Section 3. Exmouth to Sidmouth - Devon Coastal Path
Distance 13 miles: Grade - Moderate (6 miles) & Strenuous (7 miles) - What these grades mean.
Today’s walk continues through the heart of the Red Cliff Lands with superb coastal panoramas throughout the day. It’s almost shameful to leave the superb 2 miles of golden sand dunes at Exmouth as you climb to reach Orcombe Point and the geoneedle monument officially marking the start of the Jurassic Coastline.
The dramatic red cliffs here are 250 million years old and reflect a former desert habitat of salt lakes, lagoons and dunes. Skirting the firing range you'll drop down to Littleham Cove and The Floors before more climbing follows along grassy cliff lines through gorse and downlands as you top out over West Down Beacon at an impressive 430 feet.
At the village of Budleigh Salterton you arrive down a wooded pine slope to find another very pretty and unspoilt Georgian resort with its shingle beach of hard quartzite pebbles, lined with small fishing boats. Named after the salt pans based here where monks evaporated seawater to produce the salt, you can pause at the Budleigh Salterton Museum and grab some lunch.
Completely different to this morning’s scenery you now need to traverse the River Otter. This lush and secluded estuary, managed by Devon Wildlife Trust, offers fine saltwater bird watching with viewing platforms and hides amongst tall pines as you walk on a raised inland trail built by Napoleonic Prisoners of war to cross the White Bridge over what was formally a small inland harbour.
Returning to the Devon Coastal Path from your inland diversion, pass through the smuggling past at Brandy Head to reach Ladram bay with its much photographed red rock stacks and caves, a sanctuary for the colonies of Fulmars and Cormorants. A steep climb follows through trees, out to the summit of High Peak and then Peak Hill, both holding sites dating back to Neolithic Settlements, along with superb inland views as far as mighty Dartmoor. The inevitable descent into what the locals call the Sidmouth Gap comes to reach Sidmouth Village and some well earned rest. An entertaining spot with on the one hand its promenade and beach huts charm whilst inland a complete contrast with gothic and castle like mansions revealing the place’s history as the holiday destination of the aristocratic classes, which included a young Queen Victoria who spent childhood holidays on the sand and shingle beaches below the collision of Red cliffs and white chalk streaks.