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Devon's best beaches

No summer holiday is complete without splashing about in the sea and building sandcastles, and where better to do this than on the wonderful beaches of Devon


Babbacombe Bay

Situated on the north eastern fringe of Torquay, Babbacombe beach is an unspoilt cove with a wealth of character. It sits beneath the steep cliffs of Babbacombe Downs, which boasts the highest promenade in England, with spectacular views. Initially the domain of fisherman and smugglers, the beach is now popular with divers, watersports enthusiasts and families. Other attractions include the model village, coastal pathway and the cliff railway. Dogs are allowed on the beach.


An unusually attractive seaside resort with many Regency buildings, and a quiet residential character, Sidmouth retains the elegance of a bygone age. The stylish hotels, seafront gardens and promenade make exploring Sidmouth a joy and there are numerous shops and cafés that you can enjoy. The mile-long bay also boasts a large beach. Although it’s mainly composed of pebbles, the western edge, which is called Jacob’s Ladder Beach, (after a series of wooden steps that lead up to a viewing point) is sandy and backed by steep, red cliffs. This section is best reached by climbing down from Connaught Gardens, or by a level pathway from the main beach.

Hope Cove

A sheltered, sandy beach in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Hope Cove is understandably popular with families. The village is worthy of any picture postcard, with pretty thatched houses, a café, shop and pub and also its own independent lifeboat. Sheltered by the headland of Bolt Tail, the rocky cliffs and the harbour wall, it’s a wonderful place to go rock-pooling, build sandcastles or simply relax in the sun. The Sun Bay Inn makes a lovely retreat.

Looking across to Sidmouth beachHope Cove

Slapton Sands

Two miles of glorious shingle in front of a row of picturesque cottages, Slapton Sands is a popular beach which has a terrible story. The beach was taken over by the Allied Forces as a rehearsal area for the D-Day Landings but in April 1944, during Exercise Tiger, 946 American servicemen were killed. Live ammunition and poor visibility caused deaths under friendly fire, and German E Boats attacked an Allied Convoy. At the time it was hushed up, but now a Sherman Tank recovered from the disaster sits as a memorial. Slapton Sands itself is patrolled by lifeguards and has calm sea, with watersports on offer. Dogs are welcome all year.

Ilfracombe – The Tunnels

It always has attracted a fair few coach parties, but Ilfracombe’s beach was looking a bit tired until a young couple decided to restore its four Victorian hand carved tunnels which run through the cliffs to privately owned beaches. The Tunnels Beaches have always attracted an admission fee (adult £2.25, child £1.75, family of four £7.50) which buys you access to rockpooling so good that BBC Wildlife Magazine judged it the third best rockpooling destination in Britain. There’s a safe tidal swimming pool as well, and plenty of hilarious historical detail on display. Learn about Victorian beach etiquette on your way to scramble among the rocks.

Saunton Sands

An absolutely massive beach that’s backed by dunes and next to the nature reserve of Braunton Burrows, so it’s hard to see where it begins and ends, though its flatter sandy area is three miles long. There’s a shop and toilet at one end of the beach, and plenty of space to get away from the crowds if you walk a short way from here. The Sands Café serves up posh nosh, and also five minutes down the road is  The Riverside at Braunton where you’ll find a relaxed atmosphere and good local seafood.

Woolacombe Sands

This is deservedly one of Devon’s most popular beaches, especially with families. The golden sands, which stretch three miles between Morte Point and Baggy Point, are backed by voluminous, ever-changing dunes. Catch the beach at low tide and you’ll never want to leave, with acres of sand just waiting to be explored. Within a sheltered mini-bay between Woolacombe Sands at one end and Putsborough Sands at the other, lies Barricane Beach, named after the finely crushed shells that make up its sand and have amazingly been washed here from the Caribbean.

Slapton Sands The fabulous beach at Woolacombe

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21/05/2014 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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