Holidays are not always about heading off to far-distant, exotic locations.

Sometimes the important thing is just getting away and enjoying some good old-fashioned quality time together.

Packing our bags for the short trip to East Devon gave us a chance to explore a fascinating corner of the country that I have sadly overlooked for far too long, despite it being virtually on our doorstep.

With a two-year-old daughter in tow, the key to enjoying our trip was always going to be keeping our little one happy and by staying in the family-friendly Bulstone Hotel near Branscombe we certainly found a 'home from home' where we could all relax.

Most places I have visited seem to fall in to three categories - those that very evidentially aren't child friendly, those that claim to be but don't really succeed and those that just 'get it'.

Bulstone certainly falls into the latter category, with owners Kevin and Judith Monaghan making it obvious from when we first walked through the door that they were willing to go out of their way to ensure our little one's needs were catered for in every single way, something they clearly do for all families that stay.

Fitting dinner time in to suit the child and asking what they like to eat were just examples of how they respond to the child's needs rather than just expect them to fit into the hotel's routine.

And that's before we get to the star attraction of the hotel, at least in our Lydia's eyes, the wonderfully equipped playroom where she could play happily while we were able to look on in full view from the neighbouring dining room.

Bright and engaging with toys for all ages, the only difficulty was persuading Lydia to get out of there so we could get out and explore all that the local area has to offer.

We enjoyed a fantastic family day out at Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, near Budleigh Salterton.

With 63-acres of stunning gardens and a host of hands-on fun for little ones, it was a lovely setting to spend a few hours.

Boasting an array of horticulture, a countryside museum and much more for the grown ups, there is also plenty to keep children busy including indoor and outdoor play areas, a woodland train ride and, most enjoyably for our little bundle of joy, ducks and geese to introduce herself to in her own unique way.

Following a tasty pub lunch at The Ship Inn at Axmouth, we spent the rest of the day exploring some of the delightful locations this stretch of the Jurassic Coast has to offer.

From picturesque, postcard villages and beaches at the likes of Beer and Branscombe to the more busting towns of Seaton and Sidmouth (hustle and bustle is all relative in this part of the world), each destination is uniquely different and has its own, very English seaside charm.

Being familiar with Dorset's stretch of the Jurassic Coast it also struck me how, despite being part of the same World Heritage Site, this stretch of coastline was so different, but none the less striking, with its rugged cliffs and steep valleys.

After a busy day we enjoyed another fantastic meal at the Bulstone, with Judith's cooking really ticking the hearty, comforting food box with bags of flavour and without a hint of pretension.

The rooms at the hotel are more like apartments, with a separate bedroom for little Lydia and two bathrooms and we were able to enjoy a great night's sleep.

The following day we were faced with the familiar occupational hazard of holidaying in England which was the great British weather.

As the rain came down we headed to Pecorama, near Beer. The venue boasts a model railway exhibition, gardens and, the star attraction for most visitors, the Beer Heights Light Railway.

However, given the conditions the most welcome offering for us was the Play Station, not of the games console variety but the venue's train-themed soft play area where Lydia (and her parents in all honesty) spent a very happy and energetic time clambering and sliding about.

It's always the sign of a good holiday that it was a real wrench to leave this lovely part of the world and head back home.

We may not have gone very far, but we really feel like we got away from it all and had barely scratched the surface of somewhere with plenty more family fun on offer.


Dinner, B&B at the Bulstone Hotel cost £120 for a family of four per night in low season and £130 in high season (July and Aug).

7-night family packages (dinner, B&B) are £760 low and £840 high season.

Bookings direct with the hotel can be made by dialling 01297 680446.

More information can be found on