Devon Life discovers the perfect summer day in Kingsbridge and Salcombe

Summer Days<br/><br/>Trudy Turrell explores the southernmost parts of Devon that, on a sunny day, can feel more like the Mediterranean than an English county. Photos by Jim Brown, Kingsbridge and District Camera Club

Summer Days in Kingsbridge and Salcombe

Trudy Turrell explores the southernmost parts of Devon that, on a sunny day, can feel more like the Mediterranean than an English county. Photos by Jim Brown, Kingsbridge and District Camera Club

 If you fancy sailing on turquoise waters or lazing on sandy beaches, strolling along streets lined with candy-coloured cottages or marvelling at gardens where palms and sometimes even bananas grow, there’s no need to hop on a plane. The South Hams towns of Salcombe and Kingsbridge, linked by estuary waters and miles of creeks, will give you that miles-away holiday feeling – without the cost or carbon footprint!

 A brush with the past.

Rain or shine, Kingsbridge is a fascinating town for all ages. From the head of the estuary, its steep, winding Fore Street is packed with individual shops. Climb it slowly and as you go, you’ll discover the town’s rich history, too: explore the ‘back doubles’ to find the water-filled leats that once powered the town’s huge mills; breathe in through Squeezebelly Lane; spot the fine ironwork once forged at the old Lidstone foundry in Church Street (Lidstones the butcher has a fine iron sign – they’ve been trading here for over a century).

If that’s whetted your appetite, the Cookworthy Museum at the top of the hill comes recommended. Once the town’s old grammar school, the museum houses 20,000 objects and includes a Victorian kitchen and outdoor farm gallery complete with wagons and old cider presses.

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On the way, don’t miss the independent Reel Cinema, housed under an iconic clock tower, or Busy Bees, just off Fore Street in King’s Market – it’s a cornucopia of craft, from knitting wools to art equipment. There are lots of kits and inspiration to keep children busy over the holidays. Further up the hill, the window of Mangetout should lure you in to this delectable deli; squeeze through the busy shop to the caf� behind for a packed gourmet sandwich – ‘Passage to India’, ‘Ham it up’, or ‘Nutty Nanny’ full of goats’ cheese look as inspiring as they sound and salads are filling not just leafy. If the sun is shining, grab a picnic of quiche, salad and cake and enjoy in Kingsbridge’s best-kept secret: Tresillian Community Garden at the top of the hill. There’s plenty to inspire as you munch amongst the backdrop of flower and vegetable beds spilling over with produce. You can even pick and buy some to take home.

 Keep the kids active

Kingsbridge Quay is great for a wander beside the water’s edge. Walk around to Duncombe Park and the children can let off steam in the newly refurbished play park. With sand for the tinies, and slides built into the hillside, they’ll be happily occupied for an hour or so. On the way back, it’s always worth calling into Harbour House to catch the latest local art exhibition and enjoy tea or lunch in the flower-filled garden behind.

Enjoy a swim with a view: Quayside Leisure Centre, with its glass wall onto the estuary and quay, provides a lovely sunlit space in which to do some lengths or simply relax in the water. There’s an excellent warm and large shallow pool for young children and non-swimmers.

 Market fresh

Kingsbridge has had a market since medieval times; today, it has one of the best farmers’ markets in Devon. Held on the first and third Saturday of the month, its stalls full of local vegetables, bread, meat and hot chillis from nearby South Devon Chilli Farm cover The Quay. Also good is the Kingsbridge Country Market, held in the town hall every Wednesday. Go early to get the pick of the homemade cakes, pies, plants and crafts on offer.

 Watch the boat show

Wrapped around a hillside that dives into the estuary, the charming streets of Salcombe all lead down to the water’s edge. From the Victorian sea captains’ houses above to the tightly packed cottages near the shore, it’s the wide view of the estuary that compels. A theatre of boats coming and going; yachts racing, ferries plying to and from beaches, crab boats, the lifeboat, windsurfers and learner sailors... the estuary’s calm but varied waters attract as many as 1,500 visiting yachts in August. Grab yourself a grandstand view at a waterside pub – the Ferry Boat Inn offers one of the best – or try coffee at The Wardroom right over the water’s edge before you explore more.

For those seeking to look the part, Fore Street is crammed with shops selling classy casuals inspired by the sea. Choose from Joules, Seasalt, Jack Wills, Fat Face, Musto and more, or browse Amelia’s Attic for a girly change from the outdoorsy look. Whilst the adults indulge in a little retail therapy, the children will enjoy a stop in Fore Street, too. For more than 140 years, Cranch’s distinctive pink and white sweet shop has delighted youngsters of all ages. Next door there’s more temptation in the form of Salcombe Dairy ice cream, which is made just around the corner. Delectable honeycomb is a firm favourite, but it’s fast being overtaken by chocolate cookie newcomer ‘Salcombe mud’!

If you want to linger over your latte, buy the children a crabbing line and a rasher of bacon in Hingstons (they’ll even chop it up for you!) and hang your baited line over Victoria Quay. After a brief spell in the bucket, the catch can be released after its bacon snack. Talking of which, I’d recommend a visit to Salcombe’s baker The Upper Crust for a baguette baked by Jerome, its real French baker. Partner it with local cheese, olives or add a quiche from the Salcombe Deli for an instant picnic to carry to the beach.

 Get afloat

You don’t need to own a yacht to join those making the most of the turquoise waters. A short trip on the East Portlemouth Ferry takes you across the water to the wondrous sandy beaches of East Portlemouth or Mill Bay, which offer sheltered swimming and to-die-for views of Salcombe. The slightly longer trip to South Sands offers back garden views of Salcombe and out to sea, and a trip on the Rivermaid, combining a visit to Kingsbridge, takes you the length of the estuary with views down its winding creeks (

If you fancy taking the helm yourself, try a taster sail with ICC Salcombe, which has been training sailors in the estuary since 1951. Try a day or really get away from it all with a week-long course, staying on a converted Mersey ferry, The Egremont, moored in the estuary. In August there are special children’s sailing weeks, too (

Right on the beach, South Sands Sailing offers tasters on Toppers, catamarans, kayaks and sea kayaks, giving you the chance to try the challenging coastal waters. In just two hours you can experience the thrill of powering along with the wind in your sails; older children can join in, too. Taster sessions start at �45 for sailing, �35 for a half-day kayaking (

Try the latest craze of stand-up paddleboarding or jump off a cliff into the water below on a coasteering session with Sea and Shore. A stand-up paddling lesson costs �39 (

 Go tropical

See if the bananas are bearing fruit this year in the National Trust’s gardens at Overbecks. Overlooking the mouth of the estuary, the sub-tropical gardens have an unparalleled setting, and inside the house are the eclectic collections of its eccentric owner, Otto Overbeck. Children will adore the small room full of dolls’ house furniture (

 Best beaches

The coastline beyond Salcombe boasts some of the best beaches in Devon. Particular favourites are Bantham; flanked by acres of sand dunes, it’s a great place to surf and enjoy some rockpooling. Just across the Erme (don’t cross it on foot — use the ferry) is Bigbury-on-Sea. Famed for its island topped by an art deco hotel, it is cut off when the tide comes in, but hopping aboard the special sea tractor gives a ‘Famous Five’ feel to the day out!

Back towards Salcombe, the National Trust beach at South Milton offers yet more fabulous rockpooling, right up to the holed ‘parson and clerk’ rock formation. It’s a sheltered place to swim, too. A short leg stretch along the coast path takes you to Hope Cove. Thatched cottages cluster around its two beaches and wild headland stretches beyond. With a couple of beach cafes and the Hope and Anchor Inn, it’s a popular spot for families.

If you prefer walking boots to a bikini, the coastline either side of the estuary offers a wonderful stretch of Coast Path. Head out from East Portlemouth towards East Prawle to walk the crest of the cliffs, past beaches, the site of shipwrecks and past Bronze Age fields, where you hear just skylarks and the sea below. �•

To see more photos by members of the Kingsbridge & Distric Camera Club, visit

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