As we made our way down the A303 towards North Devon in the blustery wet weather, we were well aware that Storm Brian was about to hit but, optimistic as ever, the MTM family decided we were all going to have a good time regardless. After all, we were going to be by the seaside, and come rain or shine, ice cream and fish and chips, can cheer even the grumpiest of souls.
John Fowler Holiday Parks
Our base for the long weekend was at John Fowler’s Combe Martin Beach Holiday Park, which has a sister site – Sandaway Beach – just five minutes away. While John Fowler Holidays is predominantly made up of caravans and lodges, their parks across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset also offer up premium properties for those, like us, who aren’t really big fans of camping – such as character cottages and bungalows.
Rocking up past midnight in the pouring rain isn’t the warmest of welcomes for anybody, but we easily found our keys which were left outside reception and a map which meant we located our Gold Mews Apartment in no time.
Gold Mews Apartment
Being late, we had a quick look around the huge flat and first impressions were of a clean and comfortable property, however, we were all keen to get our heads down. Unfortunately, after searching the two decent sized double bedrooms, we could not locate a travel cot which we had specifically asked for. But being too late and too tired, I ended up sleeping with the baby myself, protecting him with several pillows. It wasn’t the most restful night’s kip, but after an apology in the morning, we had one delivered to the flat straight away after I telephoned reception.
In the light of day, the apartment was so much brighter. Having been recently refurbished, you access 202 via a set of stairs, so the flat takes up the whole of the upper floor of the Mews building making it quite spacious – and you can even peek the sea from some of the windows.
It’s decorated in warm furnishings with a few extra touches such as cottage-like curtains and ornaments which certainly add to its charm but with all the modern necessities such as two flat screen TVs and a fully-kitted kitchen and shower/bathroom. Once my husband located the nearest superstore some 10 minutes away, and we filled the bare fridge and cupboard with essentials, it began to feel much more like a home from home.
Meanwhile, the comfy sofas and electric fire made the living room a great place for us to sit and relax especially when the winds and rain started battering down the windows outside. Our second night saw us get a curry takeaway with all the trimmings – a brilliant end to a long day of exploration.
And with the baby safely tucked up in his cot, it meant we all had a much better night’s sleep. And this time, we were much more prepared in the morning, so we started our Sunday with an obligatory fry up and pot of tea – all four of us making use of the great table in the kitchen.
When you head down to reception, the views from the floor to ceiling windows are fantastic as you can look right out onto the ocean and the headland beyond, as well as the swimming pool – which I imagine in the summer months is a heaving little oasis for adults and children alike – but looked a little forlorn in the bad weather.
If you’re just looking to relax and take it easy, the holiday park is situated right on the fringes of Exmoor National Park next to Combe Martin Beach – a small sandy cove which is flanked by rock pools. The park allows direct access to the sandy shore, and it’s a lovely spot, even in the rain, while the village itself has much to offer from quaint shops to pubs. It also claims to have the longest main street of any village in the country, the street winds along the valley for more than two miles which makes for an interesting drive!
Combe Martin is in an ideal position to explore the rest of North Devon, too, as it’s easy to head to many of the other beaches, towns and attractions including Ilfracombe, Woolacombe and Croyde.
We headed over to nearby Sandaway Beach Holiday Park, where Monkey was happy to try out the playground – and because the park is nestled on top of a cliff’s edge, the sea views are pretty spectacular. The great thing about staying in either park is that guests can use the facilities at both.
Need to know
Both Combe Martin and Sandaway has amenities including a reception area, a bar serving hot food, entertainment such as cabaret acts and themed weekends, as well as a Freddy Fox kids’ club. Both also have swimming pools, with the main emphasis being good old-fashioned family fun.
Meanwhile, all properties and caravans are self-catering and do not come with any towels, tea towels or dish cloths – which at first I thought was rather irksome in terms of having to pack more items, but then realised it was quite a good idea in relation to the environment, and cutting down on washing. As long as guests are made aware, which they are, then it’s not a problem.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the weather for us to be gallivanting between the two parks, so we didn’t experience the entertainment they had on offer. However, our Gold Mews Apartment was the ideal accommodation for us to be able to get warm and cosy, and spending three nights there during Storm Brian meant we really made use of it – from all the mod cons in the kitchen to just spreading out on the sofa with a glass of wine.
We all enjoyed staying there – and it was great to walk past a window and catch a glimpse of the sea.
Meanwhile, the location was perfect for us to get a slice of north Devon, and gave us just enough time to explore the surrounding area. So much so that’s we’re discussing when we can come back again.
Holiday parks may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but then they don’t have to be. John Fowler Holidays prove that you can mix basic with more deluxe properties, and if you want to make use of what the park has on offer than you can or, if like us, you just want to enjoy your accommodation and use it as a base to explore, then that’s just fine, too. The Gold Mews Apartment was clean, comfortable and with prices starting at around £254 for seven days, it’s also amazingly good value.
Next time, we just need the weather to be kinder to us…
* John Fowler Holiday Parks invited me to stay at Combe Martin and compensated me for my time. As always my views are my own.