Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 30 July 2011

South West Coast Path - Plymouth to Yealm Estuary


A 15.5 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Plymouth and the Yealm estuary with an extension along the Erme Pym Trail to get across the River Yealm

Plymouth is not a place to find a country walk, in fact the South West coast Path leads you around some of the more industrial areas of the docks and along the busy road across Laira Bridge. From this point, however, there is an alternative route using the West Devon Path which traces the trackbed of a former railway to Hooe Lake. An easy walk around Clovelly Bay and Mount Batten Point finally brings the path onto the cliffs along the coast. The going is not too strenuous all the way way through to Wembury and it is worth taking time out at Heybrooke Bay to search out the Eddystone Inn from where you can see the lighthouse of the same name on the horizon. From Wembury the Erme Plym Trail leads back to the main road in order to get around the Avon Estuary and the 93 bus service links the two ends of this walk.

Plymouth to Brixton Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
PlymouthView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
BrixtonView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
15.5 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy to Moderate - no big hills


Parklands Caravan and Camping SiteView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Parklands Caravan and Camping Site, Churchstow nr Kingsbridge. Small friendly site on the A381 about 1 mile from Churchstow village


First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
93 - First Group 93 Service Plymouth to Dartmouth via Kingsbridge

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
08:30 to 16:00
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Bright start but increasing cloud throughout the day and torrential rain by evening

Walk Notes

This was the 8th and final day of our walking holiday along the South West Coast Path from Exmouth to Plymouth. Once again we had to walk this section in reverse, firstly to make certain of catching a bus back to camp and secondly, to know exactly where the bus station was in Plymouth! The initial stages of the walk were through the redeveloped Barbican area with the famous Plymouth Gin Distillery. This area was soon left behind and the walk through Cattedown was not very impressive as it passed through semi-redundant industrial areas and wasteland up to the Laira Bridge. The official route through to Lake Hooe uses the pathless busy main road through Oreston. However, there is an alternative option following the West Devon Way down a former railway track. This is a well used paved track that leads out to Lake Hooe and it does make one wonder why the Coast Path does not use the same route rather than directing walkers along the edge of a busy main road.

Our first glimpses of Cornwall appeared as we got to Mount Batten Point - hopefully this will be the start of our 2012 walking holiday. Beyond Jennycliff field the path is supposed to head into woodland but metal barriers prevented access forcing us to take to the road up to Staddon Heights, presumably this was because of a cliff fall. We rejoined the path further up the road yet there was no barriers preventing walkers from heading back through the woods in the opposite direction!

As we got to Heybrooke Bay a walker heading in the opposite direction freely commented 'The pub is left at the road and up the hill'. We decided to investigate and discovered the Eddystone Inn. Having read numerous references to the Eddystone lighthouse throughout our weeks walking and despite much gazing out to sea we had never caught a glimpse of the structure. So, it was such a pleasure to finally catch sight of this distant landmark from the lounge window of this pub. There was no squinting of eyes, or studying the horizon, the lighthouse stood clear and proud for all to see. So glad we stopped off here and if that chap had not mentioned the pub we probably would have continued through to Westbury and never set eyes on the lighthouse.

The Erme Pym trail is easy to follow with distinct waymarkers throughout the route. This is a long distance path linking north and south Devon but can also be used to get around this side of the Yealm Estuary. The following Tuesday, after we had returned home, a tsunami struck this part of the coast and it was interesting to see a BBC video of the wave heading up the Yealm. I don't think it would have caught us out!

The Erme Pym trail meets the main road at a little village called Brixton. From here, we had planned to catch the bus back to Churchstow where we had booked an evening at the Church Inn carvery. The carvery did not start until 8pm and as it was only 4pm, we decided that we should skip the next bus back and have a drink in a local hostelry. We started walking down into the village when a Tally Ho bus trundled past us and pulled across a side road to let passengers alight. This was not unusual; Tally Ho operate the more rural routes around the area and the drivers are very obliging in picking up and dropping off at undesignated stops. This appeared to be the case here, the door opened and two little old ladies, slowly, with much hesitation and assistance, climbed down the steps of the bus. The manoeuvre took them several minutes but they eventually alighted to the pavement and the bus pulled away. The two ladies started to walk in the same direction as us. They both looked pretty frail and wobbly, hobbling along the pavement as best as they could. One had a crooked leg which did not help their lethargic pace and it wasn't long before we caught them up. As I was ready to pass them, they halted and turned to face the road in order to cross. I kept my eye on them, just to make sure they got across since this was the busy A379 Plymouth road and they certainly were not very sprightly. Despite the traffic, they found enough time to hobble across without hindrance or obstruction to the main thoroughfare. On the far side of the road was a series of two storey white painted buildings that appeared to be something like a sheltered housing complex. In front of these buildings was a grass bank that led up to the road and was shielded from the traffic by a metal crash barrier. We were both casually watching, more out of curiosity than anything else. After all, there appeared no obvious place for these wobbly and crooked old ladies to get past the metal barrier, which stood a good 4ft in height. There certainly wasn't any pavement and from what we could see no visible gap through the barrier. Even so, these wobbly old ladies continued right up to the metal barrier, chatting to each other as they had done since alighting the bus. Well, the next thing we witnessed was quite astounding. I kid you not, these two frail, crooked and wobbly old ladies, barely able to walk without a great deal of effort, calmly and methodically placed their hands on the crash barrier and, in a single synchronized move, leaped across the obstacle in athletic manner. It was a sight to behold. A comical scene that was so unpredictable that both of us spontaneously fell about in howls of laughter at the sight. The little old ladies carried on, hobbling down the grass bank and still chatting as if leaping across barriers was just an everyday event for them - and maybe it was. I tell you, we literally laughed all the way to the Foxhound Inn pub. And in it. And all that evening. And for several days afterwards. This was one of those exquisite moments never to be forgotten.

So that was the weeks walk done. A total estimated walking distance of 124 miles (including our walks from campsite to bus stop) which equates to an average of 15.5 miles per day which certainly is not bad considering the terrain we were walking across. It had been a glorious week despite the mist and fog. A week full of challenges and achievements. A week full of great scenery. As a celebration of our accomplishment we returned to Churchstow by bus and indulged in one of the Church Inn's superb carveries. If you are ever in the area do take time to sample this as is it truly the best carvery I have ever had and at an excellent price. Whilst at the pub, the weather took a turn for the worse and we had to attempt to walk back to camp in torrential rain. Quite by chance two young girls driving to Kingsbridge and feeling sorry for us trudging by the roadside in the rain gave us a lift back to camp, even though it was out of their way. This act was most appreciated.

Fort Bovisand
Fort Bovisand


The route follows the South West Coast Path to Wembury where the Erme Pym Trail leads back to the main road.

From Plymouth bus station follow the street signs to The Barbican. These are prominent information signs that are plentiful around this part of Plymouth. Cross the harbour entrance and head to the road. The South West Coast Path is marked with a variety of different markers throughout this section to Laira Bridge. Cross the bridge and continue to the roundabout by the superstore. Ignore the Coast Path route and cross the road and onto the paved track marked as the West Devon Way which ends at Lake Hooe where it rejoins the Coast Path. From here all the way through to Wembury follow the National Trail acorns. At Wembury the Erme Pym Trail is marked leading up towards the church. This path is clearly marked and is depicted on OS maps which makes it easy to navigate through to Brixton.

The Eddystone Inn Heybrooke BayFoxhound Inn Brixton
On the left The Eddystone Inn Heybrooke Bay; On the right Foxhound Inn Brixton


The Eddystone Inn, Heybrooke Bay View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
The Eddystone Inn, Heybrooke Bay

This pub sits high on a hill among the houses of Heybrooke Bay. If it wasn't for the sign on the lawns in front of the Inn then it could easily be missed. The pub has stunning sea views with the Eddystone Lighthouse in the distance. Food and snacks and guest ale. Dog friendly and very welcoming.


Very friendly family run pub. St Austell Tribute ale and some filling sandwiches. Such a thrill to finally witness the lighthouse!

Foxhound Inn, Brixton View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Foxhound Inn, Brixton

Main road pub with a regular and changing selection of guest ales. The bar is adorned with the pump clips of the 100s of ales that have been served at the establishment. Food serves both lunchtimes and evenings.


Without a doubt this was the best pub for real ale throughout the entire weeks walking with 5 guest ales and a real cider on offer. We sampled Cottages Sprite, an amber and well balanced ale, and Montys Mischief, a golden strong ale but very drinkable. Friendly landlord and nice to see a compliment of some of Norfolk's brewers among the pump clips adorning the ceiling.

View from HMS Cambridge
View from HMS Cambridge


Fort BovisandView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Fort Bovisand began as a jetty and slip way, built in 1816 for boats from sailing warships to collect fresh water from the nearby reservoir. The first actual fort at the site, named Staddon Height Battery, was started in 1845, and still exists in the upper part of the present fort. As part of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, work started on the main part of the fort consisting of 23 granite casemates, originally housing 22 9-inch Rifled Muzzle Loaders (RMLs), one 10-inch RML gun and 180 men. Underground there are large deep tunnels to store artillery ammunition safe from enemy gunfire. In 1956 the Ministry of Defence abandoned the fort and since the early 1970s the fort was has been used for various diving schools.


HMS CambridgeView in OS Map | View in Google Map

HMS Cambridge was a Royal Navy shore establishment commissioned between 1956 to 2001. Formerly named HM Gunnery School, Devonport, then Cambridge Gunnery School the site was finally named HMS Cambridge after a ship of the same name, a 80-gun third-rate ship of the line that was used to train seamen in gunnery in Plymouth harbour from 1856. She was replaced by the first rate HMS Windsor Castle (renamed HMS Cambridge) in 1869 before the gunnery school was moved onto land at the Plymouth naval barracks in 1907. This lasted until 1940 when a gunnery range used the army and navy was opened at the old Wembury Point Holiday Camp (on the present site) which was named the Cambridge Gunnery School. In 1956 the school was commissioned as an independent shore establishment and was decommissioned on 30 March 2001.


The MewstoneView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A distinctive feature visible from Wembury Beach is the Mewstone, a triangular island which is currently uninhabited. In the past it has served as a prison and a private home, as well as a refuge for local smugglers. Its most infamous resident was Sam Wakeman who avoided transportation to Australia in favour of the cheaper option of transportation to the Mewstone, where he was interred for 7 years. After his interment on the island he remained there paying his rent by supplying rabbits for the Manor House table. It is said Sam Wakeman is responsible for carving the rough stone steps to the summit of the Mewstone. The Mewstone and Little Mewstone is now a bird sanctuary and access is not permitted to visitors.

The Mewstone
The Mewstone


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery


Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2017-02-05


  1. Very much enjoyed reading about your walk and, especially, the two old ladies! I am walking around the coast. Currently just east of Portsmouth. Looking forward to the South West Coast Path.

  2. Thank you Ruth - I have been following your blog and noticed that you are not far from the start of the South West Coast Path. Without a doubt it is challenging but the scenery is absolutely top notch and well worth the effort.

  3. I wish I would have taken a walk like this around the more sunny part of the year. I was under the assumption that with the drought we could have taken advantage of cheap prices in devon to get a spring holiday in for the family. But unluckily enough it fell right in the middle of the rainy epidemic we have been undergoing recently. we tried to go on a walk but it was just too muddy. I'd love to give this one a try next year though, hopefully I plan the time of the trip better.

    luxury b&b Devon


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