Mill Bay walk
Leave the Salcombe crowds behind and take shady, woodland paths to quiet sandy coves. The path climbs to the old lookout at Gara Rock, where you can rest and enjoy a bite to eat at the restaurant before returning back over the fields.
Please note there is no vehicle access to Mill Bay car park. A landslip has undermined and removed part of the road after the Venus Café. Devon County Council engineers are working on re-opening the road but have warned this could take several months. Please check www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mill-bay for updates.
Mill Bay car park, grid ref SX743381
Start at the National Trust car park at Mill Bay and follow the Coast Path, signposted to Gara Rock, past the toilet block and into the wood, soon passing a path leading upwards to the left. Follow the path through the trees (a path down to the right takes you to Sunny Cove). Go through the gate and onto Rickham Common.
Cliffside flora and fauna
Too steep and rocky for ploughing, West Country cliffs were once used for grazing livestock, but the practice declined over the last century and slopes were smothered by scrub. Today, the cliffs at Rickham Common and Portlemouth Down are grazed by the tenant farmers cattle and Scottish blackface sheep, and are now rich in plant life and insects. Amongst the usual maritime species, look for Portland spurge, rare autumn squill and extensive patches of bloody cranesbill.
Stop for a moment beside the Salcombe Centenary Memorial Stones to admire the views across the estuary. Continue along the path out onto the cliffs and follow the path across Portlemouth Down, with Gammon Head and Prawle Point coming into view.
Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster Centenary Memorial Stones
On October 27 1916, Salcombe bore witness to one of the worst lifeboat disasters in the history of the RNLI. During a rescue attempt, the lifeboat 'William and Emma' ran into difficulties when returning to shore and capsized. Tragically, only two members of the 15-man crew survived. In honour of the 13 lost lives, two Memorial Stones were erected either side of the Salcombe Bar following the Centenary commemorative celebrations in 2016. You can find one along this stretch of coastal path, engraved by local stonemason Jim Martin with an image of a crew member, and extract from a book about the disaster. The twin Memorial Stone can be found across the estuary near Overbeck's.
Continue along the coast path as it curves above Rudder Cove. Soon after, you'll pass the top path leading back to Mill Bay on your left and on the cliff top ahead, the Gara Rock look-out hut. At the next fork, take the lower path to the right, passing above Rickham Sands and down to Seacombe Sands.
Gara Rock look-out
From the look-out hut, originally part of the coastguard station, take in the dramatic section of coastline on the South Coast of Devon.
Go through the gate, and at the stream turn right to explore the beach. Return to the coast path. For a short detour around the ancient fields of Decklers cliff, cross over the bridge, otherwise turn left, back up the hill to the gate and then take the upper path to the look-out.
Ancient hut remains
On the north-western slopes of Decklers Cliff lies a clear pattern of 30 to 40 fields, bounded by low stone wallsor banks of earth (known as lynchets). Close by are the remains of hut platforms; it's possible that these slopes were first farmed more than 2,000 years ago and used again in the Middle Ages.
Leaving the look-out, walk down the lane going west of the hotel for 200 metres and then take the path over the stile on your left. Follow the path through two fields, over a farm track and through a gate onto Rickham Lane. Continue down the avenue of lime trees all the way to the car park.
Mill Bay car park, grid ref SX743381
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