Amble on the Down
Bolberry Down, near Malborough, South Devon TQ7 3DYRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
A circular walk around the flat plateau of Bolberry Down, offering easy walking and far-reaching views of South Devon. Take your time and visit the viewpoints, take a seat and immerse yourself in this spectacular coastline.
- Grade of walk: Flip Flop (easy and lots of fun)
- Type of walk: 'Beautiful Views'
- Bus stop
Start: Bolberry Down National Trust car park, grid ref: SX689384
From the National Trust car park, follow the easy access trail along the edge of the road towards the Port Light Hotel. When you reach a metal gate on the edge of Bolberry Down, bear left on the tarmac path which heads out towards the sea.
In the 17th century, Torbay became the principal anchorage for the English fleet, with the limestone cliffs and surrounding hills offering protection from the strong north and easterly winds. During the Napoleonic wars the navy anchored here for long periods; this helped the town to develop and prosper as many officers bought houses for their families. This safe anchorage still encourages large trading vessels to stay in the bay - oil tankers, container ships and refrigerated vessels are often seen at anchor a few miles off shore.
Continue along this path in between the vast swathes of gorse, being sure to take advantage of the breathtaking views from the signed viewpoint. In May, the seaward slopes here offer spectacular displays of spring squill and the rocks are dotted with thrift, stonecrop and kidney vetch.
Bolberry Down was once the site of a busy radar station. It formed part of a chain to protect the south and east coasts of England during the Second World War. RAF Bolt Tail was designed to detect low-flying enemy aircraft and shipping, allowing RAF fighter planes to intercept them before they reached their target. Largely run by the Womens Royal Air Force, there was an operations area near the cliff which was protected by blast walls, fences and ditches. There was also an accommodation area at the former golf clubhouse, now the Port Light Hotel.
The path gradually bears round to the right turning and becomes hard standing gravel before joining the South West Coast Path. At this point, continue right towards the Iron Age hill fort of Bolt Tail, perched on the end of the headland in front of you. Breaking free from the corridor of gorse, views over Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island will open up in front of you.
A small number of the prehistoric flints found on Bolberry Down are characteristic of tools from the Mesolithic period, around 6,000 years ago. These objects tell us how people lived, hunted, fished and later farmed in this area at the time. Maps from the 18th and 19th centuries show the Down divided into strips. An open outfield was divided, but not walled or fenced, into different tenancies to mark different ownerships.
Once you reach a kissing gate set in a dry-stone wall, it's time to head back inland across Bolberry Down. Follow the well walked path along the dry-stone wall boundary. Flint scrapers, arrows and axe-heads from 1,500BC or earlier, have been found in the area, so keep your eyes open.
Further along this boundary you'll pass a row of upright stones, known as orthostats - these could be a possible relic of 18th-century enclosures or prehistoric field walls. Soon the Port Light Hotel will come into view and the metal gate with the National Trust car park, allowing you to retrace your steps back to the car. To take in a longer walk of the area you can combine this walk with the Bolberry Down and Soar Mill Cove Walk. This 5 mile (8km) walk also starts from the National Trust Car Park at Bolberry and can be downloaded from our website. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks
We hope that you really enjoyed this one-mile walk. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of countryside for the enjoyment of all. We need your support to help us continue our work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful and refreshing landscapes. To find out more about how you too can help our work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk
End: Bolberry Down National Trust car park, grid ref: SX689384
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 1 mile (1.6km)
- Time: 30 minutes to 40 minutes
- OS Map: Explorer OL20
The first section of the walk along the cliff, from Bolberry Down towards Bolt Tail, is on a tarmac trail which passes several benches and viewpoints before turning into a surfaced gravel path. The return leg is on a well walked grass path. Dogs are welcome on leads.
- How to get here:
By train: Totnes, 18 miles (28.9km)
By car: Follow A381, Kingsbridge to Malborough. Entering village take second right towards village centre. Continue past church, then take third turning on right signposted to Bolberry. At Bolberry take next left signposted to Port Light Hotel. Continue up steep lane to National Trust car park
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