Route Section 5:

Dartmouth to Plymouth

There are no large towns, industry or even much tourist development in the bottom corner of Devon, known to locals as the South Hams.

Before you reach the urban spread of Plymouth this is a chance to discover a glorious coastline of small sandy coves, wooded estuaries and boating creeks backed by rolling green dairy farmland.

This entire coast is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are miles of winding narrow lanes best explored by car, especially out of the high season. Between the exceptional seascapes find pristine villages and historic towns – these are some of the southwest’s most expensive postcodes. 

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Start Point marks the southern end of Lyme Bay poking almost a mile out into the sea, making it an inspiring spot for a walk or picnic. The squat white lighthouse has marked this spot for 180 years and its flashing light is still a landmark sight right along the South Devon coast.

There’s a small car park and visitor centre but the best approach for drama and views is via the rocky coast path from Beesands.

During your trip

Route Highlights

Slapton Sands

It’s easy to see this wonderful geographical oddity by driving between Slapton and Torcross. The A379 runs right along the three-mile narrow pebble bar separating the sea and a long freshwater lake called ‘The Ley’.

Salcombe

Probably the biggest tourist lure in the South Hams, Salcombe is not really a beach resort at all. The narrow steep streets of this small fishing village first turned into a boating haven, then have become an overall up-market seaside holiday centre.

Burgh Island

This 26-acre lump of grassy rock houses an old whitewashed smugglers pub and a natural seawater bathing pool – but what makes it famous is the landmark art deco hotel. In its 1930s heyday aristocracy and wealthy celebrities danced the Charleston to big bands playing on floating pontoons.

Plymouth

The biggest city on the SW660 is a hidden gem siting in a world class location between the rolling hills of Dartmoor and the UK’s first National Marine Park Plymouth Sound, with lush twists of the Tamar Valley alongside. Experience a city steeped in maritime history and culture, the birthplace of Plymouth Gin and great arts, entertainment and shopping.

Around Plymouth

Outside the city various leafy inlets of the Sound and River Tamar are worth exploring for the views and for a huge collection of stately homes and gardens. They include Mount Edgcumbe, Saltram House, Antony House, Buckland Abbey and Cotehele.

The Coastline

Find the best beaches

Drive down narrow lanes leading to impressive beaches along the coast here. The best South Ham seaside spots, like Hope Cove, Thurlestone and Bantham are worth seeking out, usually down dead-end roads.

The most acclaimed of the lot is Blackpool Sands. Although the ‘sand’ is actually fine shingle, Blackpool is often judged Britain’s best beach thanks to its relaxed, undeveloped location. There’s no town at the privately-owned cove between Dartmouth and Slapton and the beach is backed by woods and gardens. There’s an acclaimed beach café too.

Did you know

How to keep a body perpetually young!

While browsing the sub-tropical terraced gardens at the National Trust’s Overbecks estate on the cliffs south of Salcombe look for wealthy owner Otto Overbeck’s eccentric inventions in a small museum. He made a fortune from his electrical ‘rejuvenator’ device which was claimed to keep his body perpetually young, until his death in 1937 that is…

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