With its magical stretch of sandy beach, fringed by calm, clear azure waters and plush green hillside, North Sands...
Slapton Sands in South Devon is an expansive three mile stretch of shingle beach, situated on the east-facing coast of the region. Occupying a central stretch of Start Bay, Slapton Sands is rich in both history and wildlife, and as such, it’s a popular spot amongst both locals and visitors. Also frequented by outdoor enthusiasts, expect to find the shores lined with keen anglers and kayakers, and a steady flow of ramblers treading the South West Coast Path. The southern end of the beach, otherwise known as Torcross Beach, is the most vibrant, with several eateries boasting sumptuous fish and chips, and also a short promenade that children love to scoot along. The northern end is much quieter, and during the warmer months partial to naturists enjoying the seclusion! Find out more about this unique stretch of coastline with our comprehensive guide to Slapton Sands…
– Slapton Sands Beach
– Is Slapton Sands dog friendly?
– Places to eat and drink at Slapton Sands
– Things to do at Slapton Sands
– Beaches near Slapton Sands
– Where is Slapton Sands?
– Slapton Sands holiday cottages
Slapton Sands Beach is an expansive fine shingle stretch of beach, and enjoys some of the best scenery in South Devon. Known for being both welcoming and spacious, there’s plenty of space to spread out and have fun – expect to find the shingle shores a hive of activity, with families and their canine companions embracing the environment. The excellent facilities at Slapton Sands Beach make it a particularly popular destination with families, dog owners and those with additional accessibility requirements. The water gets deep quickly at Slapton Sands, which is ideal for shore anglers (one of the reasons it’s a popular fishing spot) but perhaps less suited to young families with little ones who want to paddle or swim. In some ways, Slapton Sands feels like three separate beaches: the busier Torcross side has most of the facilities, such as the bustling Start Bay Inn and the Sea Breeze Café and Takeaway, while the other two ‘areas’ of beach are typically quieter…
Sometimes considered a separate beach entirely, Torcross Beach is the name given to the southern part of Slapton Sands, and is a popular place for swimmers and sunbathers. From Torcross Beach you can enjoy picturesque views of Start Bay in both directions, and on a clear day, even spot the Start Point Lighthouse to your right and Blackpool Sands to your left. Often referred to as the busier side to Slapton Sands Beach, Torcross enjoys a selection of facilities, including the bustling Start Bay Inn, the Torcross Boat House and also the Sea Breeze Café and Takeaway. It’s the best option for visitors with limited mobility, with disabled access to the beach as well as a level promenade, about 300 m in length, which is suitable for both wheelchair users and buggies. There is a true sense of energy that envelopes Torcross Beach, and you will often find locals and visitors alike enjoying a salty sea swim, a morning coffee or a well deserved sundowner!
In the central area of Slapton Sands, you’ll usually find fewer people, even more so if you’re prepared to walk a few hundred metres from the Memorial car park in either direction. This area is a great spot for relaxation, providing ample space for spreading out with a big family group to play games. In the summer, not only is this section staffed by lifeguards, but there is also a seasonal ice cream van too, perfect for a pre or post beach treat!
Located at the far north of Slapton Sands, Strete Gate Beach is quiet and secluded, and enjoys a calm, subdued atmosphere. Definitely a place to visit if you want to spend a little time ‘going slow’, and soak up some of the best views South Devon has to offer. Whilst it may be furthest in terms of location from the facilities of Torcross, you will find public conveniences and a thriving coffee shack situated on the beachside. It’s a great place to begin a walk along the beach to Torcross for a meal or drink, before walking back on the ley side, or vice versa – this gives the feeling of a circular walk even though the beach and Ley are just a stone’s throw apart. Although it has no official status, the northern stretch of Slapton Sands, beyond Strete Gate car park, is widely considered a naturist area.
Slapton Sands is a dog friendly beach and welcomes canines and their companions throughout the year, and there are so many factors that make Slapton Sands the popular dog friendly destination that it is. Not only is there miles of shingle to explore, but just a stone’s throw (quite literally!) behind the beach you will find the Slapton Ley Nature Reserve which boasts a myriad of footpaths, both short and long, to explore. As if that wasn’t enough, the beach also enjoys direct access to the South West Coast Path, with the neighbouring village of Beesands and Blackpool Sands just a short walk away. For more information on the best beaches for you and your four legged friend to explore, read our South Devon dog friendly beach guide.
The Torcross Boathouse restaurant is hailed as the most dog friendly establishment in Torcross, and canine companions are welcome both inside and out, which is perfect for days when the weather doesn’t permit alfresco dining – they also offer a takeaway service, so you can quickly return to the beach with your pooch to indulge in sumptuous fish and chips and continue a game of fetch! At the Start Bay Inn, dogs are welcome on the seafront patio but not indoors during food service. Similarly, the Sea Breeze Café permits dogs outside but not indoors.
For many, Slapton Sands is synonymous with World War II, but for those who aren’t familiar, this section of Start Bay, and also the surrounding villages, played a major part in the preparations for D-Day and are consequently of much historical significance…
The area around Slapton Sands was evacuated in November 1943 after the site was chosen as one of four practise areas in preparation for the D-Day landings, and in particular, the beach at Slapton was selected due to its close similarities to what the allies codenamed ‘Utah Beach’ on northern France’s Cherbourg peninsula. The evacuated villages included Torcross, Slapton and Strete, as well as several settlements further inland, as far as East Allington and Blackawton, compromising around 3,000 people and 180 farms.
Six large-scale exercises were undertaken by the US forces based around Slapton Sands, some of which were even attended by high ranking officers including Winston Churchill. For tragic reasons, the operation that became best known in the years since, both in the UK and the US, was Exercise Tiger, which on 28th April 1944 culminated in the deaths of an estimated 946 American servicemen.
Exercise Tiger was designed to be long and arduous, and as close a simulation as possible to the conditions of actual warfare. In preparation for their simulated assault, eight heavily laden tank landing ships were making their way to Slapton Sands from Lyme Bay, unaccompanied by the Royal Navy Destroyer that was scheduled to join them but had to be diverted. Alerted by radio chatter, a fleet of German E-boats slipped past the UK’s naval defences and intercepted the convoy, launching an attack that proved disastrous for the largely defenceless fleet. Many mistakes and unforeseen circumstances are said to have contributed to the toll, including typing errors that led to confusion over radio frequencies and the use of ineffective lifejackets.
For decades, Exercise Tiger remained largely unknown amongst the Anglo-American public until a Devon resident, Ken Small, began a campaign in the 1970s to raise awareness. Small was also responsible for the recovered Sherman tank that stands by Slapton Ley in Torcross, and serves as a memorial to those who died during the Operation Tiger disaster. Be sure to visit the memorial on your visit to Slapton Sands, and for more information, visit the Exercise Tiger Memorial website.
Slapton village is a quintessential South Devon bolthole nestled just a short distance from Slapton Sands beach and the Slapton Ley Nature Reserve. Boasting thatched cottages and rose clad gardens, and popular walking routes that tread both coast and countryside, the village has a strong sense of community, and is home to two popular pubs, The Queen’s Arms and The Tower Inn.
From age old pubs, to thriving cafés and even a gastro coffee wagon, you’re well and truly spoilt for choice with regard to places to eat and drink at Slapton Sands. There are three places to stop for a meal, snack or drink at Torcross, and what’s more, you will also find seasonal ice cream vans parked along the beach, and the popular coffee wagon serving freshly ground coffee and homemade cake at Strete Gate. If you’re happy to jump in the car for a short drive, you have two additional nearby eateries to choose from…
The Start Bay Inn is a family-friendly pub-restaurant in Torcross, enjoying outside tables that face the sea and as such, it’s simply irresistible for many a passer-by during the summer. As one would expect, the fish and seafood is sourced locally, and they even use their own boat launched from the shoreline opposite the pub when the weather permits. Whilst the menu has a focus on seafood, serving some of the finest fish and chips around, traditional pub classics are all on the menu too. Family friendly, there is a dedicated area for families, and you will find a selection of colouring books and board games to keep little ones entertained. Canine companions are welcome at the tables outside, but not inside during food service.
The Torcross Boat House is situated just a short distance from the Start Bay Inn, and also boasts panoramic sea views. This casual, sunny café / restaurant also serves as a takeaway, so you can pick up a hearty portion of fish and chips to take back to the shingle if you’d rather stay on the beach. In the summer, you can also dine al fresco on the patio that faces Slapton Ley. Please note, the Boat House doesn’t open every evening so be sure to check opening times if you’re planning to go there for dinner.
Situated towards the southern tip of Torcross beach, Sea Breeze is a cosy traditional café with a small amount of outdoor seating. A popular place for light bites and desserts, Sea Breeze serves tasty tea cakes, scones, soups and cakes amongst other delights.
Known by many as ‘the café by the sea’, The Lime Coffee Co. is a popular ‘café wagon’ serving freshly ground coffee, homemade cakes and sumptuous pastries. Situated directly on the beach, it’s a perfect spot for those in search of a light refreshment without even leaving the beach!
For something even more casual, if you want to pick up an ice cream, cold drink or coffee ‘on the go’, in the summer months you will find takeaway vans at Strete Gate car park and also Slapton Memorial car park. The Torcross Boat House also serves ice-cream to take away.
The Tower Inn at Slapton, less than a mile from central Slapton Sands, is a popular gastro-pub serving freshly-prepared, locally sourced food along with an extensive selection of wines and ales.
Another fantastic daytime option is the café at Stokeley Farm Shop – situated just under a mile from Torcross, they serve a tempting range of meals, snacks and treats, including delicious Devon Cream Teas. Also home to a deli, garden centre and newly refurbished tap house, it’s an ideal bolthole to spend an hour or two after a trip to the beach, and is often a hive of activity at weekends.
Regardless of your preferred beachside downtime, you certainly won’t find yourself short of things to do when visiting Slapton Sands. For water based enthusiasts, it’s the ultimate playground, with the calm, crystal waters providing perfect conditions for sea swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding. For those who prefer to stay on land, the area is a haven for wildlife, with both seals and dolphins often frequenting the water. The beach is also a popular fishing spot, peppered with anglers keen to land their dinner – join in the action, or sit back and watch them pull in their catch. Situated on the South West Coast Path, Slapton Sands is a favourite location for walkers, and within just one hour you can reach the beaches of Beesands or Hallsands, or for something a little more arduous, navigate to Start Point. Just a short drive away are the bustling harbour towns of Dartmouth and Salcombe, both popular options for those who would like to spend a little time exploring further afield. For more inspiration, download our comprehensive guide on Things to do in South Devon.
Slapton Sands is a popular fishing spot throughout the year. The steep shelf of the beach means it’s easy to reach deep water and, at least in the central area, the shingle sea bed ensures that snags are rarely a problem. On summer evenings, sections of the beach are often lined by anglers pulling in their catch. Most fish for mackerel on feathers and spinners, but bass are also caught off Slapton Sands (most reports are from Strete Gate). Fishing off the bottom is known to bring in plaice, dab, dogfish, pouting and whiting in good numbers. Live ragworm is the typical bait in the area, with sand eel also recommended.
At around a mile and half long, Slapton Ley Nature Reserve is the largest natural freshwater lake in south-west England. Separated by a narrow shingle bar from the salty sea, it’s a unique sight, especially from high spots on the South West Coast Path that really draw emphasis to its precarious position. The ley is surrounded by reeds, marshes and trees and, despite the trail running close to the road, its low elevation means you’re nicely shielded from the sight and most of the sound of the traffic.
Being of considerable natural importance, Slapton Ley has been designated a National Nature Reserve. It’s home to a unique and protected habitat, boasting a variety of birds, and a rare collection of plants and as such, provides a wonderful environment for exploration. Slapton Ley is a popular spot with wildlife enthusiasts and families who love to explore the walking trails and spot wildlife from the hides.
Start Bay is peppered with shingle bays, similar to that of Slapton Sands, including the popular beaches of Blackpool Sands, Beesands, Hallsands and Strete Gate. South Devon is the ultimate playground for beach lovers, and the region boasts not only shingle bays but also secluded coves and large sandy expanses, perfect for exploring! At Coast & Country Cottages we love the beach, be sure to check our beach related blog posts for even more inspiration.
Slapton Sands, around 28 miles west of Plymouth, is situated on the east-facing coast of Devon’s South Hams, and is a three-mile fine shingle beach that occupies a central stretch of Start Bay. Relatively easy to reach, Slapton Sands is a popular spot amongst both locals and visitors…
The A379 runs along most of the length of Slapton Sands, from Torcross to Strete Gate, meaning access from Kingsbridge and Dartmouth is very straightforward. For sat nav users, use the postcode TQ7 2TQ for Torcross, and TQ7 2PN for Strete Gate.
Slapton Sands is situated directly on the South West Coast Path and as such, boasts a variety of walking routes from a variety of starting points. A popular, albeit challenging walk starts from Dartmouth and navigates around ten miles of spectacular coastal path.
There is ample parking at Slapton Sands, with four car parks, all of which are run by the South Hams District Council. As with many car parks now, an alternative option instead of paying with cash is to use the RingGo app/telephone service, so for more information, visit: https://www.myringgo.co.uk/parkinglocator.
There are two places to park at the southern edge of Slapton Sands:
1. Torcross car park, Slapton Line
Postcode: TQ7 2TQ
This is the main car park on the outskirts of the village of Torcross, between Slapton Ley and the beach, and here you will also find the Exercise Tiger Memorial. This car park offers quick access to the beach, pub and restaurant, and also has public toilets.
2. Torcross village layby
Post code: TQ7 2TQ
Adjacent to the main car park, opposite the Start Bay Inn, you will find a series of diagonal parking bays. These offer easy access to the pub and cafés at Torcross, but please note, they are only permitted for short stays in the daytime.
3. Slapton Memorial car park
Postcode: TQ7 2PN
A mile from the main Torcross car park, you will find another large car park, also with public conveniences. The Slapton Memorial car park is a good choice if you’re looking to find a quieter part of the beach during busy times, if you’d like an easy walk along the beach, or require quick access to Slapton Ley.
4. Strete Gate car park
Postcode: TQ7 2PN
Strete Gate car park is located a mile from the Slapton Memorial car park. It’s the northernmost car park, at around two miles from Torcross village. It’s almost a mile’s walk to the very northern tip of the beach from here!
Our Slapton Sands holiday cottages are perfect for those looking for a coastal bolthole that not only puts you in the forefront of South Devon beachlife, but also provides easy access to the rest of Start Bay and beyond. We have a range of holiday cottages in Torcross and Start Bay – from couples breaks to luxury getaways and even enviable properties with pools. An ideal spot for a dog-friendly holiday, we also boast a wealth of pet-friendly cottages.