10 best walks in South Devon
Fantastic walks from Dartmoor to the South West coast path
1. Fingle Bridge & Teign Gorge - Best for… castle and valley views
Though only a century old, hulking Castle Drogo gazes imperiously across the Teign Gorge, venue for a spectacular 4-mile stroll. Start from the National Trust carpark at 17th-century Fingle Bridge. Choose between the Foresters’ Track on the south bank of the River Teign, or the Fishermans’ Path on the north. Either route highlights the conservation work restoring the wonderful deciduous woodlands, their leaves ablaze in autumn. Listen for the bellows of deer as you pass beneath Whiddon Park, then climb steeply beneath the castle and follow the Two Moors Way along the gorge’s upper slopes for magnificent views. Return to Fingle Bridge Inn for a well deserved drink.
2. Hope Cove to Salcombe- Best for… clifftop drama and cute coves
Two of South Devon’s loveliest golden beaches, at Hope Cove and South Sands, bookend an exhilarating 8-mile hike. Follow the South West Coast Path to Bolt Tail promontory and its Iron Age fort for sweeping views across Bigbury Bay. Then climb onto Bolberry Down and trace the windswept, wave-crashed cliffs east to craggy Bolt Head. En route you’ll cross the streams trickling down to secluded Soar Mill Cove, perfect for a mid-stroll paddle. The meandering descent into yachting haven Salcombe passes rocks where adders bask, and the ruined round turret of Fort Charles. It’s easy to shorten the walk by nearly half, simply peeling off to return to Hope Cove via Bolberry village.
3. Bellever Tor- Best for… Bronze Age heritage
Dartmoor is studded with standing stones, cairns and other prehistoric monuments. And nowhere is the legacy of ancient human lives more evident than around Bellever Tor. Explore this heritage on a 6-mile stroll from Postbridge National Park carpark, where the information centre has immersive displays. Stride south through the forest to the Bronze Age settlement at Kraps Ring, enclosing several hut circles. Continue past cists (stone-lined burial chambers) to the granite knuckles of Bellever Tor, with fine views to Princetown. Continue on to medieval Dunnabridge Pound, then return via the huge standing stone called the Laughter Man. Walk through the forest to Postbridge where you’ll find a medieval clapper bridge and refreshments.
4. Budleigh Salterton & Otterton - Best for… a working watermill and wetland wildlife
This varied 7-mile circuit is a delight in all seasons. Cross the Otter Estuary from the cheery seaside town of Budleigh Salterton to tackle a relatively gentle stretch of the South West Coast Path. Above Ladram Bay you’ll enjoy dramatic views across rock stacks to switchback red cliffs. Turn inland to visit the pretty village of Otterton, its streets lined with thatched, whitewashed cottages. Pause to admire the historic working watermill, where you’ll also find a welcoming café. Follow the river Otter downstream to the nature reserve at its mouth, where saltmarsh and freshwater meet. Spot wildfowl and waders such as curlew and redshank in winter, breeding warblers and reed buntings in summer.
5. Dartmouth, Kingswear & Greenway - Best for… history and mystery
One of south Devon’s most attractive and historic harbour towns, Dartmouth, is the base for a gentle riverside amble. Ride the ferry across the Dart estuary, guarded on either side by late medieval castles, to Kingswear. Meander north along woody trails to Greenway, beloved home of crime writer Agatha Christie. Pop in to explore her life, work and archaeological finds, or for refreshments at the National Trust café. From here, catch the bus back to Kingswear from nearby Galmpton, or take the ferry across to lovely little Dittisham village and return to Dartmouth over the hills for a satisfying 9-mile circuit.
6. Lydford Gorge - Best for… fortifications and falls
The river that carved this sheer chasm continues to gush between its sheer, moss-clad walls. A 3-mile walk along both sides of the gorge passes beautiful waterfalls and the churning pothole called the Devil’s Cauldron. Start from Lydford, where you’ll see a hulking medieval prison tower, remains of a Norman castle and Saxon defences. Delve into the lush, humid canyon beneath the shade of ancient woods, watching your step on the damp rocks. Admire 30m-high Whitelady Waterfall before returning to Lydford for a welcome drink or snack at the National Trust tearoom or atmospheric Castle Inn.
7. Branscombe & Beer - Best for… timeless seaside charms
In their own ways, both these villages on Devon’s share of the Jurassic Coast have a time-stood-still quality. Branscombe’s history is older, with its working 16th-century forge, thatched cottages and the Norman church tower of wonderful St Winifred’s Church. It always seems to be summer fête day in Beer, which evokes the quaintness of a prewar seaside resort. It’s also blessed with more than its share of tempting shops, cafés and pubs, ideal for a mid-walk break. Connect the two with a 5.5-mile ramble, heading east from Branscombe on the coast path perched on the cliffside above a long beach. Return inland through rolling countryside.
8. Gutter Tor & Ditsworthy Warren - Best for… movie magic and megalithic marvels
For his big-screen adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, Steven Spielberg chose a remote location in south-west Dartmoor. Ditsworthy Warren House acted as body double for the farm where horsey hero Joey was raised. It’s the centrepiece of a wonderfully wild 4-mile circuit from the carpark beneath Gutter Tor, taking in the heights and views of Higher Hartor Tor. En route, spot old pillow mounds created as artificial rabbit warrens, plus prehistoric monuments including one of Dartmoor’s most impressive stone rows. Spy the remains of the tinning industry that flourished here from the Middle Ages, returning to the start from Eylesbarrow Mine.
9. Slapton - Best for… bustling birdlife
This ancient, attractive village is dominated by an imposing stone tower, the remains of a 14th-century chantry college. On the shingle shore stands a monument to villagers evacuated so that Allied troops could practise for the D-Day landings. Between them lies Slapton Ley, a large freshwater lake that’s the focal point of a thriving nature reserve. On an easy 3-mile walk you might see (or hear) rare wildflowers, otters, dormice and birds including Cetti’s warbler. Start and finish at the monument carpark, visiting village and lake, ending with a paddle from the pebbly beach.
10. Wistman’s Wood - Best for… otherworldly trees
Its supernaturally gnarled old oaks clad in green lichen and moss, Wistman’s Wood is small but quite unique. No wonder legends abound. Some say that druids planted the wood and carved spirals into boulders littering the ground. Others claimed that deadly serpents or hellish hounds live among the gnarled trees. What’s beyond doubt is that this National Nature Reserve is a magical place for a 4-mile walk. Set out from the quarry car park at Two Bridges, continuing from the woods up onto Longaford Tor. Return via Crockern Tor, for centuries the site of the Stannary Parliament where tin miners settled disputes.
And we’ve got ideas for hundreds more wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website. Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.
All images © Getty
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