We weren’t expecting the horses. They emerged out of the fog like mythical beings, eyeing us with as much curiosity as we did them. But given the otherworldy scenery, the prehistoric rock formations and secret coastal coves, we weren’t entirely surprised. One came up to nuzzle my friend’s arm, giving her a little love nibble. We looked at one another, half laughing, half bewildered, wondering whether Salcombe and the Devon coast were actually real, or whether we had stumbled into another world.
Soon we were joined by two happy dogs and their human counterparts, reassuring us that we were in fact still in Salcombe. The coastal trail cut up and over a hill, offering views of the clear turquoise water through the fog. Along the path the last blackberries of summer faded from the vines, and across the pastures the cows moved slowly, bracing themselves for the onset of autumn.
And autumn it was. Only a week before the sun was blazing in England, but in the last few days the weather had turned cool. Out came our sweaters and wellies, and down my friend and I traveled to Salcombe. We were hoping for sun, but the coastal fog reminded us so much of our Northern California homes that we didn’t much mind.
The trail continued through tall trees and craggy rocks before leading us back to South Sands, a little beach near Salcombe where our hotel was situated. We had been invited to spend the night at the aptly named South Sands Hotel in Salcombe, where we had a pretty beach-themed room with a view across the water.
We had most of our meals there, indulging in the fresh local seafood and the views out the floor-to-ceiling windows of the restaurant. The local oysters and mussels were divine, and the lobster full of buttery goodness. My friend’s bream and brill were also excellent. The only things I could have done without were the dead bees at the foot of my chair the occasional bit of schmutz on the windows.
When not eating, we explored the area. In the opposite direction of the coastal trail was North Sands beach, home to the famous Winking Prawn restaurant and a historic castle steeped in legend and English civil war history.
Back at South Sands, we boarded a sea tractor that drove us out into the water. As it kissed noses with a colorful little ferry, we hopped across to continue our journey into town. The ride was scenic, taking us past huge holiday homes in Salcombe and little beach coves full of sailboats.
We alighted at a dock in the heart of town and spent the morning exploring. Shops and boutiques lined the high street and the narrow alleys around it, and up the hill a pretty stone church and several little parks offered views of the colorful houses around them.
Secret stairways led up and down the hills in another reminder of our San Francisco days, and along the waterfront were restaurants and cafes offering all kinds of seafood and local fare.
We stopped at one for lunch, then continued along until we found dessert. Salcombe’s local honeycomb ice cream came highly recommended, and the sweet yellow taste was just what we hoped for.
Back on the ferry, we traveled by sea to South Sands and then over land to the train station in Totnes. As our train sped through the English countryside, I couldn’t help but feel like we had left another world behind. The memory of the magical horses, the prehistoric rocks, and the familiar fog was still fresh in my mind, and even the pouring rain in London couldn’t wash it away. Perhaps that was Salcombe’s secret. If so, I liked being in on it.