Stay The Night: The Old Chapel, Stoke Fleming, Devon

A derelict chapel has been transformed into a luxurious holiday let, and now it offers every possible comfort, says Sarah Barrell

It takes quite an event to bring our family to church. A wedding or funeral, perhaps. Or, in this case, the conversion of a 19th-century chapel just outside Dartmouth into a high-end holiday rental. It began and continued its life as a United Reformed Church 140 years ago, subsequently serving as a shop, storeroom and boathouse. The chapel was bought in 2009 by the Imlah family, who restored the near-derelict structure to its original elegant form, adding a level of comfort not always associated with places of worship.

The kitchen opens on to the dining area and raised lounge whose window seats reveal sea views. The chapel's original window plan and double-height ceilings have been retained throughout. Add a wood-burning stove to this meditative setting, and I wondered if we'd make it outside, but the bucolic South Hams scenery seduces in bleak weather or fine.

Stoke Fleming, a two-road village, is lined with whitewashed cottages. It is crowned with the hilltop St Peter's parish church, flanked by a lane whose ancient hedgerows frame epic views along the coast to remote Start Point Lighthouse, some 10 miles away.

The deep cove of Blackpool Sands, with fine yellow shingle backed by grassy cliffs, has to be one of south Devon's loveliest beaches. Set just a 10-minute amble through the village, down a wooded coastal path, the beach more than makes up for the chapel's lack of garden.

The rooms

The house is spread over four floors, connected by stylishly up-lit wooden staircases. Solid oak flooring and beams contrast tastefully with cream, white and tan soft furnishings.

The three bedrooms sleep a total of seven people. While some people might find the beams on the attic-room floor cumbersome to clamber over, we thought it created a real "nest in the eaves" charm.

The daybed in the lower-ground den-room offers potential sleeping space for an eighth person. On our visit, it didn't get any use, since the oil-burning boiler located in the room left quite a stench. In summer, this may be less of an issue.

The three bedrooms are en-suite with Spanish marble walls and floor tiles, a Fired Earth shower cubicle here, a handmade Flaminia wash basin there, and a covetable Victoria and Albert "Quarrycast" free-standing bath.

The food and drink

The village shop and pub are two-minutes' walk away, the former offering basic supplies, the latter decent grub, local ales and ciders, and a notably cheery welcome. A hamper of local goodies from Brixham Deli was provided during our stay.

Further afield, south Devon is an epicentre for British seafood and field-to-fork produce, so you are spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping or eating out. The cafe on Blackpool Sands beach does a tasty south Devon crab and lobster bisque. Dartmouth's delis, fish shops and farmers' market (Fridays 1-6pm) are a 10-minute drive. Riverford's celebrated Field Kitchen Restaurant (riverford.co.uk) is 45 minutes away; Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new Plymouth Canteen and Deli (rivercottage.net) is an hour.

The extras

This is a chapel that looks after its congregation: cots, stair gates and bottle-warmers for young families, plus PlayStation, DVD/book library and an iPod dock that feeds a house-wide sound-system. For outdoor fun, grab the supplied crabbing lines and head for the rock pools on Blackpool Sands. Ten minutes south by car lies the dune-backed three-mile stretch of Slapton Sands; the South West Coast Path can be picked up five-minutes' walk from the house. The Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway (dartmouthrailriver.co.uk) is the big draw for children (from 1 April), along with Kents Cavern (kentscavern.co.uk), Torquay's prehistoric labyrinth of caves, where headline-making excavations are currently uncovering the earliest known remains of Homo sapiens in Europe.

The access

None of the bedrooms is wheelchair accessible. Children are welcome; dogs are not.

The bill

Blue Chip Holidays (0844 704 6501; bluechipholidays.co.uk) offers weekly rental from £649 rising to £1,699 in July and August. Three nights start at £462, depending on availability.

The address

The Old Chapel, Chapel Lane, Stoke Fleming, Devon TQ6 0PA.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor