A clifftop looking down at a beach and the sea.

Destination Memories: Devon, UK

Members and travel writers share the places they’re travelling to, albeit in their minds

By Francesca Babb    Sunday 12 April, 2020   Short read

A woman holding a baby on the beach.

 Images courtesy of Francesca Babb 

A sunset over the sea.
This Easter will be the first in 35 years that travel writer Francesca Babb hasn’t spent in Bantham, a seaside village in England’s south Devon. Today, the long stretches of beach are popular with surfers and walkers alike – and for Babb, it’s full of decades of family memories.

I’m standing on Bantham beach, my bare feet in the sand while the freezing cold tide laps at my toes. The wind blows through the reeds in the dunes behind me and ahead of me is the sea – an endless expanse of blues, greys and blacks, flecked with surfers awaiting their wave. Burgh Island and its singular Art Deco hotel sits surrounded by the sea’s swell to my right and soaring cliffs edge the coastline to my left.
Well, at least, that’s where I should be. But I’m not. For the first time in 35 years, our annual Easter trip to the tiny Devon village is cancelled – coronavirus adding ruining family traditions to its long list of sins. My dad grew up in Plymouth and Bantham was his surfing spot. It’s still his surfing spot, but now, rather than doing it to impress girls, he does it to impress his grandson. Bantham is where I saw the sea for the first time and where my daughter felt sand on her tiny toes for the very first time, too. Bantham is a place of memories for me, warm and cosy even when the wind is howling and the rain whips the windows. A place so familiar that whenever I need to (and, boy, do I need to right now), I can take myself there in an instant. It’s a place of Easter egg hunts and spring lambs, of rolling hills and air so fresh that to breathe it is manna from heaven. A place of ugly hiking boots and beautiful walks over the headland to a pint of ale as the sun goes over the yardarm; of my mum making Easter nests for her grandchildren and picking daffodils for us. 
Driving down the one-track road into the village, with its one shop and one pub, the Beach Boys singing odes to the sea from the car’s speakers (their company on entering the village a time-honoured tradition in my family), never, ever fails to give me goose bumps. It is the first place I’ll go when I can, scooping up my family and holding them tight, breathing freedom in the freshest of airs. But for now, I’ll take memories and photos, and the knowledge that it’ll never change. It will always be there whenever I need it – if not in reality, forever in my mind. 

ell us your travel memories and about the special destinations you’re unable to go to right now at membersformembers@sohohouse.com
A person walking on a clifftop path by the sea.