East Devon Coastal: Sidmouth to Ladram Bay (circular) 4 - 6 miles - OS Explorer 115
In the late 18th century with the Napoleonic Wars keeping the rich from their Mediterranean haunts, Emmanuel Lousada spotted a business opportunity and turned a fishing village between spectacular red sandstone cliffs on Devon’s south coast into a holiday destination for the privileged. It became THE place to go and many fine Regency (and later) houses reflect it was also THE place to live; Queen Victoria amongst them for a while.
Generally easy going. Cafés pubs and everything else you could want at Sidmouth. Free parking at the top of Peak Hill.
Start by walking out of Jane’s front door or, if you’re not me, from the town centre (paying). A free alternative is to drive west out of Sidmouth along the coast road (Peak Hill) and park free at Mutter's car park on the right at the top of the hill. This is a short walk if you're starting from here, so you could extend it by walking inland to explore Mutter's Moor.
Presuming your starting from Sidmouth, head west along the sea front and enjoy the Regency masterpieces, mostly hotels, and, at the end, thatched cottages. Keep to the beach and you’ll proceed under a unique sandstone overhang. Carved into it are centuries of love messages and hearts. It emerges onto a pebble beach with a steep ladder (Jacob’s) giving access to municipal gardens and a tea house (good cake and fabulous views) at the top.
Follow the road from here up Peak hill before cutting off onto the coast path. It’s all well signed.
Woods, a short section of heath followed by farmland and more woodland are what you’ll experience from here on with fabulous views to a perfect valley and stunning coastline.
Eventually the path heads down to Ladram Bay. You’ll know you’re there by the spectacular sandstone sea stacks and caravans.
Those sea stacks are remnants of collapsed caves carved by the ocean into Triassic sandstone. The sandstone was formed by flash floods in what was then, around 250 million years ago, a desert. Though often referred to as the Jurassic coast, this stone proceeds that period.
Ladram bay itself is a lovely pebble crescent, surprisingly unspoilt by the caravan park, which has excellent facilities (tea, beer, a heated pool, play areas for the kids while you down a pint of Proper Job).
Before it was a caravan park it was another of those smugglers haunts this coastline is famous for; the pebble beach perfect for nosing a small boat onto, unloading fast and hiding contraband in the caves (It beats hiring deckchairs for a living… and tax free!).
Going off track across the Atlantic but who cares, H.D. Thoreau, an American who hated tax and authority, wrote in his diary (in 1853) that he loved nature because 'she is not a man.' Men and their laws made him wish for another world. Miss Nature made him content with this one. I happened to read about him the morning of this January walk and saw his point. A clear cold day between the grey drizzly ones we've
been having, nature with its best frock on, and when the evening came she scrubbed up particularly well in a low sun.
You can make this a circular walk by taking a path just beyond the caravan site's shop (It's actually a great little shop and no, I'm not being paid to say that). It's well signposted. Personally, I'd go back the way you came after enjoying an ice cream on the beach. There's a fresh fish kiosk there too.