Blackpool Sands is one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever visited. It has a long shingle shoreline, crystal clear waters and a craggy cliff backdrop. When I was last there on a culinary crab adventure with chef Mitch Tonks, our feet sunk into the pebbles as Mitch showed me how to prise the shell off a crab using both thumbs as levers. Hey presto – we’re in!
Next he showed me how to use a large pebble to smash open the claws in the palm of my hand. No forks, no hammers, no nasty utensils that look as if they belong in a dental surgery. Within seconds I was dipping large meaty chunks of delicious crabmeat into melting mayo. It was the best crab I have ever tasted.
Quality food sourced from local waters has long been embedded in the south Devonshire psyche, which is why food lovers, such as myself, love to come here. So many pubs, restaurants and cafés here buy fish straight off the boat that it makes choosing somewhere to grab a bite a difficult decision.
A cracking time
On Beesands sea front, you can pick your own crab and many other critters from the large tanks at Britannia Shellfish. They’ll even show you how to crack your catch if you’re a bit of a novice.
Once you’re stuffed with seafood, all you need is a bucket, a crab line, a net and some bait (crabs love a bit of bacon) to have a go at catching your own crabs from the sea. Any crustaceans you nab will be small – not even enough to make a sandwich – but it’s great fun for kids, although make sure you throw the crabs back afterwards.
If you don’t fancy a spot of crabbing, there are miles of stunning coastline to explore. Footpaths take you over headlands and through fishing villages such as Torcross, which has a fascinating maritime history. A memorial tank sits in the pretty village today. It is dedicated to the 749 lives lost here in Exercise Tiger, a 1944 practice run for the D-Day landings that saw Allied troops attacked by German E-boats.
While you’re in the area, Slapton Ley nature reserve should be on your exploring list. The unique lagoon lies separated from the sea by Slapton Sands’ shingle strip, and is teeming with wildlife such as otters, eels, warblers and great crested grebes. September is a great time to visit for the wildflowers.
After an afternoon of nature spotting, you can swing by the popular Tower Inn. This 14th-century pub sources all its fish from Start Bay and offers a cheeky pint of Devonshire scrumpy from a farm down the road.
There’s something invigorating, yet therapeutic about skimming stones, collecting shells and digging deep but pointless holes in the sand. Slapton Sands is a playground for beachcombers and the adrenaline junkies, attracting surfers and kite surfers. The northern end of the beach is also popular with naturists – but I didn’t witness any of that myself.
We all know about the sights, the views and the historic places to visit, but I let my stomach
take priority on a day out in this part of country – especially when it comes to the south Devon crab. I’ve never known a crabbier place. When the busy summer period is over, Mitch runs seafood cookery lessons from his south Devon home. If they’re anything like his crab-cracking ways on Blackpool Sands, they’re bound to be an illuminating experience.
Next time you have a day at the beach, take one of these delicious critters with you and when you’re done, chuck the remnants out to sea back, where they started.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Paignton take the A3022
for Dartmouth and catch the vehicle ferry over to the Kingsbridge road. Buses run from Paignton and Kingsbridge.
FIND OUT MORE
South Devon Tourist Information
Manna from Devon
Kingswear TQ6 0DE
Brush up on your skills with seafood workshops and
other culinary lessons.
The Winking Prawn
North Sands, Salcombe
This beach café is a must visit for all seafood lovers.
The Start Bay Inn
Torcross TQ7 2TQ
Serves superb fish and chips.
Seabreeze bed and breakfast
Torcross TQ7 2TQ
If you want to sleep as close to the sea as you can without getting your feet wet, this lovely B&B takes some beating.