It took two and a half years to get satisfaction from Beacon House. We booked for 2020 but then Covid-19 struck and so we rebooked for 2021 but that week also fell victim to restrictions, so we rebooked for 2022 and were finally able to take up residence in June. The attraction of the Bay View room and the claims regarding the breakfasts were the reasons for our choice. We were not disappointed and it was well worth the wait.
The property has a suitably maritime heritage, having once been the home of a trawler owner, and it bears its status with ever-so-slightly understated arrogance, cresting the eastern escarpment embracing the bay at Brixham in Devon, on the south coast of England. The owners had hoisted a Jubilee Jack, from the balcony – our balcony for the week – and that was sufficient to draw attention to its noble elevation. It stands secure in its status, solid, upright and confident. It commands the prospect and we were there to occupy the top cabin.
Being ensconced in the attic, the room was vertically compact in places with a couple of head-banging hazards clearly labelled but not always avoided. In the main, it was adequately spacious and very tastefully laid out. The balcony was more generous than we anticipated and the view was truly spectacular, presenting an uninterrupted panorama of the marina and harbour and the entire sweep of the opposite peninsular. A telescope and pair of binoculars were thoughtfully provided.
One unexpected treat was the Springwatch bonus. Our view encompassed at least a dozen rooftop nests of herring gulls, many with chicks. This may not prove to everyone’s taste, and it has to be said they are no respecters of downtime when it comes to their yelling, but we found them fascinating.
Our hosts were Hervé and Nathalie, a partnership well-versed in hospitality, having served in several acclaimed establishments. There’s more than a hint of Hercule Poirot about Hervé, (though he hails from Brittany, not Belgium) while the multilingual Nathalie exudes style, even in the way she arranges the condiments. She fosters fresh ingredients too, some from the herb garden and others, such as the elderflowers for the exquisite porridge sauce, foraged from the nearby aptly named Berry Head. The breakfasts were the finest we had ever experienced in any holiday accommodation, unique in composition, cooked with consummate skill and served with panache.
One consequence of the elevated location is that, while the harbour and town centre are but five minutes’ walk away, some could find the return climb demanding by foot and a tad tricky by car for those unfamiliar with tightly curved and narrow domestic roads. That aside, Beacon House is a truly splendid place to stay for Bed and Breakfast in Brixham. The hosts were charming and informative with respect to local knowledge and have a unique approach to breakfast cuisine.
Brixham is a good base for exploring South Devon, close to traditional seaside haunts if that’s your kind of thing, but handy too, for the more bohemian towns that fringe the southern bounds of Dartmoor.
Brixham shrugs off the overwhelming kitsch of the bigger British seaside resorts, so much so that the Golden Hind replica seems more of a sore thumb than an attraction to my unpatched eye. Much more appealing are the fishing smacks and leisure vessels that fill the marina and natural harbour. It’s heartening, also, to see the commercial trawlers still plying their trade, though not to the extent of tides gone by.
Other happy nostalgic joys were to be found via the two heritage railways: the South Devon Railway from Buckfastleigh to Totnes and back (pictured above), and the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway (snapped below).
The river Dart is truly beautiful and if you take a boat trip and observe closely you’ll catch a glimpse of Agatha Christie’s holiday home on the eastern bank at Greenway.
You can visit to look for further clues to the crime writer’s modus operandi, though we preferred the more thoughtfully and less ostentatiously displayed representation of the privileged past at Coleton Fishacre, the former residence of the music-fostering D’Oyly Carte family where the rooms are displayed as if the residents have just nipped out for a spot of tennis.
One pastime was to try to recall all the holidays we’d shared. We failed. We later realised we’d not remembered some of our most treasured times.
Looking at the landscape opens up the room to think.
Holidays are like the boats moored in the marina; a major expense that for the majority of the year do nothing for us. Ah yes, we can remember them, but most of the time we don’t. They just bobble there, rising on the spring tide of anticipation, then settling back to treading water after a brief excursion on the waves.
This holiday was unexceptional in that the things we did we’d done before, just in different places and at different times. Nevertheless it was reviving. It’s not what you do; it’s who you do it with.
This time it was not the novelty that mattered, it was the variation on the familiarity. It was this stretch of coast, this cove, this wrong turn on the woodland walk, the eerie song of the breeze in the rigging of this harbour, that evening in that pub, the quiz we made to untether the vessels of our past.
It was all very refreshing, especially the evening imbibing local ale while appreciating the Chris Thomas House Band at the Queen’s Head. They superbly drowned out the seagulls’ catcalls. Two guitars and a drum kit belting out the rocky edifice of shores once wailed, just thirty yards from our cosy crows’ nest at Beacon House. Few chords could be more uplifting on a nostalgic night in June.
Beacon House website: https://beaconbrixham.co.uk/
Agatha’s hideaway: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway
Coleton Fishacre: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coleton-fishacre
South Devon Railway: https://www.southdevonrailway.co.uk/
Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway: https://www.dartmouthrailriver.co.uk/