Walk: Coleton Fishacre, South Devon
Step off the ferry and take a stroll along Devon’s South West Coast Path to the lush gardens of a 20th-century estate, home to exotic ferns, trickling water features and woodland glades
After an invigorating hike along South Devon’s coastal path, drop down a gear or two and explore the terraced gardens of Coleton Fishacre, a colourful mix of rare, exotic and tender plants that cascade from the house to beautiful Pudcombe Cove.
Pick a route along the many paths that thread through the trees and shrubs of this stylish 1920s Arts and Crafts house, teased by pretty ocean views. A dreamy mix of pastel shades fringes the stream that dances down the combe, and buzzards mew overhead. On a hot June day, end your visit with a cooling drink at the delightful café.
1. Ferry first
A great way to start the walk is to catch the Lower Ferry from Dartmouth. As the historic boat pulls away from the slipway and across the Dart, it offers a magnificent vantage point to appraise the colourful houses of Kingswear as they cascade down the hillside to the waterfront.
On arrival into Kingswear, turn up Church Hill and then take a sharp right on to Beacon Lane. This soon merges with Castle Road to become Brookhill, where you join the South West Coast Path.
2. Lazing lizards
As you pass expensive-looking properties, look out for non-native green wall lizards that can often be found basking on the south-facing walls.
Route-finding is easy as you follow the South West Coast Path signs. Where the lane turns inland above Mill Bay Cove, look out for a footpath heading off to the right and downhill into the trees.
3. Blue river
You lose height quickly to cross the head of pretty little Mill Bay Cove and then climb equally steeply to head back into the trees around Down End and Warren House.
There are regular glimpses through the trees across the blue waters of the river to Dartmouth Castle and St Petrox Church. Continue with the South West Coast Path around Newfoundland Cove, taking some time to explore the old wartime defences and lookout station at Inner Froward Point.
4. Offshore islands
From here, the path takes a switchback route across impressive coastal scenery as you pass Froward Cove and forge on past Outer Froward Point to Old Mill Bay. Just off shore are the jagged outlines of Shooter Rock and Mew Stone where guillemots and razorbills can be seen. Press on through a landscape of early summer flowers to Pudcombe Cove.
5. Ocean gardens
You have a choice here: either take the permissive path from Pudcombe Cove to Coleton Barton Farm; or if you want to savour a little more of the coastal path, you can continue on to the sand and rock of Ivy Cove and double-back up another permissive path to Coleton Camp car park. From here you can access the main entrance to the National Trust’s Coleton Fishacre estate and its summer-kissed gardens.
6. Inn on the estuary
Having explored Coleton Fishacre, you have a choice of returning via one of the permissive trails to the coastal path and retracing your steps to Kingswear, or, preferably, you can take the lane from Coleton Barton Farm to Higher Brownstone Farm. This inland route offers some fantastic views across classic rolling Devon countryside. Beyond Higher Brownstone Farm, make your way along one of those classic old sunken ways that are often found in Devon, embowered in trees, part stream, part ancient way.
Continue on past Home Farm and Pinewoods to rejoin your outward route above Mill Bay Cove back to the Lower Ferry in Kingswear.
For more information, including opening times, contact number and seasonal events, visit nationaltrust.org.uk/coleton-fishacre
Main image ©Getty
Chris Gee is the author of Walking the Yorkshire Coast: A Companion Guide.