Sidmouth faces the sea across an esplanade and a dramatically long and wide beach — it was once a fishing village, but nobody ever managed to make it into a port by building a harbour. It has been an elegant resort and retirement town since the nineteenth century. 

Many of its fine Georgian mansions are now hotels, the sort of places where Agatha Christie would have stayed. The country around ­— cliffs to east and west, valley behind — is all part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.