An icy Christmas Day swim in South Devon has been a tradition for some time now, but in the...
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, is a popular spot amongst both locals and visitors. Often frequented by outdoor enthusiasts, expect to find the shores lined with keen anglers and kayakers, and a gentle flow of ramblers treading the South West Coast Path and navigating the nature reserve that is Slapton Ley. 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 near Slapton Sands
– Things to do at Slapton Sands
– Slapton Ley Nature Reserve
– Beaches near Slapton Sands
– The history of Slapton Sands
– How to get to Slapton Sands?
– Slapton village
– Slapton holiday cottages
Slapton Sands is an expansive fine shingle stretch of beach, benefitting from some of the best scenery in South Devon with views as far reaching as Start Point, and oppositely, towards Dartmouth. This entire stretch of coastline has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – perfect for well seasoned beach lovers. Known for being an extremely spacious and clean environment, there’s plenty of space to spread out and have fun, and you will find the shingle shores a hive of activity with families and their canine companions fully embracing this natural playground.
In some ways, Slapton Sands feels like it accommodates three separate beaches. To the South, you will find the village and adjacent beach of Torcross (read our full Torcross guide here), with the other two ‘zones’ of the beach situated to the centre and North, both of which are typically quieter. In the central area of Slapton Sands you will usually find fewer people, making this area a great spot for relaxation with ample space for spreading out as 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 even more quiet and secluded, and enjoys a calm, subdued atmosphere – it’s definitely a place to visit if you want to spend a little time ‘going slow’ and soaking up some of the best views South Devon has to offer. It’s a great place to begin a walk along Slapton Sands, and if you’re feeling energetic, you could even circumnavigate Slapton Ley Nature Reserve too. 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 that welcomes canines and their companions throughout the year. 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 directly behind the beach you will find the Slapton Ley Nature Reserve, which boasts a myriad of footpaths both short and long, all of which are perfect for exploring. As if that wasn’t enough, the beach also benefits from direct access to the South West Coast Path with the neighbouring villages of Strete, Beesands and Blackpool Sands just a short walk away. For more information on the best dog-friendly beaches for you and your four legged friend, read our South Devon dog-friendly beach guide.
Slapton Sands is a beach that sure packs a punch with regard to its wealth of eateries, both at the beach and nearby. In the village of Slapton itself you will find two popular pubs, and just a little further afield in Torcross there are various sumptuous eateries to choose from. If you’re feeling peckish and you’ve forgotten to pack your sandwiches then fear not, because one thing is for sure – you certainly won’t go hungry!
Nestled in the shadows of a 14th Century tower, in the heart of Slapton village, you will find the popular Tower Inn pub. Residing less than a mile from the central stretch of Slapton Sands beach, it’s a family run establishment that prides itself on its warm and welcoming atmosphere, and is particularly child and dog friendly, with the expectation they are well behaved – salty toes and paws strongly encouraged! This popular gastro pub serves deliciously fresh and locally sourced food along with an extensive selection of wines and ales. Combined with a roaring log fire and spicy mulled wine for the colder months, and a walled garden to enjoy al fresco dining during the summer period, it really is perfect for every season.
Another popular pub situated in central Slapton, The Queen’s Arms serves a nourishing menu of hearty, home-cooked food with a wide ranging menu that caters for all tastes – with a wealth of local ales, and a variety of traditional meals and light bites there is something for everyone. Family friendly (dogs are of course part of the pack too), it’s a popular resting point for ramblers – perfect for enjoying a pre, post or mid-walk refuel to or from the beach.
Just a short distance away and accessible both by foot or car, depending upon how hungry you are, you will find various eateries. In Torcross the Start Bay Inn pub serves delicious fish and chips amongst other menu items, and is even renowned for being one of the best spots to pick up fish and chips in Devon! The Torcross Boathouse and Sea Breeze Café are also popular, and if that isn’t enough to suppress an appetite, just under a mile away, the Stokeley Farm Shop Café is a great place to indulge in a classic Devon cream tea. Oppositely, situated at the Strete end of the beach you will find the popular ‘café wagon by the sea’, otherwise known as The Lime Coffee Co serving freshly ground coffee and homemade cakes.
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 paddle boarding. 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 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. 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. 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 provides a variety of walking routes to be explored, from shingle strolls along the beach to rugged trails overlooking the shore and so much more. Situated just a stone’s throw (quite literally) from the South West Coast Path, and within just one hour, you can reach the beaches of Beesands or Hallsands, or should you want to undertake a longer stretch, continue to Start Point. Alternatively, if you’d like a gentle stroll to walk off a sumptuous feast, simply potter along the bay and explore the beaches of Torcross or Strete. Wherever you decide to walk, the view is sure to impress!
Slapton boasts a myriad of footpaths along the South Devon countryside, including those that take in the thriving nature reserve of Slapton Ley, so it comes as no surprise that this is a popular destination for those in search of a South Devon walking holiday. For more inspiration, and details on specific walking routes across the region, be sure to read through the selection of fantastic walks 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, in the central area, the shingle seabed 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 if you’re lucky, bass can also be caught off Slapton Sands although 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 a half long, Slapton Ley Nature Reserve is the largest natural freshwater lake in the South West of England. Separated by the road 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 unique position in the landscape. 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 sound of the traffic, giving you a sense of being fully immersed in nature.
Being of considerable natural importance, Slapton Ley has been designated a National Nature Reserve. It’s home to a highly protected habitat, boasting a variety of birds and a rare collection of plants, and as such, it provides a wonderful environment for exploration. Slapton Ley is a popular spot with wildlife enthusiasts, especially families who love to explore the walking trails and spot wildlife from the hides.
Start Bay is peppered with shingle bays that are similar to Slapton Sands with regard to its geography, including the popular beaches of Torcross Beach, Blackpool Sands, Beesands Beach, Hallsands Beach and Strete Gate. It doesn’t get much better than South Devon when it comes to beaches and the region boasts not only shingle bays, but also secluded coves and large sandy expanses – the ultimate natural playground! At Coast & Country Cottages we love the beach, so if you do too, be sure to check our beach related blog posts for the full lowdown – you may even become privy to a few secret beaches and secluded coves!
For many, Slapton Sands is synonymous with World War II, but for those who aren’t familiar, this section of Start Bay and the surrounding villages including Torcross, Strete, Stokenham, East Allington and even Blackawton, 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 compromised 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, which 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.
The majority of people arrive by car to Slapton Sands, and you will find the largest car park situated on the central stretch of the beach, known as Slapton Memorial car park, the postcode for which is TQ7 2PN. 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. A mile from this car park, you will find another large car park (with convenient public conveniences), known as Strete Gate car park, the postcode for which is also TQ7 2PN. As with many car parks now, an alternative option instead of paying with cash is to use the RingGo app/telephone service.
If you’re travelling to Slapton Sands by bus, there is a service from both Kingsbridge and Dartmouth that run at frequent intervals to Torcross – full timetable information can be found on the Stagecoach website. For those arriving on foot, because Slapton Sands is situated directly on the South West Coast Path you will find a variety of walking routes with different starting points – a popular, albeit challenging walk starts from Dartmouth and navigates around ten miles of spectacular coastal path.
Situated midway between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth, and nestled half a mile inland from Slapton Sands, the village of Slapton is a quintessential South Devon bolthole. Boasting thatched cottages, terracotta washed houses and rose clad gardens, with popular walking routes that tread both coast, countryside and nature reserve, it comes as no surprise that the village is a popular destination with both day visitors and holiday makers, as well as local residents too! The village has a thriving community and is the proud home to two Public Houses, the Slapton Community Shop, a well-equipped village hall, an active church and the nationally renowned Slapton Ley Field Studies Centre. Be sure to check the Slapton Community website for the full lowdown on news and events.
Our Slapton holiday cottages are perfect for those looking for a coastal bolthole that not only puts you in the forefront of South Devon beach life, but also provides easy access to the rest of Start Bay and beyond. From country escapes nestled in the gentle folds of the landscape, to properties situated in the heart of the village perfect for family holidays. Regardless of your preferred taste, be it a cottage with an open fire or a luxury holiday cottage, we are certain you will find something perfect – we even have a wealth of dog-friendly holiday cottages to browse.
Light, airy and full of character, Rosevine is a picture perfect Grade II listed detached cottage. Tucked away in the heart of Slapton village, the property enjoys off road parking and a beautiful walled garden, which is perfect for catching summer rays and al fresco dining – the icing on the cake is that it’s less than half a mile from the village pub! Rosevine is the perfect property to enjoy a relaxing coastal break for families, or perhaps a larger group of friends.
The Bothy is a luxurious, well-equipped barn conversion nestled in the countryside that surrounds the village of Slapton. It’s most notable feature is most certainly the light, open plan living space that takes in uninterrupted countryside views from the floor to ceiling windows, providing an atmosphere of calmness and tranquillity. As if this wasn’t enough, there is also a wood burner – perfect for the cooler months, especially if you’ve spent the day rambling and need to rest tired, achy limbs. Within close proximity to both the village and the coast, The Bothy is perfect for those seeking a little isolation.