Thursday, April 15, 2010
Situated at the mouth of the River Sid in a beautiful bay backed by striking red sandstone cliffs, Sidmouth has a timeless charm that attracts visitors back year after year.
Poet Laureate Sir John Betjemen described the town as a feast of visual delight, and he was absolutely right once you visit Sidmouth you are sure to return again.
The atmosphere of the town is so relaxing and has a timeless charm.
The town offers everything from wonderful beaches and a fascinating shopping area, to superb architecture, award-winning floral displays, spectacular views and walking opportunities.
Sidmouth has a lovely atmosphere and features many fine Regency, Georgian and Victorian buildings. The esplanade overlooks the main pebbled beach, and is a pleasure to stroll along you wont want to rush, and many just sit in one of the multi-coloured deckchairs and enjoy the views excellent therapy.
There are many hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants, offering everything from an ice-cream or cuppa to snacks and full meals.
Nearby is the Jacobs Ladder Beach, with the stunning Connaught Gardens above. It is ideal for families and only a short walk or drive away. For breathtaking views of the town, sea and coastline, walk or drive up Peak Hill above the gardens.
Shopping and dining
Sidmouths main shopping area is a pleasure to browse around, and you will always get a friendly welcome. Behind the Esplanade there is a picturesque area of quaint narrow streets, expanding into the main High Street.
There are many privately-owned shops and businesses offering very special attention and courtesy, plus large stores, both national and local, ensuring that all your needs are catered for. Fields department store and Trumps, one of the oldest grocery stores in the south west, sometimes called the Harrods of the south west, are both worth a visit.
There is a wonderful community spirit in Sidmouth, making you feel welcome at any time of the year and it is well worth taking your camera to capture the scene.
You can buy everything from basic essentials to fashion and footwear, gifts and souvenirs and much more, and there are lovely craft centres and antique shops.
Car parking facilities are excellent and within easy walking distances, making shopping not only convenient but also safer.
When you are ready for a snack or a meal, Sidmouth has everything on offer from an ice-cream, warming hot drink or a cream tea in Olde Worlde surroundings, to pub snacks or full silver service in one of the prestigious local hotels.
There are cafes, restaurants, pubs and wine bars, catering for everything from breakfasts, snacks and lunches to a very special evening meal or a lively night out on the town
Exploring the town is a real pleasure and you can find some wonderful historic buildings, such as the lovely Church of St Giles & St Nicholas, with its impressive turret, standing amongst ancient trees and centuries old gravestones.
A visit to the local museum at the Sid Vale Heritage Centre in Church Street, close to the old market building, will also reward you with valuable information and a fascinating insight into the local area.
Open from Easter to October, every day except Sunday, this year as an exhibition on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
The centre also offers guided walks around the town every Tuesday and Thursday, staring at 10.15 am, very informative and a relaxing way to get the real feel of Sidmouth.
If you would like to explore at your leisure you can also pick up a copy of Sidmouths Blue Plaque Trail, available from the museum or the Tourist Information Centre. You are guided around many historic sites, covering everything from fine houses, some of which are now hotels but still retain their charm, to buildings such as the famous Old Ship Inn, dating back to the 14th century and reputed to have once been a monastery it was most certainly a regular meeting place for smugglers.
Among the other places on the trail is Fortfield Terrace, where a double headed eagle commemorates the visit of the Grand Duchess of Russia in 1831. She is reported to have brought with her an entourage of around 100 people and among her guests was the renowned Sidmouth artist and historian Peter Orlando Hutchinson, whose lovely works include a watercolour of Jacobs Ladder, featuring what was in those days a rickety step ladder ascending the cliff; a dizzying experience for certain. Examples of his work can be seen in the museum, recording the life of 19th century Sidmouth.
A number of illustrious names have been associated with the town over the years including Ambrose Fleming who invented the radio valve one hundred years ago.
The Norman Lockyer Observatory situated on the edge of the town at nearby Salcombe Regis holds regular open days and evenings. The observatory has recently acquired a new planetarium projector from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. It houses a number of working telescopes as is about to begin a building programme to construct a new lecture theatre.
The architecture throughout the town is varied and interesting, and provides many clues to the development of Sidmouth.
There is much more to enjoy including beautiful parks and gardens, and wonderful scenery, and one of the best views of Sidmouth can be enjoyed from a vantage point halfway down the Peak Hill coastal road from Otterton there are plenty of parking places alongside, so you can either drive or take a leisurely stroll you will definitely not be disappointed, and you can also visit the delightful Connaught Gardens further down the road.
The main attractions at Sidmouth are its two lovely beaches, offering everything from sand and rock pools, and safe paddling, to comfy deckchairs and clifftop gardens.
The main beach runs alongside the elegant Esplanade, fronting the town and featuring lots of cafes, pubs and restaurants, ice-cream parlours and, of course, that English seafront tradition colourful striped deckchairs that you can simply relax in and watch the world go by. Many of the buildings are bedecked with colourful flowers and hanging baskets during the summer and, with the added attraction of boats sailing through the bay, some local fishing activity and the wonderful setting, it is the ideal place to relax.
Only a short drive or walk away is Jacobs Ladder beach, approached either along a seafront walkway, or by foot or can from the town, with excellent parking facilities available in Manor Road opposite the clifftop gardens. It is perfect for families, children and those who just want to sit and watch there are golden sands and rock pools to explore when the tide recedes, keeping the youngsters entertained all day.
There is beach hut hire, and facilities for eating, drinking and buying seaside goodies, including in the award-winning Clock Tower Tearooms and Restaurant, situated in the gardens above.
Flowers and gardens
Sidmouth is always beautiful, but never more than in the summer months when the town explodes into a riot of colour gardens, patios, hotels, pubs, public places and even lampposts are bedecked with plants and hanging baskets.
It is not surprising that Sidmouth regularly wins prestigious awards for its floral displays, including being Entente Florale international winner, national honours in 2001, winning the UK title for best small town and the overall West Country winner in both 2000 and 2002. This year Sidmouth represents the South West in the Coastal Resort category of the national Britain in Bloom competition.
There are many beautiful places to enjoy the skill of local gardeners, including the stunning Blackmore Gardens, which once again, include a magnificent floral peacock, the clifftop Connaught Gardens, and even the floral cart that is full of flowers and greets you to the town, are also worth a visit.
Enjoy too a walk through the famous Byes, featuring lovely tree-lined parkland alongside the river.
Entertainment and events
Sidmouth features a whole range of entertainment and events throughout the year, and has a wonderful community spirit.
The Manor Pavilion is a delightful community theatre, featuring productions throughout the season, including their 19th Summer Play Festival from June 25 to September 30, and also features other productions by both professional and amateur companies, from concerts, music and drama, to Christmas pantomimes.
If you fancy watching a film, the refurbished Radway Cinema offers all the latest films.
There is a superb range of other events through the year, from coffee mornings to craft sales, and full details are available in the local Sidmouth Herald, which features a weekly events programme, or from the Sidmouth Tourist Information Centre.
Throughout the summer season the renowned Sidmouth Town Band performs free at the Connaught Gardens every Sunday evening at 8 pm. June 26 onwards to September 4
Sidmouth excels itself during the carnival season with two parades, both very spectacular.
The main town carnival parade is on Sataurday, September 24 and, on December 3, there is the Christmas Carnival, when many of the entrants take on a festive spirit .
Both attract floats and walking entries from all over the area, and further details are available from the TIC, or on www.sidmouthcarnival.com and www.sidmouthchristmascarnival.com.
Other events throughout the year include the annual duck race on the River Sid, great fun for all the family, organised by Sidmouth Lions Club and held this year on July 17.
The town comes alive during Sidmouth Folk Week with music, dance and entertainment from around the world.
This year's event runs from July 29 to August 5, and entertainment will take place at venues around the town, inlcuding a marquee on the Ham, rather than at the Knowle as in previous years. Events will also take place in the Blackmore Gardens, the Bedford Hotel and along the sea front. The Box Office telephone number is (01395) 516441. Tickets are also available from the TIC.
People return year after year to enjoy what is ranked as one of the most exciting displays of talent you could find, with song, dance and crafts from many ethnic origins.
Many of the events are in marquees and other venues throughout the town, including street theatres and music on the seafront.
Children will be well catered for too, with entertainment planned including a band workshop, singing and dancing.
There is as always a fantasic range of visiting acts and full details can be obtained from Sidmouth TIC