Logistically, this was another tricky walk, as there isn’t a bus service to Bantham and only a very limited service to Outer Hope, which has 3 buses a day. I had wondered about driving to Bantham, walking to Outer Hope, then taking the bus to Thurlestone and walking back from there. In the end I decided it was a short walk and it just wasn’t worth the bother with the bus, so I decided to simply walk there and back, something I try to avoid, but there wasn’t much alternative for this walk.
This was the first day of a few days down in South Devon, where I planned to (and did) complete the South West Coast Path. I therefore set off from home for the drive down to Bantham. I had a good journey with no major hold ups. From the A379 it was a single track road with passing places for the last couple of miles to Bantham. The road ends at a car park and here I had the first problem. I had packed my rucksack ready to start the walk that morning and put it in the boot, with everything I was likely to need, so I could get walking as soon as I arrived. That included my wallet, and it turns out the car park at Bantham is a manned pay-on-entry car park. So I had to make the attendant wait whilst I got out to get my bag and wallet from the boot. Still there was no one waiting behind, so it didn’t really matter.
The car park at Bantham is at the back of the dunes overlooking the beach and has a toilet and a catering van (although it looked a step up from the usual hot dogs/burger and chips). It was a glorious day with clear blue skies for the whole day. I first headed down to the beach at Bantham and walked around the little headland of Bantham Ham that juts out at the mouth of the Avon.
This gave me a good view of Burgh Island over the soft sand.
I walked out to the tip of the headland on the beach as the tide was out and got a good view of the Avon.
I returned to the headland and climbed up to the rocks at the end and could see the houses on the edge of Bigbury, just across the estuary and Burgh Island in the distance. A stunning scene.
I had lunch on the top here and then followed the estuary side of the path to the end of the road leading to the car park, so I could say I had completed this part of the coast path. I then returned on the official route of the coast path back to the car park.
The coast path began from the end of the car park and followed the low cliffs out to the little headland at the south edge of Bantham. Bantham faces west, unusual for a beach on the south coast and as such it can get some large waves and so attracts surfers. However the sea is far too calm for that today.
Rounding the corner and already the scenery becomes more rugged, with a rocky headland of Long Stone ahead, with a single pinacle rock at the end, probably one an arch that has subsequently collapsed.
Although only low cliffs, the height gained opened out the view back over Bantham beach behind me.
There was a path out to the end of Long Stone and as usual I took it, but the view wasn’t much different. The coast gains a little height here and the cliffs were lined with sea pinks and with the headland of Bolt Tail visible in the distance, round which is the Kingsbridge estuary.
On reaching the top, I could see ahead to both Thurlestone and my destination, Outer Hope.
Dropping down from the cliff tops the path now passed beside a golf course with the village of Thurlestone a short distance behind it. Alongside the golf course is another lovely beach, Broad Sand, I think it is called which has a path down to it too and was deserted.
It is only a short distance around the rocky little cliffs at Loam Castle I have reached the larger sandy beach of Yarmouth Sand. I’m not sure how it got that name, because it’s nowhere near the Isle of Wight.
It’s another gorgeous beach, this one is backed by low cliffs with sand and rocks at the shoreline.
It doesn’t take long to reach Warren Point another little headland where I can get a view back along the length of the beach.
Rounding the corner I reach the end of the golf course, passing the club house, and come to more lovely sandy beaches. The first of these is Leas Foot Sand with what I thought was a hotel on the cliff top, but seems to be flats (perhaps it was a hotel originally)? The cliffs are again coloured with the sea pinks and there are a few people down on this beach probably because it’s a shorter walk from the nearest road than the previous beaches.
There is a low grass cliff at the end of the beach, giving me a view back over the beach and to Thurlestone beyond. Just beyond this is another larger sandy beach, Thurlestone Sand, even though it is now some distance from the village. There are cliffs at this end, but they soon end to leave the beach backed by dunes and a small estuary.
Just out to sea though is an impressive piece of geology, Thurlestone Rock, which is now a natural arch and from this angle I can see straight through the arch.
On reaching the beach car park, the coast path follows the road in front of some houses (that enjoy a wonderful view) to reach a small marshy estuary which heads inland to South Molton. There is a long wooden footbridge over the water and there is a bird watcher here, so it’s obviously a good place for watching birds.
Actually I don’t think this minor diversion inland is necessary most of the time, because the water from the creek seems to sink into the sand when it reaches the beach leaving a dry strip of sand nearer the shore line you could walk on instead. Still it was a pleasant stretch of the path and gives me a good view back over the beach. I notice that the cliffs are beginning to take on the red hew that I remember so much of the South Devon coast having.
The coast path goes around the back of the beach here and through another beach car park, but I stuck to the sands and picked up the track at the far end, where there is a hotel.
This gives a fine view back over the beach at South Milton Sands, as it seems to be called at this end, and the rock arch which I can now see the back of.
The path follows the road and comes to a junction, where you are meant to turn right to go behind (on the coastal side) of the a couple of houses. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the coast path was closed. I tried to walk down to the house, but could see someone out near the car and decided it was not worth the risk of trying to get around, as I would clearly be seen.
Not wanting to take the diversion (it was a long one), I decided to see if I could get around on the beaches instead.
I did make it as far as the beach nearest the house, and could see the cliff fall that caused the problem. To be honest it looked pretty minor, you can just make out the yellow coloured loose rocks near the bottom of the cliffs here.
Squeezing past rocks I made it around to another nice little beach, but it was becoming too awkward to get around the cliffs either as the tide was coming in and I was worried if I had to turn back I might find I had been cut off by the tide. Not a good idea, so reluctantly I had to head back and take the diversion.
I see that the path is still closed (so it has probably been diverted for good), but the diversion is now a much shorter one. At the time, I had to head inland on the road to Pittchingstone Cross and then follow the track back to the coast at Woolman Point. Now the diversion just goes slightly inland of the house through fields.
As is it was, it was a bit of a trudge along the quiet roads and the tracks, although the height gained did still grant me a good sea view.
Eventually, I returned to the coast and the cliffs were now much higher, higher than I expected, in fact. Looking down it was clear I wouldn’t have made it along the beach at this state of the tide, either.
Being the completest that I am, I insisted on walking along the closed section of coast path until I got to the point you could go no further, to make sure I didn’t miss out any coast. Of course doing so I was passed by a man who questioned if I knew the path was closed and that I’d have to come back, but I assured him I did, but wanted to see this bit of coast too. He agreed it was lovely and said he liked to walk here regularly even though the through path was closed. Returning I continued until I reached Hope Cove.
What a lovely place this is. I got talking to another couple who had just arrived here for a weeks holiday. Something they told me they have done every year for more than 30 years. I can see why!
It’s a fairly remote, totally unspoilt and very beautiful part of the coast. I am really enjoying this South Hams section of the coast path. I suspected I would, but the beaches are better than I had expected and the villages very pretty too.
Outer Hope today though only marks the mid-way point of my walk. Now I have to return whence I came to Bantham, back along the coast path, and back along the frustrating inland diversion too.
Here is the bridge over the little creek on the way back.
The bird watcher has since departed. I had originally thought I might cut inland through Thurlestone Village and follow the path directly north from there over Buckland Stream and back to Bantham. But I wasn’t feeling tired, it was a beautiful day and I was in no particularly hurry, so I decided to stick to the coast path and retrace my steps back to Bantham. The beach was a bit busier now, too.
So whilst I prefer to avoid out and back walks, this was a gorgeous walk over some stunning beaches. The cliffs here are lower than on other parts of the coast making it an easier walk than many with the added bonus of many stunning beaches on the way. So it’s a nice walk to take at a relaxed pace too. A very enjoyable walk.
Once back to my car at Bantham I drove around to the campsite where I was staying, Higher Rew, near Salcombe.
Once set up here, I headed into Kingsbridge in search of food. I’d not been to Kingsbridge before, other than once passing through on a bus. It was a very pleasant little town too being right at the top of the Salcombe estuary, so I could look down the river towards the sea.
There was a bit of a promenade along one side of the estuary too and as the tide was now high it was all full of water and very attractive in the evening light.
Once back the campsite I went for a little walk over the fields and got a view of the rolling hills of the area.
It had been a good day.
If you want to use the bus to avoid part of the walk back, the details are:-
Tally Ho route 162 : Kingsbridge – Thurlestone – South Milton – Malborough – Galmpton – Outer Hope – Inner Hope (and back the same way). This bus runs 3 times a day Monday – Saturday with a couple of additional school day only services over part of the route.