Salad Days. Know what it means? Well, it’s nothing to do with lettuce or cucumber and I have to admit I hadn’t heard the expression before, until we were lucky enough to stay at the wonderful little boutique beach hut on Dunster Beach that’s named after it.
Salad Days are a heyday – feeling like a child does when things are fun, bright and nothing’s impossible – and that’s definitely how we felt when we opened the door and stepped inside this dog friendly secret gem.
You’ll find the Salad Days hut (number 235) across from the sea, nestled in the middle of two rows of beachside ‘cabins’. The location feels a lot like stepping back in time – to an era when the classic British beach holiday created lasting lifelong memories and actually, that’s one of the reasons owners Brett and Susan bought the hut in the first place.
“I used to come to Dunster Beach and stay in one of the huts when I was little” Brett told me. “I always kept saying to my mum that I wanted to live here and I never forgot this place. Years later, my dream’s come true. We have a hut in the spot where I spent so many happy times as a child - and now other people can stay in it and experience that feeling too”.
It doesn’t take much to get us misty eyed, but we flipping love that story! The childhood dream, the heart and the soul that Brett and Susan have put in to the hut shines out of every little piece of it. It’s no surprise that Visit England recently gave Salad Days 5 stars - and if you’re looking for somewhere cool that’s a stone’s throw from the beach and a nature reserve, has fantastic coastal walks and genuinely welcomes your doggie companions (just as much as your human ones) then this is definitely the place for you. We stayed over Valentine's and have to admit we fell in love with it.
Our pup Petal certainly thought it was perfect for us all too!
Whilst we're on the subject of our beloved woofers, what's fab about Salad Days is that usually when you take your dog away somewhere, you never get the best room - you get the 'dog friendly' one and that’s never the one on the top floor with the most beautiful view. Dog friendly often feels like an afterthought... not so with the beach hut!
This little gem is the best mini house on the row. It’s immaculate from top to toe and beautifully kitted out, so your pup can enjoy the finer things just as much as you can. In fact, as well as a welcome ‘treats basket’ for human guests (including some gorgeous South West goodies, a thoughtful personalised welcome note and we got Love Hearts for Valentine's), doggies get a basket of their own with ... wait for it... homemade cheese treats! Another big hit with Petal :)
Now about the interiors… they weren’t always THIS cool you know!
Brett and Susan finished renovating the hut in April 2016 and when you stay in it, don’t forget to check out the Salad Days storybook that shows you pictures of their mini grand design. It basically involved sorting out the foundations, ripping everything (and we mean everything) out of the shell of the place and starting from absolute scratch, to create an awesome open plan space especially for couples.
The guys did pretty much all the work themselves and no detail has been overlooked – from the funky kitchen area (which is a delight to cook in on a self catering stay and comes complete with fridge, dishwasher and slinky looking hob) to the immaculate ensuite bathroom (look out for the awesome map in the shower – we REALLY want one!) clever storage space and the oh so cosy underfloor heating! Guess who loved that the most?!
A favourite feature of ours is the funky sea green beaded divider between the bed area (that’s kingsize by the way) and the kitchen. None of our photos seem to do it justice, but it sparkles in the sunshine and is just gorgeous!
When it comes to beach hut cool, we love Susan’s eye for styling. Colourful, fresh and individual - she’s got it spot on for the size and space in Salad Days. There’s definitely a New England beach house vibe going on, but Susan’s initial inspiration came from some pretty bluebell pictures from Janet Bell’s gallery. The bright turquoise and blues gave Susan a starting point for colour and from there, Leo Davey - a local Minehead based watercolour artist - was also given pride of place on the hut walls. Susan put one of Brett's Landrover pictures up as a bit of a joke too (Brett is mad about Landrovers) but it looked pretty cool, so the Landrover was allowed to stay! As for a couple of our favourite bits... the big turquoise light in the lounge area was found by Brett, in a customer's garage. He cleaned it, sprayed it and Hey Presto! An upcycled success if ever we saw one!
As well as the UK map in the shower, there’s also a local one featured on the bathroom wall, plus some map mats and coasters that Susan made herself. The map idea came from her work at the UK Hydrographic office – and we’re a bit smitten with the idea that we can shower and plot where in Somerset we want to visit next! :)
By the front door, there’s even a couple of little doggy tails to hang your dog leads or towels on, and it’s the brilliant little touches like this that create the personality of the place. We love that to bits!
Open the back doors and you’re in your own sweet back garden, complete with pale grey wooden dining set, umbrella, sunbeds, and there’s even a herb bucket with a little sign inviting you to help yourself. Again, those little touches made us feel completely at home (or should that be completely at hut?) :).
Anyway, if you can tear yourself away from Salad Days (and in the visitor book comments, there were quite a few guests who didn’t want to!) there’s so much to see and do in this part of Somerset. That makes the beach hut a great little base for exploring. And explore we did!
Once you’re on Dunster beach you basically turn right for a walk along the seafront to Anchor Bay, or left for a beautiful stroll along a couple of miles of unspoilt sand to Minehead. That’s the way we went and on a sunny day in February, we hardly saw a soul. It was stunning.
On the way back we climbed up the rocks, took the coast path and it was wonderful. You’ve got Minehead and West Somerset golf course on your right, providing a backdrop of green lush colour, and the contrast of the sand and sea on your left, which sent my brain in to scenic heaven mode! Yes. That's a real condition! :)
It’s only a short drive or walk in to Dunster itself too, where you’ve got an array of independent quirky shops, fab cafés and dog friendly places to eat. We particularly loved fish and chips by the fire in The Luttrel Arms on a cold February night (the bar is dog friendly) and Dunster Castle is definitely worth a visit. We’ll go back to Dunster later in the year and blog about it separately, because we really only scratched the surface this time around.
If you’re looking for more inspiration and recommendations during your stay though, Susan and Brett have got a file full of ‘fun stuff’ to do in the surrounding area (as well as ‘useful stuff’ to know about the hut). There’s lots of great things to see and do in it and their dog, Maverick, makes some great recommendations... for hounds, of course. He has his own ‘dog blog’ too, giving his paws of approval to the places he visits. Gotta love that!
So, what more can we say? If our arms were big enough, we'd have wrapped them around Salad Days Dunster Beach Hut and taken it with us! It's cool, small and perfectly formed... a total original and a fantastic base for you and your dog to discover all that Exmoor and the rest of Somerset has to offer. We reckon it’s a chance to create a mini heyday of your own, relax and have some fun. We definitely did.
P.S. If you'd like to stay in the Salad Days Beach Hut, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the website right here.
P.P.S. It’s barking brilliant says Petal! She really didn’t want to leave!
P.P.P.S. Dunster Beach hut ...