Walk - The Donkey Sanctuary Walk

2.7 miles (4.3 km)

The Donkey Sanctuary Car Park - EX10 0NU The Donkey Sanctuary Car Park

Moderate - Tracks, footpaths, a shingle beach, quiet country roads. There is some gentle descent, and a short stretch of steep ascent.

Much of the land around Weston is dedicated to the welfare of donkeys, as you will hear when you take the woodland walk down through the valley to the shingle beach below, with its gold and yellow cliffs. Heading inland again you walk through the fields where their fodder is grown, and along a beautiful memorial lane planted with trees and furnished with benches. An ideal walk for children, who will love the tiny shingle beach as well as the donkeys.

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.

Oakdown Holiday Park

Family run award winning Holiday Park with touring, camping, glamping units and 5 star leisure lodges. Peace & tranquillity by the Coast.

9 Riverside

A beautiful, 3 storey terrace next to the river with 4 bedrooms (sleeps 8). Perfect located for easy access to the Path and town. 2 night stays available (check availability)

1 Chapel Mews

1 Chapel Mews is a luxurious, cosy and modern cottage in a quiet area of central Sidmouth, 180 paces from the SWCP.

Higher Wiscombe, near Beer

4 dog friendly cottages, all bedrooms ensuite, two sleep 6, one sleeps 20, one sleeps 2. Luxurious and very eco, just inland from the South West Coast Path.

Coombe View Campsite

Come and stay with us in the heart of the beautiful green East Devon countryside. Just one mile from the unspoilt coastal village of Branscombe.

Starcombe Cabin

Self-catering, dog-friendly holiday let sleeping 4/5

Belmont House

2 minutes walk from the beach & South West Coast Path, offering Adult Only accommodation in 5 comfortable, ensuite rooms. Pubs, cafes and restaurants 1 minute walk away for breakfast and evening meal.
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.


Slap bang in the centre of Sidmouth’s world famous esplanade & community.Our all day offering has something for everyone – so whether you visit to eat, drink or stay.

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.


Pecorama is a leading visitor attraction overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage coastline with award-winning gardens & rides on Britain’s finest 7.25 inch railway.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From The Donkey Sanctuary Car Park head southwards into the sanctuary itself, and carry on in the same direction, through the Sanctuary gates and onto the track beyond. Follow this down through the combe as it turns into a path and then makes its way along the hillside above the trees.

Before you set off on your walk, you will of course want to look around The Donkey Sanctuary and support the cause by visiting the Visitors' Centre and maybe the Hayloft Restaurant too.

Slade House Farm is the central hub of the UK based charity, The Donkey Sanctuary, which works worldwide to improve conditions for donkeys and mules. With eight farms in the UK - including Slade House Farm, as well as several others nearby - it exists to provide care and protection for donkeys and mules anywhere in the world, and to prevent cruelty and suffering among them.

The Sanctuary grew from one woman's love of donkeys. In 1969, Yorkshire-born Dr Elisabeth Svendsen finally succumbed to a lifelong passion and bought her first donkey. Visiting Exeter market soon afterwards, the sight of seven donkeys crammed into a tiny pen moved her to set up The Donkey Sanctuary as a registered charity. By 1973 there were 38 animals in her refuge.

And then came the solicitor's phone call, telling her that the late Violet Philpin, who ran a donkey sanctuary near Reading, had left her 204 donkeys to Dr Svendsen! The two charities merged, and Dr Svendsen bought Slade House Farm to meet the rapidly expanding need for accommodation.

Since that time, more than 14,500 donkeys have passed through the charity's gates in the UK and Ireland. In addition, The Donkey Sanctuary works to care for donkeys and mules in various places around the world, with major programmes in India, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mexico. It also supports projects in other countries, particularly through its small grants programme. In 2010, the charity worked directly or indirectly in 29 countries, reaching over 400,000 animals, thanks to the passion, vision and drive of one remarkable lady. Sadly, Dr Svendsen passed away in May 2011, and she was at rest with her beloved donkeys for a morning in New Barn for visitors to pay their respects before a private funeral.

The Sanctuary welcomes visitors, and there are a number of short walks around Slade House Farm itself, as well as neighbouring farms which are part of the charity. Some of these are suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs in dry weather, and details are available from The Donkey Sanctuary.

  1. When a path crosses yours from right to left, turn left onto it and drop down the hillside, through the trees, to come out at the bottom of the valley.
  2. Turn right on the path here and carry on beside the stream until you come to the beach.
  3. Turn right on the beach and pick up the South West Coast Path moments later as it climbs the steps and heads steeply uphill, towards the yellow cliffs at Lower Dunscombe.
  4. Ignoring the path leading back towards The Donkey Sanctuary halfway up, carry on along the Coast Path as it continues to climb over the cliffs and then starts to curve inland above the steep-sided valley at Lincombe.

The chalk grassland at Lincombe is maintained by the National Trust as an area of wildlife conservation, and the many species that flourish here include the migratory Painted Lady butterfly and the rare orchid, marsh helleborine. The clifftops around Lincombe resemble a grassy lunar landscape, where the vegetation has filled in the hollows left in the rock by quarrying.

The rock from around here was particularly loved by stonemasons in the past. It was used in the construction of Exeter Cathedral, as well as for other famous buildings further afield, such as Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey. The main source of the stone was nearby Beer Quarry Caves, where quarrying has been happening since Roman times.

A much smaller quarry on one of the walks from The Donkey Sanctuary features the Hermitage, carved in 1824, with bed and fireplace still clearly visible inside. Another stony feature along this stretch of the Coast Path is a strikingly formal patch of flint, laid out in a tidy rectangle. This was a daymark, created high on the hillside here to guide ships around the coast. The depth of the flint used ensures that it keeps itself clear of vegetation. Flint is a very hard-wearing stone, and was used to build many houses in the district.

  1. When you come to the path heading inland as the Coast Path turns sharply around the head of the valley and points seawards once more, turn right and follow the track to the crossroads at the end of the field.
  2. Turn right again and take this second track through the caravan park, to come out on the road beside Dunscombe Manor.
  3. On the road turn left and walk about 150 yards, to the grassy lane on your right with its memorial trees and benches.
  4. Walking down along this lane, turn left when you come to the gap in the hedge on your left, and follow the sign through the next field,turning right at the end to carry on along the left-hand boundary of the next field.
  5. Ignore the path on your left at the end of this field, signed to Trow, instead going over the stile to take the right-hand path just beyond. Follow the path through the fields to the road.

Trow Farm is also part of The Donkey Sanctuary, and is one of the charity's largest farms, with 261 acres, which are mostly given over to growing hay and straw for the animals in the other farms.

  1. Cross the road and pick up the footpath almost immediately opposite, to your left, which will return you to The Donkey Sanctuary and the start of the walk.

Public transport

The Axe Valley Mini-Travel 899 bus runs between Sidmouth and Seaton, stopping outside the Donkey Sanctuary. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


In the car park by The Donkey Sanctuary (post code for Sat navs - EX10 0NU)


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