Bolberry Down and Soar Mill Cove walk

Bolberry Down and Soar Mill Cove, Devon

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Bolt Tail is full of history from numerous ship wrecks to an iron age fort © Mike Townsend

Bolt Tail is full of history from numerous ship wrecks to an iron age fort

The gentle foot path at Bolberry Down is suitable for buggies © National Trust

The gentle foot path at Bolberry Down is suitable for buggies

The Dartford Warbler has recovered strongly since its severe decline © northeastwildlife.co.uk

The Dartford Warbler has recovered strongly since its severe decline

Look out for the beautiful Marbled white butterfly © Kate Sheard

Look out for the beautiful Marbled white butterfly

Gaze out over the majestic Soar Mill Cove © Jeremy Grimoldby

Gaze out over the majestic Soar Mill Cove

Route overview

History, mystery and nature combine to create a fantastic walk that takes in much of the most scenic coastline of South Devon. Beautiful and surprising in equal measure.

This walk begins with a detour to the Iron Age cliff fort at Bolt Tail, but if you're after a shorter walk start at point 3.

Route details

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

Bolberry Down and Soar Mill Cove walk map, Devon
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Bolberry Down car park, grid ref: SX688385

  1. Leave your car in the clifftop parking area and follow the road (signposted Hope Cove) towards Port Light Inn. Go through the gate on the left and take the path along the field boundary. Follow the field edge, soon passing a row of upright stones; the first of several youll see along the route. To the west are views over Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island, where Agatha Christie set two of her mysteries.

    Show/HidePort Light Inn

    Port Light Inn, built in 1909, was originally the clubhouse for the Bolberry Down Golf Club, which closed in 1914. In the Second World War it was a dining area for RAF personnel at the nearby radar station.

    Bolt Tail is full of history from numerous ship wrecks to an iron age fort © Mike Townsend
  2. Join the coast path above Ferryhole Point. For a 45-minute detour to the Iron Age cliff fort at Bolt Tail, turn right through the stone gateway, otherwise turn left to follow the path across Bolberry Down. Continue along the cliffs, taking the lower route where the path forks. Look for occasional bits of brick and concrete beneath your feet the debris of RAF Bolt Tail radar base, blown up after the war. Follow the path around the cliff and back towards the car park, crossing over a damp flush thronged with hemp agrimony, purple loosestrife and grey willow.

    Show/HideBolberry Down

    We've found flint scrapers, arrows and axe-heads from 1,500BC or earlier on these slopes. The coastline from Bolt Tail to Sharpitor is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its insects, bird and plant life. Strands of orange dodder cloak the gorse, and tormentil, milkwort, heath bedstraw and cats ear grow amongst the grasses. Patches of bare, dry ground are home to mining bees, crickets, slow-worms and lizards, and the incredibly rare short-necked oil beetle.

    The gentle foot path at Bolberry Down is suitable for buggies © National Trust
  3. At the car park, follow the coast path out onto West Cliff towards the ridge of Cathole Cliff, with the Warren beyond.

    Show/HideBird-spotting

    You might spot stonechats, cirl buntings and Dartford warblers amongst the scrub.

    The Dartford Warbler has recovered strongly since its severe decline © northeastwildlife.co.uk
  4. Continue down the spine of Cathole Cliff. Near the end of Cathole Cliff, turn left at the waymarker and descend the zig-zag path to the valley bottom. Turn right and follow the path to Soar Mill Cove, passing an inscribed gatepost; a piece of shipwreck timber.

    Show/HideSpringtime on the coast

    In May, the seaward slopes are a carpet of spring squill and the rocks are dotted with thrift, stonecrop and kidney vetch. Dunnock, yellowhammers and whitethroat nest here. Butterflies include the silver-studded blue, marbled white and brown argus.

    Look out for the beautiful Marbled white butterfly © Kate Sheard
  5. After taking a break at the cove, leave the beach to the east, cross the footbridge, and turn left up the slope, keeping an eye out for sika deer in the fields.

    Show/HideSoar Mill Cove

    At times, the beach has been strewn with tea, timber and marble from wrecked vessels. Wheel ruts in the rock above the cove indicate regular cart traffic, to collect seaweed or visit the mill (long gone, although there are signs of a dam and millpond). On the sandy lower cliffs you might find rock samphire, sea beet and rare rock sea-lavender. Out to sea is the Ham Stone, where shags, gulls and fulmars breed.

    Gaze out over the majestic Soar Mill Cove © Jeremy Grimoldby
  6. Emerging into a lane, follow it past the Soar Mill Cove Hotel. This low building has come a long way once a cinema in Devonport dockyard, it was transported here after the end of the Second World War to be added to the existing guest house, built in 1925. Continue up the lane into Lower Soar, and bear left along the road. At the second junction, climb the ladder stile on your left into the fields of South Down Farm.

    Show/HideSouth Down farm

    A haven for all types of local wildlife, from deer to birdlife and everything in between that helps create a sustainable and balanced eco-system.

  7. Cross two fields and turn right at the far hedge towards the farm. In winter, these stubbled fields are a feeding ground for migrating and resident birds. Go over a stile and onto a track, over a second stile and follow the path around the back of the barns, through a gate and onto another track. Take the path on the right along the field edge and eventually turn left into Jacob's Lane. Follow this ancient lane to reach the road, turn left and return to the car park.

End: Bolberry Down car park, grid ref SX688385

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

    Moderate climbs, uneven paths, muddy in winter. Access for all path at Bolberry Down suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leads.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: South West Coast Path, Plymouth to Salcombe

    By bike: National Cycle Network Route 2, Totnes to East Portlemouth, on the east side of the estuary. A 20 mile (32km) ride on quiet lanes. See Sustrans

    By bus: Totnes railway station and Plymouth city centre to Kingsbridge; Kingsbridge to Salcombe and Thurlestone; Torcross to Dartmouth, Kinsgbridge and Plymouth

    By train: Totnes, 16 miles (25km); Plymouth, 24 miles (38km)

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

    By road: From either A381 or A379 towards Kingsbridge, then follow signs for B3197 and take that road south to Marlborough. At Marlborough crossroads take right and then second left to Bolberry Farm and Port Light Hotel

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