Walk - Dartmouth to Brixham

10.9 miles (17.5 km)

Dartmouth Brixham

Challenging - Strenuous

The journey begins with a ferry trip across the river Dart from the town of Dartmouth to Kingswear. The Coast Path then climbs through wooded areas containing Monterey and Corsican Pines, with fantastic views glimpsed back over the Dart to the spectacularly sited 15th century castle. Much of the first section is managed by the National Trust, who take great care to ensure a safe habitat for birds. A good place to spot many different species is along the stretch of cliffs around Froward Point, where you may see linnets, skylarks and the rare cirl bunting.

From where you pass Kingswear Castle through to Sharkham Point the path crosses a series of valleys, making one of more challenging parts of the Coast Path in South Devon - but also one of the most spectacular.

At Berry Head National Nature Reserve the cliffs are home to the largest guillemot colony to be found along the south coast of England. The surrounding limestone meadows also support a number of nationally rare plants and are full of beautiful wildflowers from May to August. From the tip of Berry Head you may see harbour porpoises and seals, although you are unlikely to spot any of the threatened Greater Horseshoe Bats who live in caves in this area.

Interactive Elevation

Highlights

  • Taking the ferry across Dartmouth harbour to Kingswear and looking up the beautiful River Dart.
  • Looking and listening out for the Dart Valley Steam Train, which follows the line that was opened to use in 1864.
  • Kingswear Castle: slightly hidden amongst the trees is a
    15th century square artillery tower and a 16th century blockhouse. These are now owned by the Landmark Trust and can actually be hired as holiday accommodation.
  • Spotting grey seals around the Mew Stone. This is one of a number of offshore rocks with this name due to the nesting colonies of gulls (or mews).
  • The remains of WWII defences at Froward Point, decommissioned in 1956.
  • The lovely views from above Pudcombe Cove.
  • Scabbacombe Head: the National Trust manages this site using wild ponies to keep down the scrub and consequently encourage maritime plants and butterflies.
  • Swimming at Scabbacombe Sands or at one of the other beaches you pass.
  • The flowers of Long Sands Cliff. Along this stretch you may see bird’s-foot trefoil and early purple orchids, as well as some of the beautiful butterflies who also enjoy the many different species of flowering plants growing amongst the maritime grasses.
  • Man Sand with the remains of a 19th century lime kiln. Limestone was brought by boat and burnt to make lime which was used as a soil conditioner and a wash for the walls of the local cottages.
  • Views from Sharkham Point over St Mary’s Bay and on to Berry Head. Now managed as a conservation area, the Point was once an important site for iron mining, as well as serving as the town tip for Brixham.
  • Spotting the nesting kittiwakes, guillemots (known locally as the Brixham penguin) and fulmers.
  • Looking down on the long stretch of sand and shingle of St Mary’s Bay. Access to the beach can be difficult, but there are often people here searching for fossils, as well as enjoying the peace away from Brixham and the other holiday resorts of Torbay.
  • Walking round the high cliffs of Berry Head: this limestone peninsula is a National Nature Reserve and the site of an Iron Age hill fort and also has two well-preserved Napoleonic fortifications. Beyond the coastguard station is the Berry Head lighthouse which is known as the smallest, highest and deepest light in the British Isles. Due to the height of the cliffs, the tower only needed to be built 5 metres high!
  • The fishing port of Brixham: built around the quay, this historic town has a range of shops, galleries and cafes to welcome walkers. There has been a settlement here since Saxon times and the town went on to become the home of trawling and had one of the largest fleets of wooden trawlers in the world. There is a statue of William of Orange on Brixham Quay as he landed a crew of 20,000 men here in 1688 and here you will also find a full-size reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s vessel the Golden Hind.

Places of interest

  • Walking the Dart Valley Trail through Long Wood on the banks of the Dart Estuary. An ancient sessile oak wood, which is home to many birds, including woodpeckers, buzzards, treecreepers and nuthatches as well as bats and roe deer.
  • Catching the ferry up the River Dart to Totnes or Greenway and returning along the Dart Valley Trail.
  • The Tower Day Marker: follow the path from Inner Froward Point towards Brownstone. The Beacon was built in 1864 to help guide ships towards the River Dart.
  • Coleton Fishacre: this National Trust property has fine examples of Art Deco interiors as well as a beautiful garden of rare and exotic plants. For details tel: 01803 753017.
  • Learning all about Torbay’s most important site for wildlife and geology at the Berry Head Visitor Centre. Tel: 01803 883262.

Shorter option

It is not easy to shorten this section due to a lack of accommodation close to the Path, therefore we suggest you walk out a distance and then return to Dartmouth or Kingswear.

Longer option

Continue to Paignton (an additional 5.6 miles, 9.1 km).

Nearby refreshments

There is a good selection of shops and cafes in Dartmouth where you can stock up on supplies for the day. Further on, there is a National Trust tearoom at Coleton Fishacre, but not a lot more until Brixham. Brixham has a good range of pubs, shops and cafes. Establishments that serve local produce include The Brixham Deli on Fore Street, where you will find a great selection of patisserie.

Public transport

The nearest train stations are Totnes and Paignton. From Totnes you can catch buses to Dartmouth, and then catch the very regular ferry across to Kingswear. Alternatively you can take one of the river cruise boats down the Dart from Totnes to Dartmouth. From Paignton there are frequent buses to Kingswear, or you can arrive in style by taking the Steam train.

For bus timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

 

Parking

Dartmouth, Coleton Fishacre, Sharkham Point, Berry Head and Brixham.

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