Walk - Teignmouth to Dawlish - NCI

3.0 miles (4.9 km)

NCI Lookout, Teignmouth seafront NCI Lookout, Teignmouth seafront

Moderate - Note: This walk runs along the sea wall and so should not be attempted in stormy weather, as waves break over the wall, and there is the risk of being swept off. Part way along the walk, the path crosses underneath the railway and this is impassable without getting your feet wet for about an hour at high tide. You can see tide times here. 

A walk along the South Devon Railway Sea Wall, Britain's most photographed stretch of railway line, with great views over Dawlish and a stroll through Teignmouth's Eastcliff Park, a designated Area of Great Landscape Value. This walks end at Dawlish Railway Station.

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.

The Blenheim

The Blenheim is an 18th century building sitated on the seafront in Dawlish with 11 ensuite rooms enjoying sea views.

Lynton House

A welcoming B&B ideally situated on Teignmouth seafront, only yards from the main beach, the picturesque river beach and the main shopping centre.

Sea Light

Relax in a oasis of calm with organic drinks, delicious health-giving food, cream teas & licensed bar with original oil paintings

Longmeadow Farm

Where the coast meets the country. Relaxed camping on a family-run farm with 3 comfortable self catering holiday apartments.Ideal for the Coast Path.

Langstone Cliff Hotel

64 room 3 Star hotel with wide range of facilities in 19 acres overlooking sea and Exe estuary. Perfectly situated as a base for walking the local sections of the South West Coast Path.

Cofton Holidays

A stunning park with camping, caravans & cottages with year-round facilities, a short stroll from Cockwood (Starcross).

The Croft Guest House

The Croft Guest House is ideally set in an acre of secluded gardens overlooking Cockwood Harbour. A 5 minute walk to local pubs, offering a 10% discount for our guests. Well behaved pets welcome.

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.

Salty Dog Kiosk

Relax in the sun where smugglers ran contraband off the beach into the night. Great coffee, proper scones & ice creams. 10am-4pm every day.

The Strand Cafe

Beachside cafe and bistro serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. A perfect start, break or end to your lovely walk by the sea.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the NCI's Coastguard Lookout on the seafront and the Esplanade turn left away from the Pier and pick up the South West Coast Path and follow it along the sea wall to the steps just before the headland at Hole Head.

The NCI Station in Teignmouth was manned by HM Coastguard until it closed in the early '90s. In 2003, John Langford, Station Manager of Exmouth NCI, was walking along Teignmouth Seafront with his family and saw the redundant Coastguard Lookout and thought it would be a good position for another NCI Station. After talks with Teignbridge Council, Ian Palmer of Eastcliff Cafe, very kindly relinquished his lease. John Langford worked tirelessly to obtain funds and in March 2004 Teignmouth NCI was formed with just 9 volunteers. After much restorative work,  the first service watch took place on the 1st August 2004. By 2012 it was clear that there was not a lot of life left in the old lookout, a major fund raising drive took place and the new Lookout was opened in July 2015. 

The railway line is part of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Penzance-Paddington line, and the tunnel as you leave the seawall to climb Smuggler's Lane is one of five Brunel had to build to bring the line around the coast here. Brunel was appointed as the engineer to the South Devon Railway in 1843, and decided to use the innovative atmospheric railway system to power the trains. This involved running pipes along the rails and creating a vacuum in them to propel the train by means of a piston from the train running through the tube via a sealable slot. 

The system encountered two problems: one was due to the fact that the railway line was not connected to the telegraph system, and so the tubes had to be emptied of air at the pumping stations along the route according to a timetable, whether the train was on time or not, which was both inefficient and expensive. The other problem was the spray from the sea during stormy weather, which made it difficult to seal the tubes effectively. Because of these issues, atmospheric trains were used for less than a year, from 1847-1848. 

Brunel's tunnel here is known as Parson's Tunnel, after the Parson and Clerk rocks off the headland. According to local legend, an ambitious parson from an inland parish had high hopes of succeeding the Bishop of Exeter, who lay dying in Dawlish. To further his cause, he paid the bishop regular visits, guided by his parish clerk. One day the two lost their way in thick fog, and spent hours wandering around in the heavy rain. The parson, a man of uncertain temper, lost his rag and berated his unfortunate clerk for his incompetence, assuring him that he'd rather be guided by the devil. 

Stumbling upon a peasant a short while later, they allowed him to lead them to a tumbledown cottage, where a riotous crowd was enjoying a lively drinking session. Warmed and soothed by a good meal and rather too much ale, the parson and his clerk were somewhat the worse for drink when news arrived at dawn that the bishop had died. Throwing themselves upon their horses, the two men tried to set forth, but the horses would not move. Suddenly the crowd of merrymakers turned into leering demons, hooting horribly at the parson's plight, and the cottage disappeared in a puff of smoke. 

Realising, too late, that he had indeed been guided by the devil, the parson found himself stranded in the sea, his clerk also adrift some distance away. In that instant, they were both turned to stone, and stand there to this day.

  1. Go down the steps and through the archway beyond, and follow Smugglers' Lane steeply uphill to the main road.
  2. Turn right onto the main road and follow it a short way, until you come to Windward Lane, on your right.
  3. Walking a short distance up Windward Lane, you will find the Coast Path on your left. Follow the Coast Path around the back of the headland and steeply downhill to where it runs alongside the railway line.

Note the red cliffs ahead of you, and the two small stacks beyond. Like the Parson and Clerk rocks already mentioned, these were once part of the headland, until the erosive action of heavy seas on the rock weakened cracks in its structure and caused these parts to break away and stand alone as stacks. The cliff face beside the tunnel shows a rock type for which this part of the coastline is known: a breccia (one rock – in this case a sandstone – containing angular fragments of another) from the Permian period.

  1. From here the Coast Path pulls back uphill and then turns left, inland, up to the road again.
  2. Going up the steps and onto the road, turn right and follow the Old Teignmouth Road (not the main A379). Follow the Coast Path into Lea Mount Gardens. The path goes down a steep walkway onto Marine Parade. Either walk along Marine Parade or along the beach to Dawlish Railway Station.

 

Public transport

The start of this walk is at Dawlish railway station. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the train station and bus stop symbols, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

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