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DRINKUP ON TOUR: SALCOMBE

Here at DrinkUp we’re always on the lookout for memorable mini-breaks from London that balance all our favourite things into a sensational staycation. So when we heard about a postcard-pretty seaside town with an award-winning hotel, a forward-thinking brewery and a gin distillery with its own gin school – we packed our bags…

Just three hours on a speedy train from Paddington followed by a half hour taxi ride and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the South Hams... the idyllic town of Salcombe to be exact. Most known to us thanks to the outstanding range of gin created at the waterside distillery and a popular coastal spot that likes to drink up as much as we do!

Stripey tops at the ready… this is a sailing town after all… 

We were lucky enough to stay at the award-winning Salcombe Harbour Hotel. A fifty room boutique hotel and spa, located on the shore of the Salcombe estuary complete with everything you’d need to satisfy your Devon seaside fantasy. Nautical décor prevails throughout with comfy sofas to plonk down onto round every corner - weekend breaks are tiring after all - and the hotel has enough extra activities to keep you entertained if you get bored of the view. There's a cinema, gym, pool and spa, or you might just prefer to head straight to the waterside restaurant to tuck into lashings of the obligatory crab on toast with a refreshing G&T and look forward to one of their heavenly Arnold Bennett omlettes for brekky.

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Most of the rooms come with views over the estuary, best enjoyed wrapped up in the 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. And as well as the stripey bed covers and rattan furniture - the complimentary gin & sherry, White Company toiletries, slippers, binoculars and poetry are a nice touch.

Once you’ve settled the important debate of whether to dive into the rainfall shower or bath with a view the following morning, it's time to go exploring. Salcombe is an area of outstanding natural beauty with as much to do on the water as off it, so plenty of walks, boat rides plus top notch seafood restaurants and old-timey watering holes to tick off during a visit here.

A pleasant ten minute stroll through the winding streets of the town however and you’ll find yourself in the old boat building quarter with just enough time to nip into Salcombe Dairy for an ice cream and to stock up on chocolate before crossing the road for some gin.

The Salcombe Distillery Co., bar, gin school and shop are all located in the old boathouse, which handily sits right on the water. Built three and a half years ago by friends Howard and Angus, who used to teach sailing here in their summers as teens…. and as a brand have managed to keep a lot of links to their love of the sea. A couple of years ago they even launched the first gin boat delivery service, keeping the surrounding boats topped up with gin, tonic and even a bartender service when needed – something we can totally get on board with!

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They now make two core gins and a couple of special editions - collaborating with the likes of Monica Galetti and Mark Hix on their Voyager Series range, which made for some seriously tasty gins indeed. And there's even plans to launch a rum in the not-so-distant future, which we're pretty excited about.

If like us you’re here for the gin school though, the first port of call is the bar - a popular spot with the locals and perfect for that first refreshing G&T, enjoyed before heading through the glass doors to see the still Provident and find out where the magic happens. Here Head Distiller Jason guides you through a basic understanding of how their gin is made, you have a quick nose round and inside the still before going next door to get your hands on your own and make your own gin.

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Heading next door with your motley crew of gin-thusiasts, you'll take your places round the classroom setup of stills and be given an extensive list of all the botanicals on offer to play with, as well as a notebook and another drink of course. Jason and Andy are then on hand as you sniff your way round the various jars in the room, chatting through and checking your ideas and weighing out the exact botanicals to make your perfect gin! Then it's into the still, a short wait for 70 degrees - when it all starts to happen, before a slight turn down in temperature and then you wait.

This is the fun part, where you get to taste the different stages of the gin, as all the different botanicals release their oils at different points. A quick walk round the room to sample some of the other creations, which brings out a little competitive spirit in some, but everyone seems more than pleased with the results.

Once your gin has finished in the still, you'll name and label it, box it up with a copy of your recipe and you're ready to go. Then it's back to the bar to try your creation in another couple of G&T's!

If you're in town on a Thursday and have access to some wheels, we'd definitely recommend heading over to Salcombe Brewery as well. Their state-of-the-art 20 barrel brewery has gorgeous views over the Kingsbridge Estuary that is home to two native seahorses - and is the inspiration for their most popular brew. Learning about their range of beers and sampling some of their creations is a real treat... but if you can't make it out there you can always grab a pint of their Seahorse ale in most establishments in the town - unsurprisingly it's popular with the locals.

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On the way back to the train, it would be rude not to pop into Sharpham Vineyard’s cellar door too. The vineyard itself is set up on the hill in a bend of the River Dart with some pretty epic views. That along with their exceptional English wines and award-winning cheeses make it the perfect stop for a break or to pick up picnic supplies for the train.

Salcombe we'll be back!

What you need to know... we stayed at Salcombe Harbour Hotel where rooms start from £105 per night. A visit to the Salcombe Distilling Co. Gin School costs either £110 for one person or £160 for a pair, which includes a tour, four drinks and the gin making workshop, which you'll leave with your own personalised bottle of gin. A tour of Salcombe Brewery costs £15 and includes a tour and samplings in the taproom, and it's free to pop into Sharpham Vineyard, where there are many different tours and tastings on offer too.