Walk - Woodhuish and Mansands

3.6 miles (5.8 km)

Scabbacombe Lane Car Park - TQ6 0EF Scabbacombe Lane Car Park

Moderate - Fairly level Coast Path, with some steep climbs either side of Mansands. Inland the lanes can be muddy.

A short but steep circuit over high cliffs with spectacular views, dropping to the tiny shingle beach at Man Sands where the sea is being allowed to flood the reclaimed pastureland, creating a brackish lagoon where grass snakes are sometimes seen swimming with their heads out of the water, and many different birds come in to feed and to roost. The inland route follows ancient green lanes once used by farmers, fishermen and smugglers, and older children able to manage the steep hills will love the sense of adventure this walk brings. Wear good footwear, because the paths can be very wet and muddy.

Scabbacombe is dog-friendly all year. 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.

South Bay Holiday Park

Set above the bustling town of Brixham, this lively holiday park has an action packed entertainment programme & childrens' adventure playground. Direct path to the delightful St Mary's Cove and the SW Coast Path. Range of chalets and caravans.

Berry Head Hotel Ltd

AA 4 star Hotel & Apartments with stunning sea views at the waters edge. Bistro & Restaurant, Indoor Pool on the Coastal Path.

Waterfront House

We have been awarded gld in the best bed and breakfast in Devon and silver in the best bed and breakfast n the south west . Set in a breath taking spot on the harbour

Eight Bells B&B

Variety of breakfasts with a stunning view. On waterfront, a few minutes from the Coast Path. 1 double, 1 family room. Both ensuite. Sleeps 6 max.

Quarry Lake Camping

2 miles from SWCP, simple pitches on working sheep farm. Pub within 1 mile.

Fairholme B&B

Fairholme is a small and friendly B&B just off the coast path famed for its excellent breakfasts.

Earlston House Hotel

A 9 room dog friendly B&B with excellent reviews, super views, very close to the South West Coast Path and a large hot tub to relax in.

Dittisham Hideaway

A Luxury Collection of Spacious Treehouses, Luxurious Shepherds Huts and a 1950's Vintage Airstream

Leonards Cove Holiday Village

Leonards Cove is a picturesque holiday destination with a stunning clifftop location and amazing sea views offering self-catered, camping and touring accommodation.
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.

The Guardhouse Cafe

Home-made seasonal food, cream teas and delicious coffee, all served with a smile and stunning views from our cliff-top Napoleonic Fortress. Open all year.

Ebb & Flow

An independently run cafe in Kingswear with a spectacular view! Serving breakfast from 8am and a range of homemade cakes and light lunches

Salcombe Dairy Shop & Café, Dartmouth

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

Harbour Light

Light-filled, rustic tavern with a terrace offering bay views, plus a menu of pub classics.

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.

Shoalstone Seawater Pool

Shoalstone Seawater Pool is a great place to swim and paddle, and picnic on the green looking across the Bay. Shoals Café serves breakfasts, lunches and evening meals.

Sea Kayak Devon

Experience Devon's stunning coastline by sea kayak. Let our guides take you on an unforgettable journey. Individuals, groups, families. No experience necessary.

Dartmouth Visitor Centre

Find out everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Dartmouth and the surrounding area uth

Discover Dartmouth at the Flavel Cafe

Lively arts cafe in centre of Dartmouth with information about things to, where to go and places to stay in the area. Or for more information on line please visit www.discoverdartmouth.com

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From Scabbacombe car park go through the gate to take the green lane downhill, signed ‘Scabbacombe Sands Link to Coast Path’. In the field follow the left-hand boundary to come out on the South West Coast Path above Scabbacombe Sands. Detour right to visit the beach.
  2. On the Coast Path turn left, climbing steeply over the cliffs to walk high above Long Sands for about a mile before dropping gently downhill to Man Sands.

The coastguard cottages above Man Sands were built by Napoleonic prisoners of war at the beginning of the nineteenth century. After the French Revolution towards the end of the previous century, Napoleon's armies had invaded and conquered much of Europe, triggering a series of conflicts as a number of different coalitions between the other European nations sought to prevent the spread of French power. French prisoners-of-war were put to good use in various ways around England, building Dartmoor Prison as well as many smaller constructions like these cottages.

The coastguard service was originally set up to prevent smuggling, which was widespread along this coast in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Coastguard Service Act 1856 stated that the aims of the service were 'to provide for the defence of the coasts of the realm, the more ready manning of the Royal Navy in the event of war or emergency, and the protection of the revenue'. It was not until 1911 that the Admiralty Coastguard Instructions ordered that 'at places where Coastguardsmen are stationed, such Coastguardsmen are to render every possible assistance to the local life-saving services as far as is compatible with their proper duties.'

Down on the beach, the prisoners-of-war also built the boathouse and the lime kiln. The latter is one of many dotted around the south-west coast and was designed to burn limestone and coal together to make lime, which was used as an agricultural fertiliser.

  1. Ignoring Woodhuish Lane on your left, (unless you wish to avoid the possibility of wet feet ahead), carry on across the shingle bar dividing the lagoon from the sea to the footpath beyond it. Turn left onto the path to head up Mansands Lane, rising gently above the lagoon and the stream that feeds it.

When the seawall was being built in 1986, workers discovered the grave of a young man thought to have been the victim of a shipwreck in an earlier century. In the middle of the nineteenth century the Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow, on the North Cornwall coast, instigated the practice of giving the victims of shipwrecks a decent Christian burial, but before this, their bodies were either left on the shoreline or buried somewhere just above it.

The pastureland behind the beach was reclaimed from the sea, and in 1985 steel gabions were erected in front of it to protect it from rising sea levels. In 2004, however, the National Trust (who own the land) decided to remove these wire baskets of rocks and let the sea flow inland, re-establishing the wetlands which had been drained in the first place to create the farmland. The resultant environment is one of the country's fastest-changing habitats as a result. In 2007 severe gales breached the shingle barrier dividing the lagoon from the sea, changing the mix of saltwater from the sea and freshwater from the river, and the wildlife on the lagoon altered as a result.

Recent bird visitors include waterbirds such as tufted ducks, coots and moorhens, as well as long-beaked shoreline scavengers like sandpipers, oystercatchers and ringed plovers. Swallows, house martins and sand martins dart at high speeds over the water's surface in pursuit of insects. The moist soil around the lagoon is equally good for plant life, and flowers to be seen in the area include early purple orchid, the tiny white star-like flowers of greater stitchwort and the big open heads of the oxeye daisy. Look out, too, for the tall stands of prickly teasel, once used for teasing out the strands of woven fabric. On the cliffs above Scabbacombe Sands there is a colony of fulmars, gull-like birds who live out on the open ocean but come back to the coast to breed, and in Woodhuish Farm, above, the organic and traditional methods of farming have encouraged the return of barn owls and greater horseshoe bats.

  1. At the top turn left onto Mill Lane, descending to the stream at the bottom. Crossing the footbridge ignore the footpath that climbs the hill to your left, instead continuing ahead along the lane as it follows the stream to meet Penhill Lane as it arrives from the right.

These lanes are part of an extensive and complex network of ancient green lanes, some of which date back to the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago. Until the coastline came under the protection of the coastguard service, frequent raids by pirates made it unsafe to live too close to the shore, and so settlements grew up a mile or two inland. The sea was an important part of everyday life, though, and for thousands of years farmers and fishermen, as well as smugglers, made frequent journeys to and from the shoreline along these very lanes.

In 2002 South Hams District Council launched an initiative to restore its 191 such green lanes, which together cover a staggering 300km. By 2005 it had raised £26,000, with 62 local businesses contributing to the scheme, enabling the council to tackle more than half the lanes, repairing erosion damage, laying hedges and conserving hedgebanks and setting up links to nearby towns and villages. Because these lanes are traffic-free and only lightly maintained they too are a haven for plants, birds and other wildlife.

  1. Turn sharply left here, crossing the stream and turning sharp left again to head uphill to Woodhuish Lane.
  2. At the top turn right and follow the road back to the car park at the start of the walk.

Public transport

Buses go to Hillhead from Brixham or Kingswear. From the bus stop follow the Lower Ferry sign along the road, then turn left down Penhill Lane to join walk route at Mill Lane. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


National Trust car park, Scabbacombe Lane (Approximate postcode for Sat Navs: TQ6 0EF).


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