Sun-soaked and salty, the pastel-hued sailing town of Salcombe makes a great day trip. We pick our favourite things to do in and around Salcombe.
1. Amble around town
Salcombe is a gem of a town, with ancient narrow streets, pastel-coloured houses, boutique shops, art galleries, delicatessens and a bay bobbing with fishing boats. It’s a popular sailing destination, too, with ‘up-country’ yachtie visitors flock here in their hundreds in the summer. Island Street gives a taste of artisanal Salcombe – here you’ll find boat builders and art galleries, and even live lobster and crab on sale alongside buckets and spades, wetsuits, fishing tackle and chandlers. It’s also the home of local favourite Salcombe Dairy Ice Cream.
2. Bask on the beach
It’s hard to choose from the array of beauties on the south coast, but Mill Bay, a quick ferry ride across the water from Salcombe, tops our list for being seaweed-free and warmed by the sun all day. In the summer, it gets busy, so take an Ordnance Survey map to walk to quieter coves further up the coast, or hire a tender boat from town. Further west along the coast, at Bantham beach, wetsuits outnumber bikinis on south Devon’s only surf beach. Look out for stand-up paddle surfers, a quirky new take on the sport. Our other favourite beaches near Salcombe include Thurlestone Sands, South Sands and Soar Mill Cove. Read our guide to Devon’s best beaches for more information.
3. Walk the South West Coastal Path
Britain’s longest footpath traces the north and south coasts of Devon, offering easy access to wild and windswept cliffs, secluded sandy coves and tiny hamlets. The three-hour walk from Bolt Tail, near Hope Cove, to Bolt Head, near Salcombe, is our favourite, offering perfect beaches and jagged headlands. For a longer walk, start further up the coast at Bantham, and stop off at The Beach House (www.beachhousedevon.com) at South Milton Sands for lunch en route. Start Point is another popular coastal walk, with a characterful pub, the Pig’s Nose, at one end (see below).
4. Drink in an old pirate’s island haunt
The Pilchard Inn is a creaky, weather-beaten smugglers inn dating from 1336 oozing with swashbuckling history: ask about the pirates’ escape tunnel. Getting there is all part of the fun. Perched on the tiny, tidal outcrop of Burgh Island, surrounded by sandy beaches and choppy seas, it’s cut off from the mainland twice a day so you’ll need to consult a tide table when planning your visit. When the seas have parted, it’s a short walk across the spit. When the waters start coming in, a high-sided ‘sea tractor’ ferries passengers. TQ7 4BG
5. Have dinner at art deco Burgh Island
This vintage art deco hotel is perched atop a privately owned island just off the south Devon coast, and is much as it was when Winston Churchill, Noel Coward and Agatha Christie beat a path to its door in its 1930s heyday. Non-residents can only dine there on Sundays. Booking essential. TQ7 4BG
6. Hang ten
Discovery Surf School offer lessons for beginners through to advanced surfers from their base in Bigbury-On-Sea all year round. A two-hour beginner lesson is £38. TQ7 4AR
7. Eat crispy squid at The Beach House
This weather-beaten clapboard shack overlooking the dramatic sea arch of Thurlestone is right on the beach, making it a perfect pit stop for a coastal walk. Crab cakes, crispy squid and bacon sandwiches are served up on rustic wooden tables in an amiable atmosphere. Check ahead for opening times. TQ7 3JY.
8. Shuck oysters
Don’t be put off by the garish décor at this former oyster farm: the freshness of the oysters at The Oyster Shack is famous. Handpicked from the River Avon less than half a mile away, the meaty molluscs are served with a huge selection of mouth-watering sauces. TQ7 4BE.
9. Eat at The Millbrook Inn
Probably the only place in Devon where pigs’ trotter patties and escargots appear on the same menu, this cosy pub is old school Devon meets French auberge. On a babbling brook and close to a tranquil creek, it’s accessible by boat from Salcombe so, in summer, yachtie crowds come and go with the tides. There’s live gypsy Jazz every Sunday and fish barbecues in the summer. TQ7 2RW
10. Drink at the Pigs Nose, East Prawl
South west of Salcombe, on a beautiful stretch of coastal path, is this whitewashed smuggler’s inn. Run by a delightfully eccentric music manager, its played host to The Animals, The Yardbirds, the Boomtown Rats and Curiosity Killed the Cat,and still stages regular acts. The knitting corner is for customers who prefer a quieter pint. TQ7 2B.
11. Have lunch at the Winking Prawn
With a salty location on the North Sands, the Winking Prawn beach café and BBQ is the perfect stop for a sunny lunch, ice cream or the inevitable cream tea. Cracked crab, lobster and sea bream fillets are amongst the main course attractions.