Holy mother. If you want a challenge, then this is the one. I didn’t realise quite what I was letting myself in for when I decided to do this coastal walk from Kingswear to Brixham. I think it’s probably the hilliest walk I have ever done. If you aren’t walking up, you are walking down. And if you aren’t walking down, you are walking up. There is no in between.
This section of the South West Coast Path is quite cruel in that way. You work hard to get up the steep hill, only to undo all of that and be taken straight back down again. Then it makes you do it all again. Let me show you the elevation graph so you get an idea:
What was the coastal walk from Kingswear to Brixham like?
Hills aside, it’s a beaut of a walk. The first section is on road, which wasn’t as bad as I through it would be. It was actually quite nice. Then, for quite some time, it’s all woodland, with occasional peaks out to the gorgeous coastline views. Gradually the woods disappear, and you are then exposed, with views all around of the rocky cliffy coast, and green hills. The woods then come and go, but it’s mostly open for the rest of the walk into Brixham.
You will pass by remote cottages, secluded beaches, and wild ponies. There weren’t that many people out walking on this bit of coast between Kingswear and Brixham. Some sections were a little busier, usually where there was a car park nearby, but then for long stretches there was absolutely no one. If I did pass by someone, I wondered to myself if they were also doing the whole coastal walk between Kingswear and Brixham. I did pass one girl who was definitely doing the South West Coast Path. I had passed by her, with her big back pack, some days earlier on a walk further up the coast.
My leg – update
I have now done a fair few walks out here in South Devon, without my leg injury showings its face. This walk pushed it though. It pushed it hard. So hard. I have done a few walks now since this one, and I’m struggling. I’m struggling to walk up. Whether that be a hill or steps. I have discovered that walking uphill backwards doesn’t hurt. So that’s what I’m doing now. Walking uphill backwards. Yes really.
Logistics for the Kingswear to Brixham coastal walk
- Start: Kingswear/Dartmouth – South Devon.
- Finish: Brixham
- How to get there: You can get a bus to Dartmouth from Totnes on bus number 92 (Totnes is on the Great Western Railway line). Then get the ferry boat across the river to Kingswear. You can also get the number 120 bus from Paignton to Kingswear (Paignton is on the Great Western Railway line). Brixham and Kingswear are connect by the number 18 bus.
- Distance: 11.3 miles (skipping Berry head peninsular). Add a couple of miles if you want to walk the extra peninsular.
- Time: 5h
- Elevation: Highest point is about 119m. With the ups and downs you will walk uphill about 836m. That’s almost the height of the highest mountain in England. Just saying.
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Amenities: Everything at Dartmouth and Brixham, and a few viewpoint benches along the walk. Kingswear has a little cafe by the boat pier, and some public toilets.
Options to shorten the walk
Yes. Out of Kingswear, there are a few times you can turn to loop back around. They would make great walks in themselves, and you can go and see the Daymark. You wouldn’t finish in Brixham though. Another option is to skip out on Berry Head at the end. I don’t recommended skipping out on walking Berry Head all together, just come back another time and do that bit. It’s a lovely walk in itself from Brixham. I only partially walked in Berry Head today. Partly because I had already walked it a few days earlier. Partly because my leg was hurting.
Tips for the Kingswear to Brixham coastal walk
- Wear good grip hiking shoes/boots. There are some steep dirt hills. You need the grip.
- Take plenty of fluids/energy snacks.
- If you are planning to do this walk through midday/afternoon and it’s sunny, walk the same direction I did, from Kingswear to Brixham. Otherwise the sun will be in your face, which can be quite harsh by the sea.
- Otherwise, I think the views might just be a little better if you walk in the other direction, from Brixham to Kingswear. Only just though, as both ways are fantastic.
- The most aggressive ups and downs are the first half of the walk if starting from Kingswear, you may want to get those out of the way first.
- The trail is pretty easy to follow, and at all the junctions there is either a sign saying coast path, or a little acorn, or a yellow arrow. Quite often it’s just an acorn, or yellow arrow. If there is a turning with a sign only saying ‘footpath’, and there is no acorn or yellow arrow, it’s the wrong way.
Map for the Kingswear to Brixham coastal walk
Alternatively, there will be a quick look, with the guide links, for walks near Kingswear and Brixham at the end.
One more thing….
I wasn’t actually planning on doing the walk from Kingswear to Brixham today. I had actually set out to do a circular walk along the coastline from Kingswear to Brownstone Battery.
Once I reached the point of turning to loop around and walk back to Kinsgwear, I checked the time. I still had 4 hours until the next bus to take me back from Dartmouth to Totnes. It was a Sunday. There are literally like 2 buses the whole day.
I checked Brixham. From Brixham, buses are much more regular. And by regular, I mean once an hour. That wouldn’t get me to Totnes, but it would at least get me somewhere else I could get a regular (hourly) bus back to Totnes.
With all this time to kill, I figured I may as well walk all the way to Brixham. I was planning on doing this route some time anyway. And that’s how it happened.
A guide to the Kingswear to Brixham coastal walk
There is a bit of road walking to reach the trail. Start off by walking up the main road in Kingswear. If you have come over from Dartmouth by boat, just walk straight and go through the little archway by the post office. Just past here there are some steps to the left. Go up them. Up the steps you can turn right, but the coast path sign points left. I figured I would be official, so turned left.
After the left, you do a hairpin bend onto the main road, to then walk gradually (that’s a lie, it’s steeply) uphill. Although this is a main road, and there are no pavements, it was pretty quiet. The only sound I could hear was the birds chirping (and my heavy breathing).
Further along here, you will past by a trail signpost pointing to the right and down a long stretch of steep steps. Don’t go down these. Just go straight. You are going to be on the main road or path for some time now, as it does a few curves and passes by some enviable houses.
The start of the dirt trail and all the steps
Once you walk past the fanciest bit of road with all the ornaments, you will reach trail signpost pointing right and down. Down lots and lots of steps. Going down, I passed someone coming up. I was quite pleased I wasn’t them. Little did I know that my time would come.
Mill Bay Cove and Folley
At the bottom of the hill, and through a gate, you will pass by another gate on the right which leads you to Mill Bay Cove and a ruin.
It was really lovely down there. The sound of gentle crashing waves. Most of what I had walked so far in this section of South Devon has been quite gentle in terms of waves. The sea is quite calm in these parts. Being down here, I found listening to the waves quite soothing.
Walk uphill again
Past the cove, follow the coast path signs around and then up some nice steep steps. When the steps finish, there is still some up to go. And then you undulate. Little ups and downs.
What you have just experienced is what the rest of the walk will be like. Some bigs ups and downs mixed in with little ones. Sometimes there are a few big ones back to back.
There are some flats, I can’t recall how many exactly. Maybe 2. They are however, very short lived. Enjoy them when they come.
On a positive note, just up here you will start to get some openings in the trees, to a gorgeous view back along the jagged coastline and across to the peninsular.
Walk to Brownstone Battery
At some point you will walk through a gate into higher Brownstone. This is where things start to open up a bit more, as the woodland gradually gets less and less. Some where through here, you will get up quite high on a narrow path with a steep drop to the right. If you are afraid of heights, you might not want to look down along this bit. I’m not scared of heights, but boy did I feel that rush.
Once you are nice and high, the trail will take you straight down again on a zigzag path. Then it will hurt you and take you up some steps. All to lead you to the Brownstone Battery.
On the green, walk to the right of the building to follow the coast path down. At the bottom, it’s really beautiful. First you have the tracks leading you down. Then a view to the cliffs to the right, and all the yellow flowers* to the left with a view of the sea rocks ahead.
*I have now learnt that the yellow flowers are called gorse.
I didn’t see the flowers at first. I was too busy looking right. Then when I did turn around, it really took my breath away.
Top tip: If you want to go further, look for a trail here taking you down. I didn’t realise it was there, but looking now on my map, I can see it leads to a WW2 spotlight station.
Turn to loop back around to Kingswear, or continue the coastal walk to Brixham
Continue on the coast path for a bit, past all the yellow flowers, with a view to the sea rocks ahead. There is a steep uphill zig zag bit coming up. This will lead you up the side of the hill and into the woods, before reaching a level green.
When you reach the level green, there will be a wooden signpost. If you follow the black arrow on the signpost, this will take you to a path where you turn right to walk up to the Daymark (you can read about the Daymark walk here to see what it’s like). Up there you will be able to follow some road and trails back to Kingswear.
If you want to continue the walk along the coast path to Brixham, follow the yellow arrow.
This will lead you through a gate giving warning of the wild ponies. I wasn’t expecting to see wild ponies on this walk. I didn’t actually see them until much later, by which point I had totally forgotten about them, so it was a lovely surprise.
Taking a snack break and making plans
There is a nice sitting bench through the gate. It was my cue to stop for my first snack break. I actually hadn’t decided to do the full coastal walk from Kingswear to Brixham yet. This is where I had panned to turn back. I sat here, enjoying my snack, looking at the view and didn’t really want to go back yet. Checking the time, and seeing how many hours I had to kill was what decided it. I would not be turning back.
The views and the flat
Past here is where everything really opens up, as you are fully out of the woods, and you get proper views to the cliffy goodness ahead. This section was familiar to me, as it’s what I walked last year when I did the Daymark circular walk. There will be a point coming up where you can turn to walk uphill and back towards Kingswear. That will be detailed in that blog post. Although, if you have come this far, there are lots of good bits to come, so I would keep going.
There is a nice flat bit coming up. I really noticed it because, up until now, I had been walking either up or down…..So I savoured it. I didn’t know when I would get it again.
Back into the woods
You will reach a gate which will take you back into woods for a bit. I think there is a car park nearby, as there was a slightly higher concentration of people around here.
The woods are only brief, before you are back into the open.
Out of the woods and a bit further along, if you look back, you will have a fantastic view of where you came from, and the Daymark on top of the hill.
It was around this area that my leg started to get twingy. I felt a bit of dread that I still had so far to go, and realising this walk might be the one that puts me out again. Was it a mistake to walk from Kingswear to Brixham today? I really should have left it until the end of my trip to Devon. But I was here now, and just had to take whatever came.
The wild ponies
Somewhere along here, I reached a multi junction trail signpost. To the right, behind a bush, I could see what I through was the back of a person. It was when I got closer, I realised I was looking at a ponies ass. Then as I turned the corner, I saw all the ponies. This put a spring in my step (not literally though, I was doing no springing with my leg).
Walk to Scabbacombe Sands – The halfway point on the coastal walk from Kingswear to Brixham
Past the ponies, it was another steep down followed by some up to reach the next trail signpost. At this point you can continue straight or go down again. Both join up later. I considered going straight. I didn’t want to go down again, but the acorn was pointing down. So my stubbornness at wanting to follow the South West Coast Path trail won out. Going straight will eventually lead down, this way is just a lot more severe though, with a bit of zigg zagging.
As you walk around the peninsular at the bottom, you will start to get a stunning view to Scabbacombe Sands….and a view of the hills to come.
I have to say, I was a little disappointed when I got down to the beach. It was rocks and shingle. It looked like lovely white sand from up high.
This beach marks the halfway point in the coastal walk from Kingswear to Brixham. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing to know at this point. You will have felt like you have done a solid hike by the time you get here. And you still have to do it all again. Maybe you won’t feel like that though, I was just nervous for my leg.
Walk up for views to Berry Head
Past the beach, it’s a couple of aggressive hills. One smaller one and then one giant one. The view back down to Scabbacombe beach is fantastic from up here though.
Then when you reach the top of the big hill, you will get a view to the Berry Head Peninsula. From Berry Head, it’s a short walk into Brixham, so it was kind of like looking at the finish line. Way way off in the distance.
Walk to Mansands
After a few more undulations, you will get a view down to Mansands Beach and an adorable cottage. This was probably my favourite view of the walk. It reminded me a bit of the cottage of the Seven Sisters walk over near London.
Down at Mansands, there was a sign saying 4 miles to Brixham. Then a few meters ahead, a sign saying 3.5 miles. I liked that sign better. Then a few meters past there, was another sign saying 4 miles. I ignored that sign.
I mentioned earlier that Scabbaconbe Sands is the halfway point in to coastal walk from Kingswear to Brixham. That is only if you do what I did and skip the full Berry Head Peninsular. If you want to follow the coast path fully around Berry Head, then Mansands is more like the halfway point.
Walk to Sharkham Point National Nature Reserve
Past Mansands, it’s a giant uphill walk. You may have noticed the path running up the hill when you were on the other side looking down to Mansands. Just like always though, you do get a fantastic view from up top. Looking back down to the cottage.
Up the top, you then continue to undulate, maybe past some Cherry Blossoms (depends on the time of year), until you reach the next big green which is Sharkham Point.
I wonder why it’s called that. Can you see sharks from up here? Is there a rock somewhere that looks like a shark?
In the green, you can sort of wonder across at will, to reach the other side. Berry Head was looking much closer now. I was nearly there.
St Mary’s Bay and the penis statue
Following the green around, and back onto the dirt trail, you will soon get a lovely view down to St Mary’s Bay. Just past the statue that looks like an erect penis, there are steps you can take down. I obviously didn’t take them. I needed to save the leg.
Shortcut back to Brixham or walk to Berry Head
After some more steps and more views….
….you will reach a stone wall thing. Across it, you can walk straight to Brixham. It’s a short walk there from here. If you choose to stick to the coast path, it will take you further away from Brixham, and over to Berry Head. I stood there for a moment and thought about my next move.
Although I had just walked around Berry Head a few days ago, this little stretch between here and Berry Head I hadn’t done. Plus, Berry Head is nice. Although I already knew I wouldn’t be walking around the whole coastal peninsular, walking across the Berry Head green would be a nice finish to the Kingswear to Brixham walk.
Walk to Berry Head
If you are sticking with the coast path, the next bit features a lot of Hogweed (toxic plant, so be careful not to let your bare skin touch it). It’s a very pleasant walk along here. Whilst you still undulate, it’s not the crazy hilliness from before. The big hills are over.
The trail will lead you into the Berry Head area with a big information board.
Now as I mentioned a few times, I didn’t follow the coast path in here. If you would like to do it and see what it’s like, you can read about that in my Brixham to Berry Head circular walk post.
I just walked through, with a few nice cliffy coastal views along the way.
The final stretch of the Kingswear to Brixham Coastal walk
Wether you have fully followed the coastline around Berry Head, or have walked straight through, you will reach a big green with a multi-junction signpost. Follow the one which takes you onto the road with the coastline to your right. When you reach the road bend, the trail sign will point you off the road and onto the dirt trail, which will lead you into the woods.
Somewhere through the woods at a junction, turn right and down some steps to reach the road. This will lead you to Brixham Harbour.
Walk up high or down low
When I walked along here last time, I made my way down to sea level. This time, I wasn’t paying attention, as I was now looking at the bus times on my phone. I missed the turning to take me down, so I stayed up at residential street level. This turned out to be a nice mistake. Getting to walk past those colourful houses Brixham is famous for, with a nice high up view down to the harbour.
Final thoughts on the coastal walk from Kingswear to Brixham
By the end of it, I was pretty sure I had walked up the equivalent of Everest. From here on out, every hilly walk I do will be compared to this one.
More local coastal walk ideas
Brixham to Berry Head Circular is an easy but lovely walk, taking your from Brixham and around the Berry Head Peninsular. You will see two lighthouses. One of which is both the shortest and highest lighthouse in Britain.
Paignton to Brixham is another lovely bit of coast, taking you past some long stretches of red sand beach. If the timing is right, you will get to see the steam train pass by.
Little Dartmouth circular, is a lovely walk from Dartmouth, with a few hills but nothing crazy. You will get views across the water to the Daymark. That’s how Ollie and I decided to do the Daymark walk, when we could see it from here.
Daymark Walk is a much shortened version of the coastal walk from Kingswear to Brixham. It starts from a car park, so is ideal for those of you coming by car.
Dartmouth Castle and Surgery Cove is the easiest walk I have done in South Devon. More like a lazy day stroll type of walk, if you are staying in Dartmouth. It features Dartmouth Castle and a hidden beach cove.
Babbacombe to Teignmouth is actually a bit further north along the coast. I wanted to mention it though because it’s quite comparable with the hills of this walk between Kingswear and Brixham. It is however shorter and a bit less aggressive, so although still challenging, it’s a bit easier than this one.
Not a coastal walk, but nearby:
Dartmouth Dittisham is one I couldn’t not mention. It’s one of my favourites in the area. I have now done it twice, in both directions. The views are fantastic on this one, and a real highlight is the river crossing between Greenway and Dittisham.