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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

South West Coast Path - Salcombe to Torcross


A 12.5 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Salcombe and Torcross

This walk begins with taking the ferry across the estuary from Salcombe to Portlemouth before heading around the estuary and eastwards along the coast to Prawle Point which is the most southerly point in Devon. The going is, at times, strenuous on the craggy cliff face through to Prawle Point after which there are a few miles of low lying pasture that is a real pleasure to wander through. The route then negotiates the craggy cliff around Start Point before slowly descending the cliffs along Start Bay, passing through Hallsands and Beesands and finally arriving at Torcross

Salcombe to Torcross Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
SalcombeView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
TorcrossView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
12.5 miles
Walk difficulty
Moderate - some craggy sections to negotiate


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


Tally Ho - Bus Service
Service Number
606 - Tally Ho Bus Service 606 from Kingsbridge to Salcombe
Tally Ho - Bus Service
Service Number
164 - Tally Ho Bus Service 164 from Sorley Green Cross to Kingsbridge
First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
93 - First Group 93 Service Plymouth to Dartmouth via Kingsbridge

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
07:30 to 16:00
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Warm and sunny

Walk Notes

This was the seventh day of of our 8 day walking holiday along the South West Coast Path from Exmouth to Plymouth. This section would meet up with the walking we had done from Exmouth to Torcross on the intial days of the expedition. The day started with the task of getting to Salcombe, via Kingsbridge and then catching the ferry across to Portlemouth where the walk would begin.

We had been told that the Tally Ho 164 Kinsgbridge bus could be caught at Sorley Green Cross just up the road from Parklands campsite. This was a busy cross roads on the brow of a hill with no bus stop in sight so it would be the case of flagging it down. At first we moved a few yards in the direction of Sorley in order to give the bus driver plenty of time to see us. It wasn't until looking at the bus timetable and cross referencing that with the OS map that we realised we were standing on the wrong road and quickly repositioned ourselves! The bus duely halted for us and, what is more, we were able to buy a through ticket to Salcombe despite having to change service in Kingsbridge.

A handsome breakfast was had at Captain Morgans Cafe on Normandy Way in Salcombe before we headed for the ferry to get across to Portlemouth. Here we met a fellow walker destined for the same destination. He went ahead of us once we got to the other side and we followed him through to Prawle Point from where we lost track. Another lone walker passed us on the craggy path and this sprightly chap we would pass and he pass us at numerous locations all the way through to Torcross. The usual pleasantries were made as we passed each time. It was refreshing to see a walker such as this chap, biding his time, taking regular breaks to survey the scenery instead of being solely focused on the destination. This truly is the way to walk the South West Coast Path as there is so much to take in.

The going through to Prawle Point meanders up and down the cliff face with some craggy racks to negotiate. At one point the path appears to steeply ascend to a step on the cliff edge and then just disappear into oblivion. On getting to this, it was a rocky crag cut out of the cliff face that inched around the cliff before leading back down along the following cliff. The thought of getting around these obstacles can be a little nerve-wracking for those not too good with heights, but carefully pacing around such obstructions and watching each step rather the cliff-face down to the sea, then it is not too bad. After getting past this particular obstacle, it was quite amazing to then meet a couple with a small boy and a baby on the chaps back heading for the crag we had nervously got around. Then, a little further on we passed a couple of pensioners with a little dog heading for the same crag. Then as we headed to Start Point where a warning notice pointed out that care was needed in tackling the path, a cyclist hurtled on towards the treacherous trail! Clearly all ages and abilities appear to take such obstacles in their stride. One thing that I am slowly beginning to realize on the South West Coast Path is that, yes, there are some hairy moments but there is nothing out of scope for your average walker, even someone who quivers at the thought of heights like me. These paths are there for walkers and I doubt if they would ever allow anyone to be put into any real danger. It is a challenge, and with care and concentration these challanges can be overcome. And at the end it is a feeling of achievement.

We had lunch at Start Point then headed across the headland to start the descent along Start Bay. Hallsands was a fascinating place. There is a viewing platform with information boards depicting the story of the lost village which is attributed to the Navy dredging the shingle from just off the coast. This reminds me of the same accusations that the folk at Thorpeness on Suffolk are declaring is the source of the erosion which is currently threatening their homes. Of course, no-one ever takes any notice until it is too late.

Start Bay Inn Torcross
Start Bay Inn Torcross


The route follows the South West Coast Path throughout.

The Salcombe Ferry can be found on Fore Street by the alley down to The Ferry Inn. This operates regularly throughout the day. On the Portlemouth side of the estuary the footpath follows the lane to the right. From here it is simply a case of following the National Trail Acorns which are clearly marked throughout the entire route. Further details can be found in the The South West Coast Path: Falmouth to Exmouth National Trail Guide but it is difficult to get lost.

The Cricket Inn BeesandsThatched lookout
On the left The Cricket Inn Beesands; On the right Thatched lookout


The Cricket Inn, Beesands View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
The Cricket Inn, Beesands

The Cricket Inn was opened in 1867 by Phillip Prettyjohn, whose daughter Elizabeth Ann was born at The Cricket and was the last inhabitant of the old village of Hallsands which was swept away in the great storm of 1917. The Courtney family ran the Inn for over 75yrs, Elias Courtney acquired the Cricket around 1920 and subsequently sold it to Heavitree Brewery in Exeter around 1930 but his son Archie and grandson Cyril carried on the Courtney name until Cyril and his wife Maggie retired in 1995.

Over the years The Cricket has survived storms, a bomb in 1942 which destroyed the adjacent cottages, costing the lives of 7 villagers, and a mud slide that passed through the Inn from back to front. In 2003 a major refurbishment was carried out with further additions in 2010 to provide a large restaurant and rooms for letting.


A thirst quenching pint of Otter Bitter was enjoyed here. The open plan bar is very much in the minimalist and modern style.

Start Bay Inn, Torcross View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Start Bay Inn, Torcross

The Inn dates back to the 14th century when it was known as The Fisherman's Arms and was used by the local fishermen who worked their fishing boats from the village beach. The Start Bay Inn has been run as a family business since 1977.


Lovely old Inn full of charm and interest. A pint of Otter Ale which was a gratifying end to the days walk.

Start Point Lighthouse
Start Point Lighthouse


HallsandsView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The early history of Hallsands is unknown, but a chapel has existed there since at least 1506. The site of the village was located at a cave known as Poke Hole, and probably was not inhabited before 1600. The village grew in size during the 18th and 19th centuries, and by 1891 it had 37 houses, a spring, a public house called the London Inn, and a population of 159. Most residents of Hallsands at that time depended on fishing for a living, particularly crab fishing on the nearby Skerries Bank.

In the 1890s, following a scheme proposed by Sir John Jackson, it was decided to expand the naval dockyard at Keyham, near Plymouth, and dredging began offshore from Hallsands to provide sand and gravel for its construction. Soon, up to 1,600 tons of material was being removed each day, and the level of the beach began to drop, much to the alarm of local residents. The Board of Trade agreed to establish a local inquiry in response to protests from villagers, who feared that the dredging might destabilise the beach and thereby threaten the village. The inquiry found that the activity was not likely to pose a significant threat to the village, so dredging continued. By 1900, however, the level of the beach had started to fall. In the autumn storms that year, part of the sea wall was washed away. In November 1900, villagers petitioned their Member of Parliament complaining of damage to their houses, and in March 1901 Kingsbridge Rural District Council wrote to the Board of Trade complaining of damage to the road. In September 1901 a new Board of Trade inspector concluded that further severe storms could cause serious damage and recommended that dredging be stopped. On 8 January 1902 the dredging licence was revoked. During 1902 the level of the beach recovered; however the winter of 1902 brought more storms and damage. On 26 January 1917, a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached Hallsands' defences, and by the end of that year only one house remained habitable. The villagers' fight for compensation took seven years.


Start Point LighthouseView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Start Point lighthouse was built in 1836 and is one of twenty nine towers designed by James Walker. The lighthouse is in the Gothic style, topped by a crenellated parapet. In 1862, a fog-signalling bell was added but this was replaced by a siren in 1877. In 1989, the erosion of the coast caused part of the lighthouse complex, including the fog signal, to collapse. A lot of the area had to be leveled as a result and retaining walls put in place. Other buildings which were used by the lighthouse keepers, who originally could only get on or off the lighthouse by boat, such as the well and piggery have survived. Automation of the Lighthouse was completed in 1993 and the station is now monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Operations Control Centre at Harwich in Essex via a telemetry link.



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: ... 2016-01-16


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