The Nautical Trail

South Devon: Plymouth to Dartmouth

Whether you want to spend a day or week exploring the beautiful coastline of South Devon, this is the trip for you. With the help of local experts we've pulled together ideas for days out on this nautical coastline.

Mayflower Pilgrims, Spanish invasions and sea creatures in Plymouth

Morning

Plymouth’s abundant maritime history awaits you on the 3.7-mile (6km) Plymouth Waterfront walk between Sutton Harbour and Royal William Yard. This starts with a meander around the historic docks of the Barbican and a visit to the Mayflower Steps, where the Mayflower Pilgrims set sail for the New World in 1620. The next stop is Plymouth Hoe, where there’s a statue of naval commander and seafarer, Sir Francis Drake, who famously played bowls here before sailing to fight the Spanish Armada in 1588. All along the route, sculptures and other street art are reminders of the role Plymouth has played in global exploration and trade. The final stop of this walk is the former naval storehouses at Royal William Yard, now home to smart restaurants and galleries. To return to the Barbican catch a ferry back from the Royal William Yard to the Mayflower Steps.

Afternoon

Reward yourself with lunch at one of the many eateries around the historic Barbican. Have a look around the area’s shops and art galleries, or take a tour of the Plymouth Gin Distillery to see, smell and taste what goes into one of our most famous and delicious exports. Alongside the Mayflower steps is the National Maritime Aquarium, which is the largest in the UK. Here you can see creatures of the deep and learn more about the sea life of the Plymouth Sound. If you still have the energy, sample some of the city’s bustling nightlife before retiring to the comfort of your hotel or bed and breakfast.

The sheltered riverbanks and rugged coastline of Noss Mayo

Morning

The picture-postcard village of Noss Mayo is 10 miles/16km south east of Plymouth. It’s part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - a protected area of coastline, estuaries and countryside covering 130 square miles (337 square km). From the colourful shoreside cottages of the village, follow the 4.2-mile (6.7 km) Noss Mayo and Revelstoke Drive walk. This easy walk reveals an array of landscapes, from sheltered estuary and wooded riverbanks to rugged coastline and wide open sea views.

Afternoon

Stop for a pub lunch in Noss Mayo or across the water in Newton Ferrers. After your fuel stop, take time to soak up the scenery of the Yealm Estuary, which is great for birdwatching. It is also a popular spot for sailors and anglers. Noss Mayo and its surrounding coastline have inspired artists and painters for centuries, thanks to the special south Devon light. If you’re here between Easter and the end of September, pop into The Gallery Project at the Revelstoke Room, next to the Village Hall, to view work of local artists.

[Noss Mayo is 30 minutes away from Plymouth by car, or 50 minutes on the No. 94 bus.]

Westcombe’s rising clifftops and Agatha Christie’s Burgh Island retreat

Morning

Head to Kingston (18 miles/29km east of Plymouth) for the 5.7 miles (9.2 km) Westcombe & Wonwell trail. This challenging walk starts on footpaths and bridleways before hitting the Coast Path at Westcombe. Take in the views across the Erme Estuary along the cliff tops rising to 100 metres (330 feet) above sea level at Beacon Point. This was one of the sites on the south coast where bonfires were lit to warn of the approaching Spanish Armada in 1588. The trail continues on a stretch of coast characterised by sharp, jagged rocks before heading back to Kingston from Westcombe Beach. Or you can continue east from Westcombe Beach for the 1.4-mile (2.2 km) walk along the steep but dramatic Coast Path into Bigbury-on-Sea.

Afternoon

If you’re back in Kingston, find your way to the charming seaside village of Bigbury-on-Sea, just 5.3 miles/8.5km south east. Here you’ll find some great waterfront cafés for a spot of lunch. Bigbury’s most famous landmark is Burgh Island. This small island is home to an art deco hotel as well as a beach house, built as a writer’s retreat for novelist, Agatha Christie. Walk across at low tide then get the sea tractor back when the sea floods the sandy causeway.

[Kingston is 40 minutes drive from Plymouth or one hour on the No. 875 bus. You can return to Plymouth on the No. 875 bus from Challaborough, 10 minutes walk west along the Coast Path from Bigbury-on-Sea]

Sand dunes and headlands at Thurlestone Rock and Bantham Beach

Morning

Head to Thurlestone (20.9 miles/33.6km south east of Plymouth and 5.5 miles /9km west of Kingsbridge). From here, join the 3.8-mile (6.2 km) Bantham and Thurlestone circular walk across the fields to Bantham village which was once a smuggler’s haven. Pop into the 14th Century Sloop Inn for refreshments before walking down to Bantham Beach.

Afternoon

Bantham Beach is one of the south coast’s best surf beaches. Here you can take a lesson with one of the local surf schools. Or, if the sea is calm, take a stand up paddle board tour along the shore or on the River Avon creek. If watersports are not your thing, treat yourself to an ice cream and soak up the atmosphere on the beach. Afterwards, take the Coast Path back towards Thurlestone across dunes, headlands and past the wonderful arched Thurlestone Rock. [Thurlestone is 50 minutes by car from Plymouth or one hour and 40 minutes on the No. 3 and 162 buses via Kingsbridge.]

Subtropical gardens, steep valleys and gorse-covered cliffs around Salcombe

Morning

Eat a good breakfast. You’ll need it for the 6.7-mile (10.8 km) Salcombe & Soar Mill Cove walk. Start in Salcombe (20.8 miles/33.5km south of Dartmouth) and walk through woods and picturesque thatched villages, before hitting the coast at Soar Mill Cove. From here it’s a challenging hike up and down steep valleys and across gorse-covered cliffs towards Bolt Head. Follow the South West Coast Path straight through the jagged teeth of Sharp Tor, with precipitous views down to the Salcombe estuary. If you have any power left in your legs, take a stroll around the subtropical gardens of the National Trust property, Overbecks. Stop for coffee at South Sands before returning on foot to Salcombe.

Afternoon

The tranquil haven of Salcombe is a hotspot for sailors as well as holidaymakers. It’s also a foodie’s heaven, where you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood plucked straight from the sea. Lunch on a Salcombe crab sandwich, washed down with Salcombe Dairy ice cream. In the afternoon, take a sailing lesson or a rib tour of the creeks and tributaries, or hire a kayak to explore for yourself. If you fancy a tipple after your day’s adventure, head to the Salcombe Gin Bar and sip a locally distilled gin and tonic while gazing out over the water.  

Start Point lighthouse and Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve

Morning

Join the coast path at Start Point (14 miles/22.5km south of Dartmouth) for the 2.1-mile (3.5 km) Start Point and Great Mattiscombe Sand walk. This trail follows the exposed peninsula to the Start Point lighthouse, built in 1836 to warn ships of the treacherous submerged rocks off the headland. Continue west on the steep terrain to Great Mattiscombe. Take the steps down to the beach, before circling back on the inland trail to the Start Point car park. From here it’s a 30-minute walk or 10-minute drive to Hallsands, where you can see the ruins of the former fishing community, destroyed after dredging left the village exposed to sea storms.

Afternoon

Stop for lunch in Torcross before heading to nearby Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve. Slapton Ley is a large freshwater lake, only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar. Stroll around the lake (1.5 miles/2.5km) to discover the unique habitats of reedbeds, marshes and woodland. From here, take the coast road north (10 minutes by car or 15 minutes on the No. 3 bus) to Blackpool Sands. This is one of South Devon’s most beautiful beaches with fine, golden sand and clean water making it the ideal place for a swim (and it’s only four miles/6.4km south of Dartmouth).

The rich maritime history of Dartmouth – castle, cove and Crusades

Morning

Situated at the mouth of the River Dart, Dartmouth has a long maritime history which can be explored on the Dartmouth Castle & Gallants Bower walk (3.4 miles/5.5km). This trail follows the coast beside the waterway where Richard the Lionheart sailed English forces to fight in the Crusades. Continue past the cobbled quay and fort at Bayard’s Cove, where the Pilgrim Fathers’ Mayflower docked for repairs on the way to Plymouth and the New World. Next up is the imposing fortress of the 15th Century Dartmouth Castle, which protected the port from invasion for many centuries. Make sure you climb Gallants Bower, a tall look-out tower, for fine views across the estuary to Kingswear and Froward Point.

Afternoon

Circle back to Dartmouth for quayside seafood or fish and chips. Once refreshed, hop on board a ferry up the Dart estuary to the attractive riverside village of Dittisham. The pontoon here, like the quayside in Dartmouth, is a great place for crabbing. After a drink in the River Boat Inn, ring the bell to summon the ferry for the short hop across to Greenway. This National Trust house and estate was once owned by the author Agatha Christie who described it as the ‘the loveliest place in the world’. From here there’s a lovely riverside walk towards Kingswear, where the Higher Ferry crosses the narrow channel back to Dartmouth.

With so many popular holiday spots in the area, you are spoilt for choice for places to stay. For ease and convenience, base yourself in Plymouth, Kingsbridge, Salcombe and/or Dartmouth where there are some lovely hotels, guest houses and campsites.

The businesses shown below are supporters of the Coast Path and welcome walkers. Additional listings can be found on the websites of Visit Devon and Destination Plymouth. If you would like to have your accommodation and luggage transfer arranged, Encounter Walking Holidays and Contours Walking Holidays  can create your perfect package.  

The Ivybarn, Holbeton

The Ivybarn B&B in Holbeton approximately 2 miles from the Erme Estuary crossing. Ideally located for Coast Path walkers.

Blackadon Barn Holiday Cottages, Ivybridge

4* S C cottages for 2/4/6or20 double / twin en suite.Ideal base for walking Plymouth to Dartmouth. Pick up & drop off - Arrive by train - Local pub. How can we assist you?

Kimberley B&B, Ringmore

Sleeps up to 4 in King and Twin rooms with private bath. Cooked breakfast.  Sea views. Local pub. Dogs in twin room. £40 pppn, single supplement £20 per room.

Heart and Sole Wellbeing

Beautiful 4-bed house 2mins from beach.  I offer fitness sessions, mindfulness, nutritious superfoods to reenergize, refocus and reinvent.   

Thorn House B&B, Wembury

Stay at this stunning riverside property with double or twin rooms; both with spectacular views. Internationally recognized gardens also open during your stay. German Speaking.

Summerwinds, Bigbury

Views to Bantham and Burgh Island. Full English breakfast.Wifi.One night stays welcome.

Mount Folly Farm, Bigbury on Sea

Basic farm campsite located right on the Path.  Showers, toilets, electric hook ups, camp fires and a field with a view.  Ideal stopping point before crossing the River Avon. 

Ferrystop B&B, Wembury

Wembury B&B plus taxi service, 1km from Coast Path.  One twin en-suite.  £30pppn including breakfast. Free wifi. For more info call 01752 863710 or email [email protected]

Cellars, Noss Mayo

Stunning location on the Coast Path, close to ferry.  En suite rooms include a family room garden studio.  Dogs welcome. Phone 01752 872771

Worswell Barton Farmhouse B&B, near Noss Mayo

A working National Trust Farm, situated on the penisula of the river Yealm 10 minutes from the Warren Car Park,
B&B or S/C walking groups welcome.

Wembury Bay Bed and Breakfast

Situated 5 minutes walk from Wembury Beach. Choice of 2 rooms, a twin en suite or double. Rooms are fitted with TV's and Tea/coffee facilities. Wi Fi, washing/drying available, packed lunches on request. Pub close by.

37 Kingfisher Way, Oreston

Right on the Coast Path with beautiful views overlooking Hooe Lake. 2-bedroomed waterside house (including en-suite in master bedroom).

Raleigh Stile B&B, Plymouth

A family run B&B on the eastern side of Plymouth alongside the Coast Path and on the Mount Batten peninsula. Our aim is to offer excellent accommodation and service.

Shute Farm, South Milton

16th Century character farmhouse in quiet position. A short distance from the Coast Path and lovely sandy beaches. 3 comfortable ensuite rooms. Open all year.

The Old Post Office, South Milton

The Old Post Office is a small friendly B&B with a big welcome for walkers and families in a great location close to the South West Coast Path.

Little Waverley, Hope Cove

Just yards from the South West Coast Path offering weekly lets & short breaks for 2-4 people – TV, wifi, parking, 2 mins walk to post office /shop, pub & cafe.

Ashleigh House, Kingsbridge

Ashleigh House is a 7 Bedroom 4* Victorian B&B with parking, used by walkers as a base for 2-4 day walks using local buses and taxis. There are good Restaurants, Pubs and Shops within walking distance of the house.

Bolberry Farm Cottages, near Salcombe

Half a mile from the South West Coast Path at Bolberry Down. Short breaks available. Dog friendly.

Rusty Anchor, Plymouth

A classic Victorian townhouse adjacent to Plymouth's bustling harbour. This elegant six bedroomed property has been modernised to provide a chic, eclectic look whilst maintaining much of its originality. Locally sourced organic food. Accommodation is flexible, from long term stays, special offers, weekend deals etc.  Small short haired dogs welcome.

Edgcumbe Guest House, Plymouth

Highly recommended guest house offering quality accommodation and fabulous breakfasts using top quality produce. Long established, clean and extremely comfortable, family run.  Perfect base for your walking holiday.  Ideally located a few yards from the sea front.  En suite rooms, free wifi, digital tvs, hairdryers, generous beverage trays. Special diets catered for.

Bolberry House Farm, Marlborough

Nestled in the rolling hills of South Devon, between the old fishing village of Hope Cove and the boating paradise of Salcombe. An ideal base to explore the magnificent South West Coast Path.

Ocean Reach

Luxury holiday homes with 360-degree coastal & countryside views. Restaurant & Bar.Food locally sourced, cooked and presented to the highest standard.

The Edgcumbe Arms, Cremyll

The Edgcumbe Arms is situated on the Coast Path where Cornwall meets Devon. We have 4 recently refurbished B&B rooms and are open all day for food & drinks.

Higher Rew Touring Caravan & Camping Park

Higher Rew is a 4 star family run park close to beautiful Salcombe and the South West Coast Path. The Squire family have, over many years, created a relaxed caravan and camping park for your enjoyment.

Coombe House, Cawsand

Coombe House B&B - Beautifully renovated farmhouse with stunning sea views and ample carparking.  Just 15 minutes from the Coast Path and 5 minutes from Kingsand/Cawsand offering 4 pubs for dinner. Spacious and immaculate. Highly recommended on Trip Advisor.

Kiln Nook

Kiln Nook is a comfortable, well-furnished self-catering apartment just 1 mile from the Coast Path, in the peaceful village of Stokenham.

Welle House B&B, East Prawle

A warm welcome awaits you in our family home in the unspoilt coastal village of East Prawle.

Valseph, Beesands

Valseph offers comfortable, friendly accommodation in the well appointed garden room - right on the South West Coast Path.

The Cricket Inn, Beesands

The Cricket Inn first opened in 1867. It boasts 7 beautifully appointed bedrooms, five with unrivalled views. They are awarded 4 stars alongside the restaurant with 1 rosette, both at AA standard.

Down Farm Holidays, near Start Point

Lovely 600 year old Devon Farmhouse B&B using local and homegrown produce. 3 en-suite rooms with sea views. Close to the coast path. Self catering also available.

Fairholme B&B

Fairholme is a small and friendly B&B just off the coast path famed for its excellent breakfasts.

Cladda House B&B and Self catering Apartments

Cladda House- en-suite B&B rooms, Super King Double, Twin or Standard Double. Also Self Catering Apartments.

Camelot B&B, Dartmouth

Set back from the harbour with easy, quick access to all the attractions of Dartmouth. Tel: 01803 833805 / 07870 665863 or email [email protected] for more details.

Eight Bells B&B, Dartmouth

Variety of breakfasts with a stunning view. On waterfront, a few minutes from the Coast Path. 1 double, 1 family room. Both ensuite. Sleeps 6 max.

The Bungalow B&B

A warm welcome awaits walkers in my home overlooking Whitesand Bay. 200m from Coast Path. Open all year.

Bay Esplanade Hotel

Overlooking Paignton Beach, close to the Pier. Traditional seaside stay on the English Riviera, a few minutes from the town centre with fabulous views of the bay from the hotel’s informal lounge and bar areas.

Elberry Farm B&B, Broadsands

Uniquely situated just a few minutes from the Coast Path, this working farm offers you a home from home stay. Comfortable rooms with hospitality trays, TV all en suite. A hearty breakfast.  Our garden offers a peaceful haven.

The Clifton at Paignton

Steve and Freda look forward to welcoming you to the Clifton, which is ideally located, just off the sea front. Around the corner from shops and stations. Within easy reach of Dartmoor.

The Haldon Guest House, Paignton

Situated 3 minutes walk from Paignton beach, pier and town centre, we are ideally located for exploring the beautiful English Riviera and beyond. Tasty breakfast and a sunny garden to enjoy a cream tea in.

Brixham House, Brixham

Friendly, licensed B&B. Renowned for fabulous breakfast choice. 10 minutes from Brixham Harbour.

Treliddon Farm, Downderry, Torpoint

Our 200 year old farmhouse is a home from home offering drying facilities, wifi and free Downderry pick-up.  Self catering also available. Please phone 01503 250288 for further details.

Westbury Guest House, Brixham

A 14th century Georgian Guest House with great charm and character. Short level walk from the harbour, pubs and restaurants.

Bay Torbay Hotel

Superb location close to marina, opposite the promenade where you can join the Coast Path. indoor swimming pool, two bars, cafe & snack bar, and lovely sun terrace.

The Smugglers Haunt Hotel

This property is a 11-minute walk from the beach. Smugglers Haunt Hotel is a 300-year old building in the charming fishing town of Brixham.

Millbrook Guest House, Torquay

All rooms ensuite, wi-fi & on-site parking. Garden. Guest lounge with TV & conservatory. 800m flat level walk to the sea front.

Driftwood B&B, Brixham

Welcome to the new contemporary-classic boutique B&B in the heart of Brixham harbour. In an elevated position, 250 yards from the South West Coast Path, Driftwood combines peace & quiet with stunning views.

Beacon House B&B,Brixham

Nestled in the harbour bowl of this historic fishing town, Beacon House commands breathtaking views of the inner harbour, marina and beyond the breakwater. A warm welcome awaits all walkers.

Caravan at South Bay Holiday Park, Brixham

One spacious caravan @South Bay Holiday Park Brixham. Contact 01626 821221. Open 1 March →30 Nov.  Sleeps up to 8. All amenities on site. 5 mins from South West Coast Path.

Garway Lodge Guest House, Torquay

Adults Only,4 Star Silver Award Licenced Guest House. Single, Double and Twin rooms. Award winning breakfast available, including special diets.

Sea Tang Guesthouse, Brixham

Friendly, family run guest house located a few steps form the sea with beautiful views across Torbay.

South Devon is a foodie’s paradise, with locally farmed meats, freshly caught fish and seafood. While here you will also want to treat yourself to a Devonshire cream tea and the occasional farm-fresh ice cream. The area is home to many great breweries including South Hams Brewery and the Salcombe Brewing Company. And don’t forget to sample the locally distilled Salcombe Gin.

The businesses shown below are supporters of the Coast Path and welcome walkers. Additional listings can be found on the Visit Devon website.

The Old Mill Cafe, Wembury

Located right on Wembury beach.  A National Trust building run by sisters Jemma and Jennifer.  We provide light refreshments, locally roasted organic coffee, delicious pasties from local supplier and homemade sandwiches and soup to have in or takeaway. We are open everyday until 1st November 1030 - 4.30pm 

The Cove Café Bar

Multi-award winning, the best local produce, Little Sailors and takeaway options Over 70 craft beers, ales & ciders Live sport multiscreen.

Coast @ Gara Rock

“Spectacular views and food to match”  Family friendly food that does not cost the Earth. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or website.

The Queens Arms, Slapton

The Queens arms is a traditional Devon village pub offering home cooked food and a wide selection of ciders and beers. There is a large walled garden and patio.

It’s best to have your own car to make the most of your visit to this area. There are regular buses linking the major destinations, but they are few and far between for smaller villages and trailheads. However, a combination of bus and taxi travel will make this possible. Local routes are served by Plymouth Citybus, Stagecoach Southwest and Tally Ho. For easy bus and train journey planning and timetable information visit www.travelinesw.com.

From Dover it is 324 miles (521km) and approx 5¾hrs drive to Kingsbridge.  From Harwich it is 280 miles (451km) and a 5¼ hour drive.