The South West Coast Path from Babbacombe to Exmouth can be a long haul for some, and with there being pressure to make the last ferry over the Exe Estuary at Starcross you may prefer to take a night half way at Shaldon or Teignmouth to break this leg into two relaxed days.
Shaldon is the epitome of a pretty riverside village, with colourfully painted fishermen’s cottages huddled close to the rocky red sandstone spit of land known as ‘The Ness’. Passing the village green and the huddles of boats dragged up on the shingle, you make a crossing of the River Teign on the oldest passenger ferry in England to arrive at its larger neighbour Teignmouth.
The whole town has a rather time-warp feel about it with its promenade, Victorian pier, lido, shops and crescent of regal Georgian buildings - but then that is its charm. It's a place to rest up and watch the world go by for an hour or so with its two quite different beaches. The English Seaside Town atmosphere is best enjoyed whilst sitting outside one of the pubs or bistros facing the estuary - one such notable hostelry is Ye Olde Jolly Sailor, a rare 12th century survivor of the French raids.
Here in the oldest part of the town is a network of alleyways and tiny lanes which has quite a
different feel to it than the faded Victorian resort of the seafront.
The main industry in the late 18th century was the export of granite, quarried and transported down canals and the River Teign from Haytor on Dartmoor via an incredible feat of engineering known as The Granite Tramway (which can be walked as an option on our Dartmoor Way Walking Route).
The harbour is no longer the busy port of yesteryear but is still active with fishing boats and the river beach (or Back Beach) is a great place to take a pre-dinner stroll with its brightly coloured beach huts, one of which (now in the town's museum) was actually a Georgian bathing machine.
Teignmouth was the site of the last foreign invasion on English soil, when it was virtually razed to the ground by a band of 1000 marauding French troops in 1690, who arrived by sea and burnt down over 120 houses. The town emerged from this fate to develop as an elegant Georgian resort and with the arrival of Brunel’s railway line the Victorians started a program of constructing lavish villas.
These villas sit overlooking the Den, an area of green lawns, flower beds and tennis courts which front on to the main beach, divided by the ornate Victorian pier, complete with penny slot machines and other old-fashioned amusements, and which at one time segregated male and female bathers. Behind the Esplanade and Den Crescent is a modern town centre catering for all the everyday needs of today’s walker.
There is a good range of overnight accommodation here, from B&B's to Hotels with plenty of pubs and restaurants to eat out in. If there’s time, the Teignmouth and Shaldon Museum is well worth visiting and is just off The South West Coast Path. It has displays and tales of local shipwrecks, treasure and the building of the railway and footage of the Beatles’ visit here.