Otterton to Babbacombe / Hope's Nose to Prawle Pont / Kingsbridge to Plymouth


Kingsbridge We drove into Kingsbridge and stopped in the large car park beside the estuary. The tide was out so we didn’t see it at its prettiest. There were plenty of small boats at anchor; many were high and dry in the mud. Steep streets lead up through the centre of town and Fore Street has many shops.

3 faced clockThe town goes back to a 13th century charter permitting a market on the quay. The oldest part of the town has a medieval shambles, a 15th century church and a town hall with a 3 faced clock.

Cookworthy MuseumThe Cookworthy Museum of Rural Life has a reconstructed Victorian kitchen and an Edwardian pharmacy. A mile north of Kingsbridge is Sorley Tunnel Farm, a working farm with a 150ft deep disused railway tunnel.


SalcombeDriving south on the A381 took us to Salcombe with its massive natural harbour and nearly 2000 acres of tidal creeks. The large sheltered bay has become one of the largest yachting centres in England and a converted Mersey ferry houses a sailing school open to day visitors.

There used to be a fleet of fast clipper schooners that got the first of the season’s fruits to the markets, such as oranges from the Azores and pineapples from the West Indies.

South Sands ferryIn the holiday season, visitors may outnumber locals by ten to one, many from the boating fraternity. North and South Sands are popular family beaches which can be also be reached by a passenger ferry in summer. We had a very good view of Mill Bay on the opposite bank.

Fort CharlesLinks to its maritime past and local trades are portrayed in the Museum of Maritime and Local History at Custom Quay, whereas Fort Charles, on a rock off of North Sands, was built by Henry Vlll to protect the estuary from French and Spanish raiders.

Fort Charles withstood two Roundhead sieges but the garrison finally surrendered and it was subsequently destroyed.

The town consists of very narrow winding streets that climb to the headland where Overbeck's Museum is an elegant Edwardian House containing the varied collections of Dr. Otto Overbeck who lived here from 1928-37. There are stunning views from the beautiful gardens set high above the estuary.

SalcombeSalcombe shopSalcombe houses

Salcombe Bar is believed to have been the inspiration for Tennyson’s poem 'Crossing the Bar', following a rough passage in the yacht Sunbeam. It is a sea covered sand spit that restricts entrance to the estuary and has caused many shipwrecks. The Salcombe Lifeboat lost thirteen of its crew whilst trying to navigate the Bar during a storm in 1916.

Bolt Head

Mew StoneThis part of the coastline to Bolt Tail is owned by the National Trust. The Mew Stone, off Bolt Head, is the largest of many offshore rocks along the Devon Coast with this name, `Mew’ meaning `gull’.

RAF Bolt HeadBolt Head has long been used as an observation post and remains can be seen of RAF Bolt Head which was built as a satellite station to Exeter and a base for air-sea rescue.

The radio masts are part of a Decca Navigator relay station which transmits radio signals to aircraft, ships, and local fishing boats.

silver-studded blueThe silver-studded blue butterfly breeds here, its caterpillars feeding on heather, gorse and birds-foot trefoil and in the autumn hundreds of swallows and house martins assemble before migrating.

Soar Mill Cove

Soar Mill CoveThe coastal path heads west to Soar Mill Cove, a sheltered cove of sand and rock pools. In 1887, the ‘Halloween’, a sailing clipper laden with tea, was driven ashore and the crew were rescued by the lifeboat after they had spent the night clinging to the rigging. When the ship broke up, a three metre-high wall of tea washed onto the beach. The ‘Lintor Ken’, laden with walnut wood and marble was also wrecked here and the marble still lies at the bottom of the sea.

As you look out towards the Ham Stone, the two ragged rocks to the right are known as the Priest and Clerk; the names are connected with the practice of sermons being delivered on the beach.

Bolberry Down and Bolt Tail

Bolt Tail Bolberry Down is an area of high cliff top with level paths leading right to the cliff edge viewpoints. From these locations, there are spectacular vistas across Bigbury Bay and the wonderful coastline beyond. Flints have been found on the Down dating back to 4500 BC, including scrapers, arrowheads and an axe head, indicating that there was a prehistoric settlement in the area. In 1770, there was an unsuccessful attempt to mine copper and the mine shafts can be seen in the cliff face.

At Bolt Tail Camp there is a promontory fort and the coast is littered with shipwrecks which are a magnet to divers.

Hope Cove

Hope CoveHope is Old English meaning a small, enclosed valley and Hope Cove remains peaceful and unspoiled. There are two villages, Inner and Outer Hope. Originally a small fishing and crabbing village, Inner Hope remains a piece of Devon preserved from a hundred years ago with a small cobbled square of thatched cottages. St. Clement's Church is scarcely much larger than a modern living room but it has an atmosphere all of its own.

The beaches are sandy and safe with rock pools and very clear water. Dolphins and seals can be seen swimming and diving in the cove from time to time. Sailing, windsurfing and diving are also popular.

In May 1588 thousands of people gathered to watch the 140 strong "Armada" proceed up the Channel and saw the "San Pedro" run aground on the Shippen, the large rocky headland that separates the two beaches.


South Milton SandsA long, curving main street, lined by thatched cottages, leads to the 13th century church and it was from a fire pan placed on the turret of its tower that the first beacon fire was lit on the Spanish Armada being sighted.

Thurlestone RockIn Thurlestone village the Inn has timbers that are said to have come from the wreck of the San Pedro.

Beyond is the sweep of South Milton Sands and the waters are particularly well suited to surfing, windsurfing or canoeing. Thurlestone Rock lies just offshore, it is a pinnacle holed or 'thirled' by the waves, and famously painted by Turner.


BanthamBantham stands on the River Avon and remains unspoilt. The village pub stands at the head of a row of thatched and cobbed cottages and at the end lies Bantham Ham, a spit of land, covered in sand dunes, that juts out at the mouth of the river. It is here that reputedly the Danes invaded in the 9th century, only to be slaughtered in a bloody battle.

Once the focus of a busy port, the quay at Bantham is now used by small-boats.

Bigbury on Sea

tidal roadtidal roadWe had to drive through Aveton Gifford to find the lowest river crossing and continued along an ‘interesting’ tidal road. That was OK but the narrow, steep hill towards Bigbury was not so funny as the locals charge around the corners and refuse to give much space to pass. It is horrible driving here, there is too much traffic.

Bigbury on SeaBigbury on Sea is a small resort with wonderful safe sandy beaches and spectacular coastal walks.

At low tide, walkers can follow a 'tidal lane’ that is marked by a line of poles and goes 4 miles along the west bank of the Avon. There is also a foot ferry across to Bantham.

Burgh Island

Burgh IslandThis private island is set 200 metres off the coast and has a grade II Art Deco hotel. We were there at low tide and were able to walk across the sand to it, but when the tide is in visitors are ferried across on a huge sea tractor.

Sea TractorWe saw the third generation Sea Tractor, renovated to her freshly minted state, parked beside the hotel. Huge tracks marked its journey across the sand.

Gatherings began on the island when the ancient Britons would party into the night on the beach with Mediterranean traders. The Island was inhabited by monks, brewing mead with pilchard fishermen supporting them and the local people for centuries until the shoals diminished.

Burgh pubThe pub started 1336 and in the 18th century smugglers and wreckers hid from the excise men. In 1895 a music hall singer, George Chirgwin, built the first hotel here. This was replaced by the present hotel, built by Archie Nettlefold in the style of a white art deco cruise liner beached on dry land.

Art Deco hoteModernised in 1932, it became a fashionable retreat for the likes of Noel Coward, Agatha Christie, Amy Johnson, Edward and Wallis Simpson and Winston Churchill.


Mothecombe beachThe next estuary to negotiate is the River Erme. Wonwell Beach has large flat expanses of sand and can be reached by wading across the river from Mothecombe an hour either side of low tide, but it is easy to get cut off by the fast rising water. The coast path crosses here!!!

Flete House, with its extensive grounds, lies at the head of the estuary, is built largely in 19th century Gothic style. The gardens slipped into disrepair at the outbreak of WWll, and were then used to grow Christmas trees. The derelict garden is now being restored to its former glory.

Mothecombe beach is only open to the public when the house is open as it is part of the Flete Estate but there is a car park and kiosk. It was the location for the cove at ‘Mandalay’ in the film Rebecca.

Noss Mayo and Newton Ferrers

Noss Mayo Walkers can enjoy the coast path to Gara Point, another National Trust beauty spot, and around Wembury Bay to Noss Mayo on the River Yealm. Drivers need to negotiate more of ‘those roads’.

Newton FerrersNoss Mayo is a pretty village and has two pubs with terraces overlooking a creek that faces Newton Ferrers on the northern bank. Both villages are popular with artists and Newton is a small sailing centre. In summer a foot ferry travels between these two villages and the other side of the River Yealm.

Wembury Bay

Wembury BayThis stunning coastal estate was acquired by Ministry of Defence in 1940 and later became a naval gunnery training school, HMS Cambridge. It is so important as a site of special scientific interest that when decommissioned; English Nature invoked rarely used powers to request that the MoD offer the site to The National Trust.

Wembury Bay Now there is a large NT car park, overlooked by the Church of St Werburgh that is situated on the coast path. Wembury Point guards the eastern side of Plymouth Sound and the bay is part of a voluntary marine conservation area stretching from Fort Bovisand to Gara Point.Great Mew Stone

A warden conducts 'rock pool rambles' in summer and the beach is used for the study of seashore life. We visited a rather nice café nestling on the cliff steps that overlooks another Great Mew Stone.

Bovisand Bay

Bovisand BayThis sheltered, sandy bay is flanked by low rocks and overlooked by Fort Bovisand, the base of a large sub-aqua school.

Fort BovisandThis was one of 22 forts built in the Plymouth area to guard against attack from the French in the 19th century. In 1970, two divers obtained a lease from the Ministry of Defence to use the Fort as a dive centre, and although it has changed hands, it has remained one ever since.

Jennycliff Bay

Jennycliff Bay steps On the road we passed Staddon Heights golf club housed in one of the forts. There is also a MOD training area with a massive wall on the top of the hill, so big that it figured on the OS map and looked quite odd.

Jennycliff BayWe stopped in the cliff-top car park above Jennycliff Bay and walked down to a panoramic map of Plymouth Sound. Unfortunately it was misty and we couldn’t see much at all. There is a gas beacon and a large café and we found some steps cut into the chalk cliff that lead to a small beach of shingle and rocks.

Plymouth Breakwater

Plymouth BreakwaterThe Breakwater at the mouth of Plymouth Sound is a mile long and 2½ miles out from Plymouth Hoe. Plymouth Sound was open to storms from the South West, making it a dangerous anchorage and there were many shipwrecks on the coast here.

In 1806 the Prince Regent issued an Order and plans were drawn by John Rennie and Joseph Whidby. To construct the whole breakwater of some 3,000 feet, was estimated to involve 2 million tons of stone and was expected to cost £1million.

A site at Oreston was opened as the Breakwater Quarry for the supply of limestone and this was transported to the site specially converted sailing barges and dropped 30 feet onto the seabed. The Breakwater comprised a central portion with two arms each at an angle of 120 degrees. In 1815 it was decided to raise the structure to 20 feet above low water, but in 1817 and 1824, storms displaced much of the work.

Breakwater lightThe top of the Breakwater was paved and one of the granite blocks is engraved to commemorate a Royal visit. In the end some 4,500,000 tons were needed, far outstretching the original 25 acre quarry and the number of workmen at any one time was apparently 765.

The lighthouse was built of the best white granite from Cornwall and was completed in 1843. The lantern was 8 feet tall and it had 118 mirrors, making the light visible for 8 miles.


Saltram HouseSaltram House, with its magnificent decoration and original contents, was created between the 1740s and 1820s by three generations of the Parker family. It features some of Robert Adam's finest rooms, exquisite plasterwork ceilings, original Chinese wallpapers and an exceptional collection of paintings, including many by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Angelica Kauffmann.

The gardens are predominantly 19th century and contain an Orangery and several follies, as well as beautiful shrubberies and imposing specimen trees.


Drake's IslandWe spent a day in Plymouth as there is so much to see and it is the most important city in Devon. It was from Plymouth that adventurers such as Drake, Cook and the Pilgrim Fathers, set out on their momentous voyages to find new worlds.

Marine AquariumWe parked near the new National Marine Aquarium where the divers feed the hundreds of fish, including large sharks, by hand.

Evil prawnWe crossed the harbour by the Lock Gates and stopped to take pictures of a modern sculpture on a tall pedestal that we nicknamed the evil prawn.

Mayflower exhibitionIsland House is where the Pilgrim Fathers are believed to have lodged before sailing to North America in 1620. Their voyage is commemorated by the Mayflower Stone and Steps. The Mayflower sailed with 102 passengers and 48 seamen. Most of these were Puritans who broke away from the Church of England during the reformation and were seeking a new life away from the persecution by James I.

Mayflower \stepsThe Mayflower and The Speedwell, set of for Virginia but 300 miles west of Land's End, they realised that the Speedwell was un-seaworthy and returned to Plymouth - from where the Mayflower departed alone to complete the crossing to Cape Cod.

Plymouth is a naval town, and visitors can take boat trips along the River Tamar, to view the Naval Dockyards, complete with frigates, submarines and the occasional aircraft carrier. The imposing Royal Citadel with its busy fish market watches over Sutton Harbour and is a 17th century fortress with massive walls.

Plymouth DomeWe visited the Plymouth Dome, where the city's epic history is shown with audiovisual shows and sound effects. There are stunning views of Plymouth Sound from the two observation galleries.

Drake's DrumIt is reputed that Drake was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when the Spanish Armada was first sighted in 1588. Another famous legend is that of ‘Drake's Drum’: people claim to have heard the Drum the night before the worst air-raid in 1942.

Smeaton's Tower dominates the Hoe; it was originally built on the Eddystone Reef in 1759 at a cost of £40,000. The red and white tower was the third lighthouse to stand on the treacherous rocks, 14 miles offshore, before it was moved stone by stone to its present site in 1882. We climbed the 93 steps to the lantern room and the view was amazing.

Smeaton's TowerView from Smeaton's TowerPlymouth Hoe

At Crownhill Fort, you can take a step into the past at one of their gun firing weekends. See, hear and smell the great cannons, and explore the secret underground chambers and tunnels, ramparts, barracks and the dry moat.

Armada sundialWe walked into the city centre where there is an unusual modern landmark, the impressive Armada sundial. The town was completely rebuilt after its devastation by air raids during World War II.

After a pub lunch we went to explore the Barbican. This area survived the war, preserving the mediaeval street layouts and many of the Tudor Dwellings. It is a maze of narrow streets and alleys and is a Mecca for local famous artists.

Elizabethan HouseIn New Street we found the 'Elizabethan House', a beautifully restored Captain's dwelling dating from 1548. Inside, a spiral staircase winds around an old ship's mast. The Merchants House is a 15th century Prysten House and there are beautiful stained glass windows in St Andrews Church.

Black Friars DistilleryBlack Friars Distillery is the home of Plymouth Gin and has been made to a special recipe for more than 200 years. The building dates back to the early 1400's with a medieval hall with a fine hull-shaped timber roof.

It was formally a monastery inhabited by the Black Friars, until the dissolution when it became, among other things, a debtor’s prison.