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 Ivy Barn B&B

The Ivy Barn, 6 ensuite letting Rooms, in quintessential English village, situated between Church and Village Pub, opposite village shop & post office

Carswell Cottages

8 unique holiday homes dotted around our organic dairy farm, just a short walk from the South West Coast Path. Suitable for couples, families & groups.

Parkdean Resorts Challaborough Bay Holiday Park

Set right in the the bay with unrivalled views of nearby Burgh Island and Bigbury beach, this park is the ideal located close to the Path.

Wembury Camping

Small site with hot shower and real loo. Near shop and pub with sea views. Just off the path and 15 minutes from the Yealm Ferry.

Higher Aunemouth Campsite

A small and basic but pretty camp ground located 3/4 mile from Bantham Beach, close to Thurlestone and Bigbury and about .75 miles from the Coast Path.

Merrifield House Devon

Views of Dartmoor, 3 Ensuite Rooms (7 adults). Off Road Parking. CCTV. Dogs Welcome. Near Bantham, Aveton Gifford, Bigbury & Salcombe

Wembury Bay Bed and Breakfast

10 minutes walk from Wembury Beach. Choice of 3 rooms, a twin en suite, a twin room or double. Rooms are fitted with TV's and Tea/coffee facilities. Wi Fi, washing/drying available, packed lunches on request. Pub close by.

Shearwater B&B

Just 400 metres from the SWCP, this beautiful 4 bedroomed home offer a double and twin room and home-cooked breakfast. Panoramic views over the Bay

Shute Farm

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.We are willing to pick up and drop off walkers between Salcombe and Bantham

Drakes View

Pop-up site close to Bovisand beach. No facilities.

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.

Leonardo Hotel

The Leonardo Hotel Plymouth is a modern city hotel, located a five-minute walk from Plymouth’s historic harbour and close to cafes and restaurants. Hotel bar with food menu available.

Edgcumbe Guesthouse

Just yards from the seafront this top quality guest house offers gorgeous en suite rooms, free wifi,hairdryers,generous beverage trays.

Mariners Guest House

James & Marie offer a warm welcome. Situated close to Plymouth’s historic Hoe, we have just been awarded Gold for our green tourism which we are proud of.

The Duke of Cornwall Hotel

A stunning hotel set in the heart of Britain's Ocean City with 72 individually styled bedrooms, a cosy Lounge and fine dining restaurant.

Ocean Reach Holiday Homes

Modern holiday homes with 360-degree coastal & countryside views. Situated on the SWCP on Bolberry Down. Pet friendly with enclosed gardens.

Downtown Salcombe

Period B&B property, five minutes level walk from coastal path. Guests’ fridge,sky tv, king size bed,nespresso coffee machine. Conveniently located in town.

Waverley B&B

Luxury B&B just 200yrds from the Coast Path 5 en-suite rooms, large choice of breakfast, 1-night stays welcome. Parking available

Seaflowers

A modern guesthouse on Frogmore Creek, Devon. Bookable privately for 14 guests, or a room-only basis to enjoy the luxury of a five-star hotel with shared facilities.

Maker Camp

Escape at Maker Heights. 'Wild' camping campsite, popular cafe and arts & crafts studios on site.10 mins walk from beach, village/pub. Part of Rame Conservation Trust.

Coombe House B&B

Beautifully renovated farmhouse, stunning sea views, ample carparking, 15 mins from the Path, 5 mins from Kingsand/Cawsand offering 4 pubs for dinner. Highly recommended on Trip Advisor.

Wringford Cottages

We are a family run, dog friendly, holiday cottage complex set it 3 acres with a heated indoor swimming pool, tennis court and 6 cottages.

East Prawle Farm Holidays

* Budget* Little Hollaway Camping Field, Mollie Tucker's Field Caravan and Motorhome Club CL, Higher House Farm Self Catering Accommodation

Kittiwake Cottage

Delightful, mid 19th Century, white-washed fisherman's cottage. A perfect base for a wonderful holiday in all seasons.

Dittisham Hideaway

A Luxury Collection of Spacious Treehouses, Luxurious Shepherds Huts and a 1950's Vintage Airstream

Quarry Lake Camping

2 miles from SWCP, simple pitches on working sheep farm. Pub within 1 mile.

Fairholme B&B

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

Leonards Cove Holiday Village

Leonards Cove is a picturesque holiday destination with a stunning clifftop location and amazing sea views offering self-catered, camping and touring accommodation.

Waterfront House

We have been awarded gld in the best bed and breakfast in Devon and silver in the best bed and breakfast n the south west . Set in a breath taking spot on the harbour

Eight Bells B&B

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.

5 Pottery Cottage

Warfleet Creek House adjacent to the Coast Path (Gallant's Bower) Sleeps 8 in 4 bedrooms with off street parking. Available all year.

Roadtrip Tavern

I have a loft space that is divided into 4 separate pods and is open plan like a dormitory and is specifically for SWCP Walkers.

Earlston House Hotel

A 9 room dog friendly B&B with excellent reviews, super views, very close to the South West Coast Path and a large hot tub to relax in.

Mercure Paignton

Experience the true English Riviera at Mercure Paignton Hotel, a seaside haven on Paignton seafront, your gateway to Devon's stunning coast and countryside. Enjoy sea-view rooms and unforgettable experiences.

South Bay Holiday Park

Set above the bustling town of Brixham, this lively holiday park has an action packed entertainment programme & childrens' adventure playground. Direct path to the delightful St Mary's Cove and the SW Coast Path. Range of chalets and caravans.

The 25 Boutique B&B

Funky 5-star adult-only boutique B&B, (twice named “Best B&B in the World”) located in easy walking distance of the coast path, restaurants, tourist attractions & harbour

Garway Lodge Guest House

Enjoy a 4 Star Award-Winning guest house bed & breakfast. Situated in Torquay. Early Breakfasts are available upon request.

The Cimon

The Cimon, a gorgeous Victorian villa, a few minutes walk from the Coastal Path, restaurants and attractions. Muddy boots welcome. Seasonal outdoor heated pool & bar.

Parkdean Resorts Torquay Holiday Park

Just 15 minutes’ drive from the waterfront, Torquay Holiday Park has the perfect mix of on-park activities and accommodation choices .

Berry Head Hotel Ltd

AA 4 star Hotel & Apartments with stunning sea views at the waters edge. Bistro & Restaurant, Indoor Pool on the Coastal Path.

Mount Brioni Holiday Apartments

Situated on the South West Coast Path and two minutes from Seaton beach , Mount Brioni is a collection of 1 or 2 bedroom holiday apartments with incredible sea views.

Haytor Hotel

Elegant and welcoming Victorian villa, offering delicious breakfasts, a peaceful night's sleep. 4 mins walks from harbour and beach.

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 Venus Cafe, Bigbury

Take away, with inside seating available

The Old Mill Cafe

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.

Cliff Edge Cafe

Right on the SW Coast Path, we offer tasty home cooked food, using locally sourced produce supporting local businesses. We offer a warm welcome and excellent service to all our customers

Hope and Anchor

Set in the heart of Hope Cove a stone’s throw from the beach & Path. Individual boutique rooms and al fresco dining.

Flapjackery Plymouth

Stop off and treat yourself or stock up for your trip along the Path with these delicious, award winning, gluten free flapjacks in a variety of flavours.

The V.O.T

Just a stone’s throw from the Royal William Yard, The V.O.T perfectly combines old with new, fusing together historical structure and contemporary design. Serving tapas, snacks, drinks & Coffee. Holiday cottage accommodation next door.

Ocean Studios

Ocean Studios is Real Ideas’ hub of creative energy, with a stunning exhibition and café space, located in the stunning Royal William Yard, a stones' throw from the SWCP.

Cliff Top Cafe

Family friendly cafe open 10 - 4 daily - stunning views of Whitsand Bay.

Blackpool Sands Cafe

Ultimate beach stop-off with stunning views, take-away, restaurant, watersports and beach sauna.

Bespoke Coffee Shop

Specialist coffee shop serving Voyager coffee, organic teas, single origin hot chocolates, sourdough toasties and locally sourced cakes and treats.

Salcombe Dairy Shop & Café, Dartmouth

Our ice cream and bean to bar café is set in the beautiful coastal town of Dartmouth. It’s an irresistible spot for walkers in need of sustenance.

Kings Arms at Strete

Community pub on South West Coast Path with stunning views

Bayards Cove Inn

Just a stone's throw from Bayard's Cove, this historic 14th century inn offers an all day seasonal menu in its cafe bar and restaurant and seven luxurious rooms. A perfect base from which to explore Dartmouth and the Path.

Flapjackery Dartmouth

Stop off and treat yourself or stock up for your trip along the Path with these delicious, award winning, gluten free flapjacks in a variety of flavours.

Dudley's Cafe

Family run cafe. We are conviently located close by to the Lower Ferry and the South West Coast Path. Food and drink served all day from all menu's.

Ebb & Flow

An independently run cafe in Kingswear with a spectacular view! Serving breakfast from 8am and a range of homemade cakes and light lunches

Harbour Light

Light-filled, rustic tavern with a terrace offering bay views, plus a menu of pub classics.

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.comFor Baggage transfers visit...www.lttaxis.co.uk

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.