Walk - Salcombe Harbour Hotel - East Portlemouth & Gara Rock

4.3 miles (6.9 km)

Salcombe Harbour Hotel Salcombe Harbour Hotel

Moderate -

An open stroll above the western shoreline of Salcombe Harbour, passing the romantic ruins of Fort Charles, which withstood a five-month siege during the English Civil War. Throughout the centuries the estuary has been a lively place for trade as well as shipbuilding, and the shipwrecks in its waters include one from the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago.
This walk is particularly good for dogs as it passes beaches where dogs are welcome. Use the route to visit the quiet beaches of East Portlemouth, too, as well as sheltered beaches at Mill Bay and Rickham Sand.

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.

Waverley B&B

Luxury B&B just 200yrds from the Coast Path 5 en-suite rooms, large choice of breakfast, 1-night stays welcome. Parking available

Rocarno B&B

SINGLE NIGHT STAYS. Lovely views. Free wi-fi, free tea & coffee, great breakfasts.

Brightham House Boutique B&B

Our award winning boutique B&B hotel in the vibrant and stunning holiday area of Salcombe, Devon. With 8 stunningly designed unique guest bedrooms.

East Prawle Farm Holidays

* Budget* Little Hollaway Camping Field, Mollie Tucker's Field Caravan and Motorhome Club CL, Higher House Farm Self Catering Accommodation

Kittiwake Cottage

Luxury holiday cottage, mid 19th Century, white-washed fisherman's cottage, perfect base for a wonderful holiday in all seasons. Wifi available and dogs welcome.

Bolberry Farm Cottages

Half a mile from the South West Coast Path at Bolberry Down. Short breaks available. Dog friendly.

Ocean Reach Holiday Homes

Luxury holiday homes with 360-degree coastal & countryside views. Pet friendly with enclosed garden. Owner managed.

Hill Top View

Small pop-up campsite, 1 mile from Hope Cove. No facilities

Down Farm Wild Camping

Wild style campsite on working fram. 1 mile from Start Point. Very limited facilities.

Shute Farm

16th Century character farmhouse in quiet position. A short distance from the Coast Path and lovely sandy beaches. 3 comfortable ensuite rooms. Open all year.We are willing to pick up and drop off walkers between Salcombe and Bantham

The Cricket Inn

Situated in the quaint fishing village of Beesands, a stone’s throw from the beach. This award-winning pub serves fresh local seafood and offers 7 beautifully designed bedrooms.

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.

Salcombe Dairy Shop & Café, Salcombe

Our ice cream parlour and bean to bar chocolate factory is set in the beautiful coastal town of Salcombe. It’s an irresistible spot for walkers in need of sustenance.

The Pigs Nose Inn

A traditional english pub & live music venue with lots of unique character located on the village green where you can sit and enjoy a walkers ploughman's lunch.

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.

Kingsbridge Information Centre

Walking the Coast Path? Call in for all you need including books, maps and our popular accommodation guide, bus & ferry times and much more!

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the entrance of the Salcombe Harbour Hotel and Spa turn right along Cliff Road keeping the water on your right. At the Ferry Inn, follow the footpath to the Ferry.
  2. Cross the river on the ferry to East Portlemouth.
  3. At the top of the lane from the ferry, turning right to walk above Small's Cove and on to Mill Bay.

Salcombe Lifeboat Station is sited on the western bank of the river a little way upstream from the Ferry landing. The first lifeboat was stationed in the town in 1869. The Salcombe Lifeboat has twice capsized, in 1916 with the loss of 13 lives, and in 1983 with no loss of life.  Since 2008 the station has operated a Tamar-class all weather boat and an inshore lifeboat. In the 1920s when the neighbouring stations of  Brixham and Plymouth were equipped with motor lifeboats, it was thought that this would allow them to cover larger areas. So in 1925 Salcombe was closed. The closure proved ill-advised and a station was reopened at Salcombe in December 1930, itself equipped with a motor lifeboat.

Salcombe harbour is the site of several notable shipwrecks. The oldest of these is from the Bronze Age, possibly dating back 4000 years and one of only three from this period known in Britain. It was carrying jewellery and weapons made in France. The much more recent Salcombe Cannon Wreck, from the seventeenth century, was found to contain 400 Moroccan gold coins, as well as various Dutch items. In 1936 the four-masted barque, Herzogin Cecilie, sank in Starehole Bay, just across the water, after being towed there from Ham Stone Rock, where it had gone aground. A Second World War submarine, HMS Untiring, was deliberately sunk off Salcombe as a sonar target in 1957.

Salcombe was a major centre for fruit trade in the nineteenth century. Vessels from here sailed to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the Azores, bringing back oranges and lemons, and pineapples from the Bahamas and West Indies. Many tropical trees and shrubs were brought in by local collectors, such as Otto Overbeck. Other imports included sugar, rum and coconuts, as well as fine hardwoods such as ebony and mahogany for furnishing ships. Salcombe was also noted for its shipbuilding, producing the Salcombe schooner - a fast boat that could be sailed with a small crew, though it was not without its dangers and more than half of those produced were lost at sea.

The mill that once stood at Mill Bay was immediately behind the beach, on the eastern side, and is thought to have belonged to the medieval manor of Rickham. A concrete slipway was built across the beach during the Second World War and used to prepare, maintain and repair landing craft used in the Normandy Landings.

  1. After the National Trust sign beyond Mill Bay beach bear right along the South West Coast Path, signed to Gara Rock. Ignore the top path to Gara Rock and the path to the beach and carry on to the end of the estuary, following the acorn waymarkers around Rickham Common above Limebury Point.

Four beacons marking navigational hazards in the harbour- Black Stone, Pound Stone, Old Harry and the castle - first appeared on an Ordnance Survey map in the 1880s. An even greater hazard to shipping is The Bar, said to have inspired Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, 'Crossing the Bar', written when he stayed here shortly before his death.

Salcombe Castle, the ruin across the water as you approach Limebury Point, was the last fort in England to hold out against Cromwell's men in the English Civil War. The Royalist troops occupying it in 1646 held out for five months while under siege. The original fortress is thought to have been constructed by Henry VIII to defend the estuary from possible French or Spanish attacks in the sixteenth century. It was further fortified in 1643 by Sir Edmund Fortescue, who had been ordered to hold the fort when Plymouth rose against the king. He rebuilt the castle to house a garrison of 65 officers and two washerwomen, at a cost of £135 6s 11d, paying labourers 10 shillings a day. He renamed it 'Fort Charles', in honour of the king. After the war, it was dismantled, and in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, a small watchtower was built on its ruins.

  1. After Limebury Point the coastline turns east towards Gara Rock. Carry on along it below Portlemouth Down to Gara Rock.

In the 1860s the Admiralty built a coastguard observation post and a terrace of cottages at Gara Rock, with a 'Life-Saving Apparatus House'. This was succeeded by the Gara Rock Hotel, which had many rich and famous patrons before it was demolished in 2006.

The field systems along this part of the coastline are very old, and some are thought to date back to the Bronze Age, between 1900 and 1200 BC. There are also traces of a settlement with roundhouses and a stock enclosure from the Iron Age, which succeeded it.

  1. At the ‘Gara Rock’ waymarker bear left to the small white thatched lookout post, passing in front of it to go through the gate and left along the path signed to Mill Bay. Walk up the lane to the public footpath over a stile to the left.
  2. Climb the stile to follow the footpath straight across the field to a track. Cross over and carry on down the bridleway, following the blue waymarkers back to Mill Bay. Turn right onto the Coast Path again and retrace your steps past Small's Cove back to the lane leading to the ferry.
  3. Cross the river on the ferry. Reaching the road turn left and walk along Cliff Road back to the Salcombe Harbour Hotel and Spa.



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