Sidmouth was once a small fishing village and port, it became a fashionable resort for the gentry in the early 19th century. The town's numerous fine Georgian and Regency villas and mansions are now mostly hotels, but have lost none of their charm in the conversion.
A town still “caught in a timeless charm” was the Sidmouth that captivated the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman every time he visited. Beautiful gardens and leisurely walks, regency history, fine hotels and guest houses, pubs and restaurants and clean and friendly shops and café’s. It's all here in the beaches and countryside of this historic and lovely seaside town that nestles beneath majestic red cliffs and the green hills of the glorious Sid Valley.
Sidmouth’s historic links with Royalty
The band played and the bells rang out in December 1819 when the Duke and Duchess of Kent, with the infant Princess Victoria, arrived at Woolbrook Cottage, (now the Royal Glen Hotel). Their stay, however, was tragically short, for the Duke died in January from complications after a heavy cold. His coffin lay in state here for several days and was seen by some 3000 people. His funeral was delayed because of the death, six days later, of his father, King George III. Not until February 7th did the cortege leave Sidmouth through streets, where once jubilant crowds, stood in silent mourning.
In 1856 Edward, Prince of Wales, stayed at the Royal York Hotel, visiting Woolbrook Cottage where his grandfather had died, and where his mother, Queen Victoria had slept as a baby. A few years later the Queen donated the stained glass window which is set in the West end of the Parish Church.
Another royal visitor who favoured Sidmouth was Victoria’s third son, the Duke of Connaught, who subsequently gave his name to Sidmouth’s prize winning gardens.
On the outskirts of Sidmouth is The Donkey Sanctuary, home to around 500 donkeys. Set in unspoilt farmland and countryside, visitors return time and again to meander among the donkeys and absorb the serene and relaxed surroundings. The Donkey Sanctuary´s aim is to prevent the suffering of donkeys worldwide, through the provision of high quality, professional advice, training and support on donkey welfare. No donkey is ever refused admission to the Sanctuary - provided it has a certificate of fitness to travel, and each donkey is guaranteed a life of loving care and attention. In Summer a free bus operates close to Canterbury House to and from the Sanctuary.
The Norman Lockyer Observatory and Planetarium, completed in 1912, fell into disuse and ruin but was saved from demolition by the appeals of local enthusiasts to East Devon District Council. The observatory now operates as a science education project and is regularly open to the public.