An icy Christmas Day swim has been tradition across the UK for some time now, but in the last...
Here’s our free guide to Man Sands, a lesser-known beach between Kingswear and Brixham, located at the eastern edge of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Click a quick link below or read on for the full guide.
Man Sands is a straightforward 10-minute drive from Kingswear (two regular car ferries operate from Dartmouth to carry you across the estuary).
However, using a postcode that’s widely given online (TQ5 0AJ) on your sat nav may be problematic, as – speaking from personal experience! – the instructions could lead you down Southdown Road via the outskirts of Brixham, and from here there’s no vehicular access to the Man Sands car parks.
Instead, using the postcode TQ6 0EF should lead you to Scabbacombe Road (although it’s advisable to check a map of your route first). This road becomes Woodhuish Lane, where the Man Sands National Trust car park is located.
The coordinate for GPS device users are: 50.367333, -3.529703.
The OS grid reference is: SX913530
There are three parking options at Man Sands, all along Woodhuish Lane. All of these car parks are run by the National Trust. Honesty boxes are in place, with a suggested donation of £2.
Being one of South Devon’s lesser-known beaches, Man Sands is surprisingly large, at over 500 metres in length when the tide is out.
The beach is mostly sand, separated into a couple of sections by hefty rock formations, and blessed with several natural alcoves at the rear – offering beachgoers an even higher degree of seclusion.
Access to the beach is via two main routes. The South West Coast Path is the best way to see the scenery in this area, as is the case for much of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This stretch is one of the hillier, more challenging sections, but also amongst the best for dramatic views and for your chances of seeing some exciting marine life, especially dolphins which are often being sighted between Kingswear and Brixham.
The other option is to arrive via Woodhuish Lane, which leads directly to Man Sands. The small car park right by the beach has enough space for no more than half a dozen cars, but this involves driving down a rather uneven and unsurfaced track. The Man Sands car park, half a mile back up the hill, offers easy beach access (a half a mile walk), plenty of spaces, and is also in a good spot for a circular walk, with a map on-site explaining the route.
A haven for those who visit the beach for some tranquillity, Man Sands is ideal for nature-spotters, picnicking couples and those in search of some quiet time with their holiday paperback book.
The rockpools, which are numerous at Man Sands, also make this beach a good spot for scouring the shoreline for creepie-crawlies with the kids, especially at busy times of the year when the better-known beaches can fill up.
On the other hand, if everyone in the family likes to swim, although the water is quite shallow, be aware that there are no lifeguards on patrol, the rip tides are said to be powerful in this area and there will be lots of concealed rocks on the seabed, especially at high tide. So with young kids it’s probably advisable to keep to the rockpools and shallows.
Run by the National Trust, the beach backs onto marshland, which is rich in wildlife…
… so nature-lovers will be glad to know there’s a beautifully maintained National Trust bird hide on site, offering free access to the public.
There are no places to pick up refreshments or public toilets near this beach, so for most people Man Sands won’t be where they’re spending the whole day. Nevertheless, it’s spacious, wonderfully secluded and picturesque, especially for those who love the craggier, more rugged sections of the South Devon coastline.
Having so much space between so few beachgoers also makes Man Sands ideal for dog-walkers, as there’s all the room you could need to exercise your four-legged friend.
In short, because of all its aforementioned merits, Man Sands probably should be better-known amongst South Devon residents and holidaymakers than it is. Ironically, if that were the case, perhaps fewer people would want to visit, since it’s the tranquillity that makes it so special.
If you’re looking for rugged, similarly secluded beaches in South Devon, you might enjoy visiting Mattiscombe Beach, Lannacombe Beach, Soar Mill Cove beach or Seacombe Sands (Gara Rock Beach). For more on our favourite coastal hideaways, please read our article on secret Devon beaches.
Located between Kingswear and Brixham, Aft Cottage (sleeps 6) is just a 10-minute drive from Man Sands, in a fantastic spot for exploring both the South Hams and the English Riviera.
This well-appointed three-bedroom terrace house provides pleasant views of the Dart Valley, has allocated parking, and boasts a lovely enclosed garden for making the most of our region’s famous microclimate.
Dartmouth, a short hop from Kingswear on one of two regular ferries (along with a separate passenger ferry), is a picturesque, historic harbour town and tranquil holiday destination, where Coast & Country Cottages offers over 120 self-catering properties.