Our top Dartmouth walks navigate not only the South West Coast Path, but also the River Dart, rolling countryside,...
Home to a wealth of walking routes, the coastal town of Salcombe is one of South Devon’s crown jewels. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty boasting stunning sandy beaches, sweeping estuary views, crystal clear water, rolling countryside and wildlife in abundance, this corner of South Devon is a walking wonderland, and so it comes as no surprise that you will find an array of Salcombe walks to choose from. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned rambler looking for a challenge, a family navigating both bikes and buggies or you’re in search of a gentle flip flop stroll, you really are spoilt for choice and there is something to suit everyone. As you would expect, the South West Coast Path is a popular option with those eager to explore, but you will also find a selection of woodland trails and countryside rambles too.
To help you explore the area by foot, we’ve handpicked a selection of our favourite Salcombe walks aimed to suit a variety of ages and abilities. Our favourite trails highlight just a few of the stunning routes found in the local area, but should you want even more inspiration or you’re hungry to explore further afield, be sure to read our blog on walks in South Devon. At Coast & Country Cottages we are massive advocates of embracing the great outdoors, regardless of rain or shine! In fact, we have a variety of Salcombe holiday cottages perfectly situated for exploring the region by foot.
Looking for a particular trail? Use our quick links below to navigate the content, or read on to learn a little more about our favourite Salcombe walks…
– Salcombe to Gara Rock walk
– Salcombe to Bolt Head walk
– Hope Cove to Salcombe walk
– Snapes Point walk Salcombe
– Salcombe to East Soar Walkers Hut and Soar Mill Cove
– Salcombe to Malborough
Distance: 4 miles
Starting point: Salcombe town via the East Portlemouth Ferry
The trail from Salcombe to Gara Rock walk is a particular favourite amongst locals and holidaymakers alike, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does the route benefit from incredible views across the mouth of Salcombe Estuary towards Sharp Tor, Starehole Bay and the headland of Bolt Head, but it also navigates a huge variety of terrain including water, white sand beaches, canopied woodland, open coastal path and thriving countryside. This is a perfect walk to undertake with children, as with such an ever-changing environment they will find little time to get bored, and the icing on the cake (quite literally!) is the refreshment stop at Gara Rock Hotel – the halfway point before returning to Salcombe.
The walk starts in the heart of Salcombe. From here, you take the Salcombe Ferry across the estuary to East Portlemouth – this is a timeless way to start the walk, with spray often flying over the bow and passengers hemmed in tight. Once on dry land you navigate the little lane or, tides, rocks and seaweed permitting, follow the beach to Mill Bay – the shallow, safe and crystal clear waters here make it a perfect spot to stop for a quick swim! From here, strike out uphill along a wooded footpath where the birdsong and thick tree canopy can make it hard to believe you’re so close to the beach! Shade is king here, and the ferns and moss-covered walls create a Jurassic feel to this valley. After navigating the South West Coast Path, the next stop is the Gara Rock Hotel, and in fair weather few people will find it easy to stroll past the inviting sun terrace that boasts panoramic views of the coastal cliffs west of Gara Rock Beach (Seascombe Sands). Should the weather close in, be sure to head inside and enjoy the elements from behind the floor to ceiling windows. The return leg is an indulgence of coastal delights – wind-pummelled hawthorn trees and canary-yellow gorse dig their toes into jagged precipitous gullies and clusters of coastal flowers are rife, especially cliff-top bluebells and wild garlic in spring.
For full route details, read our comprehensive Salcombe to Gara Rock walking guide.
Distance: 5 miles circular
Starting point: North Sands Car Park
A stunning circular walking route along the South Devon coastline, starting from the popular North Sands beach towards the craggy headland of Bolt Head, this is a classic Salcombe walk that is much loved by both local residents and visitors alike. With nature’s bounty found at every corner turned, expect to enjoy secluded coves, exhilarating cliff tops, thriving countryside and canopied, peaceful woodland. The views on this walk are spectacular and far reaching, and what’s more, the area is great for wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled on this route as you may be lucky enough to spot Dartmoor ponies grazing on the cliffs, cormorants and fulmars navigating the skies! This walk is sure to burn up an appetite, and luckily, North Sands Beach is also home to the popular beachside café, The Winking Prawn. This is the perfect place for a refuel with barista coffee, hearty breakfast options and a full lunch and dinner menu available – you will always find something delicious to fill rumblings tums!
The walk itself starts at the beach, so should you want a pre walk dip, be sure to pack your swimmers. From here, pick up the South West Coast Path and follow it through Collaton Wood to South Sands beach (another popular bathing spot!). You will also pass the National Trust owned Overbeck’s Museum and Garden, which was once home to the scientist and inventor Otto Overbeck. Today, the property and gardens are home to an array of subtropical, exotic and rare plants. Continue through Fir Wood, before following the coast path to Sharp Tor, Starehole Bay and onto Bolt Head. From Bolt Head, continue north west along the coast path towards Middle Soar, where you turn right and head inland. The path then turns right again, towards Tor Woods – you will find these woods are positively thriving, home to an array of woodland flowers including bluebells, ramsons and wood sorrel, keep your eyes peeled for the lesser spotted deer too! Once you exit the woods, you will arrive back at the coast and from here it’s just a short distance back to the car park at North Sands.
Distance: 8.5 miles one-way
Starting point: Hope Cove’s Outer Hope Cove Car Park
One of the most popular of all Salcombe walks, this challenging route offers a true slice of South Devon heaven. Starting in the picturesque fishing village of Hope Cove you lead onto the South West Coast Path, and later, after a fair few well-trodden miles, finish in Salcombe town. Here you will find an abundance of things to do, from browsing boutique shops and galleries to indulging in sumptuous Salcombe ice cream – the perfect post walk treat! The spectacular panoramic views this walk allows are second to none – the dramatic, rugged coastline sharply contrasts with the rolling South Devon hills, creating an unforgettable backdrop, and the crystal clear waters are known to rival those in the Caribbean! There are various viewpoints, picnic spots and eateries to stop at along the way should you want to take a little time to sit still and really soak up its natural beauty, marvelling in nature’s glory. This is a linear route, so either be prepared for the hike back, park a car at the start and one at the finish point, or arrange transport back to Hope Cove – both taxis and buses navigate this route frequently.
The Hope Cove to Salcombe walk is a perfect route for nature lovers, and you can expect to share your ramble with an abundance of wildlife, from wild ponies and highland cows to fast and fleeting peregrine falcons and lesser spotted butterflies. What’s more, you will become privy to some of South Devon’s most secret beaches, most notably Soar Mill Cove, so be sure to pack your swimmers if you’re a water enthusiast – seals often frequent the coves, so don’t be surprised if a friendly face pops up nearby! With such a lengthy walk, you’re almost certain to build an appetite, and lucky for those rumbling tums, there are a range of fantastic eateries peppered throughout the trail, from The Cove Café Bar in Hope Cove to Oceans Restaurant in Bolberry and also The Winking Prawn at North Sands in Salcombe.
For full route details, read our comprehensive Hope Cove to Salcombe walk guide, which details everything you need to know.
Distance: 1.5 miles (2.5 miles extended circular walk)
Starting point: Snapes Point National Trust Car Park
The Snapes Point walk is Salcombe’s most accessible route, and as such, you will find the terrain fairly level, especially when compared with other more strenuous Salcombe walks. Boasting magnificent panoramic views across both Salcombe town and the Kingsbridge Estuary, the route is suitable for all abilities, including pushchairs and wheelchairs, and is the perfect space to enjoy a gentle amble. There are plenty of benches too, making for a great excuse to stop and spectate the hive of activity often found on the water below. Remember to bring a picnic or a flask of coffee, and if you don’t have the time to make your own, not to worry because there are various eateries in Salcombe offering a takeaway service – at Coast & Country Cottages we love to pop into the Bake House and load up with tasty snacks and treats (both savoury and sweet!) before setting off on our adventures.
This Salcombe walk can be navigated as a simple ‘there and back’, but if you want to walk a little further, there is a more challenging circular route leading across field paths too. From the Snapes Point National Trust Car Park, pass through the small gate at the back of the car park which will take you to a wide track that leads towards the estuary. Continue along the hedged footpath, not forgetting to take in the impressive views of Salcombe, and eventually you will see a signpost to the left that directs you to Snapes Point. If you do feel up for more of a challenge, you can continue onto a circular walk to the end of the path – at that point, turn left into the field then follow the markers past Tosnos Point which will lead you back to the National Trust car park.
One of our favourite Salcombe walks, this circular route takes in stunning coves, tors and coastline, thriving countryside and also views across the Kingsbridge Estuary towards Salcombe. For a walk that is relatively short in its distance, it really packs a punch, not just because of its stunning scenery, but also because of the variety of things to do along the way – from indulging in sumptuous cakes at the East Soar Walkers Hut honesty café to exploring the secluded coves of Soar Mill Cove and Starehole Bay. As if that wasn’t enough, you can also stop at the National Trust property Overbeck’s, or head into Salcombe and enjoy all that it has to offer. Perfect for nature spotters too, the walk is rich in wildlife and you will find the rugged cliff tops being grazed by highland cattle and Dartmoor ponies, ravens and buzzards dominating the dramatic craggy cliffs, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins, seals and basking sharks in the waters below. In spring the heathland is home to wildflowers such as primroses and violets, and the canopied woodland is carpeted with bluebells and wild garlic providing quite a natural spectacle.
The terrain itself takes in uneven steps, grass and trails that are steep in places, so our best advice is to wear adequate footwear and make sure you pack adequate supplies because you sure will burn up an appetite! You can start the walk either in Salcombe itself, or alternatively, at the East Soar National Trust Car Park, and whilst the route itself enjoys a feeling of deep remoteness, the paths are well marked and easy to follow. For full route details, read our East Soar circular walking guide.
Distance: 1.5 miles one-way (3 miles return)
Starting point: Malborough, near Salcombe
The Malborough to Salcombe walk is perfect for those wanting to undertake a leisurely stroll into the town of Salcombe, and best of all, you won’t have the hassle of having to park your car in central Salcombe, which in the height of the summer comes as a warm welcome by many. A dedicated cycle route, the path has a fairly even surface with gentle inclines making it easy to navigate, and as you would expect, it is a hive of activity – it’s a great option for those with buggies and balance bikes, and at the other end of the spectrum, it’s also a popular route for runners too.
Starting from the village of Malborough itself, you will find the cycle path situated alongside the Village Play Park and Village Hall. The cycle path is a direct route that leads to the top of Salcombe, adjacent to the Salcombe Rise development where our very own Travel Lite holiday let laundry service is situated. From here, cross the main road (but be careful as the road is usually very busy!) and continue walking down the steep hill towards Island Street. Alternatively, at this point you can also take the bus to the town centre, and if you’re worried about walking a steep incline on the way back or little legs won’t quite manage it, for your return journey you can also take the bus all the way back to Malborough and as far as Kingsbridge, providing the ultimate convenience.
Salcombe is the ultimate destination for a walking holiday, and at Coast & Country Cottages we boast an enviable collection of self catering properties perfectly positioned to explore an abundance of Salcombe walks. From traditional coastal cottages and holiday cottages near the beach, to country escapes tucked within the gentle folds of the Salcombe countryside, you are sure to find something to suit. Regardless of whether you’re in search of the perfect family walking holiday, a romantic retreat, dog-friendly holiday or luxury getaway, we’ve got you covered.