Saunton is a tiny hamlet to the west of Braunton village, with several houses, a small chapel dedicated to St. Anne and an ancient manor house known as Saunton Court. This is mentioned in the Domesday Book and has seen various ownership over the centuries but some of its most prominent owners were the Luttrells, who owned various manor houses in Devon and Somerset.
During the Civil War, Braunton men, under the command of Colonel John Luttrell of Saunton Court, fought on the side of Parliament. Nowadays, Saunton Court is treasured particularly for its garden, which is identified on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
Saunton Sands Hotel
Another famous building is the impressive Saunton Sands Hotel. Regarded as the best-known local landmark, its white facade can be seen from many miles away.
It has a commanding view over Saunton Sands, which is a breath-takingly beautiful stretch of beach that runs for some three and a half miles, north to south, between the Atlantic sea and Braunton Burrows – starting at Saunton Cliffs, on which the Hotel is perched, and terminating at Crow Point and the mouth of the Taw Torridge Estuary.
From Saunton Sands it is possible to see Lundy Island, which lies fiteen miles off shore. Lundy is the country’s only marine nature reserve and makes a wonderful day trip.
The sandy expanse of beach at Saunton attracts surfers from far and wide and in the summer they are joined by many other people who are keen to enjoy everything that a great beach has to offer.
If you are interested in learning to surf, contact Sarah Whiteley who runs Walking on Waves – a surf school at Saunton. Her website provides more information.
Thankfully, because of its vast size, Saunton Sands never feels particularly crowded. At low tide, when the sea retreats up to 500 metres, it exposes over 2,500,000 square meters of sand.
Holiday-making at Saunton isn’t a new concept. Indeed, as far back as the 1880s, holiday-makers came to Braunton by train and were then conveyed to Saunton or the equally popular resort of Croyde, which is slightly further around the coast.
There would often be a dozen or more carriages, including wagonettes, landaus, bassinets, and even a donkey drawn bath-chair, on the stand at the station plying for hire. On arrival at the station passengers would be greeted with "Cab, sir?" "Cab, Ma'am?", from the bowler-hatted cabbies who crowded around them. A trip to Saunton could be had for a shilling return.