Croyde is an excellent place for a seaside family holiday, and Stonesthrow is a lovely house from which to enjoy it.
The house has been recently done up, so is a soothing, aesthetically pleasing antidote if home sweet home is a tad careworn. It's roomy without being cavernous, and as one teen in our party put it: "It's really posh but comfy."
There are two double bedrooms, two big bathrooms, one en-suite, and a children's bedroom that sleeps three (single bed and bunk beds). There's also an annexe that has a wet room and TV room with a sofa bed. This is accessed separately from the main house, so would be great if you had visiting friends or relations for part of your holiday, or as an older children's hangout.
The kitchen-dining room is large, ideal for big communal meals after active days, and the living room has space for playing and space for lounging around.
Behind the house is a large, sheltered garden, good for playing or sunbathing. A pair of solid wooden gates fence off the drive and road. (Next door's garden has an enormous henhouse, so there are lots of clucking sounds in the background but, thankfully, while we were there, no early-morning alarm-call cockerel.) There's also an outside shower, for de-sanding humans and wetsuits.
In terms of children's gear, there's a highchair, plus plastic cups and bowls etc. If you need a travel cot, you can hire it from the property manager. There's a selection of kids' books and a box of toys. The house has free WiFi and a Sky box. There's no DVD or CD player, so bring your own if a favourite film or audio book is essential to winding your children down after an exciting day. And if you have very young babies and need sterilisers and the like, you'll need to bring them, too.
You also need to hire towels separately, so you could bring your own beach towels and hire bathroom towels to cut down on your post-holiday washing load. But there is a washing machine and separate drier in the utility room.
The house is ideally situated halfway between Croyde village centre and Croyde Bay (we're talking walks of about 400m either way) and has lovely views over the sand dunes. The village is chocolate-box pretty, with thatched cottages and a little stream going through the centre, and surrounded by lush Devon hills. But it's very much a magnet for surfers, so boards and wetsuits abound, giving a nice ancient-meets-modern vibe.
The village shop looks touristy, but actually has lots of useful and not overpriced basics, plus a bakery section, with bread, pasties, scones and cakes. Next door is a post office, if you still prefer the printed version of your daily paper. Both The Thatch and Billy Budd pubs do huge plates of pub grub, and The Blue Groove cafe is recommended for brunch or early evening meals. Try to get a seat on the terrace. Billy Budd's has a good children's play area in its garden, and there's also a village playground.
The Rock pub in the next village of Georgeham is really friendly and has good food. It was packed when we went, so definitely worth pre-booking.
From the house, in the direction of the beach, there's a holiday park called Ruda with a Costcutter that opens at 8am, for milk etc, plus ice cream kiosk, cafe, and a fish and chippery. At the other end of the village there's another holiday park which has a swimming pool, jacuzzi etc that non-staying guests can pay to use.
There are two routes down to the beach, and Stonesthrow is on one of them, so it couldn't be more straightforward. There are lifeguards and clear signs about where and when to swim, plus all the usual amenities and a busy surf school. People are surfing and body-boarding from dawn till dusk. Non-surfers pootle about in the shallows, charge around in the sand dunes, collect shells, build sandcastles etc etc. We were there during the wettest June since records began (sob) and all of the above was happening, despite the weather.
Around the headlands on either side of Croyde Bay are much longer beaches - Saunton Sands one way and Putsborough Beach the other. Both are child-friendly, very clean and staggeringly beautiful. Putsborough is particularly nice for evening beach-strolls. You can walk to Saunton Sands along the coastal walk from Croyde Bay and then back to Croyde across country on clearly marked paths. Baggy Point is another easy walk from the house, with great views as your reward.
Inland, Barnstaple is the nearest big town - it has a great market and lots of nice shops if you want a bit of retail therapy. Park in the short stay car park next to the river (a right turning shortly before the high street). Nearby seaside towns to visit include Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. The latter is one of the places you can catch a boat to Lundy Island.
Lundy is extraordinary. If bird-watching and seal-spotting are your thing, you'll love it. It's 19km (12 miles) off the Devon coast and measures 5km by 1.2km. There's no traffic, so sounds have an amazingly sharp clarity. The two sides of the island are like separate eco-systems (west, windblown and wild; east, sheltered and warm). Dolphins leapt around our boat on the trip out (magical) and we saw seals in the bay on our way back to the boat. (A word of warning: the cruise can get a bit choppy and takes almost two hours each way, which obviously felt like a very long time to the mini-seafarers who were unlucky enough to be seasick.)
You then get about three hours to explore the island. The walk up from where the boat moors is pretty steep for little legs, and not all of it is pushchair friendly, so you'll do quite a bit of carrying. But once you've got to the top, it's easier going. The Marisco pub at the centre of the tiny village is a genuine haven, with good beer and food. There's a tiny shop, mainly with provisions for campers or people staying in the Landmark properties, but with a few touristy mementoes. It's not a cheap day out (family of four ticket was