Discover Dartmouth and beyond
Dartmouth is a great starting place to explore the coastline west of Torbay. If you're planning on heading beyond then you'll need a car, otherwise if your horizons stretch no further than Dartmouth itself, arriving by steam train which runs from Paignton is a fun option. Whether by car or train you'll need to catch one of two ferries that cross the estuary of the River Dart to reach Dartmouth itself.
Head beyond the town along the coast and you quickly reach the beautiful beaches of Blackpool Sands and Slapton Sands. Beyond them lies another equally pretty coastal town of Salcombe. The road then takes you across country to Burgh Island, location of the hotel of the same name and a favourite of Agatha Christie.
Perched on the west bank of the estuary Dartmouth is a popular tourist destination with a vibrant local social and arts community,various festivals and the famous regatta. Home of the Britannia Royal Naval College which overlooks the town, its natural deep water mooring attracts some surprisingly large vessels including smaller cruise liners. Its narrow streets are home to a range of artisan shops and galleries as well as bars and restaurants, two of which are well worth a visit, The Sea Horse and The Angel. At the mouth of the estuary lies the remains of the 14th century Dartmouth Castle, the grounds of which are used for open air theatre amongst other events.
Pass through Dartmouth and head out along the coast and one of the first small bays you'll come to is the site of Blackpool Sands Beach. It’s a Blue Flag Award-winning beach surrounded by evergreens and scented pines, which give it a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Well worth a stop - and when you see you'll know why.
Blackpool Valley Road Nr, Dartmouth TQ6 0RG
A few miles beyond Blackpool Sands you pass through the village of Strete high on the cliffs, the road then starts to drop down to reveal the amazing vista of Slapton Sands. This beautiful pebble beach stretches for almost two miles and on many days outside of high season you'll find you'll have it almost to yourself. World War Two historians will doubtless know that Slapton has a sad story dating back to the war. In 1943, the beach was used by the allied forces as a rehearsal for the D-Day Landings. Unfortunately, the combination of a German E-boat attack and then 'friendly fire' led to the deaths of 749 American servicemen. There is a memorial close by in Torcross village in the form of a recovered Sherman tank that sank at the time in the sea off the beach.
Slapton, Devon, TQ7 2TQ
Sitting on the banks of the Kingsbridge Estuary Salcombe is one of the prettiest towns in South Devon. It boasts outstanding coastal views and rolling surrounding countryside, as well as a centre for sailing. The streets are lined with boutique shops as well as local art galleries and gift shops. While there it would be mad not to try two of the local products: Salcombe Dairy Ice-cream and the award-winning Salcombe Gin - both have shops and distillery where you can sample and buy.
Made famous by the luxury, art deco style hotel of the same name ( and much favoured by Agatha Christie who used it as a setting for two of her novels), Burgh Island is separated from the mainland by Bigbury on Sea beach. Oddly, the island is only accessible on foot or by car across a strip of sand at low tide. At high tide the sand is completely covered and the only way to leave or get to the island is by riding on the unique sea tractor. Apart from the hotel, which is open to non residents, the island also boasts an ancient pub called the Pilchard Inn. If you decide to spend some time there be sure to let the bar staff know you're not staying on the island and they'll keep a watch on the tide for you. Otherwise you might find yourself having to stay the night. By the way did we mention that it's rumoured that the inn is haunted...
Bigbury On Sea, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 4BG