South West Coast Path: Kingswear to Brixham

Join my friend E and I on a muddy, steep, cold, steep, dark, steep, slippery, steep, covered in wet leaves, steep November hike along the South West Coast Path from Kingswear to Brixham. Did I mention that it was steep?

The pretty pastel houses of Dartmouth seen from Kingswear

There is fun and there is fun

The hike from Kingswear to Brixham turned out to be what E likes to call Type 2 fun.
Not familiar with the concept? Neither was I.
Here is a visual explanation she shared with me that demonstrates the three types of outdoor fun:

The fun scale of outdoor pursuits

You get the idea…

Let me start at the beginning.

In early November, my friend E and I decided to hike from Kingswear to Brixham. We had been hiking in Cinque Terre in Italy just a month earlier, where the hills were practically vertical, and the stone steps oddly enough were built for giants, and we felt fit and strong. So the fact that this hike didn’t have any optional shortcuts, or any access to roads or public transport, did not worry us much.


We easily found free parking in a residential street near the coast path in Brixham. From there we took the bus to Kingswear. So far so good. And also very pretty.

Ready for our hike from Kingswear to Brixham. Sign says 448 MFP, whatever that means.
Colourful Kingswear
View across the harbour towards Britannia Royal Naval College

We set out on our hike from Kingswear to Brixham just before 11 am. The path wound up a hill, and down a hill (it was the same hill, if you see what I mean), we found a little beach and everything was hunkydory. We saw Dartmouth Castle on the other side of the River Dart. We discovered a privately owned fortification of some type right on the beach. So far it was all Type 1 fun, and the weather was lovely.

At the start of our hike from Kingswear to Brixham everything was lovely jubbly
Dartmouth Castle and a a few pixels of Kingswear Castle, which is mostly hidden by the pine trees on the opposite side of the River Dart. How amazing is the colour of the water?
A sort of fort! A beach! A log! Definitely Type 1 fun.
Yours truly hiking even more steps made for giants, though this time back in Blighty
Still smiling, blissfully unaware of what is to come on the hike from Kingswear to Brixham

Froward Point

We headed onwards. It was getting steep. We came to Brownstone Battery, where Froward Point Coastguard Station is located. The wind was really picking up now, and we could see huge clouds of rain coming in from the sea. We debated seeking shelter in the battery, but decided we were intrepid, so I dug out my trusty crampons. Thank goodness I had thought to pack them! I have only ever used them on Christmas holidays in Norway before.

Brownstone Battery

Brownstone Battery was our first stop on the hike from Kingswear to Brixham
Me, crampons in hand, telling E that we have loads of these batteries in Norway (ours were mostly built by the Germans during the occupation, though, whereas Brownstone Battery was built by the Brits [how is that for alliteration?] for their own defence) and that now ours are all full of grafitti…
Graffiti inside one of the bunkers at Brownstone Battery
… and then moments later we saw this. 😂
Things we didn't know about the path from Kingswear to Brixham: Here be dragons!
Things you find out in hindsight: The rock on the left is called Mew Stone, the one in the middle is Shag Stone and the one on the right is The Dragon’s Tail. That’s right. Hic sunt dracones!
Never going to get over the incredible colours of the sea here.
E taking a photo of me taking a photo of the sea
A mid-jump photo of E
Is it bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a woman with inexhaustible amounts of energy, and I’m not jealous at all.

We scrambled down the hill as fast as we could, trying to beat the rain, which we sorta kinda managed, in the sense that the wind suddenly blew the rain in a different direction. Phew!

Then we encountered England’s largest slug…

A hideously long brown slug
Muddy shoe for scale… *shudder*

Mill Bay

On we went, past Mill Bay and the back of the National Trust property Coleton Fishacre. Eventually, we met another human being!

By now it had started to rain quite a bit, so I had to stop so I could put on my equally trusty single-use rain poncho. I swear by these things, they weigh less than a rain coat, take up much less space in your backpack than a raincoat, are more water proof than a rain coat and breathe better than a rain coat (in the sense that they are wide open at the bottom). They are also much cheaper than a rain coat! AND they go over your backpack, so you don’t need a rain cover. Plus, they are not really single-use, you can easily reuse them over and over again. I have carried mine on all my South West Coast Path hikes so far, but this is the first time I’ve had to put it on.

Hiding from the rain somewhere near Coleton Fishacre, hoping I can dig my rain poncho out of my backpack without getting everything wet.
Yours truly modelling the very latest in rain poncho fashions
The hood was too big, though, so I fashioned this oh-so-stylish top knot.

Anyway, to paraphrase Bilbo Baggins: The road went ever on and on!

Another bend in the path, another promontory

To our amazement, we met two more humans.
A rainbow appeared. More rain clouds. Then another rainbow.

Rainbow One
Big rain clouds, tiny E
Rainbow Two

Long Sands

By and by, we spotted Long Sands in the distance. We guessed at the correct pronunciation of Woodhuish and I theorised that the name, like so many other exotic-sounding place names nearby, must be of Dutch origin. (I’ve only just googled it. I was totally wrong.)

First glimpse of Long Sands on our hike from Kingswear to Brixham
Long Sands

Long Sands was so pretty, and the water looked weirdly inviting due to its turqoise colour. But by now we had realised how much the muddiness and squelchiness and slipperiness was slowing us down, so we didn’t go down onto the beach.

Leg day

One of my mud-covered, be-cramponed, bright orange sneakers


We kept moving.

We tried to avoid a huge puddle of mud, but failed.

By now my feet were sopping wet.

I know, it’s my own fault for wearing sneakers instead of hiking boots.

It’s just that hiking boots aren’t comfortable for my hobbit feet.

So sneakers it is.

Anyway, we climbed yet another hill.

By now I was getting seriously tired…

E seemed tired, too.

Turns out the woman is a natural born actress, though.

It took a few more hours before I realised:

She was just being kind.

In my defence, I had destroyed my legs in an epic gym session just three days earlier. Legs normally recover in two days, but clearly not mine. Not this time, anyway.

That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

E v gate: 1-0
Me v gate: 0-1
E handled Watergate with poise and aplomb. I didn’t fare quite as well with Muddygate.
The soft grass-covered hills surrounding Long Sands in Devon
Looking back at Long Sands. What a spectacular landscape! Windows XP ain’t got nothing on the South Hams.

Man Sands

Our main problem now was that we had been out on the path for too long, and the sun was beginning to set. Yup. Not ideal. But look! What ho? ‘Tis Man Sands, or Mansands, as the National Trust spells it. We crossed a field full of cows that were a bit too interested in us for our comfort, and made it safely onto the beach.

Teeny glimpse of Man Sands
Starting the descent to Man Sands on our hike from Kingswear to Brixham

Two brave ladies were having a sunset dip in the sea. They were intrepid, but we were intrepider. You see, we had to wade across a river, and we didn’t have any dry shoes to change into afterwards. Oh, the joys.

Still, after wading through mud for hours, it wasn’t like my feet could get any wetter. So I just forged right ahead. It literally made no difference.

At this point we had the privilege of climbing South Down Cliff, aka Southdown Cliff, depending on whether you’re reading the sign at the bottom or the top of said cliff. And this was where I hit the wall. No, not literally. Figuratively. It took me forever and a half to get up that hill.


I was rewarded with some spectacular sunset views of Man Sands, though.

Sun setting over the hills behind Man Sands
Man Sands at sunset
Spectacular sunset at Man Sands during our hike from Kingswear to Brixham

Worth it, am I right? It was absolutely spectacular!

Darkness falls across the land

Then it got dark. And then it got darker. Then it got darker than dark. It got pitch black. We were now bordering on Type 3 fun. In the far distance, we could see the light from Berry Head Lighthouse. Needless to say, we were not going to make it that far.

Finally spotting Berry Head Lighthouse on our hike from Kingswear to Brixham
View from Sharkham Point towards Berry Head Lighthouse

Using the torches on our mobile phones, we picked our way through the muddiness that once used to be a coast path. We came to a beach. We couldn’t really see it very well. The map said it was St Mary’s Bay. We reckoned St Mary’s Bay was probably a beautiful bay. You know. During daylight hours.

Arriving at St Mary's Bay towards the end of our long hike from Kingswear to Brixham
St Mary’s Bay, Brixham. The photo has been edited, it was not this light IRL!

Friends again

This was when Google Maps redeemed themselves, though. I got a bit stroppy with Google Maps during my SWCP hard hike around the Exe Estuary (<– there’s a video of that! 😂). They led me seriously astray that day.

But here, in the dark, and the cold, and the mud, Google Maps redeemed themselves. They showed us that there is a shortcut from the South West Coast Path through the Riviera Bay Holiday Park – which led right back to our car.

Yours truly using my phone torch to see where I'm going towards the end of our hike from Kingswear to Brixham
First we had to climb a few more muddy hills covered in slippery wet leaves, though

Below is my last photo from the hike from Kingswear to Brixham. I took it so we would know where we need to start from when we come back here to complete this leg of the coast path. Good luck to us finding this place again – we’re gonna need it!

Something that looks like a rock silhuetted against a dark blue sky

In other words: Mainly Type 2 fun, with a fair bit of Type 1 at the start of the hike, but definitely bordering on Type 3 before the hike was over!


Stats: 15.83 km from Kingswear to Brixham (not including Berry Head) in 6h 23m not including breaks. Total time was almost 7h. Active calorie burn 1863 (felt like 2,700). Time in peak heart rate zone: 109. A new PB and then some! Ascent: somewhere between 828 metres (Apple Fitness) and 889 metres (Strava).
Company: My lovely friend E, who is so sweet that she pretends to be tired to protect my feelings. Now that is true friendship.
Weather: Cloudy, rainy, windy, 81% humidity and 11 degrees. Two rainbows.
Fauna: Two bees and a butterfly. A field full of cows. A field full of sheep. And England’s longest slug.
Flora: Pine forests! And an evening primrose.
Parking: Free, along a residential road in Brixham.
Would I do it again? Ehhhh… Maybe? I’m really not sure…

PS: Check out all my other hikes along the South West Coast Path!

Post scriptum: When I got home and took my muddy shoes off, my socks were muddy underneath. When I took my muddy socks off, my feet were muddy underneath. There was a lot of mud.

And did I mention that it was steep?