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Staycation: Dittisham Hideaway, Devon

by Neil Cook
Staycation: Dittisham Hideaway, Devon
Colourful shepherd's huts

A collection of South Hams shepherd’s huts gives the word ‘glamping’ new meaning

South Hams
South Hams

Tucked away discreetly in a private, wooded valley in Devon’s South Hams district, Dittisham Hideaway is an idyllic, luxurious escape from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. A recent addition to Peter de Savary’s portfolio of hotels and resorts, accommodation includes a vintage American Airstream trailer, four architect-designed treehouses, and five shepherd’s huts, all spec’d with genuine consideration and real attention to detail. From the Egyptian cotton bed linen, to the Dualit appliances in the fully equipped kitchen, and the Weber barbecue on the private deck, every effort has been made to make you feel instantly at home.

Two shepherd’s huts had been prepared for my partner Kirsty and our two children, Daisy, nine, and Jacob, seven. Suffice to say, if all shepherds lived this way, we’d be swapping our laptops for crooks by the coachload. The experience at Dittisham is light years ahead of even the most pleasant ‘glamping’ staycations we’d had during the pandemic. Our hut came with a beautifully designed private bathroom, power shower and loo. And, while we opted for a barbecue on arrival, the kitchen area was configured to make the best use of the available space, with a two-ring hob, oven and integrated microwave. Hosting a dinner party from scratch, if inclined to do so, would be plain sailing.

The grown-ups’ hut had an adjoining kids’ hut, fitted out with two sets of bunks for up to four little ones. The mutual delight of our two was off the scale at the prospect of having their own private hut for the weekend, complete with an on-point selection of toys, games and books to keep them occupied. (Harry Potter Scrabble, anyone?) Daisy and Jacob soon had their noses buried in a fresh David Walliams book each, which kept them occupied over dinner and before lights out across our stay.

The well-kitted accommodation
The well-kitted accommodation

All the accommodation is self-catering and there’s no shop on site, so, forewarned, we arrived ready to take full advantage of yet another sumptuous summer’s evening with a barbecue on the private deck. Kirsty and I couldn’t have been happier to be welcomed with a generous hamper of West Country goodies, a chilled bottle of rosé in the fridge, and a complimentary bottle of sloe gin. A couple of shots of this sweet nectar made firing up the Weber and laying the outdoor table a pleasure, not a chore. (The bottle didn’t last the evening, never mind the weekend!) Kirsty had sensibly prepped the salad at home in advance and adopted Jamie Oliver’s tip of putting dressing in a jar, ready for a good shake at the table, to add zing to the mixed leaves. Meanwhile, I flipped four burgers over the charcoal, and the weekend was off to a glorious start. ‘Best burger, best place, best day ever,’ said Jacob, as we tucked in.

Saturday morning, we took the marked woodland walk around the grounds, an easy 20-minute excursion that warmed us up nicely for the real walk into Dittisham. With kids, this was a good 30 minutes along country lanes (so stay alert) and public footpaths. But worth it for the unsurpassable, elevated views of the River Dart, snaking away below us.

Our visit coincided with Dittisham Regatta: a homespun, village affair, it gave the town a buzzy atmosphere we were soon swept up in (which is code for ‘all-day drinking’). Dittisham boasts two pubs – the harbourside Ferry Boat Inn, which was the centre of regatta-based celebrations, and The Red Lion Inn, both of which offer good pub grub options. The more refined dining experience is reserved for the waterside Anchorstone Café. Here they source the best local produce to create a menu featuring Start Bay crab, Elberry Cove mussels and hand-dived scallops. Its popularity means that booking in advance isn’t just advisable, it’s mandatory, and we’d already missed that boat. But we were very well-served at dinner by the welcoming Red Lion Inn. Specials included roast pork loin, duck breast and freshly caught lemon sole. But we stuck with four portions of fish and chips; the freshly battered haddock brought sizzling to our table accompanied by crispy triple-cooked chips and minty crushed peas. All wolfed down in no time while watching the sun set over the Dart from the pub’s perfectly positioned rear terrace.

After this day of days, the walk back to our hideaway was an absolute pleasure, made perfect by the fading light and the sumptuous backdrop of the winding river. When can we go again?

How to book

The dog-friendly shepherd’s lodges sleep two adults (and the Beech hut also sleeps up to four children). Minimum stay of two nights. Prices range from £195 per night in low season (November to April) to £250 in high season (June to September). The 1959 American Airstream sleeps two people (one small breed of dog welcome). Prices range from £195 per night in low season to £250 in high season. The treehouses can sleep two adults, three children and one infant (some are dog-friendly). Prices range from £250 per night in low season to £325 in high season. Visit dittishamhide

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