When it comes to scenery, most of us associate South Devon with its unspoilt farmland and varied coastline incorporating...
Our top Dartmouth walks navigate not only the South West Coast Path, but also the River Dart, rolling countryside, canopied woodland, secret coves and popular shores. Dartmouth and the surrounding area is quite simply, a walking wonderland.
Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned rambler and want to muddy the hiking boots or you’re after a gentle stroll, you really are spoilt for choice. In fact, you’ll find an ample selection of trails suitable for all ages and abilities. Expect to take in panoramas with views that stretch as far as Torbay over Kingswear and oppositely towards the iconic Start Point Lighthouse – you’ll be amazed at the variety of scenery you’ll cover, even on one of the shorter Dartmouth walks.
At Coast and Country Cottages we believe there is no better way to explore an area than by foot, and from Dartmouth itself you will find yourself within close proximity to the popular villages of Stoke Fleming, Strete and Dittisham to name just a few. What’s more, many Dartmouth walks pass some of the best beaches in the area, including Blackpool Sands and also the more secluded Sugary Cove. To help ensure you navigate some of the best routes around, we’ve handpicked our top 5 Dartmouth walks, and best of all, we have a variety of Dartmouth holiday cottages that are perfectly situated for exploring the region – the ideal combination!
Looking for a particular route? Use our quick links below to navigate the content, or read on for our top 5 Dartmouth walks…
Distance: 10 – 11 miles (mostly circular)
Starting point: Dartmouth town centre
One of the more arduous Dartmouth walks, the Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands trail is perfect for those in search of a challenge, and whilst the hills are steep and strenuous, it certainly provides equal reward with regards to its natural beauty. The stunning views start from the get go, with the picturesque harbour and multi-coloured houses of Kingswear giving way to views of the wooded estuary banks guarded by Dartmouth Castle. Before long you’ll reach peaceful Warfleet Creek, woods around Gallant’s Bower and then the South West Coast Path all within the first 20 minutes! As if this wasn’t enough, once you head out of Compass Valley the sea views are expansive – on a clear day the vistas even stretch as far as Start Point Lighthouse!
After passing through the stretch of coast path at Little Dartmouth, you will reach the village of Stoke Fleming, which is home to the The Green Dragon pub. Be sure to stop at this friendly eatery for a tipple or two – it’s almost a rite of passage for passing ramblers and their four-legged friends. Most importantly you can expect to receive a warm welcome, and we highly recommend stopping here for a bite to eat if time permits. Alternatively, you will find various perfectly positioned picnic benches, nestled in beauty spots along the way, for an al fresco bite to eat – we love to pack a generous helping of jam and scones and enjoy them on the cliff tops with lashing of Devonshire clotted cream. Don’t get too comfortable though, because it’s not until you reach the destination of Blackpool Sands, situated at the southern end of Start Bay, that you can really kick back and relax.
A blue flag awarded beach, Blackpool Sands is a honeypot of activity all year round and is the perfect spot to spend a few hours of downtime. Not only is it drenched in natural beauty but it is served by excellent facilities – a beach shop, café, toilets, showers, seasonal lifeguard and watersports equipment should you have any additional energy left to exert! Be warned, with so many things to do on offer at Blackpool Sands it can be easy to lose track of time, so be mindful that you still have the return leg of the journey to complete. Whilst this walk is mostly circular, if you haven’t left enough time or you’re feeling too tired to walk the return then not to worry, because buses run regularly from Stoke Fleming back to Dartmouth. Read our visual guide to the wonderful walk from Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands for the finer route details.
Distance: 2 mile return
Starting point: Dartmouth town centre
Little beats the thrill of discovering a secret cove whilst exploring the South West Coast Path, and the Dartmouth to Sugary Cove walk is the perfect anecdote for those in search of a micro adventure. The amble itself is a simple and moderately easy return route, and great for leisurely walking off an indulgent feast. After all, when surrounded by Dartmouth’s award-winning eateries it’s hard not to treat yourself to a delicious meal! Largely hidden by woodland, and with no signs to guide you, Sugary Cove is one of Dartmouth’s true hidden gems, and despite there being a fair few (in our count, nearly 70!) steep steps leading down to it, it’s a remote, quiet stretch of shingle that many visitors never realise is there and is well worth the effort.
Providing a wonderful bolthole to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Sugary Cove is popular with those who love wild swimming in South Devon. If you’re an avid sea swimmer, be sure to pack your snorkel and goggles – the sea life is spectacular with fish, spider crabs and starfish putting on quite a show. Seals often frequent the water here too, so don’t be surprised if you are joined by a few extra friends. Once you’re in the water, keep to your left and you will notice a gap in the rocks which leads into a magical channel, linking through to Castle Cove next door. Swimming through here is an amazing experience, but only attempt this if you are a competent swimmer and the sea isn’t rough because as you would expect, there are no lifeguards in this area. Also, please note, Sugary Cove is a tidal beach that is completely cut off at high tide, so be mindful to plan your trip accordingly.
With so much activity, you’re sure to work up an appetite. Conveniently, there is an open stretch of grass otherwise known as Sugary Green, situated just above the beach with three picnic benches, perfect for al fresco dining. If you forget to bring supplies, not to worry, because Dartmouth Castle and its tea rooms can be found just 100m away. Regardless of where you choose to replenish, be sure to fill those rumbling tums before heading back to Dartmouth.
For full route details, read our Dartmouth to Sugary Cove walking guide.
Distance: 4 miles circular
Starting point: Little Dartmouth National Trust Car Park
One of the most popular Dartmouth walks amongst both local residents and visitors alike, the Little Dartmouth circular is a stunning four mile circular coastal walk. With far-reaching views across the sea towards Dartmouth, Start Bay and Start Point Lighthouse, donned with an abundance of thriving coastal flowers and several secret coves to explore, this is a true slice of South Devon heaven – the perfect walk for those that want to experience Dartmouth at its very finest. The route itself is moderately challenging and covers a variety of terrain including footpaths, canopied woodland and also a long, unmetalled farm track. What’s more, you can expect several short, steep climbs that are certain to get the blood pumping, and be warned, after heavy rainfall this walk can get rather muddy and sometimes slippery, so make sure you wear adequate footwear.
To start the walk, strike out onto the coast path – there is a shingle path leading directly from the car park, this is the one to take! The views are impressive from the outset, and you will immediately find yourself greeted by the wide and expansive ocean – if you’re lucky, you might spot dolphins crossing the bay. We recommend taking binoculars to help observe the wildlife in a little more detail. Following the Little Dartmouth route is easy and the path is well marked, so there is little opportunity to get lost and ample time for soaking up all the goodness that mother nature provides. Mid walk, the coast path loops around Compass Valley then descends seawards, bearing right at the bottom down to Compass Cove – secluded and sandy, this is a great resting point and popular amongst those looking to escape the crowds, especially in summer. Slightly further along, you will become privy to Ladies Cove and also Deadman’s Cove, before looping back along a level farm track to your finish point at the car park.
For finer details on the walking route, be sure to read the comprehensive National Trust Little Dartmouth circular walking guide.
Distance: 16 miles
Starting point: Dartmouth town
The Dart Valley Trail is one of South Devon’s most favoured Dartmouth walks, and once you’ve become privy to its magic, it’s easy to see why. Around 16 miles long, this magical walking route follows the wooded banks of the stunning River Dart from Dartmouth to Totnes, passing through various chocolate box villages including Tuckenhay, Dittisham, and Stoke Gabriel. The natural beauty this walking route encompasses is awe inspiring, and not only will you be treated to sweeping river views stretching as far as Dartmoor and oppositely Torbay, but there are endless creeks and riverside beaches just waiting to be explored. As you would expect, wildlife on and in the River Dart is rife, so be on the lookout for herons, egrets, kingfishers, cormorants and seals and if you’re really lucky you may lay eyes on the lesser spotted otter.
The walking route itself is long and challenging, but if you’re fit and feeling energetic then there is no reason as to why it can’t be undertaken in one day (at a push!). To accomplish this you will need to walk at a consistently brisk pace, so be prepared and make sure you’ve tucked into a hearty breakfast beforehand. Of course, if this doesn’t appeal, then you can also complete the walk in smaller chunks, for example Dartmouth / Kingswear to Greenway, Dartmouth to Dittisham or perhaps Dittisham to Totnes. For finer details on all walking route options, read our Dart Valley Trail walking guide.
Distance: 10 -12 mile circular (depending on exact route)
Starting point: Dartmouth Quay / Kingswear
One of the most famous and most loved of all Dartmouth walks, this circular hiking route is considered one of South Devon’s crown jewels, showcasing South Devon in all her magical glory! This is a challenging walk, with an array of very steep ascents and descents. However, it’s more than worth it for those that are up for the challenge. The views of the Dart Valley are second to none and take in not just the river but also the estuary and coastal views that reach as far as Torbay. The breadth of terrain covered is wide, providing an ever changing walking environment so expect to navigate unspoiled farmland, rolling countryside, canopied woodland and even a towering pine forest. What’s more, you will become privy to some of the most secluded and secret creeks on the River Dart that are simply perfect for an al fresco picnic, so don’t forget to pack sumptuous supplies and a hardy rug.
Although the walk itself starts in Dartmouth, the first step in the journey is to cross the estuary to Kingswear on the passenger ferry. From here, you lead down to the boatyard and continue on a path with the railway line adjacent – if you’re lucky, you might catch the impressive (and equally as noisy!) Dartmouth Steam Railway train in action. After navigating both dense forest and open countryside, you will reach the grounds of the National Trust’s Greenway House and Garden. This is the perfect opportunity to explore the former holiday home of Agatha Christie, and you will also find an excellent café here should you be in need of a light refreshment. Afterwards, cross the river to Dittisham for an equally breathtaking (in both senses of the word!) walk back to Dartmouth or simply to explore this pretty harbour village before settling down for a meal at the Ferry Boat Inn or Anchorstone Café, both of which sit right on the water’s edge, and take in wonderful views of the river. The Greenway Passenger Ferry also offers an easy and scenic route back to Dartmouth if you aren’t keen on the long walk back. However, if you do want to continue walking then you will lead through farmland and open countryside all the way back to Dartmouth town centre.
At Coast & Country Cottage we love this walk, so much so we have detailed the finer details of the Dartmouth to Dittisham via Greenway walk here.
Dartmouth is conveniently situated just a ten minute drive from the southern tip of Start Bay, a sweeping stretch of coastline encompassing a wide range of scenery, from fine shingle beaches to a national nature reserve and the rugged cliffs around Start Point. As such, you will find a wealth of walks near Dartmouth to enjoy. From the three mile stretch of shingle that encompasses Torcross, Slapton Sands and Strete Gate, to the peaceful seaside villages of Beesands and Hallsands, South Devon is the ultimate natural playground for those that love the outdoors, and there is so much on offer when it comes to finding walking routes. For more inspiration or if you want to venture further afield, be sure to read our comprehensive blog on South Devon walks.
If you’re looking for the ultimate destination for a walking holiday in South Devon, then be sure to consider Dartmouth as your base from which to explore. From here, not only can you enjoy a variety of doorstep walks, but you won’t have to travel far to enjoy the myriad of walking routes that criss-cross the region.
At Coast & Country Cottages we boast an enviable portfolio of self catering holiday cottages in and around Dartmouth, from properties situated on the banks of the River Dart to country escapes and luxury properties with hot tubs and panoramic sea and river views. Regardless of whether you’re looking for the perfect spot to enjoy a family holiday or you’re in search of a secluded romantic break, or even the perfect dog-friendly holiday cottage, we are sure you will find something perfect. Browse our property portfolio, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for then please call our friendly team will happily help.