Taken from "A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing places" published in 1803 by Sir Richard Phillips:
(The population of Dawlish in 1801 was 1,424)
"The mild and genial softness of the air, on the south coast of Devon, is generally esteemed equally salutary for invalids with that of Montpellier or Nice; and, therefore, it is frequently prescribed for persons labouring under pulmonic disorders, and all the long train of complaints known under the vulgar name of declines. But, independent of health, pleasure had erected her standard in several stations on the south-east coast of this extensive county, and between the entrances of the Exe and the Dart alone, we find four places of public resort - Dawlish, Teignmouth, Shaldon and Torquay.
Dawlish, from a small fishing cove, has, within a few years, risen into a state of comparative elegance and extent. At first it was resorted to by those who wished for more retirement than they could enjoy at well-frequented places, but by degrees, its pure salubrious air, the conveniences it affords for bathing, and its natural beauties, pointed it out as an eligible summer retreat.
It is delightfully situated in a valley, on all sides surrounded by high grounds, except towards the east, which opens towards the cerulean expanse; fronting which, upon the strand, are some good lodging houses. Higher up are several other buildings, well calculated for families which command a pleasing view of various objects; particularly of a Gothic structure, erected by Sir William Watson. This pile has a kind of arcade in front, with columns and pointed arches, decorated with escutcheons and fret-wok pinnacles. It stand in a garden filled with various exotic plants, on one of the cliffs, and proudly looks down on the shore, which it commands for a considerable way, both towards Teignmouth and the opening of Torbay. Nearer the sea, a mount, imitating a natural rock has been raised, with a cell in the interior.
Farther up the vale, a range of neat buildings present themselves, among which are two inns which furnish tolerable accommodations. Opposite is an over-shot water mill which has a very romantic effect; and higher up, where the valley contracts, are several genteel lodging-houses, fronting the sea and each possessing a small plat before it, neatly railed in.