Walk - Devon Cliffs - Budleigh Salterton

3.0 miles (4.8 km)

Devon Cliffs - EX8 5BT Budleigh Salterton

Moderate -

View the Jurassic Coast as you enjoy a walk based on the charming seaside town of Budleigh Salterton. This walk uses part of the South West Coast Path. Return by the same route, or catch the bus back.

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.

Quentance Farm, West Down Beacon, Exmouth

Halfway between Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton, our comfortable farmhouse offers local food,log fire and free wi-fi in the cosy guest lounge. Well behaved dogs welcome.

Ladram Bay Holiday Park

Celebrating 75 years of 5* family holidays, we offer the opportunity for visitors to join us for a day, holiday or holiday-home ownership.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. Facing the sea at the South Beach café turn left and follow the South West Coast Path waymark signs as it skirts the edge of the holiday park.
  2. From the gate follow the clifftop path uphill, leaving the holiday park behind. Pass through several fields and cross four stiles. The South West Coast Path drops down some steps into a wooded valley. From here the path climbs steeply uphill again, passing an area of scrub and heathland on the dramatically slumped red cliffs.

Take care near the edge here, as the cliffs are prone to landslides. Keep dogs and small children under close control. Along here there is a tremendous view of the swathe of red cliffs curving around Littleham Cove.

East Devon is particularly noteworthy for its red sandstone formations, dating back to the Triassic period, some 240 million years ago. The red cliffs here are a sample of the stunning rock formations which have earned the 'Jurassic Coast' of East Devon and Dorset World Heritage status. During the Triassic period, just before the Jurassic period, the rocks formed in desert conditions. At this time great rivers flowed through the arid landscape depositing thick beds of pebbles and sand. These dried and were compressed into the red cliffs which can be seen all around this area.

The climb to West Down Beacon marks the change in geology, back to the pebble beds from the softer, lower, more easily eroded land behind. It also provides extensive views over the coast back towards the Exe Estuary and Tor Bay beyond.
It is an excellent place to view wildlife. Look out for migrating birds such as swallows. Migrating butterflies such as the clouded yellow and the painted lady, fly in after a long Channel crossing. Kittiwakes return from long-distance patrols over the sea to nest in colonies on the cliffs between May and June. Watch out for two super-fast predators hunting here: gannets hover over the water before diving into the water at high speed to pursue the fish they've spotted beneath the surface; and peregrine falcons, whose aerial dives can reach 200 mph as they hurtle down to snatch their prey mid-air.
Grey seals frequent the beach below and can sometimes be seen 'bottling', or resting in the water with their heads held above the surface.
At the highest point on this part of the coast you will come to a trig point. This is West Down Beacon, once a fire beacon, and later a signal station during the Napoleonic Wars.
By 1795, before the Napoleonic Wars began, Britain was already in conflict with France and the Admiralty needed a faster means of communication than their current system of horseback messengers. A network of signal stations was established, connecting the Admiralty in London with its fleet ports along the south coast. These included Dawlish Head and Berry Head on one side of West Down Beacon, and Peak Hill and Beer Head on the other.
This was before the invention of the electrical telegraph, and the signalling system used was known as an optical telegraph, which required a direct line of sight between the signal stations.
Signals consisted of flags and balls, and the system warned merchant vessels as well as RN cruisers of where the French privateers were lurking.
Signals used included:
1 ball above a flag for an enemy frigate or frigates;
2 balls above a flag for a small cruiser;
3 balls above a flag for an enemy vessel close under the land.
Eventually, this system was replaced with a semaphore telegraph a high pole with hinged signal arms, ironically devised by the French themselves during the Napoleonic Wars!
The signal stations were also used to warn of suspected smuggling activities. If goods were seized as a result of information received in this way, the signal station concerned would be entitled to a share of the booty.
Standing on West Down Beacon on a good day, you can see why it was chosen: there is excellent visibility in all directions.

  1. The path now descends gradually into Budleigh Salterton. Just after passing through a grassy area be sure to keep right, on the Coast Path, to arrive at the sea front. Views over the town to the estuary beyond, with its characteristic pines, mark the end of the walk.

Budleigh Salterton is a charming seaside town with very much a traditional, “olde-worlde” character. This unspoilt character is partly a result of the pebbly beach, which prevented it from ever becoming a resort for large scale tourism. The pebbles are part of a band of infertile land known as the Bunter Pebble Beds, laid down over 200 million years ago in river beds of the time.
A bar of pebbles has built up across the mouth of the River Otter, forcing its course to the east. Behind is an attractive landscape of salt marshes, now managed as a nature reserve. Historically, the estuary was used by shipping as far inland as Otterton, 2 miles (3½km) upriver, as indicated by the name Anchoring Hill just above that village. The mouth of the Otter is immediately recognisable by the line of pine trees on its eastern side.

  1. Walk from the town to the estuary alongside the car park.

Note the remains of the old lime kiln by the entrance to the car park. Lime was landed by ship and burnt in kilns such as this to improve the fertility of the soil. This one dates from the early 1800s.

  1. If you are catching the bus back to Devon Cliffs turn around and continue back along the promenade to the end of Fore Street. When the road starts to bear away from the seafront, keep going along Fore Street, leaving the Coast Path.

Notice the plaque on the white house on the right (the Octagon), relating to the artist Millais. The famous painting “The Boyhood of Raleigh” is said to have been based on the wall just behind you. Raleigh himself was born at Hayes Barton, 3½km/2 miles inland.

  1. Carry on along Fore Street as far as the traffic lights, until you come to Station Road then turn right.

Buses leave Budleigh Salterton from the Public Hall/ Library bus-stop. Take the Stagecoach Devon bus 157 or 357 to Littleham Cross. Take the Stagecoach Devon bus 95 from Littleham Cross to Devon Cliffs Holiday Park.

Public transport

Buses leave Budleigh Salterton from the Public Hall/ Library bus-stop. Take the Stagecoach Devon bus 157 or 357 to Littleham Cross. Take the Stagecoach Devon bus 95 from Littleham Cross to Devon Cliffs Holiday Park.

For further details visit www.travelinesw.com  or phone 0871 200 22 33.

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