South Devon Coast (SWCP)

The South West Coast Path is one of the UK’s managed National Trail footpaths, running 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset, round the South West tip of England all the way to Bournemouth in Dorset. This itinerary focusses on the South Devon Coastline, running along The English Channel from Plymouth to Exmouth.
  • Grade:
  • Comfort: B&Bs, Inns & Hotels (3*) / (5*)
  • Start/Finish: Plymouth | Budleight Salterton
  • Distance: Max: 19.25 miles / 31 km per day
  • Duration: 9 days, 8 nights and 7 days walking
  • Availability: Easter until December
  • Altitude:

Arrive in Plymouth and stay overnight. Plymouth is the biggest City anywhere on the South West Coast Path and there is plenty to see and do. Plymouth is positioned between the dramatic coastline that this area is famous for and the incredible Dartmoor National Park, so it is not uncommon for visitors to spend an extra night here and venture out into the local countryside. The city is famous for its connections to Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada, and it is also the site from which The Mayflower launched in 1620. Much of the city was rebuilt after the Blitz in World War II, but plenty of history remains. 

A: Plymouth to Wembury Beach (14.25 miles / 23 km) 

For the initial part of the day’s walk, much has been done to create an impressive walk through the City as “Plymouth Waterfront Walkway” which celebrates the city’s heritage, includes some interesting artistic features and passes some impressive landmarks including The Mayflower Steps and The Royal Citadel. If you are in a hurry to get started on the main walk, you can instead take the ferry from the Barbican to Mount Batten which takes 5 miles off the walk and avoids most of the urban area. Once you have reached Mount Batten (either on foot or by Ferry) walk around the breakwater and look for the monuments for RAF Mount Batten and to Lawrence of Arabia, before heading into a wooded section which leaves the City behind. Pass the small harbour at Staddon Point before heading to Bovisand Bay and then Heybrook Bay. Continuing around Wembury Point you get your first views of the town of Wembury – your stop for the night. If the Wembury Marine Centre is open it is worth a visit and if the timings are right, you can also catch the ferry across the River Yealm.  

Stay overnight in Wembury Beach. Luggage will be transferred.  

B: Wembury Beach to Bigbury-on-Sea (15.5 miles / 25 km) 

When you arrive in Wembury the night before, check the tide times to make sure you are able to ford the River Erme later in the day. Leaving Wembury behind, the path follows the coastline a short distance past New Barton to Warren Point where you need to catch a ferry to Noss Mayo. Disembarking at Noss Mayo, climb the steps up the pier and follow the coast path into the woodland, taking in the views back across the River Yealm, before proceeding around the headland past Mouthstone Point, Gara Point, Blackstone Point, Hilsea Point and Stoke Point. The terrain here is much easier across grassy ground making it possible to walk at a brisker pace. Passing Beacon’s Hill – the site of a ruined lookout – the next major landmark is St Anchorite’s Tor – a rocky outcrop that dominates the valley. From there, it is a relatively short distance to reach the River Erme, which you need to ford at low tide. If you’ve got the tide timings wrong, do not try to cross while the River is against you and instead stop at nearby Mothecombe where there is a café for refreshments. It is not possible to detour around the River to a different crossing point as it will add roughly 8 miles of walking onto the day. In really bad weather or if the river is in flood, we recommend a taxi for the detour. On the other side, cross Wonwell Beach and climb to Beacon Point before following the path all the way along the cliffs to Bigbury-on-Sea, your stop for the night. At Bigbury, enjoy an extra detour to Burgh Island across the tidal sandspit and if the tide gets too high, return to the town using the very unusual ‘sea tractor’.    

Stay overnight at Bigbury-on-Sea. Luggage will be transferred. 

C: Bigbury-on-Sea to Salcombe (13.5 miles / 21.5 km) 

Please note this route cannot be walked on a Sunday. 

The start of your day will be dictated by the tides and the need to cross The River Avon which is tidal and can only be crossed by ferry. Shortly after leaving Bigbury-on-Sea you will reach Cockleridge where you can obtain a ferry with a hearty shout across to Bantham if there isn’t one already waiting. From here, the path continues easily for the first half of the day before becoming progressively more challenging. Skirting the village of Thurlestone look out for the rock arch just beyond before continuing around the coastline through the village of Outer Hope and on round the headland at Bolt Tail. From here, the route turns towards the river estuary and with a viewpoint at Sharp Tor on the approach to Salcombe – your stop for the night. Salcombe Maritime Museum is enjoyed by many visitors and the town itself is a well-loved beauty. 

Stay overnight in Salcombe. Luggage will be transferred. 

D: Salcombe to Stoke Fleming (18.5 miles / 29.5 km) 

Today's route is particularly long for the leisure walker and starts with quite an arduous set of climbs; many opt to shorten the day with a taxi ride at the beginning which we are happy to organise (payable locally). Assuming you decide to walk the whole trip, the day again starts with a short ferry ride across the estuary to East Portlemouth which runs every day. Disembarking from the ferry there are a series of short but steep ascents and descents all the way to Prawle Point. Prawle Point features a visitor’s centre and is the southernmost point of the County of Devon and the old coastguard cottages are also worth a look. From here, an easier walk takes you around Start Point and then a series of gentler ascents and descents link Hallsands, Beesands and Torcross together. Hallsands was once a village of 37 houses in a double row but dredging further down the coastline removed much of the shingle and damaged the shingle ridge, causing the sea to flood the village and the ruins can be seen from the viewpoint. At Torcross walk along the Promenade which separates the sea and the Lower Ley which is the largest natural lake in the West Country. Pick up the path at Slapton Sands moving inland at Strete village and continue all the way to Stoke Fleming – your stop for the night.  

Stay overnight in Stoke Fleming. Luggage will be transferred. 

E: Stoke Fleming to Brixham (15.5 miles / 25 km) 

Arguably one of the toughest stretches of the itinerary, the path is mainly rugged and difficult cliff paths with a number of long, steep ascents and descents. This is typical of the landscape in this region. Leaving Stoke Fleming, the route runs inland initially before returning to the cliff edge by Little Dartmouth and proceeding on around Blackstone Point. Entering Dartmouth, the coast path signposts direct you to a ferry port connecting Dartmouth and Kingswear (payable locally) which will take you across the estuary. From here, the landscape and path remain somewhat unchanging although the views are spectacular, following the cliff line around bays and cliffs all the way to Brixham – your stop for the night. Brixham is a fishing village and now a popular tourist destination and it is here you can see a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s vessel The Golden Hind.  

Stay overnight in Brixham. Luggage will be transferred. 

F: Brixham to Shaldon (19.25 miles / 31 km) 

The first half of today’s route is very densely populated and urban and although many walkers enjoy the experience, to shorten the day a ferry ride, bus or taxi to Torquay makes the route more manageable and less populous. Assuming a plan to do the whole route, the route leaves Brixham behind, travelling a short distance to Paignton and then on to Torbay. Much of this path skirts the very edge of the urban area enjoying plenty of sandy bays and local sights of interest. Torbay soon gives way to Torquay, continuing the urban landscape as a town that was originally developed as a result of the Napoleonic Wars and remodelled as ‘The English Riviera’. Having finally reached the end of the urban populous (or arrived here via transport), the path crosses through a wooded region at the edge of the cliffline and continues to Watcombe Head, around Maidencombe and across Mackeral Cove. Passing Labrador Bay towards the end of the day, the route finally arrives in the small village of Shaldon – your stop for the night.  

Alternative option: split the route in half from Brixham to Torquay and then Torquay to Shaldon. 

Stay overnight in Shaldon. Luggage will be transferred. 

G: Shaldon to Exmouth or Budleigh Salterton as preferred (13.75 miles / 22 km) 

Today’s stretch traditionally runs from Shaldon to Budleigh Salterton, but many walkers opt to stop in Exmouth which is a large town and has better transport links to depart. Bringing your trip to an end, this route is fairly gentle using coastal paths, tracks and roads through fields and along the coastline. Starting with a ferry journey from Shaldon to Teignmouth or a short walk through the town to Shaldon Bridge if you prefer. Teignmouth has burned down during battles several times including 800AD, 1340 and 1690 before sustaining damage in the second world war but is still a very charming village. At low tide, the coast path follows the Promenade to the pier, but it is impassable at high tide due to the passage under the railway tracks becoming flooded. At high tide the route climbs inland, rejoining the main route at Holcombe. From the small village of Holcombe, it is a short stroll to Dawlish where the path continues along the sea wall before turning away from the sea and heading up the estuary. You will pass through the village of Cockwood and on to Starcross where a ferry will take you back towards the sand spit near Dawlish and then across to Exmouth. Here the grassy wetland area of The Maer is home to 400 species of flowering plant and many native birds. Those opting to continue will follow the signposts to Sandy Beach and Budleigh Salterton and will soon see the ‘Geoneedle’ obelisk which marks the official start of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. From here, the path remains easy with a slight climbing rise, and your journey continues past Sandy Bay, Straight Point and Littleham Cove all the way to Budleigh Salterton. From here there are buses back to Exmouth or you can stay here for the night.  

Stay overnight in Budleigh Salterton. Luggage will be transferred. 

  • The routing is subject to accommodation availability and will run from A-H as above. Extra nights can be added in Penzance and Plymouth if desired.  
  • This tour will start in Plymouth
  • This tour will end in Budleigh Salterton
  • This tour is moderate

This tour has many highlights including:

  • Plymouth Waterfront Walkway
  • Salcombe Maritime Museum
  • Hallsands
  • Torcross Promenade
  • Replica of Sir Franci Drake's vessel The Golden Hind

By Rail: Plymouth is easily accessible by train with a wide range of services running from a variety of locations within England. Although some services may require a change or two. 

By Car:  Travelling by car to Plymouth is easily accessible from most locations within the UK. Most driving routes will bring you onto the M5, which eventually merges to become the A38 bringing you directly to Plymouth. If you cross the Tamar Bridge towards Saltash then you've gone to far. 

Included
  • Accommodation at the stated category with breakfast 
  • Luggage Transfers
  • Full Tour Pack
  • Smartphone App with GPS routes
  • 24-hr emergency helpline
Excluded
  • Lunch, Dinner & Drinks
  • Entrance to attractions
  • Buses and/or Ferries unless otherwise stated
  • Tourist Taxes where applicable

Arrive in Plymouth and stay overnight. Plymouth is the biggest City anywhere on the South West Coast Path and there is plenty to see and do. Plymouth is positioned between the dramatic coastline that this area is famous for and the incredible Dartmoor National Park, so it is not uncommon for visitors to spend an extra night here and venture out into the local countryside. The city is famous for its connections to Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada, and it is also the site from which The Mayflower launched in 1620. Much of the city was rebuilt after the Blitz in World War II, but plenty of history remains. 

A: Plymouth to Wembury Beach (14.25 miles / 23 km) 

For the initial part of the day’s walk, much has been done to create an impressive walk through the City as “Plymouth Waterfront Walkway” which celebrates the city’s heritage, includes some interesting artistic features and passes some impressive landmarks including The Mayflower Steps and The Royal Citadel. If you are in a hurry to get started on the main walk, you can instead take the ferry from the Barbican to Mount Batten which takes 5 miles off the walk and avoids most of the urban area. Once you have reached Mount Batten (either on foot or by Ferry) walk around the breakwater and look for the monuments for RAF Mount Batten and to Lawrence of Arabia, before heading into a wooded section which leaves the City behind. Pass the small harbour at Staddon Point before heading to Bovisand Bay and then Heybrook Bay. Continuing around Wembury Point you get your first views of the town of Wembury – your stop for the night. If the Wembury Marine Centre is open it is worth a visit and if the timings are right, you can also catch the ferry across the River Yealm.  

Stay overnight in Wembury Beach. Luggage will be transferred.  

B: Wembury Beach to Bigbury-on-Sea (15.5 miles / 25 km) 

When you arrive in Wembury the night before, check the tide times to make sure you are able to ford the River Erme later in the day. Leaving Wembury behind, the path follows the coastline a short distance past New Barton to Warren Point where you need to catch a ferry to Noss Mayo. Disembarking at Noss Mayo, climb the steps up the pier and follow the coast path into the woodland, taking in the views back across the River Yealm, before proceeding around the headland past Mouthstone Point, Gara Point, Blackstone Point, Hilsea Point and Stoke Point. The terrain here is much easier across grassy ground making it possible to walk at a brisker pace. Passing Beacon’s Hill – the site of a ruined lookout – the next major landmark is St Anchorite’s Tor – a rocky outcrop that dominates the valley. From there, it is a relatively short distance to reach the River Erme, which you need to ford at low tide. If you’ve got the tide timings wrong, do not try to cross while the River is against you and instead stop at nearby Mothecombe where there is a café for refreshments. It is not possible to detour around the River to a different crossing point as it will add roughly 8 miles of walking onto the day. In really bad weather or if the river is in flood, we recommend a taxi for the detour. On the other side, cross Wonwell Beach and climb to Beacon Point before following the path all the way along the cliffs to Bigbury-on-Sea, your stop for the night. At Bigbury, enjoy an extra detour to Burgh Island across the tidal sandspit and if the tide gets too high, return to the town using the very unusual ‘sea tractor’.    

Stay overnight at Bigbury-on-Sea. Luggage will be transferred. 

C: Bigbury-on-Sea to Salcombe (13.5 miles / 21.5 km) 

Please note this route cannot be walked on a Sunday. 

The start of your day will be dictated by the tides and the need to cross The River Avon which is tidal and can only be crossed by ferry. Shortly after leaving Bigbury-on-Sea you will reach Cockleridge where you can obtain a ferry with a hearty shout across to Bantham if there isn’t one already waiting. From here, the path continues easily for the first half of the day before becoming progressively more challenging. Skirting the village of Thurlestone look out for the rock arch just beyond before continuing around the coastline through the village of Outer Hope and on round the headland at Bolt Tail. From here, the route turns towards the river estuary and with a viewpoint at Sharp Tor on the approach to Salcombe – your stop for the night. Salcombe Maritime Museum is enjoyed by many visitors and the town itself is a well-loved beauty. 

Stay overnight in Salcombe. Luggage will be transferred. 

D: Salcombe to Stoke Fleming (18.5 miles / 29.5 km) 

Today's route is particularly long for the leisure walker and starts with quite an arduous set of climbs; many opt to shorten the day with a taxi ride at the beginning which we are happy to organise (payable locally). Assuming you decide to walk the whole trip, the day again starts with a short ferry ride across the estuary to East Portlemouth which runs every day. Disembarking from the ferry there are a series of short but steep ascents and descents all the way to Prawle Point. Prawle Point features a visitor’s centre and is the southernmost point of the County of Devon and the old coastguard cottages are also worth a look. From here, an easier walk takes you around Start Point and then a series of gentler ascents and descents link Hallsands, Beesands and Torcross together. Hallsands was once a village of 37 houses in a double row but dredging further down the coastline removed much of the shingle and damaged the shingle ridge, causing the sea to flood the village and the ruins can be seen from the viewpoint. At Torcross walk along the Promenade which separates the sea and the Lower Ley which is the largest natural lake in the West Country. Pick up the path at Slapton Sands moving inland at Strete village and continue all the way to Stoke Fleming – your stop for the night.  

Stay overnight in Stoke Fleming. Luggage will be transferred. 

E: Stoke Fleming to Brixham (15.5 miles / 25 km) 

Arguably one of the toughest stretches of the itinerary, the path is mainly rugged and difficult cliff paths with a number of long, steep ascents and descents. This is typical of the landscape in this region. Leaving Stoke Fleming, the route runs inland initially before returning to the cliff edge by Little Dartmouth and proceeding on around Blackstone Point. Entering Dartmouth, the coast path signposts direct you to a ferry port connecting Dartmouth and Kingswear (payable locally) which will take you across the estuary. From here, the landscape and path remain somewhat unchanging although the views are spectacular, following the cliff line around bays and cliffs all the way to Brixham – your stop for the night. Brixham is a fishing village and now a popular tourist destination and it is here you can see a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s vessel The Golden Hind.  

Stay overnight in Brixham. Luggage will be transferred. 

F: Brixham to Shaldon (19.25 miles / 31 km) 

The first half of today’s route is very densely populated and urban and although many walkers enjoy the experience, to shorten the day a ferry ride, bus or taxi to Torquay makes the route more manageable and less populous. Assuming a plan to do the whole route, the route leaves Brixham behind, travelling a short distance to Paignton and then on to Torbay. Much of this path skirts the very edge of the urban area enjoying plenty of sandy bays and local sights of interest. Torbay soon gives way to Torquay, continuing the urban landscape as a town that was originally developed as a result of the Napoleonic Wars and remodelled as ‘The English Riviera’. Having finally reached the end of the urban populous (or arrived here via transport), the path crosses through a wooded region at the edge of the cliffline and continues to Watcombe Head, around Maidencombe and across Mackeral Cove. Passing Labrador Bay towards the end of the day, the route finally arrives in the small village of Shaldon – your stop for the night.  

Alternative option: split the route in half from Brixham to Torquay and then Torquay to Shaldon. 

Stay overnight in Shaldon. Luggage will be transferred. 

G: Shaldon to Exmouth or Budleigh Salterton as preferred (13.75 miles / 22 km) 

Today’s stretch traditionally runs from Shaldon to Budleigh Salterton, but many walkers opt to stop in Exmouth which is a large town and has better transport links to depart. Bringing your trip to an end, this route is fairly gentle using coastal paths, tracks and roads through fields and along the coastline. Starting with a ferry journey from Shaldon to Teignmouth or a short walk through the town to Shaldon Bridge if you prefer. Teignmouth has burned down during battles several times including 800AD, 1340 and 1690 before sustaining damage in the second world war but is still a very charming village. At low tide, the coast path follows the Promenade to the pier, but it is impassable at high tide due to the passage under the railway tracks becoming flooded. At high tide the route climbs inland, rejoining the main route at Holcombe. From the small village of Holcombe, it is a short stroll to Dawlish where the path continues along the sea wall before turning away from the sea and heading up the estuary. You will pass through the village of Cockwood and on to Starcross where a ferry will take you back towards the sand spit near Dawlish and then across to Exmouth. Here the grassy wetland area of The Maer is home to 400 species of flowering plant and many native birds. Those opting to continue will follow the signposts to Sandy Beach and Budleigh Salterton and will soon see the ‘Geoneedle’ obelisk which marks the official start of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. From here, the path remains easy with a slight climbing rise, and your journey continues past Sandy Bay, Straight Point and Littleham Cove all the way to Budleigh Salterton. From here there are buses back to Exmouth or you can stay here for the night.  

Stay overnight in Budleigh Salterton. Luggage will be transferred. 

  • The routing is subject to accommodation availability and will run from A-H as above. Extra nights can be added in Penzance and Plymouth if desired.  
  • This tour will start in Plymouth
  • This tour will end in Budleigh Salterton
  • This tour is moderate

This tour has many highlights including:

  • Plymouth Waterfront Walkway
  • Salcombe Maritime Museum
  • Hallsands
  • Torcross Promenade
  • Replica of Sir Franci Drake's vessel The Golden Hind

By Rail: Plymouth is easily accessible by train with a wide range of services running from a variety of locations within England. Although some services may require a change or two. 

By Car:  Travelling by car to Plymouth is easily accessible from most locations within the UK. Most driving routes will bring you onto the M5, which eventually merges to become the A38 bringing you directly to Plymouth. If you cross the Tamar Bridge towards Saltash then you've gone to far. 

Included
  • Accommodation at the stated category with breakfast 
  • Luggage Transfers
  • Full Tour Pack
  • Smartphone App with GPS routes
  • 24-hr emergency helpline
Excluded
  • Lunch, Dinner & Drinks
  • Entrance to attractions
  • Buses and/or Ferries unless otherwise stated
  • Tourist Taxes where applicable
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