5 coastal day hikes near Exeter
Updated: Jul 5
If you're anything like us, after months being trapped within the confines of your city, you might be looking for new places to explore! With lockdown being lifted, we're finally able to hop on a train and head out to the coast for a day hike. To help inspire you to explore new places on the Devonshire coastline, we've pulled together a list of our top five coastal day hikes near Exeter. All of these routes follow the South West Coast Path (SWCP) and are accessible by public transport – perfect for those of us that don't have cars!
1. English Riviera: from Antsey's Cove to Torquay
One of our favourite local stretches of the SWCP is just an hour and a half away from Exeter by public transport. Starting at Antsey's Cove near Babbacombe and finishing back at the Torquay train station, this route is easy to follow and passes some absolutely gorgeous areas. Make sure you take the time to dip down into Antsey's Cove and explore Hope's Nose – two uniquely beautiful coastal areas where, if you're lucky, you'll be able to spot seals chilling on the rocks or dolphins swimming in the bay. The hike also passes the dramatic Thatcher's Rock before heading into the seaside town of Torquay, where you can stop for a pint or an ice cream before getting the train back to Exeter. If you're looking for something a little longer, skip the bus ride at the beginning and turn the route into a circular walk by hiking out to the start from the Torquay train station.
Distance: 9.9 km (6.15 miles)
Getting there from Exeter: Train to Torquay and then Bus 22 or 122 to Babbacombe (leaving from near the Torquay Marina). Get off at the Babbacombe Road bus stop.
Getting back to Exeter: Trains run regularly from Torquay directly to Exeter.
2. Along the red cliffs: from Budleigh Salterton to Sidmouth
An easy trip from Exeter, this hike starts with a walk along the beautiful beach at Budleigh Salterton, before climbing up to dramatic red clifftops. Ladram Bay is the perfect place to stop for lunch before you make the climb up to "High Peak," where spectacular views of the coastline stretch far into the distance. From there, the walk is mostly downhill into the town of Sidmouth. The hike features a couple of steep climbs, but overall it is not too challenging. You can learn more about the route in our blog post!
Distance: 11.4 km (7.1 miles)
Getting there from Exeter: Train to Exmouth and then Bus 157 or 357 to Budleigh Salterton
Getting back to Exeter: Bus 9 or 9A from Sidmouth
3. Pink sand and blue seas: from Babbacombe to Teignmouth
Like the first walk described, this hike starts near Antsey's Cove, but this time follows the SWCP north. The route offers a varied mix of cliff walks, forests and urban areas. With a number of strenuous climbs, it is definitely not an easy hike, but a number of features make it truly unique, such as the pink beaches which appear along this stretch of the coast. At Oddicombe Beach, you can opt to take the Babbacombe Cliff Railway up to the top of the cliffs – a fun (and much faster) way of climbing the hill. Watcombe Beach offers a lovely spot for lunch and the clear waters are perfect for a sea swim if you're feeling up for it. The Ness pub in Shaldon offers an ideal place to relax after your hike, where you can look over the estuary mouth towards Teignmouth.
Distance: 15 km (9.3 miles)
Getting there from Exeter: Same as for the first walk described
Getting back to Exeter: Trains run regularly from Teignmouth directly to Exeter
4. A taste of North Devon: from Combe Martin to Ilfracombe
Switching it up with a hike on the North Devon coast! This one takes a fair amount of time to get to, but we reckon the views are worth it. Starting off in the village of Combe Martin (which apparently has the longest village street in England!?), this route follows the SWCP to Ilfracombe, a delightful harbour town. You'll pass through forests and hike along the tops of coastal cliffs. Highlights include views over Broad Sands and Watermouth Harbour.
Distance: 8.6 km (5.3 miles)
Getting there from Exeter: Train to Barnstaple and then Bus 301 to Combe Martin.
Getting back to Exeter: Bus 21 or 21A take you back to Barnstaple from Ilfracombe, but make sure you check the bus times before you leave to ensure you don't miss the last bus back to Barnstaple.
5. Pack your poles: from Kingswear to Brixham
If you're looking for something a little more challenging, this could be the hike for you. Starting at Kingswear, this route follows the SWCP north to the adorable town of Brixham. This walk is a classic "coves to cliffs" hike, dipping down to beautiful beaches before climbing back up to the cliff tops. The stunning views and dramatic geology make up for the constant elevation gain. Make sure you check out the beach at Scabbacombe Sands (pictured below), where you might be able to spot a waterfall running off the cliffs and into the sea.
Distance: 17.5 km (10.9 miles)
Difficulty: Challenging due to elevation gain
Getting there from Exeter: Train to Paignton, then Bus 120 to Kingswear
Getting back to Exeter: Bus 12 from Brixham to Paignton, train from Paignton to Exeter
We hope this list will help inspire you to get outside of Exeter and experience the beauty of Devon's coasts. Did we miss any of your favourite (public transport accessible) coastal hikes in Devon? Let us know! We're always looking for new places to explore!
Other coastal walks nearby:
Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton: 8.7km (5.4 miles)
Teignmouth to Dawlish Warren: 8.8km (5.5 miles)
Brixham to Torquay: 13.6 km (8.5 miles)
Ilfracombe to Woolacombe: 13.7 km (8.5 miles)