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

Thursday, 27 December 2018

South West Coast Path - Plymouth to Yealm Estuary


A walk along the South West Coast Path between Plymouth and the Yealm estuary with an extension along the Erme Plym Trail to get around the River Yealm estuary

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 there is a more pleasant 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 through to Wembury is not too strenuous 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.

Plymouth to Brixton Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

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


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)


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


Details of public transport that is required for the walk

Bus Service
Service Details
Plymouth to Dartmouth via Kingsbridge - At the time of walking the bus service was run by First Group (the 93 service). It has since been transferred to Stagecoach. Use to get the most up-to-date timetables, operator and services

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 expedition along the South West Coast Path from Exmouth to Plymouth. As with other sections along this route, the public transport dictated the direction of walking with the optimum route being west to east. This provides more time to meet the service back to the campsite at Churchstow plus the initial bus journey delivers the walker at Plymouth bus station which would otherwise have to be located in the urban maze.

The initial stages of the walk are through the redeveloped Barbican area where the famous Plymouth Gin Distillery is located. The redevelopment has made this a welcoming area designed to attract the tourist trade. Beyond this, the coast path navigates around Cattedown which certainly makes an abrupt contrast of scenery, a semi-redundant industrial landscape intermingled with wasteland alongside the estuary of the River Pym. The river is crossed on the modern Laira Bridge which carries the main A379 trunk road into the city, a busy dual carriageway alongside which one is required to walk to the first roundabout (it has to be stressed that there is a pavement). At this point the Coast Path turns to navigate through more industrial areas down the the shorelines of Lake Hooe. There is a more pleasurable alternative route by making use of the West Devon Way along the former route of the Turnchapel branch railway line. A cutting leads one obliviously through the urbanised area, and the asphalt walkway makes for easy walking along the short distance to Lake Hooe.

The first glimpses of Cornwall appeared at Mount Batten Point, the rocky extremity of a small peninsula that is named after Sir William Batten (c.1600-1667), MP and Surveyor of the Navy. Although this specific walk was heading in the opposite direction, the sight of another County provided future promise, plans and expeditions.

We now head away from the Point, past Rum Bay and Jennycliff Bay across the grass topped cliffs. At this point the map clearly indicated the Coast Path leading into the woodland but on this occasion metal barriers prevented access forcing the humble walker to take to the road up to Staddon Heights. The Coast Path is ever changing due to cliff falls and one should always observe diversions and cautionary notices. Presumably this was the cause on this occasion although on rejoining the path there was no barriers preventing access from the opposite direction.

The path has a steep descent down to Fort Bovisand at the foot of the cliff, a 19th century fortification. The route then continues at low level through to Heybrook Bay, the first chance after leaving Plymouth to find refreshments. As we approached this hamlet that nestles on the shallow sloping cliffside, a walker passed by heading for Plymouth. The first words he uttered, without even a customary greeting were The pub is left at the road and up the hill, and off he wandered, clearly rejuvenated by a pint of beer and not a single worry in the entire world.

His succinct instructions were followed and the Eddystone Inn was suitably discovered. Having read numerous references to the Eddystone lighthouse throughout the previous weeks walking, and despite much gazing out to sea without a managing to grab single glimpse of this iconic structure, it was a pleasure to finally catch sight of this distant landmark from the vantage point of 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. I would strongly encourage all and sundry to take the time out of their walk, climb the hill to the pub and get rewarded with not only refreshment but the first glimpse of the Eddystone Lighthouse.

It should be noted that this specific walk would now diverge from the official South West Coast Path which continues beyond the village of Wembury to the Yealm estuary where a ferry connects to the other side at Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo which sit on either side of Newton Creek, the latter the destination for continuation of the path. For the sectional walker, such as us, where one relies on public transport to connect each end of the days walk, then there are occasions when alternative routes need to be sought due to such restrictions. The main road along which the bus runs is some 3 miles inland as the crow flies and passes the head of the estuary, with the main road villages of Brixton and Yealmpton sitting either side of the river, a mile or so between them. There was two options for this walk, either continue to the ferry and walk the roads up to Yealmpton from Newton ferrers which was not a desirable route as it would be along principle roads connecting the two places. The alternative and chosen option was to follow another recognised footpath, the Erme Plym Trail, a 15 mile route that follows the Erme Valley up to Ivybridge where it joins the Two Moors Way to offer a coast to coast route across Devon. The important thing here is that the southern side links Wembury, Brixton and Yealmpton which provides an ideal solution for the sectional walker. The distinctive waymarkers designed with a landscape within a waterwheel and the words Coast to Coast are well placed throughout and the footpaths well defined and well trodden.

As a short postscript to this estuary navigation, the Tuesday following this walk, the BBC reported that a tsunami had struck this part of the coast which had likely been caused by a sub marine landslide. The report including a video of the event can be seen on the BBC website.

Two little old ladies

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 at 8pm. There was ample time to make the return journey and therefore a drink at a local hostelry seemed to be a worthy reward for our days efforts. 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 un-designated 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 as they negotiated the steep steps down from the bus but they eventually alighted to the pavement and the bus pulled away.

The two ladies started to walk in the same direction as us, some yards ahead. 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. They then 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 and certainly not ones to mount a traffic dodging exercise across the busy road. 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 their hobble 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 laughed some more in it. And all that evening we laughed at the memory. And for several days afterwards and recollection was met with howls of laughter. This was one of those exquisite moments never to be forgotten. If only we had taken a video.

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 it was a treat to behold. 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

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2018-12-27

2011-07-30 : Initial publication
2018-12-23 : General website updates plus rework notes


  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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