We head this month to the Kingsbridge Estuary, which divides the South Hams of Devon as it tumbles towards the sea. This walk follows some of the footpaths by the sea, offering superb coastal views, and passes two enigmatic hill forts.
Start in the village of Malborough. Make your way along Lower Town and turn right down Well Hill. Just as the road bears right, keep straight ahead along the footpath. This swings round to the right, where you follow the signed path in front of the farmhouse. Follow the track across a stream and bear left uphill.
There are views to the east of the top of Bolt Head, the western edge of the jaws of the Kingsbridge estuary, as you climb before dropping down past Furzedown Farm and up again to the lane. Turn left and, after 50 yards, take the footpath signposted for Bolberry over a stile on your right. Cross the field along the diagonal path and cut across a second field before joining the field edge. Cross over a stone stile on to a lane and turn left, signposted for the coast-path link, heading down through the farm buildings and on to a grassy, winding track.
Tantalising views of the sea loom ahead, fragmented by the striking contours of Hazel Tor. At a cattle gate, pass through and head downhill. At the T-junction of paths, underneath a mass of striking granite boulders that remind you that Dartmoor is just 25 miles away, keep straight ahead for Bolberry Down.
Walk up to the gate and turn right to join the South West Coast Path. Keep on the path for the next two miles, passing the National Trust car park. Views westward suddenly open up: the coast path sweeps down to dramatic Bolt Tail; to the right is sheltered Hope Cove and beyond, crumbling rocky outcrops edge out into the sea, resembling giant windbreaks. On a clear day you can see Eddystone Lighthouse beyond Plymouth Sound, St Austell and Mevagissey, 30 miles distant by sea. To the north are the wild tors of Dartmoor.
Follow the coast path down to and around Bolt Tail and the remnants of a hill fort dated to between 500 and 600BC. The ramparts are clearly visible as you approach – they were built on three sides, with the sheer cliffs forming the impregnable fourth side.
Loop back out of the hill fort and follow the coast path down to Inner Hope and turn left, and first left again uphill, waymarked for Outer Hope. Drop down through the village – it would be a strong-willed walker who would keep their pace past the Hope and Anchor pub.
Climb uphill again, picking up the coast path and keep ahead uphill, past the last house in the village. You then turn right along a footpath signposted Galmpton and follow this straight path for a mile or so. Turn left down the road where it joins the path, and then turn right, signposted for South Huish. Follow this winding track to a junction where you turn right. You soon come to the hauntingly beautiful remains of lonely St Andrew's Church, maintained by the Friends of Friendless Churches. Just beyond the church, turn right uphill up a classic country lane. At a junction, dog-leg across, following signs for Malborough and follow this lane back to the village.
If you have time at the end, a one-mile diversion leads to Burleigh Dolts earthworks. Just before the Old Inn in Malborough turn left down Chapel Lane to a junction and dog-leg across to follow a fingerpost sign, pass through a gate and continue with the field edge first on your right and then on your left. Follow the path round to a kissing gate and open fields which are home to Burleigh Dolts. Dated to the middle to late Iron Age, between 350BC and AD50, they are less conspicuous than the workings at Bolt Tail and lie under a fenced-off mound covered with woodland. Archaeological remains below the mound are thought to include ramparts, ditches, and two Bronze Age barrows. Retrace your steps to the village.
Distance: 10 miles
Time: Four hours
OS Map: OL20 South Devon
How to get there
Mark Rowe stayed at Court Barton courtesy of Toad Hall Cottages (01548 853089; toadhallcottages.co.uk).
For more details about the region call 01626 215674 or go to visitsouth devon.co.uk. For information about the South Devon walking festival, which runs from this weekend until 11 October, go to southdevonwalkingfestival.co.uk.