South Devon: Dog days relaxing in a plush riverside retreat | Short & City breaks | Travel

The cottage overlooks the calm waters (Image: Collects)

There are arresting panoramic views from the window on the open-plan first floor, looking out onto an expanse of water, appropriately named the Mill Pond. Calm is the watchword here as the birds and wildlife provide a sideshow above and around the water.

The road to the house is barely troubled by traffic because it peters out in a dead end a couple of hundred yards beyond Dominoes with only two more homes further along.

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Underfloor heating and a wood burner kept the damp chill at bay and the whole house faces south to soak up the best of the sunshine.There’s three generous double bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, a large and secure garden to keep your pets, not to mention children, safely enclosed.There’s a tap in the patio area and a doggy bath complete with shampoo and towels.And for the eco-minded, there’s even a fast charger socket for electric cars.

Stoke Gabriel is fairly remote, accessible only via the kind of ancient single track roads the south west is famous for.

But it does have a couple of pubs, a couple of restaurants and a couple of shops and that’s a pretty good collection for a compact and pretty enclave clinging to the side of a hill beside a dammed creek which flows into the River Dart.

During the summer the river is busy with boats from the sailing clubs dotted along the banks.A paddle steamer runs from Totnes to Dartmouth and canoe expeditions (dogs welcome) launch from the quayside. During our wet, windy, wintry weekend, the waterways were quieter – a lot quieter.

Set on the edge of the dam, looking out into the Dart is the River Shack, a sweet spot during the day for a coffee or cream tea – obviously, this is Devon.At night it offers a full restaurant menu with tantalising local ingredients; Dawlish mushrooms, Brixham hake and Dartmoor venison, to name a few.

Dominoes in Stoke Gabriel, South Devon (Image: Collects)

The village church, founded in 1268, epitomises the depth of history in the area and it is also home to a thousand-year-old yew tree whose spidery branches weave between the gravestones like medieval tentacles.

Beyond the parish, the pretty town of Totnes is a hotbed of boutique shops with an independent approach to life you rarely find on many vanilla high streets.The butchers, bakers and cafés could tempt the most devout dieter and there are more craft and gift shops than any market town has a right to.

Larger towns such as Paignton, Brixham and Torquay are no more than a 20-minute drive away, with all their coastal attractions, while the wild beauty of Dartmoor National Park is around half an hour away.

And don’t let damp weather dampen your sense of adventure.There is plenty to venture out for. Besides, dogs need walking.With well-marked paths through well-tended and way-marked hills,Tehya was in Labrador heaven.

Only five miles from Dominoes is Greenway,Agatha Christie’s home from 1938 where she plotted her murder mysteries in the idyllic grounds overlooking the Dart estuary.

She would thrash out the intricate details with guests, surrounded by her family’s collections of books and china, which are still on display.

The National Trust runs the estate now, preserving its character and allowing dogs to enjoy the woods, farmland and Greenway’s award-winning garden, but not the historic house itself – with all that china about, it’s probably fair enough.

While the inspiration for Christie’s quintessentially English settings is obvious, where the criminal intent and violence comes from is more of a mystery.

We ponder this over a splendid roast at the Ferry Boat Inn, a short ferry ride away (£2pp, dogs 50p). Dittisham’s quayside watering hole has a deserved reputation, based on making a great job of Sunday roast lunch.

Holiday lets may have been slow to tap into the appetite for pet-friendly staycations but they have seen the light now and dog owners are lapping it up.

NB Coronavirus restrictions means the restaurant and bar are currently closed


Premier Cottages has almost 400 dog-friendly, four and five star holiday cottages in the UK. A week’s stay in Premier Cottage’s Dominoes, in Stoke Gabriel, Devon, which sleeps six, costs £2,000 in August. In autumn a week’s stay costs from £1,200 and £850 for a three-night weekend break., 07808 579197.

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