Thursday 19 April 2012

My Article for Out and About Mag

NAME OF OWNERS: Park Holidays UK
THE PROPERTY: The site and the caravans themselves are clean and well maintained and include everything you need for a comfortable stay. Your standard 6 berth Bronze or Bronze plus caravan comprises of the lounge area with TV and Freeview box, A kitchen with all mod cons, 1 double bedroom and 1 twin bedroom with sleeping for 2 in the lounge area, plus a bathroom with shower, WC and wash area.  
 THE SURROUNDINGS: Dawlish Sands Holiday Park is situated just 10 miles from the end of the M5 in Exeter. It’s within walking distance of a blue flag beach and a nature reserve and in close proximity to a variety of attractions. Plenty of local shops, takeaways, cafes and pubs for anything you might need whilst in the area.
PRICE: prices vary depending on amount of people per unit and length of stay. Park holidays do support the “sun holidays” scheme and offer price guarantee if you re-book for the same week next year during your stay, whereby you pay the same as you did this year for the following years holiday.

EXTRAS: £35 per dog per week.

DOG-FRIENDLY PROVISIONS: Bring your own supplies of poo bags, treats and blankets for your dogs. There are plenty of shops in the area that sale dog food and anything you might forget to pack. There is a designated dog walking area on site.

 NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: A short walk from Dawlish Warren beach, crazy golf, arcades, some rides, a few shops and the nature reserve.
A very short drive from Dawlish, Teignmouth, Shaldon and Starcross.
A little further out is Goodrington, Paignton, Brixham and Torquay.
There are many dog friendly attractions close by or within a short drive. Some of our favourites include Becky falls; which is a lovely walk around a natural waterfall with fantastic views of Dartmoor (Bring your camera), they also have an animal encounter section with rabbits, ponies and other cute and furry friends. Some of the walk is a little challenging and there are some large steps and rocks to climb towards the end. There are 3 colour coded walks, ranging in difficulty. The short, flatter blue walk takes you around a river and the children’s nature trail but does include a couple of trip hazards, this leads on to the more challenging red route; running the full length of the park and past the main falls area (this is the route which consists of some big steps and those rocks at the end of the route). There is also a purple route which is a much tougher 200ft climb up from the lower falls and involves a lot of obstacles along the way; however, if you’re feeling fit, it is a great way to spot birds and wildlife. For the very daring they also have the option of taking on the boulder clamber but I don’t think the dogs would enjoy this so much. There is a café/restaurant and gift shop for you to purchase snacks and drinks or that special souvenir of your day out. 

Another nice waterfall in the area is Canonteign falls; the highest sheerdrop waterfall in England (220ft). You can climb to the top; or if you prefer, it also has some nice walks around lakes and gardens and a nice little picnic area over looking the pond where you can watch the resident black swans swimming.

We also recently visited Hay Tor. Hay Tor is a lovely area for a nice brisk walk on an afternoon; there are wild Dartmoor ponies and Dartmoor cattle roaming free and an information centre and gift shop in the bottom car park, as well as 2 ice cream vans on site for a well deserved ice cream at the end of your walk. If you are feeling energetic you can combine a visit here with one of the previously mentioned waterfalls as they are all in the Dartmoor National Park.

For the family of animal lovers you have Crealy adventure park which has something for the whole family; including thrill rides, soft play, adventure play, plenty of animals (such as goats, horses, rabbits, ponies and pigs), a show dome (during peak season), picnic area and some lovely country walks amongst the trees.
Also nearby is Babbacombe model village. You can upgrade your day ticket to either a 24 hour pass (so you can come back at night to watch the illuminations) or a 14 day pass. Both will cost you just an extra £1 per person on top of your entrance price. The model village has plenty of model scenes to look at from well known locations such as Stonehenge to the very local attractions such as the Babbacombe cliff railway. Dogs are permitted in all areas excluding the 4D cinema, model railway and café. The Babbacombe cliff railway itself is also dog friendly and runs down to Oddicombe beach, which unfortunately isn’t dog friendly all year round; however, dog friendly Babbacombe beach is a short walk from here and is right next to the Cary arms; a dog friendly pub and restaurant over looking the beach.

Paignton and Dartmouth steam railway runs between Paignton and Kingswear with a ferry crossing to Dartmouth at the end. This is a nice day out with some interesting views from both the train and boat. Kingswear and Dartmouth are quite old market towns and still have their character intact although this means there’s not a lot of entertainment in these areas. There is a nice tea room/bakery in Dartmouth which do some exciting cake choices that is worth a visit and if you don’t mind it a bit more busy then pay them a visit on market day (second Saturday of every month) and the fish and chips from the station restaurant (just as you get off the lower ferry) is worth a try, especially since they welcome dogs both on their patio area and inside the premises itself. During peak times the trains and boats do get very busy and it is best to avoid the first train out/last train back as these understandably are the busiest. Dogs travel for just £1 each and are permitted everywhere except the “Devon Belle” observation carriage and are not allowed to sit on seats (on laps appears to be fine).

Stover Country Park is a nice free day out with several walks, a picnic area, lakes and ponds and plenty of wildlife to look out for. Just be careful of the squirrels if you have a dog that likes to chase small fluffies. We had an incident a couple years ago when “Cat” forgot she was a retired racing greyhound and managed to get away from us, chasing a daring squirrel across the picnic area resulting in pulled nails and plenty of bloodshed (the squirrel escaped unscathed).

Another interesting place to visit is Cockington court. Just a mile from Torquay seafront, Cockington court is a lovely old village with dedicated craftmen studios and galleries, Thatched cottages, Horse and cart rides, ornamental lakes, woodlands and formal gardens.
Berry head national nature reserve (in Brixham) has been featured on many television shows and is a hotspot for spotting wildlife including bats, deer, seals and dolphins (if you’re patient and very lucky) it is also just a nice area for a walk on a summer evening with plenty to see including wild flowers and old Napoleonic war fortifications and historic ruins. It also has a café and information centre with webcams observing some of the caves and bird hides in the area.

Our favourite place to eat nearby is “the beachcomber café” in Teignmouth which is very dog friendly; dogs are welcome inside the café and on the promenade seating overlooking the beach. They serve a variety of foods, including cooked breakfasts, snacks, main meals and ice creams. They always come out to give the dogs ear rubs and don’t mind when we order an extra breakfast for Eddie and Cat to share (in their own bowl of course) They even offered to come out and sing happy birthday to Eddie when we had breakfast on their promenade on his 13th birthday this year.

 Another favourite is the dog friendly “Smugglers inn” on Teignmouth road, Dawlish. They welcome dogs inside the bar, on the balcony or garden area (but not in the restaurant); their food is delicious, very reasonable prices and big portions of well cooked meals. Views from their garden over looking the sea are amazing and it is well worth a visit.
There are also some dog friendly boat trips, including a wildlife cruise and night time illuminations on offer. They depart from Paignton or Torquay at various times throughout the day (weather permitting).
Also, worth a day trip is Exmouth (it’s only 3 miles by boat but quite a journey by car) which has a lovely dog friendly beach, some dog friendly pubs and cafes and a lovely park to look around.

We stayed at Dawlish Sands last October; it was our first time on this site although we had stayed at other park holiday sites in the past. Our caravan was about half way between the clubhouse and the train line meaning we regularly heard noise from these; although it wasn’t a major problem. The club was usually quiet by 2300 and you get use to the sound of the trains pretty quickly.

Caravan was clean and everything worked as you'd expect it to, Dogs are allowed in all bronze or bronze plus accommodation. Accommodation includes Gas cooker, WC, shower, toaster, microwave, fridge and kettle. Plus quilts, pillows and bedding.

Shop on site was well stocked, take away didn't have some of their menu available, and they also seemed to close quite early on an evening but it was the end of season so that may explain this. The bar staff and entertainment staff are all friendly, helpful and happy to chat to punters. Entertainment was good. Especially the Thursday night show which was themed around west end musicals. Of course Loopy rabbit the mascot was a hit with the younger guests and they seemed to spend more time with loopy on stage than other park holiday sites I've stayed on. Typically they did 2 - 3 songs plus some games with loopy and the children. They also do bingo and quizzes as well as the nightly entertainment by the on site team or guest entertainers.
The near by area is full of places to visit including beaches and parks. Dawlish Warren beach is a short walk from the caravan park and part of it is dog friendly year round, Goodrington and Teignmouth beach also has dog friendly sections.

WALKS: lovely and plentiful
VALUE: Good value
OVERALL: Excellent

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