10 of the best coastal walks in Devon

Coastal, Walking, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ed Roberts on 28th September 2020

A walk by the sea is medicine for the soul. Even if we live close to the coast, we can’t help but seek a glimpse of the big blue on the horizon, over the hills and beyond the rooftops of farmer’s fields. Drawing us to the edge of the land, it’s magnetic. This is why we head to Devon as, like its neighbour Cornwall, the immediacy of the sea is apparent everywhere you look. Devon is the only county in the UK with two separate coastlines – the North Devon and South Devon coast and they both have the South West Coast Path running along their edge. 

With a combined length of 450 miles, you can enjoy beaches, clifftops, quays, promenades, ferries and bridge crossings galore throughout its length. The two coastlines have stark yet appealing contrasts: the north is home to long stretches of unspoiled woodland coast, with rocky coves and peculiar geological tracts, and some of the widest sandy beaches in the South West, impressive dune systems and the best surf beaches in the county; the south fosters sandy bays, scuba diving prospects, deep harbours, delightful cliff walks and so much more. Whether you choose to holiday on the north coast or south coast this year, you won’t go home disappointed, as there are some exceptional walks to enjoy.  We have put together a guide to some of our favourite coastal walks in North Devon and South Devon for you to try out on your holiday. So, if you like sea views, grab your walking boots (or even your flip flops) as we take you on a tour of our favourite walks in coastal Devon. 

Looking for somewhere to stay in Devon? Then why not visit our range of self-catering coastal cottages to find inspiration for your next holiday stay? 

Coastal cottages in Devon

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North Devon coastal walks

Braunton Burrows - Sand Dunes - Waves

Braunton Burrows and Saunton Sands

Braunton Burrows and Saunton Sands offer some of the most interesting coastal walks in the county. Home to the largest dune system in the UK and the country’s first UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Braunton Burrows covers a vast area of 2,000 acres and is home to roughly 400 species of wildlife and plants. Full of nature and beauty, this beach and dune system is a place in flux; the dune forms are in constant motion pushed inland by the wind and the sea. Trek along the bewildering network of paths through the blowouts and dune valleys to the 3-mile beach of Saunton Sands and the striking Atlantic Ocean. The beach is truly unspoiled, and you can see the Taw-Torridge Estuary and the North Devon Coast as far as Hartland Point to the south-west and Down End to the north – it’s a fantastic wild spot. The wide bay is popular with surfers and windsurfers who come from miles around to perfect their art. 

Distance: Variable

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Facilities: Parking, WCs, seasonal café, ramp access, maps, lifeguards, dogs allowed (beware of grazing animals)

Good to know: Please stay to the trails to avoid eroding the dunes. Look out for rare orchids in season. The dunes are sometimes used by the military who are based at the nearby base so look out for signs that warn of their presence.

Stay nearby: Ocean Point | Sleeps: 4 guests  


valley of rocks - woody bay

Lynton to Valley of Rocks to Woody Bay

High above Woody Bay and close to the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth (affectionately nicknamed Little Switzerland), is this very distinct series of landforms known as Valley of Rocks. Just 1 mile west of Lynton, you can reach the Valley via the South West Coast Path along a beautiful, if somewhat vertiginous, stretch high above the Bristol Channel. It’s here you can enjoy fantastic views of the Exmoor coastline and across the water to the jagged skylines of South Wales. Feral goats live in the rocky nooks and crannies of the Valley, so your eyes definitely aren’t deceiving you – they tend to steer clear of people though. The Valley is an awesome place for photo opportunities and it’s especially fun if you love picnics. If you feel like a longer walk, head out to Woody Bay which is a rocky, wooded beach at the foot of the cliffs; a sealed road takes you much of the way down to sea level, but there is a little bit of scrambling to get onto the shore. The walk is one to treasure.

Distance: 8 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Facilities: Parking, WCs (Valley of Rocks) 

Good to know: There are goats, so keep your dog at heel or on the lead. 

Stay nearby: The Hoe Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests 


Northam Burrow Country Park, Westward Ho!

Northam Burrows Country Park is a patch of lowlands on the North Devon coast that covers a large area around the Taw-Torridge Estuary, with a 3-mile beach that extends to the village of Westward Ho! The natural parkland is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a gigantic pebble ridge and a narrow strand of sand dunes. Wild horses and sheep graze the land freely and it’s a superb spot to see the colonies of birds that live there. There is a visitor centre that is open during the spring and summer with WCs. There are no dog restrictions north of the ridge crossing at Sandymere during the summer, so that’s about 2 miles of clear beach for you and your hound to enjoy. The sea rolls out for 0.25 miles at Northam Burrows leaving lots of room for the surfers, kite surfers, swimmers and paddleboarders to mingle with the beach lovers. It’s the perfect blend of wilderness and civilisation.

Distance: 6 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy

Facilities: Parking, WCs (closed in the winter), lifeguards (spring to summer)

Good to know: Please keep dogs at heel as there is usually livestock grazing. Sheep worrying is a serious offence.

Stay nearby: Ocean Wave | Sleeps: 4 guests 


surfer - croyde bay

River Cridda walk - Croyde

The River Cridda is little more than a stream for much of its length before it runs out from the hills above the village of Croyde into the ocean. If you park in the village at Georgeham, you can follow the river through the wooded valley, down through the pretty, thatched cottage village of Croyde, and out to North Devon’s most famous surfing beach. The Cridda walk is perfect to combine with a few pints as you go as there are a few quaint pubs along the trail like, The Rock Inn and The King’s Arms (in Georgeham) and The Manor House Inn, Billy Budd’s, The Thatch and Blue Groove in Croyde. The whole walk (without pubs) is relatively short and simple along sealed pathways and country roads. At the halfway mark, sit on the beach or in the dunes to enjoy a view over the sea and its waves. After your walk, hire a wetsuit and a surfboard from one of the villages hire shops and take to the water. Croyde is a fun place to relax and play as it hosts one of the best-loved beaches in the country.

Distance: 4 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy

Facilities: Parking, WCs, shops, restaurants, pubs, cafes, lifeguard (spring – summer)

Good to know: All of the pubs are open all year round, dog ban at the beach (May – Sept)

Stay nearby: Kenmaron at Croyde | Sleeps: 5 guests plus 1 dog 



Hobby Drive to Clovelly

The Hobby Drive is a former carriageway above Clovelly that also makes up a very small part of the South West Coast Path. Park your car at Clovelly and head east and you will find the entrance to the Hobby Drive next to the donkey stables and at the point where the road begins its descent into the village of Clovelly. This wide, gravel road gradually climbs out of the cliff valley and affords brilliant views from the woods high above Bideford Bay. In the autumn, it is a wonderful spectacle of oranges and browns. Being a former road, the path shouldn’t pose much of a problem for young children, or the elderly, there are even benches at some of the viewpoints. The Hobby Drive ends at a busy main road, so if you happen to be walking its full-length you have to return along the same route; at least it’s all downhill back to the car. After your walk, stroll down into the village itself and have a spot of lunch at The Red Lion next to the harbour. Clovelly is a delightful place full of quaint lanes and buildings that make for exceptional photo opportunities. Clovelly is one of North Devon's most iconic visitor attractions and we'd say it's unmissable.

Distance: 5 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy

Facilities: None

Good to know: There are WCs in the Clovelly village car park about 0.25 miles from the start of the Hobby Drive. 

Stay nearby: Bay Tree Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog 


South Devon Coastal Walks

hooken cliffs

Hooken Cliffs, near Beer

For fans of weird and wonderful landscapes, head for this coastal walk close to Beer in South Devon. In 1790, the cliffs collapsed resulting in a uniquely shaped section of coast. The trail takes in the now overgrown melee of colossal sections of chalk cliff that rise up out of the ground. It offers perfect habitation for birdlife, rare plants and wildlife – it might be a challenging walk but it never gets boring. Hooken Cliffs is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coast. Beer is close by so after a bit of scramble you can enjoy a refreshing drink to cool off. 

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Facilities: None

Good to know: If walking on a summer evening, consider applying insect repellent for the midges.

Stay nearby: Beach Side | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 2 dogs  


brixham

Berry Head, Brixham

If you are in holidaying in Brixham, one of South Devon’s nicest coastal walks awaits. Ornithologists love Berry Head, a headland above Brixham for the vantage points it offers, and it’s a superb place to watch the resident colonies of seabirds. Surrounded by the sea on three sides, you can enjoy views right across Torbay. Possibly the most protected heritage site in the South West, it is a National Nature Reserve, a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Specific Special Interest (SSSI) and a Scheduled Ancient Monument – fear not, there’s still room for visitors among all the boffins that may be hiding in the undergrowth with their surveys and measuring instruments. The guillemot colony is a nature photographer’s dream too – bring your bird spotting books.

Distance: 1.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Facilities: Parking, WCs, café, visitor centre

Good to know: Being a nature reserve, dogs must be on leads to protect the birdlife.

Stay nearby: Barn Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 3 dogs


plymouth sound

Plymouth Sound

Take a trip to the city for one of the great urban waterside walks in the UK. Combine a shopping trip with a trek around the edge of Plymouth Sound to take in the natural wonders of city’s deep, natural harbour, and architectural oddities like Tinside Lido (a 1930s Ar -Deco swimming pool complex) and the boardwalk colonnades that line the shoreline. Also, look out for Smeaton’s Tower, the eye-catching lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe. Also, the historic site of the Mayflower Steps has great cultural significance, as it’s the sight from which the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from for the Americas in 1620. After your stroll, head to the Barbican for something to eat; there’s a near bottomless choice of places to dine tucked away in its narrow streets. 

Distance: 2 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy

Facilities: Parking, WCs, shops and cafes

Stay at: Sunseekers Marina View | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog 


slapton

Torcross to Slapton Sands

Slapton Sands and Torcross offer water lovers the best of both worlds as it has the sea one side of the beach and the South West’s largest freshwater lake on the other. The beach strand and road lie between the two and the walk is an absolute must for those of you who are planning a holiday on the South Devon coast. The lake, Slapton Ley, is at the heart of Slapton Nature Reserve which has trails galore that circle around it. The reserve is home to interesting plant and wildlife (including dormice, badgers, otters and bats), so stop by the visitor centre for a map of the trails and to find out what has been spotted in amongst the reeds. The Café at Seabreeze is a lovely place to stop after completing the walk down the beach. Learn about Slapton’s part in WW2 and the story behind the presence of an American Sherman Tank close to the beach. 

Distance: 4 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy 

Facilities: Parking, WCs, cafes, pub

Good to know: Dogs are welcome on the beach.

Stay at: No. 8 Belle Vue | Sleeps: 5 guests


kingswear

Kingswear to Brownstone Battery

This beautiful circuit from the South Devon fishing village of Kingswear is occasionally challenging with steep ascents here and there. The views are great along the section from Kingswear to Coleton Fishacre – also keep an eye out for interesting landmarks like the Brownstone Battery which is a Second World War-era coastal defence, that includes observation posts, generator sheds, soldiers’ quarters and the mess. Take a picnic and lots to drink and this is a true winner. Kingswear itself is home to some lovely pubs like The Ship Inn. Take a ferry over the River Dart to Dartmouth for even more places to recuperate after your climb up to the Battery.

Distance: 4 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Facilities: None

Good to know: A great walk for dogs!

Stay nearby: Milber Cottage | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 1 dog 


Map of our favourite coastal walks in Devon


More inspiration

To make planning your trip to Devon even more fun, read some of our other blogs below.

Stay with us in Devon

We hope that our coastal walking guide is the primer for many lovely days out on your holiday to Devon. Once you have decided where you would like to go, visit our collection of self-catering coastal holiday cottages in North and South Devon. We have the perfect holiday property waiting for you to discover. Where will you stay?

Devon coastal cottages



Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.