Section 3. Bigbury to Salcombe – Devon Coast Path Route
Distance - 14 miles : Grade Moderate 6 miles and Strenuous 8 miles - What these grades mean.
River Avon - Limited Ferry Crossing from Bigbury or the inland Avon Estuary Walk
Today’s route gradually tests you more and more as short climbs and drops to Inner Cove turn into some challenging ascents en route to Bolt Tail and from here to Bolt Head, one of Devon’s finest high cliff walks. A scramble round the rocky headland at Starehole Bay is required before a drop into the woods and idyllic estuary of Salcombe.
The start of today’s walk is famous for its breadth of fauna, carpets of wild white clover, sea thrift and marguerite daisies. This is also Adder territory and you may well be lucky enough to see one along the trail. A short run of sandy bays draws you to Thurlestone with its pink thatched dwellings (Thurlestone meaning holed stone - a huge one can be seen offshore). Fine beaches here have the two vital Devon ingredients - golden sands and teeming rock pools below the famous Rock Archway immortalised by Turner in his painting.
An impressive 70m Long wooden footbridge brings you over a marshland Nature Reserve en route to a climb up Beacon Point and Hope Cove. Beacon Point's claim to fame is being the point at which the Spanish Armada was first spotted from the land. Descend to Hope Cove with its square of thatched white cottages set below the hillside and the old lifeboat house and slipway which were stood down at the end of the 19C.
The afternoon section through Bolt Tail to Bolt Head, as the names suggest, is an exhilarating journey in itself and starts with a steep ascent to the wild Bolt Tail Headland. Breathtaking views reveal themselves back to Burgh Island, Plymouth, inland to brooding Dartmoor and even into Cornwall and the Dodman - a long 8 days walk behind you. The location of an Iron Age Cliff fort, you can still make out the ramparts across the narrow section of headland. The next cove, the Ramillies, is named simply after the boat which gave one of the most tragic events along the coast path, with over 700 troops drowned off here in 1760 during a fearful gale. Climb and climb 440ft on up Bolberry Down and onto the top of the cliffs - a stunning section with kestrels, sparrow hawks and peregrine Falcons spotted from the heather, gorse and grasslands. Twisted spiky outcrops and precipitous cliff sides start to envelop the walker near Bolt head where a second world war accommodation shelter and lookout point is built amongst rocks, now only home to the malevolent ravens.
You now circumnavigate Starehole Bay on a rocky scramble to reach the spine of crags at Sharp Tor that thrust out towards the ocean, the path now ending the day along the Earl of Devon’s Courtenay Walk which is hewn out of the rocks to give access to Bolt Head from Salcombe. Around a corner suddenly a new world opens up in the mellow rounded creeks, sands and wooded hillsides of a very inviting looking Salcombe. Enter through oak, chestnut and pine woods as you approach the yachts and bobbing boats of this placid harbour, pausing to look over at the squat ruined tower of Henry VIII Salcombe Castle the last Royalist outpost in Devon.