On top of being an extremely picturesque and popular beach, Slapton Sands plays an important part in the survival of some of the UK’s rarest flora and fauna. So if you’re looking for a cracking beach holiday with the opportunity to do a little bit of exploring on the side, Slapton Sands should be on your list of ‘must visit’ destinations.
If you like your scenery to have a bit of history then Slapton Sands has a very moving story attached to it. In 1944, the beach was taken over by the allied forces to use as a rehearsal area for the D-Day Landings. Unfortunately, a combination of poor communication and coordination, friendly fire, and an attack by German E-boats resulted in the deaths of 749 American servicemen. You can visit a stone monument which was set in place on Slapton Sands to commemorate the ill-fated ‘Operation Tiger’, along with a Sherman Tank at nearby Torcross.
If you want sand, stunning scenery and the chance to see rare wildlife on your holiday then Milton Sands has got the lot. It’s set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and behind the beach you can discover wetlands that have been designated as an area of Special Scientific Interest. If you’re looking for a chance to observe wildlife in its natural environment, Milton Sands is the place to come for great views of migrating birds, rare butterflies and much more.
If you’re more interested in spending time next to the surf, the beach has also won an award from the Marine Conservation Society in recognition of the clean waters and protected natural habitats. Seals and dolphins are fairly common in the sea here and there have even been whale sightings in recent years. So if you have any budding marine biologists in your family, Milton Sands is a great destination.
One of Milton Sands’ biggest attractions is Thurlestone Rock, an arch-shaped rock that sticks out of the sea and can be seen from the beach. The beach is stacked with facilities including on-site parking and you can even bring your dog to the beach in the summer. In the nearby village of Thurlestone, which takes its name from the local landmark, you’ll find plenty of great accommodation, a pub serving food and a shop for all those beachside essentials. As the sea reaches low tide, there are lots of shallow rock pools for children and amateur ecologists to explore.
South Sands in Salcombe is one of the most unspoilt beaches in South Devon. It’s located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the mouth of the estuary, but don’t think that it’s all nature reserves and nothing else because there’s a huge range of different things to see and do all year round.
East Portlemouth is actually made up of a number of small beaches - Fishermans Cove, Smalls Cove and Mill Bay - so you can hunt down your very own secluded spot. All the beaches have won Safe Bathing status so if you bring the kids then you know that the water is shallow, clean and safe for paddling. At low tide you’ll find lots of shallow rock pools, which will keep budding marine biologists or just kids who love looking at critters, occupied for hours. If you want to explore slightly further afield, there’s a daily ferry from Fisherman’s Cove to Salcombe’s busier beach.
This amazingly good beach is part of the designated South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s also won awards from the Marine Conservation Society and the coveted Blue Flag, so you know it’s clean. You can see Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island from the beach - a couple of interesting locations that are well worth a visit. You can get to Burgh Island by taking a ride on the famous ‘sea-tractor’, which the kids will love. Bantham is shallow and sandy so it’s great for families with kids who want to do a little swimming or paddling, and to keep anxious parents’ minds at rest there are lifeguards on duty from May to September. At low tide, you’ll find loads of shallow pools that warm up quickly in the sun and are perfect for crab hunting. But there’s more to Bantham beach than just sun, sand and ice cream. It’s also one of the best surfing beaches in South Devon. The beach has got mellow waves for beginners (known in surf-speak as ‘ankle slappers’), while the mouth of the River Avon fires out enough rips and breaks to test even the most radical hot-doggers.
At the head of the Kingsbridge Estuary, Kingsbridge is at the heart of the South Hams, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at the southernmost point of Devon.
As the shopping hub of the area, Kingsbridge has an eclectic selection of family-run shops including several butchers, bakeries, a fishmongers, greengrocer, wine shop and delicatessen. The town has a whole host of intriguing antique shops, art galleries, and gift shops. Complementing that are cafes, and pubs serving local ales by South Hams and Salcombe Breweries and Salcombe Gin. With a three screen cinema, yoga studio and leisure centre with swimming pool there are plenty of opportunities to stay active and entertained.
Explore the town via passages such as Squeezebelly Alley and discover not only Kingsbridge’s history but hidden treasures such as mosaics, a community garden and miniature railway. The quay overlooks the mudflats of the estuary, and in the summer visitors and locals all take to the water in their sailing boats or on paddleboards. Bird watching, fishing and walks are all on the agenda with the South West Coast Path just minutes away and an easy car or bus journey to Dartmoor and South Devon’s beaches.
An enthusiastic and friendly local crowd work hard all year to put on events such as the Kingsbridge Food & Music Festival, Fair Week and Kingsbridge Celebrates Christmas. With windows filled with posters for clubs and events, there’s always something going on in Kingsbridge whether it be the Farmers Market, art workshops, or concerts.
Salcombe sits on the banks of the Kingsbridge Estuary making it one of the prettiest towns in South Devon. Located within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Salcombe is known for its stunning coastal views and rolling surrounding countryside, as well as a centre for sailing. Salcombe is a great a great place to visit for messing about on the water or at the water’s edge, or just for a day trip.
Boats can be hired in the town on an hourly, half-day or full day basis. In August, Salcombe is host to an annual boating regatta.
Salcombe town centre is lined with boutique shops, high street brands and independent producers, as well as local art galleries and gift shops - you can spend hours browsing through the town.
There are several very good restaurants within easy reach, serving locally caught fresh seafood and locally farmed produce. Don’t forget to try some delicious Salcombe Dairy Ice-cream or the award winning Salcombe Gin - both have shops and distilleries you can visit in Salcombe.
Enjoy some Easy Access Walks along and around the South West Coast Path in South Devon. Start Point, Hallsands and Bolberry Down are just some of the places with sections of the South West Coast Path that are much gentler.
A perfect route for children, who will love this short but adventurous walk over a dragon's tail of spiny crags. There are wide-ranging views over the wide sweep of Start Bay as you drop down to the lighthouse at the tip of Start Point, and then the path travels over rock and coastal heathland to a secluded sandy beach, reached only on foot from the Coast Path. On a good day it is the perfect place for a picnic.
In the early 1890s, Hallsands was a small fishing village on the south coast of Devon. It was protected from the sea by a beach of sand and shingle.
Then in 1897 a major dredging operation began not far from the village. Within a few years the level of the beach fell by about twelve feet, and the village was exposed to the direct impact of high tides and easterly winds. Several buildings were damaged or destroyed in storms during 1903 and 1904. Some buildings were repaired, and temporary protection was given by a new sea wall, but another major storm in January 1917 caused further devastation, and the village was abandoned.
At South Hallsands, there is a viewing platform where you can see the remains of the village.
The loss of the village is a very well known local event. It is a very sad, but interesting story and a visit to the village before it is lost forever is well worth the effort.
This brilliant white lighthouse is situated on one of the most exposed peninsulas on the English Coast, on the south side of Start Bay between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth. Start Bay and the view from Hallsands is one of the most spectacular sights you will see in South Devon. The coastal path runs along the edge of the bay and the scenery is simply breathtaking.
Why not visit Dartmoor National Park?
Dartmoor National Park is approximately 20 miles north of Kingsbridge. This unique national park is a mix of wild open moorlands, rocky "tors" and deep wooded valleys.
Dartmoor has the capacity to offer something to everyone, regardless of your hobby, interest or passion. It is the perfect place to visit with children as there are so many activities on offer to entertain them and keep them busy.
There is no more iconic sight on Dartmoor than a herd of ponies grazing together, with stunning, majestic Dartmoor scenery as a backdrop.
Bellever Forest is well worth a visit. Enjoy the tranquility of a picnic by the East Dart River or take an exhilarating walk to the stunning views from Bellever Tor.
Whether you are looking for an exhilarating walk or a gentle meander through the forest, Bellever can cater for every ability. Choose from one of the way marked walking trails or join the historic bridleway, The Lich Way. You can find free downloadable audio walks for Postbridge and Bellever on Dartmoor National Park’s website.
There are also numerous archaeological sites to discover as you explore Bellever.