Salcombe walks: a selection of stunning strolls
February 24th, 2016 | By Ross Purdy
One of the joys of Salcombe when it comes to walking is the sheer variety of options offered by the area. Whether you want to push a pram around a gentle circular trail or kit up for a hike over the region’s toughest hills, you’re bound to find several Salcombe walks to appeal.
With the help of walking expert Mark Rowe, Independent columnist and contributing editor for BBC Countryfile Magazine, our locally-based team has to put together some of our favourite Salcombe walks for you to enjoy.
These two Salcombe walks come courtesy of walking columnist Mark Rowe.
East Portlemouth to Gara Rock and back
Great views and wonderful coastal flora and fauna.
Start/finish: Portlemouth Ferry
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 2.5 – 3 hours
Look out for: Fabulous views across the mouth of the estuary to Bolt Head, the terrace of the Gara Rock Hotel, coastal cliffs west of Gara Rock, clusters of coastal flowers, especially cliff-top bluebells and wild garlic in spring.
Our team member says:
“I love this walk purely and simply because of the different experiences. The little trip on the East Portlemouth ferry is only a few minutes duration, but seeing the area from the water feels like the start of a real adventure.”
– Karen Wood, Customer Loyalty Administrator.
The ferry across the Salcombe Estuary is a timeless way to start this walk, spray flying over the bow and passengers hemmed in tight. Once on dry land you take the little lane or – tides, rocks and seaweed permitting – follow the beach to Mill Bay.
From here, we strike out uphill along a wooded lane, where the birdsong and thick tree canopy can make it hard to believe you are so close to a beach. Shade is king here, and the ferns and moss-covered walls create a Jurassic feel to this valley.
Next stop is the Gara Rock Hotel, and in fair weather few people will find it easy to stroll past the inviting terrace of the Ode Cafe! Should the weather close in, then duck 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. The views gently open up towards Sharp Tor and – beyond the vastness of Starehole Bay – to the headland of Bolt Head.
As the path turns north, the estuary views return, this time across to South Sands, and the wonderfully named Splat Cove and Stink Cove. Look out for gannets and terns plunging into the water, or cormorants flying at low altitude, artfully swerving between high-masted vessels. Treat sightings of dolphins, basking sharks, and dustbin lid jellyfish (enormous but harmless) as a bonus.Featured walk: Thurlestone coastal circular
Thurlestone circular to Bolt Tail and Hope Cove via South Huish, Galmpton and Bolberry Down
One for the hikers! Thurlestone circular to Bolt Tail and Hope Cove via South Huish, Galmpton and Bolberry Down
Start/finish: Thurlestone beach car park
Distance: 8 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Look out for: magnificent coastal views, South Milton Ley nature reserve, exquisite sunken Devon lanes and paths, Bolt Tail Iron Age hillfort
Our team member says:
“On a sunny day you have incredible glimpses of the turquoise blue waters – you could be anywhere in the world! You do feel you have achieved something and deserve the drink at the pub.”
– Andrew Jones, Director.
Some of the South Ham’s most monumental coastal scenery awaits along this lengthy walk, but you have to work a little to earn it! This is a proper hike with several steady climbs as you make for the coast. Striking out along Thurlestone Bay, the walk begins on a small scale: dragonflies abound at South Milton Ley nature reserve, and you may spot an otter, more likely a heron.
Then, along a meandering lane you reach the exquisitely crumpled ruins and Lilliputian doorways of St Andrew’s Church at South Huish. Incredibly, this lonely church is still consecrated. Reaching a brow, you get a clear view of Bolberry Down.
At this juncture it can look dishearteningly distant: three valleys and sizeable whalebacks separate you from the south coast. Luckily, there’s plenty to catch the eye en route, including orchards, impossibly narrow footpaths to squeeze through, and a delectable greenway known as Sweetheart’s Lane. What romantic tales led to that moniker?
All of a sudden, the South Hams fall into the sea at Bolberry Down, a sweeping landscape that tumbles west towards Bolt Tail. Here you drink in signature views of the south west: the Eddystone Lighthouse far out to sea; Dodman Point curling away to the south; the tors of Dartmoor, and Burgh Island.
The path swoops downhill, all but rushing you into Hope Cove, which is a wonderful place to pause: the Hope & Anchor pub, cafés and village store ice cream all compete to refresh you!
Whilst we have our share of challenging hills and rugged trails, there are also plenty of suitable Salcombe walks for pushchair users as well as people with impaired mobility. With this in mind, we have picked a couple of tried and tested pushchair-friendly Salcombe walks that some members of our team regularly enjoy.
Walk 1: Snapes Point
Excellent exercise and wonderful coast and countryside views
- Start/finish: Gould Road/Shadycombe Car Park
- Getting there: Take the turning for Lincombe and Batson from the A381 Just outside Salcombe. Follow the signs to Lincombe until you see the signs for Snapes Point.
- Distance: 1.5 miles (2.5 miles circular walk)
- Time: 45 minutes (1 hour 30 minutes circular walk)
- Toilets: Public toilets, Gould Road
- Look out for: Panoramic views of patchwork fields and the Estuary.
This relatively accessible trek, which is fairly level compared with most Salcombe walks, boasts magnificent panoramic views across the town and the Kingsbridge Estuary. There are plenty of benches en route so remember to bring a picnic. If you don’t have the time to make your own, pop in to the Bake House, Salcombe for some snacks and treats before you set off from Snapes Point.
This Salcombe walk can be done as a simple ‘there and back’ which would be suitable for most pushchairs. There is also a harder circular walk option, which will take you across field paths for which you’ll need an all-terrain pushchair.
- From the Snapes Point National Trust car park, pass through the small gate at the back of the car park. This takes 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
- Eventually you will see a signpost to the left that directs you to Snapes Point. If you have a double buggy or everyday pushchair, this sign means that it’s time to turn back and head back to the car park
- If you have an all-terrain pushchair and feel up for a little more challenge, you can continue on a circular walk to the end of the path. At that point, turn left into the field then follow the markers past Tosnos Point that will take you back to the National Trust car park.
Looking for an ideal base for your holiday? Why not stay at Driftwood, a stylish, detached two-storey property sleeping up to eight guests? Introduced in 2014, Driftwood boasts elevated views of the Salcombe Estuary from the living area and balconies. This sumptuously appointed VisitEngland 5 star-awarded property is baby-friendly and offers a spacious holiday retreat for families. Its location is similarly perfect for those bringing pushchairs, being just a short walk from plenty of picturesque Salcombe walks as well as the beautiful harbour and waterfront, shops and restaurants.
Walk 2: Bolberry down, Malborough, near Salcombe – a short walk with a beautiful backdrop
- Start/finish: Bolberry Down National Trust car park
- Getting there: Follow A381, Kingsbridge to Malborough. Entering the village, take the second right towards the village centre. Continue past the church, then take the third turning on right, signposted to Bolberry. At Bolberry take the next left, signposted to Port Light Hotel. Continue up the steep incline to arrive at the National Trust car park.
- Distance: 1 mile
- Time: 30 – 40 minutes
- Toilets: Public toilets, Malborough
This circular walk around the plateau of Bolberry Down offers easy walking, suitable for most pushchairs. This walk is favoured by many locals and visitors to the Salcombe area, as it offers an easy way to enjoy some spectacular views from the South West Coast Path. The dramatic coastline contrasts with the gentle South Hams Hills to create an unforgettable backdrop to your walk. There are many viewpoints and picnic spots where you can take a break, and the nearby Port Light Hotel, which features an outside play area, is a favourite place among families for lunch.
- From the National Trust car park, follow the easily accessible trail along the edge of the road towards the Port Light Hotel. When you reach a metal gate on the edge of Bolberry Down, bear left on the tarmac path which heads out towards the sea
- Continue along this path in between the vast swathes of gorse. As always, don’t forget to take a good look around at the scenery at this point. The path gradually bears around to the right before joining the South West Coast Path. Continue right towards the Iron Age hill fort of Bolt Tail, on the end of the headland. There you can enjoy views over Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island in front of you
- Further along the path you will reach a kissing gate set in a dry-stone wall. At this point head inland and follow the well-walked path along the dry-stone wall boundary
- Pass the Port Light Hotel on your left and you will soon be back at the National Trust car park.
For a longer walk without a pushchair you can continue to Hope Cove or, in the opposite direction, make your way to Soar Mill Cove.
Close by, in Salcombe, Leylands offers VisitEngland 5 Star-awarded spacious holiday accommodation arranged over two floors. Sleeping eight, with magnificent views of the harbour towards South Pool Creek and East Portlemouth, this delightful Victorian house is ideally suited to young families looking for a quiet location just a few minutes walk from the town centre and waterfront. There is also a high chair, travel cot and baby friendly plates and cutlery.
Suggested OS maps: Landranger 202 Torbay South Dartmoor Explorer OL20 South Devon.
Further afield: other fantastic South Devon walks
We’ve plenty more information about excellent South Devon walks on this website, which include this wonderful circular stroll that begins in the village of Harberton and is a great one for nature spotters.
If you want to bring your dog and you’re worried about restrictions, take a look at these three dog-friendly walks in the South Hams, all of which take in some unforgettable views.
Dartmouth is also a wonderful place for walking, both because of what the town itself has to offer and because of its location close to the South West Coast Path. We’ve put together four of our favourite Dartmouth walks for you to try yourself.