May 1999 and December 2014
This is a combination of two different walks. I originally walked from Brixham to Kingswear (the other side of the Dart from Dartmouth) back in May 1999. However I more recently walked from Torquay to Man Sands in December last year. I ended up finishing this walk at Man Sands primarily because it was about to get dark!
So I thought I would write this up as Brixham to Kingswear, the walk I did originally, with the first part from my more recent walk, which I can better remember.
Originally when I walked this walk on a single day I took the bus down to Torquay from Exeter, then another bus from Torquay to Brixham to begin the walk.
Brixham is the southernmost town in Torbay, a large east facing bay with Torquay at the top, Paignton in the centre and Brixham at the south. The east facing coastline means the area is well protected from the Westerly winds and so it is often warmer here than the rest of Devon. This has led to the area being dubbed The English Riviera.
Brixham is a pretty town, the fishing harbour of Torbay, with brightly painted cottages packing the steep hills either side of the harbour. The town is very touristy however, with a replica of the Golden Hind and some dreadful looking themed place about Smuggling, it looks a bit like the London Dungeon, but in Torbay. I head around the harbour and keep to the low path on the other side. This gives a good view back over the busy harbour.
Rounding the corner, boats continue, now with a large marina packed with boats. Parked boats always seem to look quite scenic.
Behind the breakwater at the end of the marina is a fairly nice looking shingle beach. I believe this is called Breakwater Beach.
The path goes behind this and then on the road. Somehow I miss a path to the left, as a bit of the South West coast path goes behind the houses and to a little beach, with a tidal swimming pool, at Shoalstone. There is an access road down to the car park though, so I follow this to see the beach, but there is not much of it and the pool is closed for the winter.
The path soon rejoins the road which heads up a narrow road to a hotel, deep in the trees. I’m not quite sure if this is right and have to stop to consult the map, but it is and I carry on up the road, soon seeing a sign saying Berry Head, 400 million years in the making. I think I’ve used the same building company.
The path heads through woodland climbing again and comes out onto a track with a choice of paths. There is a huge old quarry which I don’t remember at all, and it’s very ugly.
There is a path down to the quarry and another slightly up hill. I don’t see any signs, so decide to follow the path down to the quarry, as it’s more coastal. It soon descends past a deserted disabled car park and old concrete buildings, now all ruined. There is no one here, and the large whole of the quarry to the right. I am beginning to suspect I’ve gone the wrong way, but continue. There appears to be no one here, but I can smell Cannabis smoke from somewhere, so suspect I’m not alone. I continue below the cliffs, sending a number of birds flying out of little caves and crags in the rocks. At the end the path begins to climb and I assume it heads back up to the top, but when I reach what I thought was a corner, I realise the path ends, and it’s a dead end ahead. So I have to go all the way back to the track and take the upper path instead – frustrating. The South West Coast path signs around Torbay do seem unusually poor compared to the rest of the path.
I soon pass an old fort and head into this. It is open to the public, free of charge, and houses a visitor centre, part of Berry Head National Nature Reserve.
I head to the end, where there is a rather tiny little lighthouse and one of those metal signs giving the distances to various places. I’m surprised to see it’s 42 miles, as the crow flies, to Portland Bill round in Dorset. It seems much further, but then the coast is not straight. I squint and can certainly make out Beer head and the hills behind leading to Lyme Regis, but I can’t quite make out Portland.
I return through the fort and pick up the coast path, which soon passes another fort. I go in, not realising it is a dead-end and so have to re-trace my steps again – I seem to be getting lost more than usual today. The coast ahead is spectacular, with cliffs and several little rocky islands, although the low and dazzling sun makes photography difficult and I have to resort to pointing the camera and hoping, since I don’t want to look at the sun through the optical viewfinder, and the screen does not have a live view on my now ageing camera. The coast path now undulates gently over granite rocks, soon giving good views back to Berry Head.
Below I can see Durl Head and the low little spit of a headland at the bottom, which looks like an island. As I get closer, I can see it’s covered with birds. Passing this I get better views of the headland with the sun shining on it.
The coast path is gently undulating and I can soon see St Mary’s Bay ahead. The sun is now low enough there is no sun on the beach and I’m conscious I will soon have to end the walk, as it will be dark, the downside with walking in December.
The beach is quite large and whilst the houses and holiday parks of Brixham are close by, the beach has a rural feel to it. Heading round the holiday camp, I come to the ominous “Road closed” sign and a notice saying the path is closed ahead because of a landslip, and a photo which doesn’t look overly dramatic.
There is a fence, but I can see plenty of people have climbed over it and the path beyond has fresh footprints. The diversion is fairly long and with the light getting low I decide to ignore the diversion and see if I can get through anyway. In my experience, you usually can and I’m encouraged that someone has written “Not” between “Road” and “Closed”. Well the coast path is a footpath not a road. So “Road Closed” can’t possibly apply to the coast path can it? No, that’s what I thought. So onwards on the path ! I climb over the fence and the path is initially fine. A few of the steps, are now at a slight angle, but feel solid enough. I soon come to the landslip section, but it has only reduced the width of the steps by about 1/3. The land to the left only slopes away gently, there is no sheer drop, so I continue on, up some more steps at a slight angle and after that the path is fine again. I can see why it’s closed, but it’s perfectly passable if you are careful. I have to climb over the fence at the other end, but thankfully no one sees me and there is then a path down to the beach. I’m conscious of the low sun though, so don’t’ take it and continue ahead, glad to be back on the proper route of the path again.
The low sun lights up the cliffs at Berry Head in a lovely golden light and I get a few photos of it. The path now heads up onto another headland, Sharkham Point. This is really the last part of the urban area of Torbay, as there is a road and car park up here, as the coast beyond becomes more wild and remote. The coast path keeps to the high cliffs around Sharkham Point where I soon enter National Trust land and can see a steepish climb ahead, which zig-zags in places. It’s not too bad though, and it leads me up to the steep cliffs at Southdown Cliff.
On nearing the top, I get a glimpse down to Man Sands ahead and the wonderful coast beyond.
I’m getting away from towns though as it’s getting dark, so decide I will have to end at Man Sands and follow tracks back to the edge of Brixham, where I can pick up a bus back to Torquay.
Man Sands is lovely though, a remote and unspoilt beach with a single white painted house at the far end. The path descends down quite steeply, and there is a very boggy area at the back of the beach.
The photo makes things look brighter than they were. As it was, it was not far off dark and the sun had already set. To end this day I walked along the track of Mansands Lane, passing Southdown Farm and on to Southdown Cross. From here I followed roads through Higher Brixham and back to the town where I took a bus back to Torquay and drove home from there.
The rest of this walk is one I did more than 15 years earlier, so my memory is a bit hazy, but I do remember that it was a tough walk and I felt very very tired at the end of it. The coast path goes along the back of the beach and then up again, behind the cottages which I see are now holiday cottages. The coast path misses out Crabrock Point as I did I at the time, although I can see it is now access land now, so you can walk to the end of it if you want to.
The coast path then went round the back of Long Sands where there are high and eroding cliffs. I don’t think there is access to this beach from the coast path. Soon though the path was descending again to Scabbacombe Sands
I remember being more concerned about the coast path going up the hill at the other end at this point, but the beach was a mixture of sand and shingle, but sadly when I walked here covered by a lot of seaweed, so it didn’t look that nice.
The path climbed out onto Scabbacombe Head giving a view back over Scabbacombe Sands and beyond to Berry Head.
The coast path keeps fairly low though for a while but then , with a steep zig zag back up to the cliff top at Downend Point. From here there are quite a few rocky inlets below, the largest being Ivy Cove.
After Ivy Cove the coast descends to Pudcombe Cove which is just by the National Trust Coleton Fishacre gardens, a popular spot and I think there is a path from the coast path into the gardens. The path is wooded around here.
Back out of the woodland the path zig-zags around the top of the cliffs. It is easy to follow and the views are wonderful although the frequent ups and downs are tiring. I head around the coast passing Kelly’s Cove. Here I have a nice view ahead of the rocks off Outer Froward Point.
Outer Froward Point is soon ahead around Old Mill Bay and then ahead is Inner Froward Point. I can see some buildings on the top of the cliffs, which turn out to be one of those coast watch stations.
The path then climbs to Inner Froward Point where I have views over the rocks of Shooter Rock, Shag Stone and Mew Stone.
Sadly as you can see the film camera I was using on this walk let in some light here which has rather spoiled the photo. Onwards the path goes up and down through woodland around the rather lovely titled Newfoundland Cove. The woodlands do limit views a bit but I soon get a view back to the edge of Newfoundland Cove.
From here I pass above Kingswear Castle which is just below (and now a holiday cottage). From here the rest of this path is along roads giving some views over the Dart but in most cases you are in woodland. The road soon descends and comes into the edge of the town of Kingswear, on the eastern bank of the Dart but the houses limit views until I am down at the bottom near the railway station.
Kingswear, like many places in the South West is built onto the hilly cliffs, with the houses climbing up the cliffs behind the town. This does restrict views a bit, sadly. I was very tired at the end of this walk, but had to make one more climb up the hill a little to the bus turning area to wait for the bus. This took me to Brixham. Then I had to take another bus to Torquay and finally the X46 bus from Torquay to Exeter. It was a long journey.
This is a really good walk. Brixham at the start is a large but pleasant town and the views up on Berry head excellent, if you can manage to avoid the quarry (as I failed to). From here the walk is totally unspoilt and very beautiful. Most of the beaches past are pebbles or shingle, perhaps with a bit of sand, but they are remote and unspoiled. The walking is hard going though, with numerous ups and down so I’d suggest allow plenty of time to enjoy it. From Kingswear you can take the ferry over to Dartmouth, which has a better choice of pubs and restaurants.
Here is details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Stagecoach 18 : Brixham – Hill Head – Kingswear. Every 30 minutes Monday – Saturday. Hourly on Sundays. It takes around 20 to 25 minutes. Scroll down for the number 18 (the timetable starts with the number 17).