We headed to the north-coast of Devon to see where groups can surf, dine finely and watch the sunset in style
When I think of coastal hideaways I think of three things: shells, doilies and beaded curtains. Now, I’m not adverse to such an aesthetic but an event booker looking to organise a corporate trip may be looking for something slicker: enter Chalet Saunton. The new-build property that looks over Saunton Sands beach (and a Unesco heritage site, no less) was designed with the corporate market specifically in mind – and they’ve pulled it off.
Founder Tim Fleming was keen to give the northern coast of Devon a place for big business to enjoy it. ‘There’s a huge corporate market for properties like Chalet Saunton and in the area, there just wasn’t anything there to feed it.’ That was until 2010, when Fleming demolished the previous building on the site (discovering armoury stores in the process). Eight years later – and after a 12-month build – what now stands are six apartments and a penthouse.
We’re staying in Apartment 1. The first thing we do? Head straight through the living room, open the doors and step onto the terrace. The view of the beach is completely uninterrupted (the beach that Robbie Williams filmed the video for ‘Angels’). But as we head back inside we’re struck by how open and airy the main entertainment area is. All white walls and muted furnishings, it pulls off minimalism without feeling empty. In the master bedroom (there are two further bedrooms), a roll-top bath sits unassumingly in the corner while the main bathroom features a huge, waterfall shower – perfect for washing off the day’s sand.
I can see an incentive group in its element here. Six people can take over the individual apartments (saving the penthouse for the boss and three more), but if it’s a full takeover you’re after, the whole place can take parties of 40. ‘It’s easily setup for big groups,’ Tim tells me. Caterers from all over the world can be flown in for formal dinners (set up in the penthouse) while event managers can be brought in to keep the itinerary on target. That itinerary can cover anything from pre-dinner drinks on the ground-floor terrace to organising a golf day at Saunton Golf Club (one of the UK’s top 10), to a surfing lesson or horse ride down on the beach, and fishing excursions on the water.
There’s been an impressive attention to detail too. A welcome Ilapothecary box is waiting on the kitchen island (making my post-prandial soaks in that bath even better) and a wine fridge means those hosting intimate dinners can keep their vintages chilled to the perfect temperature. A basket of local produce for breakfast is also a lovely touch: Farmer Bob’s eggs; Underdown Farm’s butter and proper bacon.
The main draw though is the setting. ‘We have mercurial skies in Devon. The weather changes all the time, no matter how long you stay,’ Tim laughs. He’s not wrong: in two days we experience both sunburn and fog. Either way we’re happy. And we’d imagine a group – post-surfing, champagne in hand, watching the sunset – would be too.