Walk - Sharkham Point & Berry Head

5.8 miles (9.3 km)

Brixham - William of Orange Statue - TQ5 8AZ Brixham - William of Orange Statue

Moderate - Some steps and stiles, with several stretches of ascent and descent, but they are not steep or prolonged.

A circuit linking Brixham's two headlands, giving fine views over Tor Bay. The Royal Navy's western fleet sheltered in the bay from the southwesterlies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bringing a need for extensive fortifications on the coast during the Napoleonic Wars. On a good day, there are panoramic vistas right across Lyme Bay towards Portland. The rare limestone grasslands provide a good habitat for many unusual plants. In the summer the cliffs are home to thousands of 'Brixham Penguins', whose rowdy activities can be watched on CCTV in the visitor centre on Berry Head. In the autumn it is a great place for watching migrant birds, including skuas, terns, and even petrels. Look out for bottlenose dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks in the water below.

St Mary's Bay to the East of Sharkham Point is dog-friendly all year. Have a look at our Top Dog Walks on the South West Coast Path for more dog-friendly beaches and pubs. 

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

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.

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.

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

Clinmore House

Situated in the coastal town of Paignton, Clinmore House is a bed and breakfast comprising of four bedrooms (three doubles and one twin) and off street parking.

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.

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.

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.

Quarry Lake Camping

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

The Osborne Apartments

Luxury self catering apartments nestled in the heart of the English Riviera with stunning sea views.

You'll be spoilt for choice for where to eat and drink along the Path. With lots of local seasonal food on offer, fresh from the farm, field and waters. Try our local ales, ciders, wines and spirits, increasing in variety by the year, as you sit in a cosy pub, fine dining restaurant or chilled café on the beach. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

The Guardhouse Cafe

Home-made seasonal food, cream teas and delicious coffee, all served with a smile and stunning views from our cliff-top Napoleonic Fortress. Open all year.

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.

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.

What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Shoalstone Seawater Pool

Shoalstone Seawater Pool is a great place to swim and paddle, and picnic on the green looking across the Bay. Shoals Café serves breakfasts, lunches and evening meals.

Sea Kayak Devon

Experience Devon's stunning coastline by sea kayak. Let our guides take you on an unforgettable journey. Individuals, groups, families. No experience necessary.

Dartmouth Visitor Centre

Find out everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Dartmouth and the surrounding area uth

Discover Dartmouth at the Flavel Cafe

Lively arts cafe in centre of Dartmouth with information about things to, where to go and places to stay in the area. Or for more information on line please visit www.discoverdartmouth.com

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the statue of William of Orange walk up Fore Street, turning left into Bolton Street at the traffic lights at the end. At the next set of traffic lights carry on along Greenswood Road, passing the hospital, to turn left onto Castor Road. Follow Castor Road uphill to the junction with St Mary’s Road, by the large tree.

When Charles II died in 1685, there was much unease in Protestant England at having a Catholic monarch (James II). Three years later James's wife bore him a son, sidelining his Protestant daughter Mary, who was married to William of Orange. High-level Protestant rebels in England asked William to invade the country and depose his father-in-law. William and his men landed at Brixham in November 1688, and the statue was erected in Victorian times to commemorate his landing.

Since the 1963 TV series about Devon Tudor adventurer, Sir Francis Drake (which was filmed around Dartmouth), a number of replicas of his ship have been permanently moored in Brixham harbour. Drake sailed the Golden Hind in his 1577-1580 circumnavigation of the globe. She was originally named the Pelican, but as Drake prepared to enter the Strait of Magellan in 1578, he renamed her the Golden Hind in honour of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose family crest was a golden hind.

  1. Turn left along St Mary’s Road, following it around to the left. Fork right after the entrance to the South Bay Holiday Park, continuing ahead as the road turns to a green lane. Carry on along the lane when it turns left, bearing left through the kissing gate and then bearing right across the open ground to a gate.
  2. Turn left on the South West Coast Path, following it around Sharkham Point. Reaching a kissing gate, cross it to turn right on the green lane beyond. Follow the Coast Path steadily uphill above the cliffs, around St Mary’s Bay.

St Mary's Bay was once known as Mudstone Bay, and a nearby lane is still called Mudstone Lane. As the Industrial Revolution brought trains (and so tourism) to places like Torbay, it brought a backwash of romanticism too. In an area of outstanding geological beauty, mudstone doesn't easily capture the imagination andthe name was changed.

The local bedrock is indeed mudstone, interbedded with limestone, laid down as sediments in warm shallow seas, some 392 to 398 million years ago in the Devonian Period. As you walk around St Mary's Bay you are moving over distinct bands of rock types, from the Sharkham Point Member, through the Mary's Bay Member and on to the Berry Head Member. They are all limestone and mudstone and contain many fossilised corals and shellfish.

  1. Do not cross the stone stile but instead turn right to continue along the Coast Path. At the next junction bear right to continue along the cliffs behind Durl Rock. Carry on ahead towards the ramparts of the South Fort, detouring right to visit it.

This stretch of coastline is a National and Local Nature Reserve, as well as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its birds, bats and plants. The exposed conditions on the two headlands and the thin limestone soil provide an unusual habitat in the mild climate for a number of nationally rare species that are under threat. It is one of only two locations in Britain where the white rock-rose can be found, and the small hare's-ear, a delicate low-growing plant with tiny yellow flowers growing in clusters in spiky triangular-leaved bracts. Another rare plant found here is the small restharrow, whose pink flowers resemble miniature sweet peas.

One of the south coast's largest colonies of guillemots nests on the cliffs beneath the South Fort, as you will hear if you visit during the nesting season! They are known as 'Brixham penguins' because of their upright stance and their black and white (actually dark brown and white) colouring. Apart from the breeding season, when they rear their chicks on the cliffs, guillemots spend their whole lives at sea. This colony can be seen live on CCTV in the visitor centre.

Tor Bay provides a safe haven for shipping during southwesterly gales. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was used for the safe anchorage of the Royal Navy's Western Fleet. Brixham's role was as a ‘victualling’ port, supplying provisions to ships in the Bay.

In the last decades of the eighteenth century, there was increasing concern among European leaders about the unrest in France, which eventually led to the French Revolution in 1789. By 1779 it was decided that coastal defences were needed for Torbay, in order to protect the naval fleet at anchor on both sides of the bay. The French Revolutionary Wars of 1792 were followed in 1803 by the Napoleonic Wars, and construction started on the South and North Forts in 1795, amid fears of an invasion by Bonaparte's army.

The South Fort provided protection for the main fortification on the headland ahead. The North Fort was armed with a formidable battery of guns and was also the site of the barracks and store-rooms. The South Fort was designed to repel any land-based attack that might come from troops secretly landed elsewhere along the coastline. Although France was dominant in land battles in the early years of the conflict, the British Royal Navy reigned supreme at sea. By 1815 the conflict was over, and Napoleon was brought into Torbay as a prisoner of war on HMS Belleorophon.

  1. Heading out of the northern side of the South Fort, take the path across the open ground to Berry Head, detouring right through the main fort to the lighthouse on the tip of the headland.

There was a primitive cliff castle on the headland in the Iron Age, some two thousand years ago, consisting of ramparts and ditches forming a defensive settlement. The name 'Berry Head' is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'bury', meaning 'fort'.

Caves in the cliffs provide a roost for greater horseshoe bats, an endangered species. A herd of North Devon cattle has been brought in to graze around the headland so that the dung beetles attracted by the cow pats are themselves a source of food for the bats.

Berry Head Lighthouse was built in 1906. In 1921 it was automated and converted to run on acetylene. It was not until 1994 that it was adapted again to run on mains electricity. It is claimed that it is Britain's shortest lighthouse (5m), one of the highest (58m above sea level) and was once the deepest -because the optic was originally turned by a weight falling through a shaft 45m deep shaft. Today an electric motor is used instead. Its white light flashes twice every 15 seconds and can be seen for 19 nautical miles.

  1. Returning to the fort entrance, follow the path ahead. Bear right at the junction, towards Brixham. The path travels behind some old limestone quarries and then descends through the trees to the road.

The Berry Head Hotel was originally built as a military hospital as part of the Napoleonic fortifications. After it was decommissioned it became the home of Brixham's vicar, the Reverend Henry Francis Lyte. A poet and an accomplished flautist, Lyte composed the hymn 'Abide With Me'. After he arrived in 1824, his services were so popular that the church had to be enlarged.

  1. On the road turn right to walk to the Shoalstone Car Park, turning right again through the car park to take the steps down to the path above the swimming pool. Follow the path back up to the road and turn right. Go down the steps opposite the Devoncourt Flats and continue to the end of the breakwater. Turn left to follow the path signed to the town centre, walking through the parking area behind the marina and carrying on to the Inner Harbour. Follow the path round to the right to return to the William of Orange statue.

To the left of the breakwater car park can be seen the Torbay Lifeboat Station. Brixham Lifeboat Station was opened in 1866 but since 1924 it has been known as 'Torbay'. The lifeboat station was granted the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Torbay on 29 April 1988. Since 2005 it has operated an all-weather lifeboat and an inshore lifeboat. For the period 1875 to 1923 Torquay also had a Lifeboat Station located at the 'Ladies Bathing Cove' (now known as Beacon Cove) close to the Imperial Hotel. 

In its early days, Brixham consisted of two settlements: an inland farming community (Cowtown) and a fishing community (known as Fishtown). In medieval days it was south-west England's largest fishing port and was known as the 'Mother of Deep Sea Fisheries'. At the end of the nineteenth century, there were some 300 trawlers in the fleet, and the town still has a fishing fleet and a fishmarket.

Public transport

Brixham is served by regular bus services from Torquay and Paignton and also from Kingswear, for the ferry connection with Dartmouth. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


Bank Lane, Brixham (Postcode for Sat Navs: TQ5 8AZ), Torbay Council pay and display.

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