Want a taste of Britain’s past along with a hearty challenge? Head to Devon County’s coastline for a race that serves up demanding running along with spectacular scenery.
February might not seem like the obvious time of year for a seaside vacation in the British Isles, but the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series (endurancelife.com) is no ordinary trip. The South Devon stage of the popular series is a mix of tough off-road running and stunning landscapes. The race is billed as “picturesque and punishing” because of the steep climbs and technical terrain, but don’t be put off by the tagline. With a 10k, half marathon, marathon and 35-mile ultra to choose from, there’s a challenge to suit every experience level.
Centuries of Atlantic breakers crashing against South Devon’s shore have carved out a spectacular, rugged coastline of jagged rocks and idyllic sandy coves. Get a shake-out run in before the race on the South West Coast Path (southwestcoastpath.com), the longest trail in England. Run along the well-worn footpath toward the hamlet of Kellaton and you’ll catch glimpse of abandoned villages, working lighthouses and craggy rock outcrops where criminals once lured unwitting sailors to shore to wreck their ships and pillage the cargo. Seals rather than smugglers now greet runners who venture out to the very edge of this rural peninsula.
Just a few miles north of the race’s starting line lies the bustling fishing town of Dartmouth, where you’ll find everything from art galleries to yacht brokers. Browse for the perfect post-race memento in the form of a striking sculpture at the Blown Studio Glass gallery (blownstudioglass.co.uk). Or invest in cozy knitwear to ward off the winter chill at Starburst Boutique (starburstboutique.com) on historic Foss Street. The shop is decked out in true English eccentric style with quirky clothing displayed among eclectic furniture.
The best race lodging lets you saunter to the start and stumble just a few steps home after you finish. The Higher Beeson House (higherbeeson.co.uk) fits the bill and is lovely to boot. The B&B’s quintessential English breakfast is just the thing to fuel you up before hitting the rocky hills, while its tranquil valley setting is the perfect place to rest weary, rundown legs.
Home of the traditional English cream tea, no trip to Devon is complete without a cuppa. The nearby town of Salcombe has plenty of cafes to choose from, but Overbeck’s (nationaltrust.org.uk/overbecks) is our top pick for its scrumptious scones and gorgeous scenery. The former home of wealthy scientist Otto Overbeck is surrounded by exotic gardens and sits high on a cliff above town. Sip the last of your hot tea while savoring the breathtaking view. ■