Along a South Devon coastline that is littered with stunning beaches and coves, there is one place that, for me at least, stands out above all. And that's Bigbury-on-Sea and Burgh Island. OK, so that sounds like two places, but in my head they are just one, the former a mainland beach, the latter an island a short distance offshore, the two linked at low tide by a wide sandy beach/sandbar.

If such a description doesn't make this place special enough, then the cherry on the cake is the glorious estuary of the River Avon, lying just to the east, another site at low tide of extensive sandbars that stretch from Bigbury all the way across to the sandy beach at Bantham on the opposite side of the estuary. Beyond the estuary and stretching between Bigbury/Burgh Island and Bantham is a bay that is hugely popular with surfers, windsurfers and kite-surfers, attracted by the waves that regularly sweep in, and the prevailing onshore winds coming in from the south west.

At high tide, admittedly Bigbury doesn't have much of a beach, but at low tide it is transformed into a magnificent expanse of sand, stretching southwards to Burgh Island, and linking up with the river mouth sandbars to the east. The walk across to Burgh Island is just a few hundred metres over soft sand, pockmarked by pools of stranded seawater, usually surrounded by delicate and fascinating ripple patterns in the wet sand, created by wave and current. Don't expect either pool or ripple patterns to remain the same very long: they seem to completely change with just about every tide.

The aspect of this side of the island, facing northwards towards Bigbury, shows a very mild landscape, a gentle hill sloping up from the shore, dominated by the art deco structure of the exclusive Burgh Island hotel, contrasted against the much smaller and older Pilchard Inn. On reaching the island, you can either turn right and then carry on along the shore to pass around the island's western end, or head straight uphill towards the island's summit. Either route will eventually bring you to the south shore, where quite suddenly you're confronted with a very different environment. Gone are the gentle hill and soothing landscape. Instead, they are abruptly replaced with high, sheer, jagged and storm-beaten cliffs that stubbornly face the open sea, as wild and rugged as anything you'll see along this entire coast. Such wildness is a total antithesis to the gentleness of the island's north side and most especially to the beautiful estuary sandbars off to the northeast. This is such a place of landscape contrasts.

I hope this set of images captures the mood and beauty of this stunning location. From the island's high cliffs to the estuary's gentle sandbars, the images aim to convey the range of views possible here, as well as the overall essence of the beauty of Bigbury and Burgh Island.

Great British Life: Beauty from aboveBeauty from above (Image: Nigel Hicks)


The grandstand view: an aerial view of the entire setting, from the dramatic cliffs of Burgh Island's south coast, across to the sandy bar that links the island to Bigbury on the mainland, and then on towards the sandbanks at the mouth of the River Avon, with the beach at Bantham on the right. One of the most stunning views in all of Devon.


Great British Life: Sunset sandsSunset sands (Image: Nigel Hicks)


A magnificent sunset over the wet low tide sands of Bigbury, looking towards Burgh Island in the background. The shallow pools and rippled sand patterns found at Bigbury during the low tide hours are just made for some stunning photography. When coupled with the setting sun and some incredibly well-placed clouds the whole scene becomes simply magical.


Great British Life: Clifftop dramaClifftop drama (Image: Nigel Hicks)


The views from the heights of Burgh Island's wonderful cliffs are really quite spectacular, looking across a wide open bay in front of the Avon estuary, towards Bantham beach. On a windy day, surf surges into the bay, making this a popular spot for surfers, windsurfers and kite-surfers.


Great British Life: Crashing wavesCrashing waves (Image: Nigel Hicks)


The calm and gentle north side of Burgh Island, facing Bigbury, is the side that all visitors see, giving the impression of a place that has a gentle landscape overall. It can come as quite a shock to discover the wild and rugged cliffs and rocks on the island's south shore, seen here in the wind-swept and spray-laden grip of a southwest gale.


Great British Life: Island viewIsland view (Image: Nigel Hicks)


A calm high tide and a peaceful sunset over a silhouette of Burgh Island and the Bigbury shore, seen from Bantham beach. Arguably one of the South Devon coast's most well-known views, photographing it at almost any time of day produces at least some attractive images. Shoot at sunset or dusk, looking into the light, and the results are quite stunning.


Great British Life: Shifting patternsShifting patterns (Image: Nigel Hicks)


An aerial view reveals just how extensive the sandbars are that lie exposed at low tide across the mouth of the River Avon and in front of the beach at Bantham. It's a vast area of sand and shallow water that make this one of the South Devon coast's most beautiful spots.


Great British Life: Sea spiritsSea spirits (Image: Nigel Hicks)


The bay that lies in front of the Avon estuary and between Bigbury and Bantham beaches is a hugely popular spot for surfers, windsurfers and kite-surfers. Even a dose of wild stormy weather is not enough to put off some of them, the surf, spray and power of the wind simply adding to the excitement, challenge and adrenalin rush!


Great British Life: Invitation to walkInvitation to walk (Image: Nigel Hicks)


On calm days the low tide sandbars off Bigbury beach are just the perfect place to go splashing in the inviting shallows. While at the height of summer Bigbury can become hugely crowded, during the spring months it is usually gloriously spacious, creating opportunities for some refreshing seaside walks.


Great British Life: Looking downLooking down (Image: Nigel Hicks)


It's not just the grand views that make Bigbury and Burgh Island so special, but also the many 'micro' scenes that can fall into place before you. Here, seen at low tide and photographed right at my feet, is a wonderful abstract pattern of rippled sand and water, the surface shapes and textures picked out and highlighted in great relief by a low late afternoon sun.


Great British Life: Abstract ripplesAbstract ripples (Image: Nigel Hicks)


The rising tide washes over the sandbar. An aerial view taken looking straight downwards creates another patterned image, almost abstract in nature, showing the waves of the incoming tide washing over the edges of one of the sandbars. It’s made all the more atmospheric by the sun's low angle just before sunset, picking out every little ripple in both sand and water.


Great British Life: Beautiful Devon by Nigel HicksBeautiful Devon by Nigel Hicks (Image: Nigel Hicks)


Nigel Hicks is a professional photographer whose work has taken him across much of the world. He is based in South Devon and has produced several books on the South West region. He runs regular photography workshops across Devon.