The village of West Charleton lies on the edge of a picturesque estuary within easy reach of many of the best beaches, towns and countryside in the South Hams.
About West Charleton
The village of West Charleton is located just a stone's throw from the market town of Kingsbridge, on the other side of the pretty Bowcombe Creek - itself a popular spot for canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing and country walks. The village has one pub, and there is a very well-stocked store and filling station in the neighbouring village of East Charleton, just one mile away.
Kingsbridge boasts a wide selection of independent shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants, including the popular Crabshell Inn, which serves excellent food, and is perfect for al fresco drinks beside the estuary.
A short drive beyond Kingsbridge there are several golden sandy beaches to enjoy, at Thurlestone, Hope Cove and Bantham. Whilst the beautiful waterside town of Salcombe is just 20 minutes away, offering a variety of watersports, and excellent shopping and dining in a truly stunning setting.
In the other direction, the dog-friendly pebble beach at Torcross, with the scenic Slapton Ley behind, is just a 10 minute drive from West Charleton, and is a great place for a day on the beach, or for exceptional fish and chips from The Start Bay Inn. Further along this stretch of coast, you'll also find wonderful beaches at Beesands and Blackpool Sands, as well as the iconic lighthouse at Start Point.
The maritime town of Dartmouth can be reached by the magnificent coastal road within half an hour. Well worth a visit for an interesting selection of boutiques, gift shops, galleries and cafés as well as the opportunity to go on a river cruise up the Dart to the bohemian market town of Totnes.
A holiday cottage in West Charleton offers a picturesque spot conveniently close to many of the best beaches, towns and countryside in the South Hams.
If the weather’s right, Stand Up Paddleboarding is a wonderful way to really embrace the beautiful environment in the South Hams. Based in Kingsbridge Waterborn SUP offers lessons, board hire and a genuinely enthusiastic introduction to the variation on surfing whether you’re a pro or a beginner. They supply high quality equipment and tuition, whilst benefiting from a pretty spectacular learning environment. Opt for a lesson, an adventure or a harbour tour with prices starting at £22.50 for an hour. They have all the equipment ready to hire, so just turn up with a big smile on your face ready to go!
Harbour House Centre for Arts and Yoga sits in pride of place in Kingsbridge overlooking the estuary and offers yoga, meditation, Pilates and Tai Chi classes, a vegetarian café and art exhibitions in one beautiful, light filled environment. Friendly, healthy and holistic, they host local artists and a variety of artistic styles, but it’s not merely about observing, it’s about getting involved, so they also have life drawing, painting and arts classes available. The café overlooks the art gallery, adding another dimension to your lunch, but classes are popular, so while you can pop into most exhibitions, it’s a good idea to phone and check availability for classes before you turn up! Full details of timetables and current events on the site!
A decent enough café, with reasonable coffee and a pleasant ambience, alongside a local art gallery with (when we visited) an eclectic mix of art and artifacts. And if you're into yoga, my guess is that any type of yoga you can imagine is available here. If the weather's nice, the rear courtyard garden is quite pleasant, too.
South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Walks and Trails
We have said it before and we will say it again, the reason South Devon attracts so many visitors and captures their hearts is because it really is a phenomenally beautiful part of the world, and as such is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in many areas. So walking is a great pleasure when you’re on holiday here, especially as there are over 40 routes in the AONB itself, ranging in length from two to 12 miles. They are a wonderful opportunity to explore the wildlife, archaeology and history of South Devon, as well as the views and scenery along the way.
There’s no doubt about it, the best thing to do on a holiday in South Devon is get outside and have a waterside adventure, and Singing Paddles aim to help you do just that. Offering canoeing and coaching with more than 30 years of experience, the team are careful to operate a carbon neutral company funding local tree planting, hedge reinstating and using a grey water system to clean equipment. Paddling is an environmentally friendly water sport, and they offer a variety of sea kayaking and canoeing options for individuals and for groups starting at £15 for an individual session to £250 for a tailor made day.
On Fore Street in Kingsbridge, The Art Café is one of those joyous places where children and adults can enjoy visiting thanks to good coffee, good cake, toasted sandwiches and tea cakes alongside a welcoming, peaceful environment. Here you can paint ceramics to your heart’s content. Open from 10am-5pm daily, they offer pottery parties and takeaway ceramic painting if you want to take the experience home to your South Devon holiday cottage. Prices vary according to what you paint and staff are wonderfully helpful. It’s the perfect place to visit on a rainy day with the kids (they happen occasionally), or for a little peace and quiet after a long day outdoors.
Really good place to visit (especially if weather isnt great) that'll keep kids happy for a few hours. Be warned that whatever you make will need firing in the kiln, so will be a day or two until picking it back up usually!
This is a great spot to enjoy a meal or drink of two if you’re in the area, with plenty of outdoor seating taking full advantage of the glorious views over the estuary. The acclaimed menu is made up of gourmet pizzas, burgers, seafood and lots more including kids options; and the bar has a great atmosphere in the evenings with live music most Fridays.
Centrally located this is a good choice for lunch, coffee or a cream tea while shopping in Kingsbridge or for a few drinks in the evening. Sit outside in the summer or enjoy the friendly bar inside, and choose from an extensive menu including children’s options.
A tranquil haven in the centre of town, this vegetarian café offers breakfasts, coffees, innovative and tasty lunches, cakes and cream teas. Sit inside in the light and bright café or eat al fresco in the secluded courtyard garden.
A sophisticated, friendly café and restaurant open throughout the day for coffees and cakes, tapas, drinks, bespoke cocktails or romantic candlelit dinners served either inside or in the sunny courtyards.
Accessed either by boat, via a 10-minute walk through the woods from parking at Mill Bay, or a stroll from the Salcombe to East Portlemouth Ferry, Sunny Cove is a sandy beach which, as you might expect, catches the sun throughout the day, weather pending. It’s on the East Portlemouth side of the Salcombe Estuary opposite North Sands beach and Fort Charles, the ruined fortification that was originally constructed during the reign of Henry VIII to defend the Kingsbridge Estuary against French and Spanish Pirates. It’s a relatively gentle spot for swimming and ideal for picnics, lazy summer afternoons, and reaching on kayaks and paddle boards from other nearby beaches as well as being the perfect spot for building sandcastles. That said, the tide can come in quite quickly so make sure you don’t get caught out and be careful of the swell when bringing boats into the beach. Head there for the day in the summer or as a stop off en route to the café at Gara Rock or a longer walk along the coast path towards Prawle Point. Dogs are welcome all year round but keep in mind that there aren’t any facilities in the immediate vicinity (it would be a 10-15-minute walk along wooded footpaths) so take your sandwiches with you!
A sandy beach on the East Portlemouth side of the Salcombe Estuary, at low tide Mill Bay stretches all the way up the coastline to East Portlemouth beach.
It has the most wonderful view of Salcombe itself and is popular with everyone, especially families, because of the large swathes of sand on which you can set up camp for the day and enjoy safe, clean swimming conditions.
Parking is limited, so the best way to get to it is either by boat or by catching the East Portlemouth Ferry from Salcombe and strolling along. That way you can also nip past The Venus Café by the slipway to pick ice creams, sandwiches and refreshments before settling in for the day.
There are rock pools to explore, sandcastles to build and swimming to be done, just make sure you’re careful of any boats coming in and out of the beach. Dogs are welcome at Mill Bay all year round, and it makes an excellent spot to run around with them whatever time of the year.
Like the other beaches along this stretch of coast, Mill Bay makes for an ideal place to spend the day right into the evening, although it is a little stroll to the nearest facilities. It’s also a lovely beach to meander across en route towards Gara Rock or on a longer walk along the coast path.
The first beach as you walk along the Cliff Road out of Salcombe, North Sands sits in a valley and is a sandy horseshoe shaped beach that’s expansive at low tide. Thanks to its shape and location, it’s extremely popular in the summer because there’s plenty of space to set up camp for the day with buckets, spades and fishing nets in tow for avid marine biologists and sand castle connoisseurs.
The beach has a fresh water stream running through it from the top of the valley, which, aside from providing hours of entertainment for accompanying dogs and a marvellous place to wash the sand off your feet, also means that the beach is largely wet sand, so don’t forget to take something to sit on if you’re heading there for the day.
Popular with swimmers, despite the chilly water, North Sands provides a wonderful view out of the mouth of the Salcombe estuary and into the deep blue yonder so, for keen photographers, it’s ideal. If the weather is right then it’s a favourite amongst body boarders or even surfers on choppier days, and it’s a great place to take the paddle boards and kayaks if you happen to have them.
Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round, unlike many of the beaches in the area, there are toilets over the road and there’s a car park with charges from £1 throughout the year. The cherry on top of this beautiful location is The Winking Prawn café and restaurant that’s right next to the beach. Open all year round they serve everything from breakfast, lunch and dinner to coffee, tea and cake, and in the summer they provide a barbecue in the garden overlooking the sea. It is popular though so leave a little time to queue for that Salcombe Dairy honeycomb ice cream in the height of summer!
A short ferry ride over the estuary from Salcombe to East Portlemouth, followed by a scenic walk along the coast (around 40 minutes depending on how speedy you are), will lead you to a dramatic headland and beach café known as Gara Rock.
With panoramic views of the sea, the café is open for teas, cakes, lunch, and afternoon tea before you descend to Gara Rock Beach below. The beach is a sandy cove flanked by rocks, and can also be reached by parking at the Mill Bay car park which is around two miles away on foot.
The beauty of this beach is that it is only accessible either on foot or by boat, so it does have a wonderful sense of escapism alongside its rugged splendour. Although it is a little bit of a climb back up to the café, the proximity of food and toilets means that you can set up camp here for most of the day, dipping into the water as and when you choose if the weather is warm enough.
Alternatively, it’s the perfect place for a pit stop if you’re spending the day walking along the coast path towards Prawle Point and Dartmouth beyond. Dogs are allowed on the beach but not in high season, so keep that in mind, and while it’s a slightly tricky beach to get to it’s worth the effort… maybe just see if you can get a takeaway brownie and a cup of tea from the café to keep you going!
Over a (rather large) hill along the road from North Sands and around a 30-minute walk from the centre of Salcombe, South Sands is a sandy beach, with a stream running through it, that’s particularly geared up for water sports.
South Sands is also accessible from the centre of Salcombe by the South Sands Ferry, a merry looking yellow, blue and red boat that takes around 15 minutes at a cost of £3.60 per adult and £2.60 for children over the age of three. You’re then greeted at the beach by a sea tractor to take you onto the dry sand, where you will find the South Sands Hotel as well as the enchanting Bo’s Beach Café.
The beach café is a family run business serving all the necessities for a day on the sand including tea, cake, coffee and light lunches as well as beach essentials and toys. It runs in conjunction with Sea Kayak Salcombe who provide kayak and paddle board rental and tours for all levels.
During the Salcombe Town Regatta, South Sands also plays host to the annual sandcastle competition, an illustrious occasion that welcomes all participants with enthusiasm, so make sure you keep an eye out if you’re a budding architect or artist, or potter along and take a look at the local and visiting handiwork if you’re more of a spectator.
It’s worth noting that there’s limited parking at South Sands so it’s a good idea to either walk to it, park at North Sands a short walk away, or park in Salcombe and catch the ferry over. Dogs are also welcome at South Sands.