Seaside Luxury at Saunton Sands
North Devon Minimalist Apartments on the Beach
Review by Lara Protheroe
This summer has been varied but in large part glorious, which brings to mind a halcyon few days spent in North Devon, soaking up the sun and pottering on the beach at Saunton Sands.
Our base was Chalet Saunton, which sits majestically on the cliff, looking out along the vast expanse of Saunton Sands beach. It is unmistakable from the beach below with its dark grey exterior and elegantly imposing stance.
The weather was truly spectacular and the surfers were out in force. It’s clear why it’s a surfing hotspot for its beauty alone, but the ready and near-constant supply of quality surf brings visitors and locals flocking, but there’s plenty of space and surf to go round. Many of the other residents at Chalet Saunton were making full use of the option to rent boards and wetsuits and book classes for surfers of all levels of expertise (or lack thereof). Then there was the sun-kissed family who looked like they’d been born on the beach and had come prepared with all their own immaculate kit, making it clear that this is also a prime choice for the cognoscenti of the surfing community.
There is an outdoor shower in the gardens behind Chalet Saunton with racks for stacking boards and drying out surf gear. For checking the surf forecast the residence recommends the rather beautifully named magicseaweed.com which conjures up the promise of porpoise and mermaid sightings. Yet despite the many provisions made for those who are keen to enjoy the delights of the ocean, there is plenty here for anyone interested in beach walks, sea-gazing, explorations of the natural world or simply sitting high up on a terrace with a truly spectacular view, novel in one hand, glass in the other and little on one’s mind.
Visible from Chalet Saunton on clear days is Lundy Island, a three mile long area of outstanding natural beauty. ‘Lund-ey’ is Norse for Puffin Island and is famed for these adorable little birds. This part of North Devon is an UNESCO biosphere reserve. The three-mile long sandy beach is backed by Braunton Burrows – the largest sand dune system in England. If the beach doesn’t keep you occupied in itself there is the option is go riding or charter boats to go wildlife spotting or to fish for mackerel. There are plenty of other wonderful sites and sights within easy striking distance, though in truth we rarely bothered to tear ourselves away from the immediate vicinity, delightful as it was.
Chalet Saunton (less a chalet, in truth, than a spacious high-end condominium) houses six luxury three-bedroom apartments and a two-bed top floor penthouse. The apartments are both dog and child-friendly. They successfully combine slick, unobtrusive and uncluttered high-end design with spacious layouts that serve to emphasise and reflect the vast vista of Saunton Sands.
The three-bedroom apartment in which we stayed has a minimalist feel with lots of floor space and neutral hues, feeling well curated but not overly ‘designed’. The kitchen is well appointed with the usual conveniences as well as a wine fridge and an intriguing pop up extractor fan that emerges Neptune-like from the kitchen worktop. Our fridge was thoughtfully stocked with a hamper of locally sourced goodies for a posh fry up. Whilst some guests might choose not to avail themselves of the option to self-cater, we welcomed it and were relieved to find the kitchen fully functional as well as an aesthetic delight.
The master bedroom has its own WC and free standing claw foot bath. Two other bedrooms – a double and a twin – are simple in style but comfortably furnished. The apartment feels vast. There’s so much light and space. The colour scheme is muted with white washed wooden floors throughout. Walls are a creamy hue and the light floods in from the huge expanse of floor to ceiling glass with the backdrop of sea and sand beyond. The inclusion of an impressive Sonos speaker system made it easy to feel immediately at home in the space by striking up the familiar strains of Pink Martini to lend the scene a personalised vibe of summery relaxation.
The stunning grey herringbone-tiled shower room adopts a bolder style, with something of a luxury hamam feel. I am a great believer that one’s ablutions should be treated at all times as a ritual rather than a chore, but never more so than when on holiday, when one can take additional time to ensure each aspect of self-care. The apartment’s bathroom is spacious and yet somehow cocooned at the heart of the space; equally suited to casually washing away the sand and salt from a day on the beach or to indulging in an extended session of ‘self-spa’, assisted by the Ilapothecary toiletries that are helpfully provided for the purpose.
Saunton Sands beach is accessed directly through the Chalet Saunton grounds with a path that cuts down to sea level. There’s a café and a shop at beach level beside the carpark and then just the huge (and when I say huge, read HUGE) and beautiful beach. The weather was glorious and our toddler made friends with every single dog with its slobbery tennis ball that he could get close to (which turned out to be a goodly number). We met lovely people each time we descended to the beach, there’s a manifestly friendly vibe to the whole place, despite the striking mix of locals, first-timers, regular day trippers and returning holidaymakers. The surfers were clearly in heaven and it was both exciting and deeply therapeutic to watch them catching waves and enjoying nature’s energy.
Enquiries: Chalet Saunton, The Chalet, Saunton Rd, Braunton EX33 1LG/ 01271 890514/