Walk - Hope's Nose

4.2 miles (6.7 km)

Kents Cavern car park - TQ1 2JF Kents Cavern car park

Moderate - The walk itself is on good paths and pavements which are mostly level, but the detours to look at the rocks and fossils on the beaches and on Hope's Nose itself are steep and stony, with some scrambling involved. Wear appropriate footwear and take especial care if it is wet.

A short but fascinating exploration of the geology and history around Hope's Nose. The limestone rocks, laid down in tropical seas, are full of fossils, and the route follows the Victorian Bishop's Walk through the woods between Anstey's Cove and Meadfoot Beach. Allow time to visit Kents Cavern, where evidence was found of the world's earliest humans, who lived here almost half a million years ago!

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. Taking the steps from the Kents Caverns car park down to Ilsham Road, go into field opposite, walking around the playing field towards Anstey's Cove. Take a detour down the steep path to visit the tranquil cove, with its shingle beach and dramatic rocks.

The spectacular caves in Kents Cavern provided a home for some of the earliest humans, and flint axes have been found that were made by Heidelberg man almost 500,000 years ago, as well as more sophisticated tools made by succeeding generations of Stone Age people including Neanderthals. Details can be found at www.kents-cavern.co.uk

  1. From the corner of of Anstey's Cove car park pick up the South West Coast Path SWCP and follow it through the trees and around Black Head.

This path is known as Bishop's Walk. Today's Palace Hotel was once Bishopstowe, the Victorian home of Henry Philpotts, Lord Bishop of Exeter. Built in 1841 in the exotic Italianate style, with the path laid out around Black Head for the bishop's contemplative strolls, the palace incorporated 9 main bedrooms as well as 11 servants' bedrooms and a large shed for washing carriages! The palace was later bought by a bicycle magnate, George Hands, who designed the Calthorpe, one of the earliest cars. In the First World War Hands manufactured as many as 35,000 grenades a week before retiring to Torquay and turning Bishopstowe into a hotel. In the Second World War the palace was a military hospital for RAF officers and was twice bombed by the Germans, killing 64 people. After the war the hotel was rebuilt in its present form.

  1. When the Coast Path comes to Ilsham Marine Drive cross the road and turn left, walking along the footpath on the grassy bank above the road.
  2. Rejoining Ilsham Marine Drive directly opposite Hope's Nose, detour briefly over the stile across the road to visit Hope's Nose. Returning to the stile afterwards, turn left to carry on along the road, picking up the Coast Path again to follow it around Thatcher Point at the northern end of Tor Bay.

Part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for both its rock formations and its coastal fauna and flora, Hope's Nose is named from the word 'hoop', because the space enclosed by its hooked shape provided a temporary anchorage for ships caught in rising south-westerly gales.

The limestone around Torbay is unique to the area, providing the perfect habitat for some unusual plants, which are themselves food for the rare small blue butterfly. Look out for the tiny clover-like bright yellow flowers of kidney vetch, the miniature pink sweet-pea flowers of rest harrow and the autumn squill's pyramid clusters of delicate lilac stars. The more invasive species such as blackthorn, ash and sycamore are cut back where they pose a threat to these more fragile plants, but the scrub has been left elsewhere to provide a range of habitats for a variety of wildlife.

The limestone around the headland was extensively quarried in the past, with the rock being carried out by boat, and the cliffs in the quarry below provide dramatic evidence of Torbay's exotic history. Formed in the Devonian period, some 370 million years ago, Torbay's rocks were covered by shallow seas, where corals, sponges and shelled animals flourished in tropical reefs. In good light it is possible to spot tiny coral fossils in the rocks, and curled shell fossils known as goniatites.

  1. Arriving on Ilsham Marine Drive once more, turn left to walk towards Meadfoot Beach, following the Coast Path down to the car park to visit the beach. Returning to the car park afterwards, cross Ilsham Road and go over the green to take the footpath through the woodland, walking up Ilsham Valley to return to the car park at Kent's Cavern where the walk began.

At the southern end of the beach, scramble over the rocks beyond the cafe to Triangle Point, where more fossils are spectacularly displayed. Check these out in the limestone blocks of the sea wall along Meadfoot Sea Road above the beach.

Nearby refreshments

Seasonal cafés operate at both Anstey's Cove and Meadfoot Beach.

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