Places to Go

Beach tunnels and missing meerkats in Shaldon

On our first visit to Shaldon we parked at the Ness car park right next to Shaldon Zoo. Before visiting the zoo we followed the Smuggler’s Tunnel to Ness Cove Beach. The tunnel is surprisingly long and, although there are lights throughout, it is just dark and damp enough to give my small children a satisfying scare. They made echoey ghost noises and hid behind dark corners all through the tunnel. They had such fun in the tunnel they almost forgot that there was a beach at the end of it!

The beach wasn’t completely deserted but it was far from crowded with only a handful of families spread out along its length. My three children and I made our way to the far end because we had a plan. We had stocked up on matches and marshmallows at the small shop by the car park and we easily found enough driftwood to make a small beach fire. Then we settled down to toast the marshmallows. Few things in life are as good as marshmallows toasted on a beach fire!

Beach fire marshmallows

Our actual purpose in coming to Shaldon was to visit Shaldon Zoo. Although it’s only a small zoo it’s well-laid out with interesting animals in an attractive woodland garden. Plus the staff are friendly and helpful. The zoo seems to specialise in small primates and small mammals. There were also one or two exotic birds. Some of the inhabitants were frustratingly elusive but others were astoundingly friendly. My six year old girl had a fantastic close encounter with a squirrel monkey and we even found an escaped meerkat on the path in front of us. She didn’t seem too worried by our presence and it was a huge thrill for my children to get so close to a wild animal. I did let the keepers know about her and they said that she was a repeat offender, regularly escaping the minute they rounded her up.

The path round the zoo ended in a nocturnal house where there were some incredibly cute Slow Lorises. I sometimes find large zoos overwhelming so I enjoyed the small and contained feel of Shaldon Zoo (and it was also half the price of a larger zoo). When we left the zoo we followed the road down into the village. Shaldon itself is a very attractive small Devon fishing village which is well worth a visit. My three year old had thoroughly worn himself out by the time we made it down into the village so we didn’t stay long but I’d love to go back and have a proper look around and perhaps visit one of the many pubs or cafes. 

Hiding in tunnelsExploring tunnels

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