The Great Outdoors
Visited Dartmoor, Buckfast Abbey, Dartington shops, Salcombe, paddle steamer trip from Dartmouth, Coleton Fishacre National Trust house and gardens, and walked across to Burgh Island.
What a beautiful, peaceful location – you almost didn’t need to leave the cottage and lovely grounds. We did leave the cottage and explored the beautiful coast. Start Point and Great Mattiscombe Beach were very special places.
We were able to choose where to visit easily and as there are micro climates all along the coast, could have a pick of places to go. We visited Torquay, Totnes, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Hope Cove, Bigbury on Sea and Burgh Island.
Plenty to do in and around the area, wonderful landscapes, fab beaches, great food – it’s all available. If you’re looking for chip shops, pubs & clubs and arcade machines then you’re out of luck!
Walking is a wonderful past-time and we are blessed with a spectacular piece of South West Coast Path from which walkers can drop down to coves and beaches, lighthouses, pubs, cafes, and freshwater lakes. Most of the walks are dog-friendly. Take a look at the Path’s Nautical Trail which stretches from Plymouth to Dartmouth taking in the rugged coastline and beauty of the South Hams: Burgh Island; Salcombe estuary; Slapton National Nature Reserve and the historic maritime town of Dartmouth.
In contrast several pretty green lane walks offer a slow pace and provide a great opportunity to get a close-up, more intimate view of the hedgerows, fields, farms and hamlets which make up a large part of the South Hams. These lanes offer a wonderful way to explore the countryside and provide a haven for plants, birds and other wildlife. Many of the green lanes, originally tracks connecting farms and dating back hundreds of years, have been restored by the local council. Use the free Green Lanes book in your cottage for plenty of choices.
For a walk or swim on the wild side, or a cycle or horse ride with great views Dartmoor National Park (approximately 20 miles from Dittiscombe) is free and open to visitors all year round. It was the inspiring setting for the book by Michael Murpurgo (and the film too) of War Horse. With vast open spaces, woodland walks, rivers and streams, it’s a great venue for all outdoor enthusiasts.
Walk around Dittiscombe Valley & Slapton Ley
Once you have settled into your cottage we suggest two car-free outings: taking time to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the Dittiscombe nature trail, you can discover the woods, stream-fed ponds and open or shady places with benches, picnic tables and bird-viewing areas along the way.
A little further afield but also car-free is the 60-minute walk from your cottage door through leafy lanes and farmyard trails to historic Slapton village with its community shop, two excellent dog-friendly pubs, Slapton Ley, a freshwater lake and nature reserve for great bird-watching, and the unspoilt beaches of Start Bay. We provide a map and directions for this walk in your cottage.
Rolling hills and steep cliffs are not for everyone, but there really are some easier walks which are accessible to families with small children and people with limited mobility. These few suggestions include cafes, pubs and toilets, but if you would like more information we suggest you contact the local tourist information centres in Kingsbridge and Dartmouth who will be able to give you more detailed information.
There is a flat walk along the edge of Slapton Ley, between Torcross car park and Slapton Bridge, you will always find something to surprise you along the way such as coastal flowers, swifts and swallows, or Crested Grebes on the lagoon.
Beesands has a car park, seating overlooking the beach, and a flat walk by the freshwater lake, Widdecombe Ley. You can either walk to Torcross over the rocks and beach at low tide or for those who are able you can join the South West Coast Path to take you ‘over the top’ for magnificent views. Take a look at the short video of the South Devon AONB walk from Beesands to Hallsands here.
Start Point Lighthouse is a fitting beacon for the most southerly point in Devon. There is a car park with memorable views of Start Bay and a straight metalled road with a slight decline to the Lighthouse.
Bantham and Bigbury beaches are perfect for sandcastle making, surfing, body-boarding, and dog walking. From either car park the beach is accessed over sandy paths to flat, wide beaches far reaching views of Burgh Island. There is a dog ban from May to October but during this time there is access to either side of the beach along the Avon estuary at low tide. There are toilets and dog bins, The Sloop pub and the Gastrobus in Bantham and the Venus Cafe at Bigburgy, all ideal for children and visitors with dogs.
Bolberry Down is situated on the coast and has a short tarmac path leading from the large car park to breathtaking views of the coast. Walk length is approx 1 mile and further details can be found on the National Trust website and search for Bolberry Down. There is also the East Soar walk from the National Trust car park, mostly level, to the Walkers Hut for tea and cake (open February to October) and spectacular views of Sharpitor and the Salcombe Estuary above Overbecks.
In Totnes there is an attractive path which runs from Totnes Railway Station to Shinner’s Bridge at Dartington and is suitable for all. Totnes Station path runs alongside the River Dart with interesting wildlife habitats and at Shinner’s Bridge you will find Dartington College of Arts and the complex of Dartington Shops with a cafe and toilets.
Night Skies and Wildlife at Dittiscombe
Our cottages and farmhouse are located at the end of a long lane, surrounded by a private valley, and overlooked by no-one. Guests can enjoy the peace and tranquility on offer here, relaxing in the privacy and seclusion of beautiful surroundings.
Often a surprise to our guests is the darkness surrounding the cottages at night. We are far enough away from urban lighting to avoid light pollution and we keep our outside lighting to a minimum so that visitors can enjoy stargazing; the number of stars and constellations visible is breathtaking, and we have been lucky enough to see the Milky Way, the Perseid Showers in 2016, the Blood Moon Eclipse in 2015 and partial lunar Eclipse in 2019.
We have a healthy population of moths during the Summer and so we have bats too! A night-time stroll along our ‘bat corridor’ behind some of the cottages and you may spot Pipestrelles; Noctule bats prefer the open water of the lower pond.
There is a large network of Devon hedgerows surrounding our valley, and with three ponds, a spring-fed stream, a woodland of mixed deciduous trees, and eight acres of grassland, there are plenty of diverse habitats for a good variety of birds and insects. Many previous guests have enjoyed spotting our visiting and resident birds such as skylarks, pied-wagtails, little owl, long-tailed tits, snipe, moorhen, kestrels and sparrowhawks. Birds pop in and out of the cottage gardens as there is cover in hedges and shrubs, and there are always plenty of trees nearby. A little further afield there are various vantage points for bird-watching: around the ponds; in the woodland; or from the flat area which gives a wide view of our u-shaped valley.
A perfect way to see wildlife from the water is by Kayak or Canoe. We have three beautiful estuaries in this area: the Dart, the Avon and the Erme rivers make their way from Dartmoor and before they reach the sea they slow and widen, making perfect waterways for wildlife exploration and safe kayaking and canoeing. During a paddle down these rivers you could expect to see White Cranes, Herons, Bitterns, and Oystercatchers close up. And the Kingsbridge estuary, which is in fact a flooded valley (a ria), has many creeks and inlets to investigate before arriving at the picturesque harbour of Salcombe.
Stand up Paddle Boarding (or SUP as it is known) is a great way to quietly explore the small creeks around Kingsbridge Estuary.
Surfing is always a popular sport in the South Hams, with Bantham beach rated as one of the best on the South Coast of England. There are several surf and paddle boarding schools in the area. You can find out more about this from the Kingsbridge Tourist Information Centre or visit our On the Water page.
Devon is well known for hills and narrow lanes, but the views are wonderful from the top! Many experienced cyclists positively love the challenges that this type of cycling offers. If you bring your bike to Dittiscombe we can keep it under cover for you, or you could hire road bikes from Hot Pursuit Cycles in Totnes. If you’re looking for an e-bike then Puffing Billy Cycles at Wrangaton on Dartmoor is the place to go – you’ll be able to access majestic moor from their hire shop which is just on the doorstep (about 40 drive from us).