Walk - Bigbury on Sea to Salcombe

13.0 miles (21.0 km)

Bigbury-on-Sea Car Park - TQ7 4AZ Salcombe

Easy - Moderate to strenuous

Much of this stretch of the South West Coast Path is owned by The National Trust. There are spectacular views as the Path passes through fields above beautiful sandy coves, all part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Your journey begins on a boat across the Avon to Bantham and from here the Path offers fairly easy walking past Thurlestone (watch out for golf balls!), until it begins to dip up and down to the sea on its way to the beautifully sheltered Hope Cove.

The following section from Hope to Salcombe is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful sections of the entire 630 miles of the South West Coast Path. Look out for kestrels and peregrine falcons around Bolt Tail and take a rest to look at the extraordinary mica schist rock formations around Soar Mill Cove. The Path is quite rugged and difficult in places, but becomes easier as you join the Courtney Walk and look down on the steep rocky slopes which lead down to the sea along the final stretch into Salcombe.

Interactive Elevation

Highlights

  • Views of Burgh Island: the hotel, which holds many events throughout the year, including black tie dinner dances and a round the island race, is a unique example of English seaside Art Deco and has provided the setting for some of the novels of Agatha Christie.
  • Taking the ferry across the Avon from the dunes of Cockleridge to Bantham. The ferry runs from Easter to September (see Ferry Information for details. It is not recommended to try and wade across at low tide, as there is always a deep channel and the current can be strong. As an alternative you can follow the very attractive waymarked Avon Estuary walk to Bantham via Aveton Gifford. This would add an additional 9 miles (14.5 km) to your journey.
  • The wild flowers on the way to Warren Point. You may see banks of thrift, white clover and marguerites.
  • South Milton Ley: a Site of Special Scientific Interest, this is the second largest reed bed in Devon and a fantastic spot for birds.
  • The impressive natural arch of Thurlestone Rock.
  • Hope Cove: sheltered from south-easterly winds, the twin fishing and crabbing villages of Outer and Inner Hope were once a favoured haunt for smugglers. There are beautiful beaches, thatched cottages, galleries and pubs making this a good place to stop for refreshments. Dolphins and seals are often spotted around this area.
  • Views back to Burgh Island from Bolt Tail. Rame Head, near Plymouth, and the promontories of South Cornwall are visible beyond. The earthworks of an important hill fort are clearly visible here and it is thought to have been built between 500 and 600 BC.
  • Reaching the top of Bolberry Down (395 ft, 120 m) and keeping a look out for yellowhammers, skylarks, meadow pipits and the rare Dartford warbler.
  • Soar Mill Cove: this sheltered, sandy cove is a good place for rock-pooling. In 1887 a 3 metre high wall of tea was washed ashore after the clipper the ‘Halloween’ was wrecked in these waters.
  • The rocky headland of Bolt Head, with its remains of a WWII lookout built into rocks and an RAF satellite station.
  • Watching the seabirds around the offshore rocks known as Mew Stone and Little Mew Stone. ‘Mew’ is another word for gull.
  • The impressive pinnacle of Sharp Tor.
  • The last mile into Salcombe is unfortunately along a road. A better way of doing this bit is to catch the little ferry (seasonal) from South Sands to Salcombe.
  • Arriving in Salcombe, a centre for sailing and home of delicious Salcombe Dairy ice-cream.
  • The remains of Salcombe Castle, or Fort Charles, which was originally built as one of Henry VIII's defences against French and Spanish invasion, stands on a rocky outcrop at North Sands. More about the history of Salcombe can be found at the Museum of Maritime and Local History on Market Street, open daily from Easter to the end of October.

Places of interest

  • Take the sea tractor, or walk across the sands at low tide, to Burgh Island and visit The Pilchard Inn which dates from 1336.
  • Overbecks. A National Trust Edwardian house, tea rooms and sub-tropical gardens. For details tel: 01548 842893.
  • Visiting the church of All Saints in Malborough with its slender
    13th century landmark spire. A fire beacon was sited here in 1588 to send warning of the approaching Spanish Armada.
  • Exploring the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary which provides a variety of habitats for many different species of birds, such as gannets, curlews, grebes and mute swans.

Shorter option

Stop at Hope Cove (4.9 miles, 7.9 km).

Longer option

There is little accommodation after Salcombe so we suggest you end your walk here.

Nearby refreshments

There is are selection of pubs, restaurants and cafes spread along the route at Thurlestone, Hope Cove, Bolberry Down, and Salcombe.

Public transport

The nearest train stations are Plymouth and Totnes. From both of these you can catch a bus to Salcombe via Kingsbridge.  It is difficult to get to the Bigbury or Bantham on either bank of the River Avon at the start of the walk by bus - the nearest place is Thurlestone, about 2½ miles from the start. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

For details of the seasonal passenger ferry across the Avon from Cockleridge to Bantham, and the ferry across the Salcombe Estuary at the beginning of the section, please look on our estuaries and ferries page.

Parking

Bigbury-on-Sea, Bantham, Thurlestone, Thurlestone Sands, Hope Cove, West Cliff, above Soar Mill Cove, Overbecks and Salcombe.

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