Many of us entered 2021 with a feeling of optimism, only to have it dashed in the first week of January as another lockdown descended. With the latest news it would be very easy to disappear under a cloud of doom and gloom. But no. Resist!
While the midwinter skies are cold and dark, they do serve as a reminder that nothing lasts forever. Just as it’s very hard to imagine a lush, verdant landscape and summer sunshine on your face, the seasons keep turning and that time will surely come. Just the same, these dark and horrible times ushered in by the pandemic will also eventually pass.
2021 Year of the Summer Staycation
For this reason it’s important to keep positive and fix an eye on the horizon for the first glimmer of blue sky. What you need is a holiday in North Devon in the diary! With all the uncertainty caused by local covid flare ups abroad and the travel restrictions resulting from them, 2021 will be the year of the staycation. And why not? Sometimes the Brits are so keen to jet off to a foreign holiday destination that they forget what their own backyard has to offer.
And within that back yard there is a particularly splendid patch, North Devon, which has the makings of a great holiday for all ages. With 30 ensuite rooms, and crammed with modern comforts, The Carlton in Ilfracombe is the perfect starting place for a North Devon summer staycation in 2021 for any size of party – with a selection of single, double/twin and family rooms available and optimum covid compliancy measures throughout.
The in-house Brasserie is a restaurant renowned for its local dishes that make the best of seasonal produce, and its selection of libations (many brewed in the area). Beyond what the hotel offers, a North Devon staycation offers options for all holiday palates – from gourmet dining to traditional seaside fish and chips and ice creams to slurp away on a warm summer’s day.
North Devon: Staycation Heaven
So why a North Devon staycation? After the confines of lockdown, the great outdoors will hold more of an allure than ever before and this is a part of the world which offers its benefits better than most. Put simply, summers were made for North Devon!
Let’s start with the lush green landscape with its rolling hills, which provides a picturesque backdrop to any summer staycation. The region is criss-crossed by a network of footpaths and bridleways, some of which begin a stone’s throw from The Carlton itself, allowing visitors to get an instant feel for the great outdoors. The town of Ilfracombe sits between two sections of wonderful Southwest coast path which winds its way across cliff tops, with views of Wales across the Bristol Channel, and down to hidden rocky beaches.
For those seeking a more traditional beach scene, North Devon has sandy beaches by the bucket and spadeful! Within a 10 mile radius of Ilfracombe are three of the most popular beach destinations in the county – Woolacombe/Putsborough, Croyde and dog friendly Saunton Sands. All three offer a paradise for sandcastle artisans and serve as a mecca for surfers. Experienced surfers opt for Croyde while the more easy going waves of Woolacombe and Saunton are perfect for beginners with all three offering surf schools and surf/body board hire facilities to help newbies wet their feet!
For those who find the rigours of the great outdoors rather less appealing, Ilfracombe itself is a perfect canvas on which to spread some holiday colour. From the delightful harbour and the town’s own network of small beaches to the gift shops, galleries and tea rooms which dot the narrow streets, everything is accessible within a 15 minute stroll from The Carlton. All local businesses have adopted rigorous covid policies to ensure customer safety, and at the time of writing North Devon remains one of the areas of England least affected by covid.
Having previewed the trailer (!) this is a great month to book that North Devon staycation trip! For peace of mind, The Carlton offers a flexible booking policy during these unpredictable times with free changes and cancellations up until 48 hours before the start of any stay. To find out more about summer staycation options, contact The Carlton.
January is something of a fallow month for the senses, a time for them to settle down again after the overload of the festive period. Nevertheless after a chaste month, they are fit and ready for February, which is rather convenient because it’s the month the ever popular Exmoor Food Fest launches. Prompted by extenuating circumstances perhaps, it returns for not one, but two months of North Devon culinary delights and discounts.
The Brasserie @ The Carlton in Ilfracombe reprises its role as a partner restaurant in this Taste of Exmoor experience and brings its own sumptuous offering to the table in the form of an exclusive menu which celebrates the best of North Devon local produce. The added ingredient of a great deal, in the form of an ExFF201 discount in February and March, will be extra palatable to diners.
Fans of the Brasserie will be aware of the pride that is taken in the provenance of the food prepared in the kitchen by patron, Eliot Seabourn-Wren. He specialises in simple dishes which accentuate the ingredients without overwhelming them. “This is our second showing at the Exmoor Food Fest,” says Eliot. “We came in last year for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience so had to return! What we loved about the event is the way it acts as a focus point for all the great things happening with food in the Exmoor region.
Naturally, great food brings out people who love great food and last year was such an interactive and rewarding experience for The Brasserie, with lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ as plates arrived and many wonderful conversations around the appreciation of food.”
While last year was a case of not really knowing what to expect, this year The Brasserie returns with a menu offering that has a clear vision for what it wants to offer diners. The past few months have seen Eliot and his kitchen team planning a menu that offers depth, flavour and truly represents the diversity of ingredients the region brings to the winter pantry.
“For this year’s Food Fest we really are drawing on the rich resources available to us as a North Devon based kitchen,” says Eliot. “We are genuinely excited about this menu, which combines the best that land and sea has to offer. Our selection of meat comes from local North Devon farms – including Exmoor raised beef – which have been handpicked for quality and high animal welfare standards. The menu also features items which make the most of game, with dishes bringing out the richness of venison and fowl. As for the fish, it doesn’t come much fresher than a catch caught by boats which set off from the town’s harbour!”
Vegetables come with local provenance too, many of them supplied from the Great Field in the village of Braunton, whose fertile ground has been worked since medieval times. The Carlton Food Fest deals also include superb vegetarian options. Furthermore, explains Eliot, “Aside from vegetarian and gluten free dishes, The Brasserie kitchen has a ‘no fuss’ reputation for adapting its dishes to accommodate diners with allergies.”
A combination of two courses – chosen from starter, mains and dessert menu options – can be enjoyed for a special Exmoor Food Fest rate of £17.50 per person, a dinner deal that is available on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings throughout February and March (and as a lunchtime option by appointment).
To make the most of this North Devon foodie event, serious diners will be seeking a place to rest those optimised senses (in addition to well filled stomachs!), and The Carlton provides accommodation in the form of first class en suite rooms that emanate style, convenience and relaxing comfort. Contact The Carlton by phone or email to find out about great off-season room rates, and make the most of the 2021 Exmoor Food Fest experience.
Well 2020 has been quite a year… just for all the wrong reasons! Nevertheless, it looks like there is a slither of blue sky on the horizon with recent announcements and so how about planning a post-Christmas break in order to reset, recharge and reboot!
Traditionally there are many reasons to visit North Devon in the summer, but actually a winter break can also be thoroughly enjoyable. A big part of this is the sense of having the place to yourself, with the pace of life a gentle stroll compared to the hustle and bustle of the tourist season. The Carlton in Ilfracombe is offering some fantastic North Devon winter break options to tempt you down to the Westcountry this January, February and March.
From the cosy snugness of The Carlton (which naturally will be continuing to implement its covid plan to ensure safety of staff and guests alike), 5 reasons to head west to North Devon this January and February include:
The Carlton – The Perfect Winter Base!
Excuses to visit the area in January and February are plentiful, and that’s even without leaving the hotel! The Carlton provides a great base to launch your exploration of the area, from its highest spec ensuite rooms to the fine food menus which source the best local produce, served in The Brasserie (located in the hotel). Having made it through the front door – if you can avoid the allure of the superb Carlton afternoon tea! – here are some more reasons to enjoy a winter break in North Devon in 2021.
The Charms of Ilfracombe
The Carlton’s home is a delightful harbour town on the North Devon coast which went from sleepy village to desirable seaside resort with the coming of the Victorian railways. The result is a town whose character reflects this era, seen in the buildings and architecture of the place. A stroll around the town will reveal some of its historical treasures, such as the famous Tunnel Beaches, Victorian bandstand and the sheltered harbour which has made Ilfracombe a historical haven for small fishing boats, which continue to land their fresh catches today.
Scratch deeper and you can discover much more fascinating history in the area, with remains of Norman settlements and Iron Age fortifications. On the flipside, Ilfracombe is also home to the sea facing Verity statue created by some time North Devon resident Damien Hirst, an arty side to the town reflected in its healthy array of arts, crafts and galleries.
North Devon’s Great Walking Country
For many visitors on a North Devon winter break, ‘blowing away the cobwebs’ with a few days filled with fresh air and exercise holds great allure. The locals have very much adopted the Scandinavian maxim of there being no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, and if you are prepared for the very worst the elements can throw your way then you are probably going to be pleasantly surprised! Walking a section of the South West coast path (which passes through Ilfracombe) on a bright winter’s morning, with just the sun and the lapping of the waves for company is true bliss. On the flipside, a roaring wind and a turbulent sky brings its own magic too, but if that’s not your thing, then it’s easy to find a sheltered valley/river walk nearby in Exmoor National Park.
Dog Friendly North Devon
Nearby Woolacombe and Saunton Sands beaches roll on for miles and as a dog friendly hotel, The Carlton can recommend these beaches which never fail to disappoint dogs and owners alike. Closer to home, there are great short walks around Ilfracombe, which offer dog friendly exercise and spectacular views. North Devon as whole enjoys a reputation as being a great dog friendly holiday destination and most pubs, cafes and restaurants go out of their way to accommodate canine visitors.
Action Winter Break in North Devon
While some visitors’ idea of the perfect wither break in Ilfracombe is to sit, enjoy great food and drink and just ‘be’, others itch to get active. Despite the winter season, there are still plenty of activity options available. Exmoor National Park is as popular with cyclists as it is with walkers, while the Tarka Trail cycle track begins in Ilfracombe, accessing two more of the region’s bigger towns – Bideford and Barnstaple – along its route. Other activity options include fishing, golfing and clay pigeon shooting.
While the idea of a winter break in the UK may not have been top of a visitor’s list at the start of 2020, the events of the past few months have shown that staying close to home does have advantages. There are plenty of winter break charms to be found in North Devon and discovering them is part of the charm itself! To book your winter break stay, contact The Carlton and start 2021 with a reboot back to normal!