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Things to do in South Devon – Going Old School in Slapton Sands

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Things to do in South Devon 1:
Stay in an actual school in Slapton Sands

Looking for a weekend away and things to do in South Devon for the weekend we needed to find somewhere for between 4 and 7 families to stay within a reasonable drive of Bristol. We stumbled across Start Bay Activity Centre in Slapton Sands for 40.

Turns out it is an old School complete with boot room, low ropes course in the old school field, firepit, BBQs, huge interactive whiteboard (hangman was a surprise hit – as was creating communal Spotify party playlist) and Ping-Pong in a shed. 

It also comes with animals taking many forms – from comedy taxidermy (a sad owl and a bat caught in an eternal scream), a huge aerial papier mâché (spoonbill?) shark and swarms of fist-sized daddy longlegs.

In the end there were only 16 of us so could have had a dorm room each. But kiddie sleepovers were the preferred option. Each dorm had its own set of bugs and key pad lock, so to avoid children locking themselves out in the search for a midnight loo (the grown-ups nicked the 3 en suites obvs), we took the precaution of sharpie-ing everyone’s code on to their forearm.

Only thing this didn’t solve was child’s unwillingness to find bug-free toilets on their own in the night, requiring a 4am accompanied tour.

Top tip – close the windows as soon as you get there.

An interesting history of the school (struck by lightning in 1905 and evacuated for the US DDay beach landings rehearsal – Operation Tiger during the war) and photos of monochrome children from yesteryear adorn the walls.

The Start Bay Activity Centre is run by the Field Studies Council, which has historically delivered courses to school groups who want to learn about the outdoors. They now offer affordable all-inclusive family holidays to enable families to get active in nature together, with a mixture of organised activities and free time to explore the countryside and coastlines which surround their centres.

We just booked the school building for a weekend though Airbnb, but a whole family activity package is available in this large group accommodation.

In good weather there are enough school based activities to entertain – BBQ, firept, ping pong, assault course, but we thought, having travelled to within a mile of the coast,  we ought to venture abroad.


Things to do in South Devon 2: Slapton Sands beach

Slapton Tank
Tank lost at sea during Operation Tiger

Venturing out a mile down the road we came across Slapton spit of a beach, flanked by an inland lagoon, which was great for a not so good weather day stroll. Rolling waves, with fish and chips and historic tank rescued from drowning in the sea. Add a bit of culture by reading about the military manoeuvres of yore.

Things to do in South Devon 3: Blackpool Sands

Nearby Blackpool Sands (only £3 parking in September) boasts 6-foot shoreline waves to slap you right down on the sand and suck you out to sea. Was fun but I’m sure life guards would not have been impressed. The beach is gorgeous and the emerald waters are crystalline on better weather days than we experienced.

The wooden decked cafe area was still open to take the edge off for the non- and post- swimmers.

And that's not all...

There are so many reasons to staycation in Devon – not least of which are the beaches and the best caravan site in the land. Happy holidays and watch out for those sneaker waves.

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