The Nautical Trail - 7 Day South West Coast Path Trail

Devon
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Explore the beautiful South Devon coastline for high cliffs, estuaries, rolling countryside and a region steeped in maritime history. 

This 7 day walking trail follows the South West Coast Path from Plymouth To Dartmouth, taking in the regions charming towns and villages of Noss Mayo, Bigbury, Thurlestone, Salcombe, Torcross and Dartmouth. 

The route follws the nautical history of this stunning coastline, and along the way you can discover the pilgrim fathers, castles, forts, derelict villages, smugglers coves and war memorials to name a few. 

You can do the whole trail, or split the days up depending on your own timetable. 

For more walks on the South West Coast Path visit www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk

DAY 1 - PILGRIM FATHERS, SPANISH INVASIONS AND SEA CREATURES IN PLYMOUTH

Morning

Plymouth’s abundant maritime history awaits you on the 3.7-mile (6km) Plymouth Waterfront walk between Sutton Harbour and Royal William Yard. This starts with a meander around the historic docks of the Barbican and a visit to the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World in 1620. The next stop is Plymouth Hoe, where there’s a statue of naval commander and seafarer, Sir Francis Drake, who famously played bowls here before sailing to fight the Spanish Armada in 1588. All along the route, sculptures and other street art are reminders of the role Plymouth has played in global exploration and trade. The final stop of this walk is the former naval storehouses at Royal William Yard, now home to smart restaurants and galleries. To return to the Barbican catch a ferry back from the Royal William Yard to the Mayflower Steps.

Afternoon

Reward yourself with lunch at one of the many eateries around the historic Barbican. Have a look around the area’s shops and art galleries, or take a tour of the Plymouth Gin Distillery to see, smell and taste what goes into one of our most famous and delicious exports. Alongside the Mayflower steps is the National Maritime Aquarium, which is the largest in the UK. Here you can see creatures of the deep and learn more about the sea life of the Plymouth Sound. If you still have the energy, sample some of the city’s bustling nightlife before retiring to the comfort of your hotel or bed and breakfast.

 

DAY 2 - THE SHELTERED RIVERBANKS AND RUGGED COASTLINE OF NOSS MAYO

Morning

The picture-postcard village of Noss Mayo is 10 miles/16km south east of Plymouth. It’s part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - a protected area of coastline, estuaries and countryside covering 130 square miles (337 square km). From the colourful shoreside cottages of the village, follow the 4.2-mile (6.7 km) Noss Mayo and Revelstoke Drive walk. This easy walk reveals an array of landscapes, from sheltered estuary and wooded riverbanks to rugged coastline and wide open sea views.

Afternoon

Stop for a pub lunch in Noss Mayo or across the water in Newton Ferrers. After your fuel stop, take time to soak up the scenery of the Yealm Estuary, which is great for birdwatching. It is also a popular spot for sailors and anglers. Noss Mayo and its surrounding coastline have inspired artists and painters for centuries, thanks to the special south Devon light. If you’re here between Easter and the end of September, pop into The Gallery Project at the Revelstoke Room, next to the Village Hall, to view work of local artists.

[Noss Mayo is 30 minutes away from Plymouth by car, or 50 minutes on the No. 94 bus.]

 

DAY 3 - WESTCOMBE’S RISING CLIFFTOPS AND AGATHA CHRISTIE’S BURGH ISLAND RETREAT

Morning

Head to Kingston (18 miles/29km east of Plymouth) for the 5.7 miles (9.2 km) Westcombe & Wonwell trail. This challenging walk starts on footpaths and bridleways before hitting the Coast Path at Westcombe. Take in the views across the Erme Estuary along the cliff tops rising to 100 metres (330 feet) above sea level at Beacon Point. This was one of the sites on the south coast where bonfires were lit to warn of the approaching Spanish Armada in 1588. The trail continues on a stretch of coast characterised by sharp, jagged rocks before heading back to Kingston from Westcombe Beach. Or you can continue east from Westcombe Beach for the 1.4-mile (2.2 km) walk along the steep but dramatic Coast Path into Bigbury-on-Sea.

Afternoon

If you’re back in Kingston, find your way to the charming seaside village of Bigbury-on-Sea, just 5.3 miles/8.5km south east. Here you’ll find some great waterfront cafés for a spot of lunch. Bigbury’s most famous landmark is Burgh Island. This small island is home to an art deco hotel as well as a beach house, built as a writer’s retreat for novelist, Agatha Christie. Walk across at low tide then get the sea tractor back when the sea floods the sandy causeway.

[Kingston is 40 minutes drive from Plymouth or one hour on the No. 875 bus. You can return to Plymouth on the No. 875 bus from Challaborough, 10 minutes walk west along the Coast Path from Bigbury-on-Sea]

 

DAY 4 - SAND DUNES AND HEADLANDS AT THURLESTONE ROCK AND BANTHAM BEACH

Morning

Head to Thurlestone (20.9 miles/33.6km south east of Plymouth and 5.5 miles /9km west of Kingsbridge). From here, join the 3.8-mile (6.2 km) Bantham and Thurlestone circular walk across the fields to Bantham village which was once a smuggler’s haven. Pop into the 14th Century Sloop Inn for refreshments before walking down to Bantham Beach.

Afternoon

Bantham Beach is one of the south coast’s best surf beaches. Here you can take a lesson with one of the local surf schools. Or, if the sea is calm, take a stand up paddle board tour along the shore or on the River Avon creek. If watersports are not your thing, treat yourself to an ice cream and soak up the atmosphere on the beach. Afterwards, take the Coast Path back towards Thurlestone across dunes, headlands and past the wonderful arched Thurlestone Rock. [Thurlestone is 50 minutes by car from Plymouth or one hour and 40 minutes on the No. 3 and 162 buses via Kingsbridge.]

 

DAY 5 - SUBTROPICAL GARDENS, STEEP VALLEYS AND GORSE-COVERED CLIFFS AROUND SALCOMBE

Morning

Eat a good breakfast. You’ll need it for the 6.7-mile (10.8 km) Salcombe & Soar Mill Cove walk. Start in Salcombe (20.8 miles/33.5km south of Dartmouth) and walk through woods and picturesque thatched villages, before hitting the coast at Soar Mill Cove. From here it’s a challenging hike up and down steep valleys and across gorse-covered cliffs towards Bolt Head. Follow the South West Coast Path straight through the jagged teeth of Sharp Tor, with precipitous views down to the Salcombe estuary. If you have any power left in your legs, take a stroll around the subtropical gardens of the National Trust property, Overbecks. Stop for coffee at South Sands before returning on foot to Salcombe.

Afternoon

The tranquil haven of Salcombe is a hotspot for sailors as well as holidaymakers. It’s also a foodie’s heaven, where you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood plucked straight from the sea. Lunch on a Salcombe crab sandwich, washed down with Salcombe Dairy ice cream. In the afternoon, take a sailing lesson or a rib tour of the creeks and tributaries, or hire a kayak to explore for yourself. If you fancy a tipple after your day’s adventure, head to the Salcombe Gin Bar and sip a locally distilled gin and tonic while gazing out over the water.  

 

DAY 6 - START POINT LIGHTHOUSE AND SLAPTON LEY NATIONAL NATURE RESERVE

Morning

Join the coast path at Start Point (14 miles/22.5km south of Dartmouth) for the 2.1-mile (3.5 km) Start Point and Great Mattiscombe Sand walk. This trail follows the exposed peninsula to the Start Point lighthouse, built in 1836 to warn ships of the treacherous submerged rocks off the headland. Continue west on the steep terrain to Great Mattiscombe. Take the steps down to the beach, before circling back on the inland trail to the Start Point car park. From here it’s a 30-minute walk or 10-minute drive to Hallsands, where you can see the ruins of the former fishing community, destroyed after dredging left the village exposed to sea storms.

Afternoon

Stop for lunch in Torcross before heading to nearby Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve. Slapton Ley is a large freshwater lake, only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar. Stroll around the lake (1.5 miles/2.5km) to discover the unique habitats of reedbeds, marshes and woodland. From here, take the coast road north (10 minutes by car or 15 minutes on the No. 3 bus) to Blackpool Sands. This is one of South Devon’s most beautiful beaches with fine, golden sand and clean water making it the ideal place for a swim (and it’s only four miles/6.4km south of Dartmouth).

 

DAY 7 - THE RICH MARITIME HISTORY OF DARTMOUTH – CASTLE, COVE AND CRUSADES

Morning

Situated at the mouth of the River Dart, Dartmouth has a long maritime history which can be explored on the Dartmouth Castle & Gallants Bower walk (3.4 miles/5.5km). This trail follows the coast beside the waterway where Richard the Lionheart sailed English forces to fight in the Crusades. Continue past the cobbled quay and fort at Bayard’s Cove, where the Pilgrim Fathers’ Mayflower docked for repairs on the way to Plymouth and the New World. Next up is the imposing fortress of the 15th Century Dartmouth Castle, which protected the port from invasion for many centuries. Make sure you climb Gallants Bower, a tall look-out tower, for fine views across the estuary to Kingswear and Froward Point.

Afternoon

Circle back to Dartmouth for quayside seafood or fish and chips. Once refreshed, hop on board a ferry up the Dart estuary to the attractive riverside village of Dittisham. The pontoon here, like the quayside in Dartmouth, is a great place for crabbing. After a drink in the River Boat Inn, ring the bell to summon the ferry for the short hop across to Greenway. This National Trust house and estate was once owned by the author Agatha Christie who described it as the ‘the loveliest place in the world’. From here there’s a lovely riverside walk towards Kingswear, where the Higher Ferry crosses the narrow channel back to Dartmouth.

 

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Accommodation:

With so many popular holiday spots in the area, you are spoilt for choice for places to stay. For ease and convenience, base yourself in Plymouth, Kingsbridge, Salcombe and/or Dartmouth where there are some lovely hotels, guest houses and campsites.

Food & drink:

South Devon is a foodie’s paradise, with locally farmed meats, freshly caught fish and seafood. While here you will also want to treat yourself to a Devonshire cream tea and the occasional farm-fresh ice cream. The area is home to many great breweries including South Hams Brewery and the Salcombe Brewing Company. And don’t forget to sample the locally distilled Salcombe Gin.

Transport:

It’s best to have your own car to make the most of your visit to this area. There are regular buses linking the major destinations, but they are few and far between for smaller villages and trailheads. However, a combination of bus and taxi travel will make this possible. Local routes are served by Plymouth Citybus, Stagecoach Southwest and Tally Ho. For easy bus and train journey planning and timetable information visit www.travelinesw.com.

Opening Times

Open (1 Jan 2019 - 31 Dec 2019)

Map & Directions

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