South West Coast Path Thurlestone to Bantham

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From the sublime to the ridiculously picturesque is but a few steps on Devon’s premier hiking trail

Coastal walks come in one of two varieties: there are the idyllic ones, featuring gardenlike landscapes full of picturesque little villages. The Italian and French Riviera is full of such calm and civilized walks. This is nature on a human scale: truly the small outdoors.

"signposts to the South West Coast Path Thurlestone to Bantham trail"

But there are also coastal trails that are every bit as sublime as mountain walks – full of craggy cliffs, windswept grasslands and stone formations that look as though they had been flown in from Mars.

The South West Coast Path sits somewhere in the middle, combining the best of these two worlds. Mind you, there is quite a lot of coast on this path, 630 miles of it to be precise, so one should expect that there is room for a large variety of landscapes: the stark, bleak, and monumental …

"The South West Coast Path Thurlestone to Milton Sands"

… as well as the peaceful and pastoral.

"the South West Coast Path Thurlestone to Bantham"

What’s more surprising is that you can find both of these varieties in such close proximity. Milton Sands and Bantham harbour, the motives for the above two pictures, are separated by only a couple of miles and both located on the relatively short stretch within easy reach from our hotel, 2 or 3 miles either way of Thurlestone.

Hiking the South West Coast Path Thurlestone to Bantham

On our first day, we had turned left towards Milton Sands (Read our first impressions on the South West Coast Path here.) For our second visit of the South West Coast Path, we turn right out of the golf course, past stunning scenery …


… and before long, Burgh Island comes into view.


The sole building on the island is a luxury Art Deco hotel (built in 1927), which is rumoured to have served as a love nest for Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson (after her divorce from Homer, presumably). Churchill and Eisenhower met here during WWII to discuss the Normandy landing, and Agatha Christie (who was born in Devon) set two of her books here: And Then There Were None (aka 10 Little Indians and something even more unspeakable before that), and Evil Under The Sun, the TV adaptation of which was actually filmed here (the 2001 film featuring David Suchet as Poirot, that is, not the 1982 movie with Peter Ustinov for which the story was moved to the Mediterranean).

You can visit the island (although not the hotel) by walking across the causeway at low tide – the island lies a mere 250 metres off the coast – or, at high tide, by using a customized transport vehicle, called a sea tractor. This is what such a passage would look like.


The problem is that the Thurlestone trail and Bigbury, from where the sea tractors take off, are separated by the river Avon (not the same river as Shakespeare’s Avon, by the way). There is no bridge anywhere near, and no matter how tempting and shallow the river may look just before it joins the sea, …

IMG_0198 -01

… you cannot just walk across.

Ferries cross over from Bantham harbour, a short walk down off the trail proper, …

Ferry part-01

….from 27 April to 19 September, which meant that we had arrived less than a week too early.

As a little comfort, however, Bantham has a quaint little village inn where they serve sandwiches and light snacks, to be washed down by the locally brewed beer.

From Bantham, use the inland route to walk back to Thurlestone, following the arrow on the signpost in the middle of the village.

At the end of the path, walk through the iron gate and continue uphill.


At the top of the hill, turn around for one last view of Burgh Island …


… and then cross the meadow ahead of you diagonally to the right, eventually joining a foot path that hugs the golf course. After a short while, Thurleston will come back into view.


This is the second of two easy hikes we made starting from the Thurlestone Hotel, where we were guests.

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2 comments to South West Coast Path Thurlestone to Bantham

  • It’s a beautiful area for easy hiking, Penny. What more, there’s the possible reward of getting some really good Devon cream tea as a reward for your efforts.

  • Hey this looks lovely. Such a great area for hiking I agree. I’ve been reading about hikes in California. I’m more of the super duper easy hike variety. :))

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