92. Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands

I walk along the pretty quayside of Dartmouth Harbour – crowded with visitors on this lovely August day.  Passing the ferry slipway (where I arrived on my previous day of walking), I head up the steep road leading southwards and out of town. This will take me towards the mouth of the river and the open sea beyond.
Dartmouth Harbour, Ruth's coastal walk.
Dartmouth - by Tim Baynes, Artist in Residence for Ruth's Coastal WalkOn the way up, I stop for a breather and to take photographs of the great views looking down onto Dartmouth and the River Dart. The water is busy with yachts and the regular, crossing ferries.

[ And here is a wonderful painting made of the view, looking back at Dartmouth, as created by my Artist in Residence, Tim Baynes.]

Dartmouth Castle, Ruth on her coastal walk, Devon.Overlooking the narrow entrance to the river, there sits a church and a castle and a cafe. (On the opposite side of the river sits the counterpart castle – the one I couldn’t visit when on my last walk because it was ‘private’ and ‘dangerous’.)

There a lot of people milling about. You can look round Dartmouth castle which is run by English Heritage. But I don’t stop. I have walking to do.

Sugary Cove, Ruth walking round the coast. Dartmouth.The next section of the walk is tiring but lovely. I follow a winding path that dips up and down, following the coast line through woods. Between the trees I get glimpses of  hidden bays and the path sends off narrow branches that drop down into secret coves.

A sign post tells me this is Sugary Cove, not marked on the map as such. What a lovely name!

I reach Blackstone Point and the scenery changes.  I have left the shelter of the wooded slopes and find myself walking along an exposed rocky shoreline. As I round the point, the wind picks up. Here is the open sea. The mouth of the river and its sheltered harbour is left behind. An empty, wilder, landscape stretches ahead.

rounding Blackstone Point, Ruth walking the South West Coast Path
My pace quickens and I get that familiar thrill of excitement. This is proper coast walking!

I check my watch. I’m not making good time. The ups and downs of the wooded walk past Sugary Cove took longer to navigate than I expected. I hope I can pick up speed.

To begin with, the path follows the top of a sea wall.  I have to watch my footing, but make good progress. Further along, my pace slows as the path begins to climb.

High above the sea, I look back and stop to enjoy my last sight of the beautiful bay at the mouth of the River Dart. I am about to round a promontory and leave this view behind.  I take more photographs.  On the far shore, I can see where I walked on my previous walk – the wooded slopes where I struggled up and down towards the end of the long, hard trek between Brixham and Kingswear.

looking back to the mouth of the River Dart, Ruth walking round the coast
This section of the South West Coast Path passes across National Trust Property. These are grazing lands, although I see no livestock today, and the grass is neat and cropped. But despite the well-worn path and the lovely weather (after weeks of unrelenting rain) I meet very few other people walking along this beautiful section of the coastline.

Combe Point, Ruth walking on the South West Coast Path, Devon.
I come to a promontory and notice some dramatic rock formations just off the shore – jagged little islands with their dangerous teeth poking above the waves. A young couple are admiring the view – the first people I have seen for some time. I check my map and I think these rocks are called the ‘Dancing Beggars’.

Dancing Beggars, South West Coast Path, Ruth in Devon

There are some hunched shapes moving about on the rocky islands. At first, I think some brave fishermen are perched precariously on these spiny outcrops, but I soon realise the shapes are not human, but cormorants. It is a long time since I last saw these birds and am pleased to find them here.

I continue walking along the path, which follows the shore high above the sea, before it begins to curve inland. I  check my map and realise that at this point the footpath leaves the coast. (More private property with no right of way, I’m afraid.)
Post Box Cottages, Stoke Fleming, Ruth walking the South West Coast Path, Devon.There then follows a rather boring walk along a narrow country lane  where, thank goodness, I don’t meet any traffic, until I find myself in the village of Stoke Fleming.

I stop to rest on a bench and check my map. I was hoping to get to the village of Strete today, but I am tired and not sure if I want to walk much further.

Then I notice something strange about the house across the street. It took me a few seconds to realise what I was looking at. Can you spot it? The surreal sight of a post box suspended high in the air, between the windows of the first floor?

The next section of walk is along a busy coastal road. According to my map, the official South West Coast Path detours inland for a short section, following a quieter lane. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to detour or not (my ‘rule’ is to stick as close to the coast as I can). In the event, the decision is taken out of my hands because I miss the start of the detour.

The road has no pavements but, luckily, traffic is fairly light. And I am able to stop and take some photographs of the bay ahead. The light is poor – the sun being low and straight ahead of me – but I can see a wonderful, long, golden beach ahead. Tomorrow’s walk looks promising!

View ahead to Slapton Sands, Ruth walking around the coastline. Devon.
I find a footpath running parallel to the road and am glad to get away from the traffic. With bushes and trees between myself and the sea, I don’t get a view of where I’m heading. I only know the footpath is leading me downwards.

I emerge onto an access road leading to a beach and a car park. I walk down the road towards the beach and am amazed to find myself in a delightful cove with a beautiful curve of sand. Although it is late afternoon, there are people swimming and sunning themselves. And best of all, there is a beach cafe where I buy a cold drink and, after a few moments of indecision, I treat myself to an ice cream cone.

Blackpool Sands, Ruth on her coastal walk, DevonI phone my husband to tell him I’m not going to make it to Strete, but he can find me on Blackpool beach. He is momentarily confused – ‘Blackpool?’. Yes. That is what this lovely place is called, although I discover later that the locals refer to it as Blackpool Sands.

John at Blackpool Sands, Ruth's coastal walk, Devon.When my husband arrives, we sit and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine in this sandy bay.

Tomorrow is another day of walking and, according to the map, I can look forward to a long section of flat land along Slapton Sands. After all the ups-and-downs and hills of the past few weeks, I am looking forward to it.

Distance travelled= 5 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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11 Responses to 92. Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands

  1. Atticus says:

    I would take a house sitting right about where that beach is. 🙂

  2. Oh my! This post really took me back to my childhood! Me and my parents spent almost every summer at the caravan park in Stoke Fleming, just up the road from Blackpool sands which was the beach we always visited. Deckchairs and rug positioned against the breaker wall with the ramp behin that led to the pasty shop! Happy times in Dartmouth too, thanks so much for your post, I wish I was there!

  3. The first thing which must be said about this walk is that you need to be reasonably fit. There are several inclines, and the path can be tricky – especially after wet weather. You’ll need a head for heights in parts, too (as I found out!) – but stick with it and you’ll be well rewarded. The Branscombe to Beer section of the coast path is two miles long, so is four miles there and back. Alternatively, there is an option at the half-way mark to turn back, by walking back along the cliff-top. The return walk from here is all along fields, so is easier than the coast path.

  4. Pingback: 97. Aveton Gifford to River Erme | Ruth's Coastal Walk (UK)

  5. Jill j says:

    Done this walk in my very most favourite place!!

  6. craigswalk says:

    Hiya Ruth, just been reading your Bournemouth to Blackpool sands section. I finished at Stoke Flemming in August and am currently saving the pennies to continue hopefully sometime near the end of October. I haven’t done even nearly as much as you but i have to say from Bournemouth to Dartmouth has been the best leg of the walk so far.
    Really enjoying your writing and photographs, going to read on and see what’s in store for my next leg. All the best Craig

  7. Karen White says:

    The post box is bizarre but has a certain quaint charm.

  8. Anita Rigler says:

    Hi Ruth we did your walk today and cheated somewhat and took the charming lane a little higher up from the castle which meant we had the energy to walk all the way Torcross. The views were still magnificent but we kept our knees going a bit longer! Beautiful walk. The birds were just lovely. A walk we will remember!

    • Hi Anita, I remember feeling very tired on this day, for some reason, and deciding to finish the walk ridiculously early. Well done for continuing to Torcross. Yes, a beautiful walk. Glad you enjoyed it.

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