After 1,000 British walkers were surveyed, it was found that the South West Coast Path provides some of Britain’s most loved walks! The footpath stretches for 630 miles along rugged cliffs and cuts into the heart of South Devon, offering some stunning locations to enjoy the summer sunshine.
With the South West Coast Path along the coast of South Devon as well as National Trust protected landscapes, there’s an array of picturesque picnic spots with outstanding backdrops to take in as you tuck into your lunch. The locally based team at Coast and Country Cottages know some of the region’s best-kept secret spots. Discover 6 of the best picnic spots in South Devon through their eyes.
Emily M: Bantham Beach
My favourite picnic spot is at Bantham Beach. I like to grab a coffee from The Gastrobus and walk along the coast path to enjoy the panoramic views of Bantham’s large expanse of golden sand and turquoise rippling ocean. This surfers’ paradise is one of the best places in South Devon to watch the sunset disappear behind Burgh Island and the surfers drift in over the waves back to the shoreline. At low tide the beach opens up to reveal acres of shallow sandy pools creating ideal play areas for toddlers and exposing rockpools below the headland.
Bantham Beach was voted one of the top 10 beaches in Europe (Lonely Planet, 2015) To find out more about Britain’s best beach read our guide to Bantham Beach here.
Directions from Salcombe: Leave Salcombe on Salcombe Road (A381), passing through the village of Malborough. Just over three miles past Malborough, the road will narrow and the white lines will disappear. Take the next left, signposted for Thurlestone and South Milton, then take the third right, signposted for Buckland and Bantham. Follow the road all the way to a T-junction in Bantham village, then take a left. The car park will be straight ahead.
For SAT NAV users: TQ7 3AN for Bantham Beach
Ross P: Between Little Dartmouth and Shinglehill Cove
One of my favourite ways to spend a sunny Sunday is to walk from Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands. My wife and I often stop for a bite at The Venus Café right by the beach, but there are some nice picnic spots on the way too. Our favourite is just a few steps off the beaten path, but it’s so tucked away that lots of people miss it. You’ll find this spot about 500 m down the hill from the Little Dartmouth National Trust car park on Redlap Road.
If you’re approaching from Dartmouth on your way to Stoke Fleming, turn left and go through this car park, then go through the gate and follow the track downhill.
Instead of turning left after the second gate, carry on straight for 20 metres or so and look out for a trail leading left, which goes to a hidden little spot by the water.
There’s a wooden picnic bench where you can break out the snacks while enjoying views out to sea. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and porpoises which are often seen in this area.
For SAT NAV users: TQ6 0JP for Little Dartmouth
Caroline S: Snapes Point, nr Salcombe
There’s a couple of nice picnic spots here. At one end of the car park there is a raised picnic area with a table and views over the Salcombe Estuary and harbour, or take a short circular walk through the rolling fields past a small shingle beach. On the circular loop back, some incredible views begin to unveil of Salcombe and its estuary. This is where I like to settle down with my picnic blanket and watch the hustle and bustle of life on the estuary. There’s often a blaze of colour from sailing boats and paddle boarders making their way about the estuary and its narrow creeks.
Directions from Kingsbridge: It’s a little tricky to find but worth the effort. Follow A381 from Kingsbridge to Salcombe. After Malborough take second turning on left onto a lane signposted to Lincombe. Continue down this lane, go over the first crossroads, still following signs to Lincombe, until you come to a brown car park signpost in a hedge. Take a right turn up a short single track lane to Snapes car park.
For SAT NAV users: TQ8 8NQ for Snapes Point car park
Karen W: Mill Bay
I like to walk across the wide stretch of beach at East Portlemouth and through woodland paths that reveal charming quiet sandy coves, Smalls and Mill Bay. Mill Bay is the larger of the two coves where I can grab a nice ice cream from the Lollapalooza van nestled under the trees at the back of the beach. This is usually followed by a picnic with the kids and Jumbles the dog on Mill Bay beach, tucked behind trees and woodland makes it feel as though you’re on a deserted island.
Directions from Salcombe: Jump on the passenger ferry from Salcombe to East Portlemouth, then walk along the shoreline past Smalls Cove. The next big beach will be Mill Bay. If the tide is in, walk past the ferry steps and turn right, keeping parallel to the water until you find Mill Bay signs that lead you up through the woodland and down to the hidden cove.
For SAT NAV users: TQ8 8PU for Mill Bay
Victoria R: Starehole Bay
Located in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and only accessible by foot, this breathtaking view is on the Sharp Tor and Bolt Head walk, which runs along the South West Coast Path, revealing a tropical paradise of palms and banana trees leading to the flourishing wilderness, home to wild ponies and with various picnic benches along the way.
Starehole Bay is off the beaten track, popular with walkers and boaters alike for its views of the clear turquoise waters. It’s the perfect place to sit and take in the sea air from an elevated position. On this walk, allow time to visit National Trust Overbecks, bought by inventor Otto Overbeck perched on the high cliffs.
There are three must-see National Trust properties in South Devon.
Sit and watch the boats glide over the crystal clear waters and out over the Salcombe bar.
Directions from South Sands: It’s a steep hill from from South Sands beach, but worth the walk. Starting with the beach on your left, follow the road which curves uphill. Continue straight on past the National Trust hut, following signs for Overbecks along a winding path and then follow the signs for Sharp Tor and Starehole Bay. Once you get to the dip at Starehole Bay, follow the coast path back into the estuary mouth and through the woods. Bear right where you meet the road to return to South Sands.
For SAT NAV users: TQ8 8LH for South Sands
H2: Holly D: Woodleigh
Woodleigh woods, part of the National Trust landscape, boasts natural woodland that clings to the steep-sided valley of the River Avon. Play ‘Pooh Sticks’ with the family before following the stream into areas of colourful plants brightening up the hedgerow and grassy clearings. You can spot horse shoe imprints, rare plants and wildlife here too. I usually set up a picnic opposite the vivid cornfields, taking in the views of the rolling Devon countryside as I eat.
After a lovely lunch in the open air, I always like to visit Avon Mill Garden Centre to look at their coastal plants and enjoy the home-made scones.
Directions from Avon Mill Garden Centre, Loddiswell: Drive straight up a steep hill to Woodleigh village. Keep driving up until you see a National Trust gate on you left, of which you can park opposite before entering.
For SAT NAV users: TQ7 4DE for Woodleigh village
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