Soar Mill Cove is an enchanting beach surrounded by craggy rocks © Jeremy Grimoldby

Soar Mill Cove is an enchanting beach surrounded by craggy rocks

Admire the striking rock formations at Bolt Head © Mike Townsend

Admire the striking rock formations at Bolt Head

There are a variety of walks around Salcombe, including Starehole Valley © Mike Townsend

There are a variety of walks around Salcombe, including Starehole Valley

Route overview

Discover the dramatic coast around Salcombe, walking from East Soar to the charming secluded beach at Soar Mill Cove. After a rest on the beach, journey around the jagged rocks at Bolt Head and discover fantastic views as you walk up the Salcombe Estuary.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Route of the Bolt Head walk in Devon
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: East Soar car park (National Trust), grid ref: SX713375

  1. Leave your car at East Soar car park, just past Soar hamlet. Walk down the lane and opposite the brick building turn right, through the gateway, towards Middle Soar. Follow the track, past the buildings of Middle Soar, to reach the warren wall. Continue straight ahead, through the gate and onto the cliffs. Turn left at the signpost, towards Bolt Head.

    Show/HideSoar Mill Cove

    A right at the signpost takes you to the charming beach at Soar Mill Cove.

    Soar Mill Cove is an enchanting beach surrounded by craggy rocks © Jeremy Grimoldby
  2. Continue along the coast path, through gates and along the lower path (signposted 'Bolt Head and Salcombe'). Go through another gate to arrive at Bolt Head, with its dramatic jagged rocks. The views from the headland stretch from Dodman Point in the west to Prawle Point in the east.

    Show/HideBolt Head

    People have been farming at Bolt Head for centuries and the cliffs are dotted with the remains of field boundaries and animal enclosures, some dating back to the Bronze Age. Today, Dartmoor ponies graze on the cliffs, preventing blackthorn and gorse from smothering the slopes. Look out for grey bush crickets and their great green cousins (the largest in the British Isles). Fulmars, gulls, cormorants and shags bred on the cliff-faces. The headland was the site of a Second World War lookout until it was demolished in 2007, and is also a stop over for migrating swallows and house martins.

    Admire the striking rock formations at Bolt Head © Mike Townsend
  3. Follow the coast path to Salcombe, around the headland and down the slope towards Starehole Bay. To visit the beach, turn right before the stream and follow the path to the steps.

    Show/HideStarehole Bay

    On calm days you'll see the dark patch of seaweed beneath the north waters of the cove, marking the Hezogin Cecile wreck. This grain clipper ran aground off Soar Mill Cove on 24 April 1936. For seven weeks the ship lay stranded whilst sightseers in their thousands lined the cliffs, holding their noses from the stench of rotting wheat. The ship was smashed in a July gale after being towed to Starehole Bay.

    There are a variety of walks around Salcombe, including Starehole Valley © Mike Townsend
  4. Return to the coast path, cross the bridge and go through the gate, soon passing on your right the ruins of a telegraph cable testing house. Continue along the path towards the crags of Sharp Tor. Follow the path along the cliffs and into Fir Wood. You are now above the treacherous Salcombe Bar which stretches across the ria to Leek Cove.

    Show/HideSalcombe Bar

    This shallow sandbank, evoked by Tennyson in his poem 'Crossing the Bar', lies across the ria's mouth and is barely 60cm (23 inches) below water on an ebb tide. Devon's worst life boat loss occurred here on 22 October 1916, when the 'William & Emma' capsized rowing back from a rescue.

  5. When you reach the road, turn left uphill towards Overbecks, before taking the path on your right into Tor Woods. Continue along the path, keeping left, as it winds uphill to offer views of South Sands. Climb the steps out of the woods and follow the path across the fields, signposted 'Starehole and Bolt Head'.

    Show/HideTor Woods

    The trees in Tor Woods are mostly sycamore, oak and ash with some younger pine and sweet chestnut, above a carpet of native bluebells, ramsons, wood sorrel and celandines in spring. Watch out for sika deer as well as black caps, chiffchaffs and woodpeckers.

  6. Go through the gate, turn right (to Malborough) and cross two fields. Turn right at the track, and follow it to the car park.

End: East Soar car park (National Trust), grid ref: SX713375

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 4.5 miles (7.4km)
  • Time: 2 hours to 3 hours
  • OS Map: Landranger 202
  • Terrain:

    A 4.5 mile (7.4km) walk; for a longer route combine with the Bolberry trail. One steep climb, uneven paths and muddy in winter. Dogs are welcome, provided they are kept on leads.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: South West Coast Path, Plymouth to Salcombe

    By bike: National Cycle Network Route 2 travels from Totnes to East Portlemouth on east side of estuary. See Sustrans

    By bus: Totnes service 164 and Plymouth service 93 to Kingbridge; X64, 92 and 606, Kingsbridge to Salcombe, Hope Cove and Thurlestone (162); Tally Ho! 606 stops at Malborough, 35 minutes from Port Light Inn

    By train: Totnes, 15 miles (24km); Plymouth, 16 miles (25km)

    By ferry: Daily ferry services from Salcombe to East Portlemouth (all year) and to South Milton Sands (April to October); ferry service, Kingsbridge to Salcombe (May-September)

    By road: A379 from Plymouth and A381 from Totnes both meet at Kingsbridge. A381 continues south to Salcombe and A379 heads east to Torcross. Minor country lanes provide access to this whole stretch of coast

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