Summer strolls and secluded coves

The South West Coast Path’s top ten walks to the best hidden beaches

Little Strand Beach. Photographer John Thirkill

One of the joys of walking the South West Coast Path in summer is stumbling upon a secluded beach
on a remote stretch of coast and discovering that you’ve got it all to yourself – and taking a bracing dip if you’re brave enough.

From Dorset through to Cornwall, the South West has a wealth of beautiful sandy bays and secret coves that can only be reached on foot. Here’s our selection of the best – and the wonderful summer walks along the Coast Path that lead down to them.

1. Hidden beach: Famous Five’s cove at Rickham Sands, Devon 
The walk East Portlemouth to Gara Rock
Distance: 3.3 miles
Step out along the Coast Path, from the Salcombe Estuary and out to meet the wide open sea. Exhilarating scenery, and a wonderful way to get the wind in your sails.

2. Hidden beach: Mouthmill, Devon
The walk: Brownsham and Clovelly
Distance: 4.6 miles
Be dazzled with colour as you walk through some of North Devon's finest landscapes, including National Trust land and the Clovelly Estate. The trail takes you through Culm grassland, woodland and heathland, all rich in plants and wildlife, with an opportunity to visit the village of Clovelly.

3. Hidden beach: Little Strand, Cornwall
The walk: Crackington Haven Circular
Distance: 3.5 miles
This walk takes you from Crackington Haven to the magnificent viewpoint of Cambeak, along the cliff tops and then back down the beautifully wooded Ludon valley to the start point.

4. Hidden beach Chapman’s Pool, Dorset
The walk: Chapman’s Pool from Spyway car park
Distance: 7.3 miles
A breathtaking walk around a limestone coastline carved into dramatic caves and platforms by millions of years of erosion by the sea, and hundreds of years of human quarrying. From prehistoric times humans have lived here and exploited the cliffs and coves for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from prehistoric tools and burials through mediaeval farming to nineteenth century smuggling. Chapman's Pool itself is a wonderfully wild beach where the stream joins the sea from a plunging ravine carved through high cliffs.

5. Hidden beach: Fox Cove, Cornwall
The walk Constantine Bay to Mawgan Porth
Distance: 7.7 miles
A one-way walk (regular bus for the return journey), passing sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and passing the iconic Bedruthan Steps.

6. Hidden beach: Lee Bay, Devon
The walk Morthoe and North Devon’s Deadly Coast
Distance: 6.5 miles
Mortehoe is a small hilltop village on Devon’s northernmost coast. Despite its proximity to the holiday settlement of Woolacombe it retains an old-world charm and a feeling of remoteness, accentuated by its location high behind the rocky headland of Morte Point.

7. Hidden beach: Housel  Bay, Cornwall
The walk: Three Sides of the Lizard
Distance: 3.9 miles
A walk around the rugged tip of The Lizard, passing the most southerly point on the mainland, following undulating high cliffs. The highlight for many will be a glimpse of a chough. After being absent from Cornwall and the rest of England for around 50 years a pair of this aerobatic red-legged crow has nested near Lizard Point since 2002, and their descendents are now spreading along to other parts of the coast.

8. Hidden beach: Soar Mill Cove, Devon
The walk: Soar from Salcombe
Distance: 7.5 miles
This walk explores the mouth of Salcombe's estuary and the area around and inland of Bolt Head, one of South Devon's most prominent headlands.

9. Hidden beach: Portbeor, Cornwall
The walk St Anthony Head and Place
Distance: 6.3 miles
A circular walk of either 4.5 or 6 miles can be started from the ferry landing stage at Place. Alternatively you can start from the car park at St Anthony Head. Whichever you take, there are magnificent views as well as plenty of historical and wildlife interest to enjoy along the way.

10. Hidden beach: Ayrmer Cove, Devon
The walk: Ringmore and Bigbury
Distance: 3.6 miles
A walk that's relaxing and bracing, with refreshing open cliff tops, the timeless village of RIngmore tucked away, and enough 'up-and-down' to get the circulation going.






Published on: July 20, 2012