95. Salcombe to Bolt Tail

Today, I am apprehensive about the walk ahead. Looking at the OS map, it seems a wild and desolate area. One section of cliff is actually called ‘Slippery Point’.

Ferry stop, Salcombe. Ruth walking the South West Coast path in Devon

I should have walked this stretch of coast when I was last down in Devon during August. But it was raining that day – a relentless downpour from low hanging grey clouds. Maybe, I said, it’s not a good idea to walk along Slippery Point in the rain? My husband called me a wimp. I told him I was simply being sensible.

This year has been the wettest on record and Devon has suffered from terrible floods. I thought I would never get walking again. But today, although the sun is not exactly shining, the clouds are high and white and no rain is forecast.

I start my walk from the Ferry Inn in Salcombe, just alongside the landing quay where I arrived from East Portlemouth a few weeks ago. The estuary is gleaming in the early morning light. I seem to be the only person up and about.

Salcombe. Ruth walking the South West Coast path in Devon

I walk along a quiet road, heading out of Salcombe and towards South Sands’ pretty beach that I glimpse between breaks in the foliage along the way.

South Sands, near Salcombe. Ruth walking the South West Coast path in Devon.

When I get to South Sands, I see a strange contraption parked on the beach. Above its little wheels there is a raised, covered platform with people sitting on it. The vehicle begins to move, heading down the sand with the people still aboard. It doesn’t stop when it reaches the sea, but keeps driving forward and into the waves. How strange!

ferry tractor at South Sands, near Salcombe. Ruth walking the coast in Devon.

Then I realise the strange craft is heading for a rendezvous with a little ferry-boat that has just chugged into the bay. The boat comes alongside and the passengers transfer from the  vehicle and get on board the ferry.

ferry at South Sands, near Salcombe on South West Coast Path. Ruth's Coast Walk, Devon.

The ferry sets off,  heading up the estuary towards  Salcombe and the crazy little contraption rolls back up, out of the water, and onto the beach again. [Later I discover this is the popular South Sands Sea Tractor, providing a ferry connection between Salcombe and the beach at South Sands. ]

From South Sands, I walk along the road and then through a wooded area.

through woods near Salcombe on South West Coast Path. Ruth's Coast Walk, Devon.

As the path winds along beside the shore, I get a great view up the estuary to where Salcombe is perched on the western bank. Beyond the estuary forks and the left fork would take you to up to Kingsbridge. A regular ferry runs between Salcombe and Kingsbridge in the summer.

looking back at Salcombe from South West Coast Path. Ruth walking round the coast.

Sharp Tor, leaving Salcombe - South West Coast Path. Ruth's Coast Walk, Devon.

Beyond the wooded area, I emerge onto a rocky slope and the path climbs upwards to some spiky rock pinnacles. This must be Sharp Tor – a name that seems well deserved.

I stop to take photographs of the rocks and to enjoy some of my last views of Prawle Point, before the path rounds the corner. Across the mouth of the estuary, I see the Gara Rock beach where I struggled up the cliff, in the rain, hoping to find a hotel at the top. There is the piggy area of Ham Stone, Pig’s Nose and Gammon Head beyond. I can even see the distant look-out hut on Prawle Point.

Unfortunately, on this dull day, the resulting photographs are disappointing.

As I round the rocky pinnacle of Sharp Tor, I see a lovely view ahead. This is Starehole Bay and the promontory ahead must be Bolt Head. The small rocky island is Mew Stone. The sea is surprisingly blue and makes a wonderful contrast with the warm autumnal colours of the vegetation on the sloping cliffs above.

Bolt Head - on South West Coast Path. Ruth's Coast Walk, Devon.

This section of the coast is lovely. Totally unspoilt. The walking is easy along a wide, grassy pathway that runs along the top of the cliffs for the four miles between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail. Why was I worried? The route is surprisingly flat with only a few gentle undulating slopes.

I make good progress until I reach Soar Mill Cove. Here the path drops down to the beach and there is a steep climb up the other side to regain the high ground along the top of the cliffs.

Soar Mill Cove - on South West Coast Path. Ruth's Coast Walk, Devon.

I meet a few other walkers. They seem to come from across fields and must be doing, I think, shorter circular walks. I see nobody who seems to be walking the whole route.

looking back towards Bolt Head - Ruth's Coast Walk, Devon.

I stop to eat my packed lunch on a flat rock, high above the sea, with fantastic views on either side – Bolt Head in one direction, Bolt Tail in the other. It is windy. I manage to take a self-portrait.

lunch break,somewhere near Slippery Point  - Ruth's Coastal Walk, Devon.

At some point, I must have passed along the section of coast marked as ‘Slippery Point’ on my map. But I didn’t notice anything slippery and survived this section without any disasters. In fact, this is an easy walk.

I arrive at the peninsula of land, Bolt Tail, and can look down on the twin villages of Inner and Outer Hope. They each have their own little beach and are separated by a horseshoe bay – Hope Cove.

Outer and Inner Hope - Ruth on Bolt Tail - Ruth's Coastal Walk, Devon.

I walk to the end of Bolt Tail and take another self-portrait photograph using the timer on my camera.

Ruth on Bolt Tail - Ruth's Coastal Walk, Devon.

Behind me is Bigbury Bay and you can just make out the opening of Plymouth Sound and the island of Great Mew Stone. The farthest coast visible must be in Cornwall. I feel a thrill of excitement at the thought of entering a new county. I’m making progress.

looking back to Inner Hope - Ruth's Coastal Walk, Devon.

I walk across fields and through woodland, down to the beach of Inner Hope (seen above). There is a small collection of houses and a slime-covered slip way. It is low tide and I walk along the sand to the connected beach of Outer Hope.

fresh water spring, Hope Cove - Ruth's Coastal Walk, Devon.

On the beach of Outer Hope, I see this little pool and some unusual areas of bubbling sand. I wonder what is causing this. Then it occurs to me. Is this a spring?

I dip a finger into the pool and taste the water. It is fresh water. Yes. It must be a fresh water spring, bubbling up onto the beach. I have never seen such a thing before.

I wander around Outer Hope, waiting for my husband to arrive. I am early because my walk was easier than I expected. There is no mobile signal and I can’t contact him. So I only hope he will get here eventually. I sit in a cafe and enjoy a leisurely pot of tea – along with a giant scone, delicious jam and plenty of clotted cream.

Then I climb up above the beach and take some photographs of Outer Hope. There is a breakwater wall and small ships are drawn up on the sand. The long horizontal lines running across the beach are ropes. I have no idea what function they serve as they don’t seem to be connected to ships or fishing equipment.

looking down on Hope Cove, Ruth's Coastal Walk, Devon.

In the distance I can see Burgh Island and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s walk already.

Eventually, my husband and his mother arrive in Outer Hope. They had been waiting for me at Inner Hope and are tired and thirsty and looking forward to a cup of tea. I don’t like to mention I have already had a wonderful cream tea.

Miles walked: 8 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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9 Responses to 95. Salcombe to Bolt Tail

  1. Nice to see you making an appearance in the blog! Great detail keep it up!

  2. Jeremy says:

    You are inspiring me to do this too! Excellent blog, great read.

  3. stravaigerjohn says:

    A lovely and dramatic stretch of coast.I have walked it many times.

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  5. paul sennett says:

    Ruth… south devon coast.. question if I may.. I noticed your mileages varied quite a bit whilst you did the days… was that because you were walking for shorter periods of time.. or was it that the terrain was slowing you down?

    • Hi Paul. Some of the terrain is tough, between Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton was pretty up and down if I remember rightly. After Exmouth it gets much easier. The trouble is that I was working full time in 2012 and didn’t do much exercise between walking trips – so I was very unfit. Also, by this time I was so far from home that on days when I journeyed down to Devon, or on the days I had to travel home again, I could only manage a half day of walking due to travelling times.

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  7. Anita Rigler says:

    Now down as far as Salcombe, following in your footsteps. We were told by our camp site about the East Soar Outdoor experience where they have a “Walker’s Barn”. A fabulous open barn where you can help yourself to tea and coffee, and cake, and just leave the money in an honesty box! A really lovely stop off point. Come off at Overbecks, Starehole Cove or Bolt head, although you may feel that it is not worth it when coming off of the latter because it is a long way in-land but my husband said the cake definitely was worth it! We were pleased to have made the detour.

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