Join my friend E and I on a picturesque winter hike in glorious sunshine along the South West Coast Path from Hope Cove to Salcombe in Devon!
This might be a bit of a spoiler, but the most dramatic event of the day actually took place a good while before we even began our hike from Hope Cove to Salcombe! E was driving along and had just rounded the bend on a busy road with lots of fast traffic when we suddenly saw, silhouetted against the early morning sunlight, a dog in the middle of the lane! Fortunately, E has excellent reflexes, but as she slowed down, a big lorry came round the bend behind us, at which point we thought we’d have to either hit the dog or be hit by the lorry ourselves… Thank goodness the lorry driver ALSO had excellent reflexes!
Meanwhile, a small, white, curly-haired scamp who clearly was called Simba, was running around our car (which was now at a standstill) and having a whale of a time. His poor owner, who was walking along the side of the road with another dog, seemed surprisingly relaxed about the whole situation, but in retrospect I think he must have been exhausted. I suspect Simba had been running around off-lead for quite a while when we came along. Anyway, I opened the door and hoped curiosity would get the better of the cat, I mean dog, and it worked.
I grabbed his scruff and held on as tight as I could until the owner came along with the lead. Simba didn’t mind at all, he was still having a fabulous morning… The poor owner apologised and thanked us over and over again, got Simba back on the lead, tightened the collar, and moved out of the road as fast as he could. E and I are both dog lovers and current/former dog owners, so we could fully appreciate what a total nightmare the whole experience must have been for him. Thank goodness the little doggie – and no one else – was hurt!
After that, the only thing that got our heart rates up were the uphills, but that is how we like it! 😂🥾
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Ok, let’s resume normal programming and get back to the actual hike from Hope Cove to Salcombe.
We found free parking along a residential road in Hope Cove and set out at exactly 11 am. Hope Cove was lovely, such a pretty and quaint little village! This is definitely a place I would like to return to, although I can imagine it gets really busy in the summer months.
Bolt Tail Iron Age Hill Fort
Finding the coast path was not difficult – there is only ever one place it can be, really, and that is as close to the sea as possible! We took a slight detour out onto a headland called Bolt Tail, because Paddy’s guide book to the South West Coast Path told us the views were well worth it. An information board told us in ca 300 BC, this was the location of an Iron Age Hill Fort.
Paddy was not wrong about the detour being worth it. Before long, we were treated to a wonderful view back to Hope Cove. We did our by now customary funny poses and moved swiftly(-ish) on.
We passed some tiny sea stacks (which probably weren’t actual sea stacks, but rather boulders that had tumbled into the sea), climbed some funny rock formation and befriended the local sheep.
Celebrity sightings and scary cows
We passed the Palmers Point lookout, and once we had passed Oceans Restaurant and a National Trust property called Bolberry Down, things started to become really interesting. Primarily because I swear I saw one of my favourite celebrity crushes – or rather, heard him, because he was wearing both a cap and sunglasses. It was his voice I recognised. Secondly because our path was blocked by some stunningly beautiful but also very scary-looking Highland Cattle (those horns!). And thirdly because the landscape became a lot craggier and started giving serious Dartmoor-next-the-Sea vibes.
Soar Mill Cove
At the bottom of the hill, we found Soar Mill Cove, where two intrepid girls were having a dip in the sea. Did I mention this was in January?
I wonder if they were the same two girls that were enjoying some cold water immersion therapy when we hiked through Man Sands in November?
Meanwhile, E and I agreed that having Soar as an address must be very uplifting.
That is, until we realised that pronunciation-wise, you can’t really tell it apart from Sore…
Anyway, the two big rocks in the water on the photo below are called the Priest and Clerk rocks.
That has actually made me a bit sad, because after seeing The Dragon’s Tail at Froward Point, I really wanted this to be called The Dragon’s Back! 😂
It really does look like a dragon’s back, doesn’t it? 🐉
You’re half expecting it to raise its head from the water and yawn.
Or is that just my imagination running rampant as usual?
Fantastical rock formations
After we left Soar Mill Cove, the Dartmoor-next-the-Sea theme continued, and the rock formations began taking on the shapes of fairy tale castles and fortresses. This time it definitely wasn’t just my overactive imagination – just look!
I love how the clouds in these photos make it look like the sky is sparkling!
We eventually tore our eyes away from the endlessly fascinating rock formations, and kept going. Before long, we passed by another National Trust property called Overbeck’s Garden, which I’ve since found out is a subtropical garden. At this point the sun was so low that it was hidden by the cliff we had just walked around, so subtropical was a word that was very far from our minds.
We then arrived at South Sands, which I thought was Salcombe, but oh no. So no. Very, very no.
Our hike from Hope Cove to Salcombe was not over yet. In order to get to Salcombe, we had to walk up the steepest, evillest hill of them all. How cruel is that? The temptation to take an extended break at South Sands Hotel, immediately opposite the beach, was overwhelming. Still, on we trudged. One of us may have pulled the other one up a big part of that evil hill. I won’t mention any names. The surroundings were stunning, however.
After conquering the epic hill, we arrived at North Sands, where we enjoyed the spectacular sunset views of Fort Charles (aka Salcombe Castle) and the Kingsbridge estuary.
Eventually we made it all the way to Salcombe ‘proper’, at which point E had already located a Mexican restaurant nearby(-ish). So we took a taxi back to our car in Hope Cove (£15.60 and a very friendly taxi driver who naturally knew everything there was to know about the area). Then we drove to Kingsbridge, where we proceeded to stuff our faces with the delectable, if a little pricey, food at La Ranchera. 😋
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Stats: 15.66 km from Hope Cove to Salcombe in exactly 6h including breaks, with an active calorie burn of 1600 and an ascent of somewhere between 351 metres (Google Maps), 492 metres (Apple Fitness) and 932 metres (Strava). I’m inclined to trust my Apple Watch on this one. (It definitely wasn’t 932 metres!)
Company: My lovely friend E, who to my enormous benefit has an alpine hike coming up and needs to train for it! So there will be lots of coast path hikes in the coming months, though probably we will be focusing on the steeper ones! 😂
Weather: Sunshine and clear blue skies the whole time! 7 degrees, felt like 4, and not too windy.
Fauna: Ewes, cows and a sea gull colony.
Flora: Not much. Mainly indeterminate shrubs and the odd gorse bush. Most surprising was the blossoming camelia in some of the gardens in Salcombe and the enormous agave stalks!
Parking: Free, along a residential road in Hope Cove
Taxi: £15.60 from Salcombe to Hope Cove, and that included a good conversation
Would I do it again? You betcha!