16. South Devon Coastal: Scabbacombe - Man Sands (part circular) - 5 miles - OS Explorer OL20

A couple of tough hills but worth the effort.

Take your binoculars, there’s a bird hide.

Walk starts at Scabbacombe Beach car park. Get there via the Torbay to Kingswear Road (A379 – B3206). After turning onto the B3206, Slappers Hill (I know, I find it hard to believe too), take the first left after about half a mile onto Broad Road toward Coleton Fishacre. Keep left where the lane forks away from a sign to Coleton Fishacre. Scabbacombe car park is half a mile further on your right, signposted. National Trust, so pop a couple of quid in the box.

Start of walk is a track in the far-left corner of the car park. Stunning valley views to your left. At the end of the track, enter a field and go left, following the fence down to the coast path. Head east, taking a deep breath for the steep climb ahead, and follow to Man Sands.

Approaching Man Sands you’ll see a pond and marshland behind the beach and paths/tracks each side of it. Go left up the track on the western side. About a third of a mile up there’s a bird hide. We spent fifteen minutes watching blue tits and goldfinches at a bird feeder and, down on and by the pond, all sorts of waterfowl. Delightful.

Marching on, ignore a path/steps to your right and continue for about half-a-mile to a footpath sign to Mill Lane. Another marvelous valley walk to enjoy. A gnarled old tree with a low horizontal branch provided the perfect seat for the day’s picnic here (don’t laugh, I like picnics). At the bottom of the hill there’s a footbridge. Cross and go right. The ground could be marshy here but it’s not far to a farm gate and, to the left, a stile to Mill Lane. A sheep’s skull on a branch was either pointing the way to the style or warning of dire consequences for anyone who trespassed.

Turn right down the path/track

called Mill Lane to arrive at Man Sands beach, then right to retrace the coast path. Follow this all the way back, plus a little further onto to Scabbacombe beach. Well worth exploring for it’s colourful and varied geology, of which I know bugger all. Hidden at the far left is a waterfall. Perfect for a shower if you decide to swim. A haunt of nudists, you needn’t worry about trunks. Well, not the cotton kind at least.

Heading back to the coast path, turn back eastward (right) for a few yards until you come to a path on your left heading up a steep grassy hill. This will take you back to the track for the car park.

A fine walk with quiet beaches but it lacks amenities. If you fancy recovering with a cuppa or pinta, drive onto Kingswear. The railway station here stood in for Exeter Railway Station in the movie, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

The pub just up from it is the hotel Meryl Streep’s character scuttles into.

If you fancy a view while you relax, jump on the ferry to Dartmouth. Up the slipway and left you’ll find the Dartmouth Arms. A real, old fashioned, pub with simple food and good ales. Take your tipple outside, find a bench and enjoy watching people messing about on the river. Don't mention the skull.