, testing out the family-friendly credentials of The Elmfield, a restored Victorian guest-house in the seaside town of Ilfracombe.

We’ve had a tremendous three days with glorious sunshine and have come home with sand in our shoes, a touch of sunburn and lots of clean clothes because the weather was so hot we only needed shorts, t-shirts and swimsuits. Result.

I must confess we don’t generally holiday in the UK, apart from visiting my parents’ place in Scotland, but I’m completely won over by North Devon – the beaches are amazing, the scenery is breathtaking, and there was so much for Flea to do that I can imagine us heading back there for a full holiday next summer. Anyway, here’s what we got up this weekend:

The Elmfield Hotel

Upon arrival at the hotel, Flea tried her luck at the “bagsy this bed’s mine” game. I had to take several teddies hostage to regain my rightful place in the four-poster.  Sometimes a mother’s gotta do what a mother’s gotta do.

Gardens at the Elmfield

The gardens at The Elmfield are amazing, with a heated indoor pool and a stream. There are also giant beanbags where we relaxed, while adopting our usual ladylike poses (obviously).

Woolacombe Beach

Our first beach visit was to Woolacombe, a 10-minute drive from the hotel. Flea made an immediate run for the sea – well, you would if it looked like this, wouldn’t you?


The only ice-cream worth eating is one that’s about the same size as your head.


Building sandcastles: good, wholesome fun for kids of all ages. Destroying entire sandcastle cities: much more fun, if you’re Flea.


Lisa, the lovely chef at the Elmfield, ran a chocolate workshop where Flea learned how to make truffles. As a caring, involved parent, I did quality test them, and can report back that they tasted amazing. The remainder we put in a box and gave to Flea’s teacher this morning (oh yes, I can suck up with the best of them)


On Saturday afternoon, we went mackerel fishing. Despite there being nine people on the boat, Flea was the only one to catch a fish. I’d like to post a picture of her holding her catch but she wouldn’t touch it – instead offering to pose with her new dinosaur, which makes a “raah” noise if you push its tummy.


Another day, another beach, this time Saunton Sands.


Sunday afternoon, almost time to leave. But time for one last paddle.

Of course, an enormous thanks to everyone at The Elmfield, particularly Zoe and Matt, Harvey and Teddy, who invited us and looked after us so beautifully (Although Harvey loses points for asking Flea: “Why do you wear boys’ clothes?”)

I often shy away from “family-friendly” hotels for fear there will be excessive use of primary colours and a menu that features numerous variations of pizza and chicken nuggets, but The Elmfield is like a boutique hotel run by your (slightly more stylish and way more cool) friends.

It’s got all the usual boutique hotel features – lovely décor, flat screen TVs, power showers and fancy toiletries; but there are loads of thoughtful touches for younger guests, like a DVD library, Nintendo Wii, the indoor swimming pool with toys and floats and a games room and cinema screen.

We’ve had a lovely time and would recommend the hotel to everyone, and visiting Devon generally – as we were leaving on Sunday evening  we noticed the surf school at Saunton gives lessons to kids from four upwards. I can’t wait for Flea to learn to surf…

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