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

Carswell Cottages

6 peaceful, cottages dotted around our coastal organic dairy farm, just a short walk from the Path. Short breaks available all year.

Anchor Cottage

Luxury 4 bedroom waterside property with stunning views, slipway to the river for kayaking and paddleboarding. Free cream tea for SWCPA members.

Thorn House B&B

Stay at this stunning riverside property with double / twin rooms with spectacular views. Breakfast provied. Internationally recognized gardens open during your stay.

Mount Folly Farm

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. 

Cellars B&B

CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE Stunning location on the Coast Path, close to ferry. En suite rooms include a family garden studio room. Dogs welcome. Pub within 1 mile. Continental breakfast.

Wembury Bay Bed and Breakfast

Situated 5 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.

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

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.

Number One

Number One is a friendly, family owned B&B near Plymouth Hoe with 12 en-suite rooms, private parking & free WiFi. Ideally located for all main attractions and amenities

Bolberry Farm Cottages

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

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, Barbican and is ideally located for exploring the Coast Path.

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.

Bolberry House Farm Caravan & Camping Park

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 Holiday Homes

Luxury holiday homes with 360-degree coastal & countryside views. Pet friendly with enclosed garden. Owner managed.

Rocarno B&B

SINGLE NIGHT STAYS. Lovely views. Free wi-fi, free tea & coffee, great breakfasts.

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.

Welle House B&B

4 double/twin ensuite rooms in a family home, ½ mile from the path. Dogs very welcome. Good pub nearby.

Kittiwake Cottage

Luxury holiday cottage, mid 19th Century, white-washed fisherman's cottage, perfect base for a wonderful holiday in all seasons. Wifi available and dogs welcome.

Valseph, Beesands

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

The Cricket Inn

Situated in the quaint fishing village of Beesands, a stone’s throw from the beach. This award-winning pub serves fresh local seafood and offers 7 beautifully designed bedrooms.

The Old Newsagent

Ground floor flat, sleeps two. Fully equipped for self catering. Perfect location for walkers. Situated above historic Bayards Cove.

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.

Dartside Holidays

Based in Dartmouth, Dartside Holidays own and manage 16 self-catering apartments suitable for all budgets and all lengths of stay

The Commodore

Beautiful, clean seafront 'Room Only' accommodation, with shared kitchen and living/dining room (Subject to COVID19 restrictions)

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.

Brixham House

Lovely, friendly bed and breakfast approx 10 mins from swcp, fabulous breakfast, happy to accept 1 night bookings all year!

Westbury Guest House

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

Sea Salt

Luxury cottage stone's throw from the SW Coast Path, harbour and amenities. Super king & double, terrace, kitchen diner, wood burner. Private parking. 30 mins from Dartmoor.

Brixham Caravans

A small family business dedicated to providing high quality, great value caravan holidays & accommodation close to Brixham coastline.

Holidayhomes4rent

Static caravan rental on South Bay Holiday Park. Next to Path. 2 & 3 bed units available. Prices starting from £125 for 3nts and £175 for 7 nt stays.

Garway Lodge Guest House

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

Sea Tang Guest House

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

The Anchorage

Light bright airy double room with sea & countryside views. Private en-suite shower room with private sun patio and own entrance. Single night stays welcome.

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.

Owens Coffee

Devon coffee roasters since 2010. 100% organic & Fairtrade certified. Visit our roastery and buy great coffee at factory prices, book your own barista and coffee tasting experience. Coast Path Bantham, Dart & Gara blends available.

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

Jar

Zero Waste shop selling loose organic foods, snacks, vegan chocolate & sweets, homewares and locally made goods. Bring your own container or use one of ours!

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.