Devon’s South Hams: *East Prawle to Gara Rock and Back- 5.5 miles rugged coastline–O/S Explorer OL2
The glorious South Hams at it's strange best. Links to East Portlemouth trail if you want a longer trek.
Some walks are pleasant, others lovely or challenging. In the Westcountry many are stunning. This is one of them. It’s getting there that’s pleasant and lovely. And, with few main arteries and a maze of narrow lanes, it’s challenging too. But worth it.
The walk doesn’t start at East Prawle but near the Coast Guard Cottages at East Prawle National Trust Car Park. Easy to find. Carry on past the public toilets on your right as you enter the village and keep going until you reach the end a mile or so further on.
You don’t need a map for this walk. The coast path is well marked and you’re heading west. Before setting off, check out the information board in the car park. That mound of earth below, about halfway between you and the beach with a concrete party hat on, was a top-secret radar station. Look left and you’ll spot another, both from World War II. Eyes at the sky rather than in it. To your right at Prawle Point and worth taking a short detour to the lookout station and visitor centre, even if it means dragging your eyes away from the scenery.
Leaving the coastguards to their work, look down at the rocky coastline for wreckage. Thrown up on the rocks some bits have rusted red, and the rest emerges as the tide ebbs. This is – or was – the Demetrios, wrecked during a storm in 1992. It’s not alone. This place is a ships graveyard going back to the Bronze Age. A look at a map (Prawle point juts out into the sea) and the rocky coast below explains why.
There are several idyllic sandy beaches along the way, mostly difficult to get to but not impossible. You've also got two lines of Bronze Age boundary stones to admire at Decklers Cliff. Those Celts had muscle.
The first beach, beneath high cliffs is a beauty but a hard climb. Don’t worry if you don’t fancy it, others equally as lovely are along the way.
As you make your way through the gorse, the foxgloves and the seapinks (if you pick a May walk) and past other beaches, you’ll see a path leading left off the coast path along a steep narrow ridge (see leading picture). At the end of this, by a little waterfall is where we picnicked. I’m not going to recommend you do the same unless you’re sure of your footing. A slip here and you’re unlikely to survive the fall. If by some miracle you do, you’ll have a collection of broken bones to keep you awake until the tide and crabs come to finish you off. - Just saying.
Toward the end of the walk with Gara Rock hotel and a small round lookout station glinting white above, there’s the easiest beach to access. Lovely soft sand and plenty of space to find a quite spot to change for a swim. After that, climb up to the hotel for tea, cake and lovely views before heading back.
As your probably saw on the information board at the car park, there are circular walks. Personally, I think the coastline is worth sticking to for the return journey. It always looks different (light, tide etc) and has so much more to offer than the field and lane alternatives.
Back at East Prawle village there’s the Pigs Nose pub not to be missed. Great ales, and a roaring fire in winter.
If you fancy a longer walk you can combine it with East Portlemouth (see the blog) and spend a whole day in this paradise.