Two nights in south Devon – a suggested itinerary for some breezy beach time near Salcombe

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

There’s so much to do in Devon that it can be hard to know where to start planning. What you’ll find here is just a flavour of what Devon has to offer, in the form of a suggested itinerary for a two-night break that takes in both the spectacular coast and the moody moors. We’ve gone for an easy weekend, not too much dashing about and allowing plenty of time to take in the sights. The itinerary is based on a Friday evening arrival to the Salcombe area.

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Depending on what time you arrive, you can linger in Salcombe itself for an afternoon, maybe squeezing in a quick hop to the other side of the estuary to East Portlemouth, Mill Bay or Sunny Cove for that first feeling of sand under your feet. If you’re staying in town, owner Freya of Dorset House (yes, it’s confusingly in Devon) recommends either The Crab Shack for seafood or The Fortescue for wood-fired pizza. If you’re staying out of town, it shouldn’t hard to find a good country pub nearby.  


We don’t know about you, but even on a short trip like this, we don’t like to try and pack too much in. There’s no need to come back from the weekend needing another one to recover. So, we’d start the day with a leisurely coffee and pastry from The Bake House and some idling in the sun (if you’re lucky) on the waterfront.  

Then it’s time to head out, with Kingsbridge Farmer’s Market the first destination. You’ll need to time this one right, as it’s only held on the first and third Saturday of each month, but it’s a great place to stock up with supplies that’ll help you take advantage of all the great picnic spots in the area.  

There’s only one way to enjoy the fruits of your shopping and strolling – head to the beach. While you can’t really go wrong by pointing yourselves at the sea and stopping when you see a flattish bit, Soar Mill Cove is worth deliberately seeking out. The tiny bay is only accessible by foot, with the most commonly used trail leading straight off the coast path, but there’s an easier route down from the Soar Mill Cove Hotel. It’s not a family beach with facilities, more the sort of place to unpack your market goods, roll up your trousers (or throw on your swimmers) and splash around as you take in the sight of Bolt Head’s toothed towers looming above you. 

If you’d rather not feast al fresco at Soar Mill Cove, then you might want to put in a lunch stop as you head west towards the last site of the day. Oceans Bar & Restaurant, ten minutes up the road from the cove, is pretty much the only option unless you don’t mind backtracking slightly to the pub in the village of Malborough, but the views alone make it worth visiting.  

Once you’ve eaten, jump back on the road and head west to Bolt Tail. Here, a 260m rampart cuts across the headland in a defensive measure thought to date from around 300BC. Even if you’re there for the history and spend most of your time looking down for arrowheads and other artifacts, remember to glance up. The views are stunning, with the sweep of the coast in both directions and the sea sparkling for miles into the distance. 

When you get back to base, you might have dining options where you’re staying and feel like you’ve done enough dashing around, but if you fancy a night out, then Salcombe has yet more great options. Salcombe Gin Distillery’s waterside bar (be sure to try their fabulous marmajitos), or The Winking Prawn on North Sands beach are perfect for a fine summer evening, while The Victoria Inn is great in all weather, either in the garden or by the fire. 


If you’re making a day of it rather than dashing home, then here are a couple of great options. A trip to Overbeck’s Garden, tropical gardens on a hill overlooking Salcombe, is a great way to start the morning. The gardens aren’t open on Fridays and Saturdays, so Sunday is your only option if you’re not around in the week. In season (April to November), the South Sands ferry runs every half hour. It’s famously met by the “sea tractor” when it arrives in South Sands beach, having left from Whitesands in Salcombe centre. Overbeck’s is a short but steep walk up the hill, following the brown signs. You can also make the two-mile walk straight from town, or drive if your coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. The other option is to take the ferry out and walk back, of course, which takes a little more time but means getting a last dash of lovely Devon scenery before you hit the road. 

Another possibility is balancing your coastal Saturday with an inland Sunday by taking in one of Devon’s other natural wonders, Dartmoor. One of the easiest routes if you’re starting from Salcombe, is the Avon Dam Reservoir walk. It’s a surfaced, five-mile out-and-back from Shipley Bridge to the reservoir. The start point is only a few miles from the A38, so you can be back on the road home easily enough when you’re done, but it can get a little windy in some of the more open sections (this is Dartmoor after all).  

With a slightly longer deviation off the main road to Ashburton, you could hike up to Haytor Rocks for a classic Dartmoor view, but while you get more height and better views, this is a nine-mile walk with some climbs, that will eat into your day.  

A good compromise might be the Dartington Hall walk from Totnes, which is more of a stroll and has the added advantage of taking you near enough to The White Hart, at the centre of the estate, that you could easily take a lunch break there.  

Whichever option you choose, from coastal rambling to a Dartmoor hike or a just a great pub lunch, you’ll carry a little of Devon’s wonder home with you, whether it’s sand in your toes or the moorland breezes in your ruffled hair. 

Driving vs public transport 

We realise that there’s a big assumption running throughout this itinerary. A big, potentially-emission-causing assumption – that you’ll be driving. While we’ve laid out the basics of getting to and from Salcombe by train, reaching each of the points on the itinerary as quickly as you would by car is tricky. You can hire a car (there are a few local companies in Salcombe, but the major ones operate from Paignton and Torquay, so you might be better off getting the train there) and follow the same plan, but ditching the vehicles completely is a much more sustainable option. It also allows you to embrace the joy of slow travel. A car-free version of this itinerary simply involves longer walks. Make Soar Mill Cove the focus of a day hike, head over the estuary on the ferry on Saturday afternoon instead of Friday, go to Overbeck’s on foot both ways, although that would mean no sea tractor. You could even get single tickets for the train back (often cheaper anyway) and tick off one of the Dartmoor walks from Totnes.    

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

Chris is our in-house copywriter, with a flair for turning rough notes and travel tales into enticing articles. Raised in a tiny Wiltshire village, he was desperate to travel and has backpacked all over the world. Closer to home, he finds himself happiest in the most remote and rural places he can find, preferably with a host of animals to speak to, some waves to be smashed about in and the promise of a good pint somewhere in his future.
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