Walk - Salcombe Hill

4.7 miles (7.6 km)

Salcombe Hill National Trust Car Park - EX10 0NY Salcombe Hill Car Park

Moderate - Footpaths through woods and fields, tarmac paths, quiet roads. Some steep ascent and descent.

From Salcombe Hill, high above Sidmouth, you drop through woodland to the path running along beside the River Sid to the seafront, where a shingle ridge provides a buffer zone between the sea and the town. The Alma Bridge, with its nineteenth century origins, leads to the cliff-path zigzagging up the hill, above the towering red cliffs, to bring you up to a viewpoint with breathtaking views out over Lyme Bay and the famous cliffs of the Jurassic Coast.

This is a dog friendly walk with a shingle beach, woodland and open fields. 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.

Southcombe Guest House, Sidmouth

Only 10 minutes from the South West Coast Path with easy transport links. Garden & terrace, baggage transfer available.Dog friendly.

Higher Wiscombe, near Beer

3 luxury, dog friendly cottages, sleeping from 6-32, just inland from the Coast Path.

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.

The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth

Explore our Sanctuary – home to hundreds of rescued donkeys. Discover scenic walks, the maze and Nature Centre, and enjoy delicious food. FREE entry, open 365 days.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the National Trust car park on Salcombe Hill (this is the car park on the right hand side of the road if you are driving up from Sidmouth) turn left on the road and drop downhill a little way until you come to the bridleway on the right-hand side of the road, signed to Sidmouth via Milltown Lane.
  2. Turning onto the bridleway, follow it along the edge of the woods, forking right when you come to the link path to Soldiers Hill. 
  3. In the woodland bear right, to continue in the same direction. Stay with this track as it turns to the right around the trees and comes out on the road a couple of hundred yards later. 
  4. Turn left on the road and walk about 300 yards up it, until you come to the footpath on your left. 
  5. Taking this path, follow it over Soldier's Hill, dropping steeply downhill through the trees on the other side. Coming out onto Griggs Lane, beyond the trees, carry on along it in the same direction down past the buildings and along the road to Fortescue.

The Sidmouth Arboretum Database of Trees includes an oak in Soldier's Hill Field in its list of trees nominated by locals as being noteworthy. The database has been set up as part of a scheme to make Sidmouth the world's first civic arboretum. As well as identifying and promoting the interesting, rare or old trees which already grow in the town, the intention is to plant many more.

  1. Turn left onto Sid Road beyond, turning right onto the footpath between the houses shortly afterwards and following this down to the stream. Cross the stream and follow the path to the left, turning right into the next field and keeping the hedge on your left as you make your way to the path at the far end.
  2. Turn left here and follow the path to where it meets the River Sid. Carry along beside the river until you come to the footbridge. 
  3. Take the bridge across the river, and then carry on in the same direction as before, this time on the east bank of the river until you come to Salcombe Road.

Mammoths' teeth have been found in the riverbed here, and more were found downstream at Sidmouth Beach. Elsewhere around the local coastline, from the Exe to Lyme Regis, tusks, bones and teeth of elephant and rhinoceros have been found.

  1. Cross the road and carry on along Milford Road. When you come to the ford, take the footbridge over the river onto Mill Street, and at the bottom of the steps carry on in the same direction. Take the next road on the left, Riverside Road, to go behind the car park, and continue down it, past the park, to come out on the Esplanade.

Sidmouth, like West Bay to the east, is a low, naturally-reclaimed estuary separated from the sea by a shingle beach. In 1824 the town was devastated by a hurricane. A family living in one of a row of fishermen's cottages on the seafront took fright and fled up the cliff with their pig. Just as well, as it turned out: shortly afterwards the cottages were washed away, and in the morning their gardens were laid bare, apart from a layer of shingle swept in by the sea.

A hundred years later, another great storm washed away much of the shingle from the beach, going on to breach the sea wall and flood the town once more. Both here and at West Bay the beach has been replenished with additional shingle, to restore protection to the town behind it.

Heavy gales some years before this second great storm revealed a submerged forest on the foreshore, with stumps of trees found some eight feet below the high water mark. This is one of a number of submarine 'fossil forests' around the coastline which were drowned by the rise in sea levels some time after the last Ice Age.

  1. Here turn left onto the Coast Path, crossing the river on the Alma Bridge and following the footpath steeply up the hillside. At the top, follow the Coast Path waymarkers through the houses and around the diversion until you come to the top of the hill.

The original Alma Bridge (named after the 1854 Crimean Battle of Alma) was built by the Sid Vale Association in 1855, at a cost of £26/10s. It was constructed of timbers from the vessel Laurel which had been wrecked on the beach below, and steps cut into the hillside linked it to the cliff path. The bridge was repaired in 1877 after it had suffered storm damage, but in 1900 a new bridge was commissioned, and this time a zigzag path was laid up the hillside, at a cost of £150.

The Coast Path was diverted slightly following a series of rockfalls throughout February and March of 2009. This part of the coast is particularly susceptible to landslips. The famous Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliff, just to the east, was formed entirely from ancient landslides.

The possibility of falling rocks makes it dangerous to stand beneath the cliffs below the hill; but take a look at the them from the pier and see how the spectacularly coloured stripes of red Mercia Mudstone tower dramatically above the shingle.

This part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is famous for its 'unconformity'. The rocks from the Cretaceous geological period lie 'unconformably' on top of these red rocks from the Triassic period, with a whole geological period missing from in between them: here the rock laid down in the Jurassic period was completely eroded before the Cretaceous white Chalk and yellow Upper Greensand rocks formed on top.

  1. Here a path leads to your left, inland. Turn onto it, ignoring the paths off to right and left, and it will lead you back to the car park at the start of the walk.

Public transport

There are frequent buses to Sidmouth from Exeter, Exmouth and Honiton. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

In the NT Salcombe Hill car park (if driving from Sidmouth its on the RHS about 100 metres before the Observatory).

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