Geology walks along the South Devon coast

Schists and the English Riviera Geopark

If you’re looking for a walk along the South Devon coast that takes you past fascinating geological features, you’ve come to the right place.

South Devon - Schists

The rocks between Bolt Tail and Start Point are like few others that you will see on the Coast Path. The oldest rocks in Devon, they are known as schists - rocks which have been altered by intense heat and pressure. Most of them are mica schists – a shiny rock characterised by the predominance of the flaky mineral mica. Pressure and heat have aligned the flakes and made a normally soft mineral into a very hard rock. This means that it resists erosion well and strongly influences the outline of this part of the South Devon coastline.

The schist forms jagged pinnacles above the Coast Path around Bolt Head. You may also notice it in some very distinctive stone hedge banks that you can see close to the Path.

Torbay - the English Riviera Geopark

Torbay, despite being a built up area, has some spectacular Coast Path scenery and geology. Here the rocks were literally turned upside down by earth movements during a mountain building phase 280-300 million years ago. Large scale folding and faulting of the rocks can be seen around Thatcher Rock and Hopes Nose. At Meadfoot strange fossils in the limestone tell us about tropical reefs of the Devonian period. Around Goodrington, younger rocks that formed as the mountains were eroded in a hot arid environment, contain boulders and pebbles from the older limestones and shales. These red beds form the headlands at Livermead and Roundham Head.

In 2007, the importance of this geological heritage was recognized when the English Riviera Geopark was designated. Recognised by UNESCO and one of only seven geoparks in the UK, it consists of 32 separate sites. Most of which lie along the route of the Coast Path. Between them they cover 3 geological time periods and no less than 400 million years of earth history.