In the heart of the South Hams and looking like the set from a period drama, Maberly House is a cut above your average holiday rental, as we found out when we paid a visit.
Whisper it, but not all of Devon is idyllic. Some parts of it have dual carriageways thundering through, or housing estates that don’t exactly look easy on the eye, or towns which don’t match the picture you might have in your head.
The South Hams district, however, really does deliver on the Devon promise. This area of the South Devon AONB — sitting in the promontory that juts into the channel between Plymouth and Torquay — is a land of rolling green pastures, stunningly pretty beaches, trickling rivers, charming towns, lighthouses that cling to cliffsides, and roads which weave their way through woodland and hills, often so rarely driven on that grass grows cheerfully down the centre of the tarmac.
It’s in a remote spot in the heart of this delightful landscape that you’ll find Maberly House, a magnificent old place that has been beautifully restored and decorated, and is available to rent for holidays in this charming part of the West Country.
The house’s owners made their fortune by setting up and running a hugely successful design and interiors shopping website (it’s a household name), so it’s no surprise to find all sorts of delightful objects littered through the house. It’s the antithesis of the sort of generic Airbnb rental property you might have found yourself in over recent years, making this really feel like a very special place to spend a few days.
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Maberly is a big place, but, crucially, it doesn’t feel as if it is, retaining a cosy and welcoming feel. The accommodation is set over four storeys of a delightful stone-built building, whose earliest parts date back to the 16th century, but which is, for the most part, Georgian. The house is capable of sleeping as many as 15 people in the seven bedrooms, which range from charming and pretty double rooms to a triple bedroom on the top floor that’s perfect for kids.
Outside, the gardens are just as large and varied as you would hope for a property that’s clearly been bought and done up with multi-generational groups in mind. There’s plenty of room for games of football on the lawns, while there are outdoor seating areas to enjoy a glass of wine as the sun comes down.
Exploring the area is probably the main reason to come to this part of Devon — as you’ll see in the ‘things to do’ section below, there are almost endless rocky coves, winding paths and waterside spots to discover — but to be quite honest, a big to-do list almost feels sacrilegious when the house is so lovely. Maberly is the kind of place where you pray for rainy days, giving you an excuse to stay in, snuggle up, and play a few board games or read a book with a roaring fire in the background. Bliss.
Maberly House is let exclusively via fineststays.co.uk, with prices starting from £1,870 for a short stay or from £2,800 for a week.
Who is it for?
Simply perfect for multi-generational groups looking to get away from it all and enjoy each other’s company. It’s also fine for families and smaller groups of friends too, though: if you’re travelling in a smaller group, you can actually book the house at a discount, with a few of the bedrooms being be closed off or not made up to reflect that. It’s listed as Mole House, sleeping eight in four rooms.
What to do while you’re there
Coves and inlets, sandy beaches and places to get out onto the water, and the swish towns of Dartmouth and Salcombe close by… The South Hams has all this and more, and we have a full article that covers it in depth in our Country Life guide to South Devon.
One thing to bear in mind, though: the roads are so narrow and twisting around here that progress is slow, so much so that during our trip we began to refer to ‘Devon miles’ as being distinct from normal miles. And bear in mind that we’re used to driving in rural West Sussex.
Still, it’s not the sort of place where you worry too much about how long it takes to get around. You’ll be too busy taking in the views.
On that note we’d highly recommend a few places that are particularly close to Maberly. Mill Bay, just a few miles away and directly across the harbour from Salcombe, is a superbly unspoilt, sandy beach encircled by tree-covered hills and owned by the National Trust. The water is calm and shallow if it’s warm enough to swim, while the stream running down from the hills, alongside the beach and in to the sea is ideal for paddling and playing for little ones.
A little to the south, Gara Rock beach is famed for its dramatic geological formations, crystal clear waters and rock pools, as well as a plush hotel if you need to stop for refreshments.
On the eastern side of the peninsula, the cliff path walk down to the Start Point lighthouse is invigorating without being exhausting, offers glorious views, and even comes with a small frisson of excitement — for city dwellers, at least — as you have to traverse the odd field of cows (the cows are used to people, even if the people aren’t always used to cows). Park the car at Hallsands, walk to the lighthouse and back, and then get fish and chips from the shack-slash-restaurant Britannia at the Beach as a reward.
The towns of Dartmouth and Salcombe are among the prettiest in England, with boutique shops, plentiful cafes and pubs, and life revolving around the water in ways that are rarely seen in 21st century Britain. Salcombe’s South Sands Beach, for example, can be reached via a ferry that’s accessed not by a jetty but by sea-going tractor which drives out into the waves for passengers to embark and disembark.