Startpoint Light House to Mattscombe 2.2 miles (3.6 km)
Most definitely one of our favorite walks & suits most abilities & levels of agility. If 2.2 miles is not enough for you, I can very much recommend going a little further Westerly along the coastal path towards Lannacombe. We have nearly always spotted seals which is always a highlight. See some of our photos further down for a taste of this beautiful, dramatic & constantly changing walk. I can not tie in any foody stops on this walk, so a good idea to take a bottle of water & snack or picnic for a little down time on beautiful Mattiscombe Sands, weather permitting. Don't forget there is also Start Point Light House which is a visitor attraction. http://startpointdevon.co.uk/
The car park £3.50, free between start of November - start of April.
The description below is walking in a clockwise direction, towards the lighthouse on this circular, but it is just as lovely to go in the other direction & head straight from the car park to Mattiscombe beach.
Start Point Car Park - TQ7 2ET Start Point Car Park Moderate - The first section of this walk is a steady descent down the old lighthouse road to the headland, and so is suitable for many mobility scooters, and push chairs. After leaving the lighthouse road the Coast Path through to Mattiscombe Sand becomes more challenging and uneven, and care needs to be taken. The return leg is a gentle climb up a green lane back to the car park. A perfect route for children, who will love this short but adventurous walk over a dragon's tail of spiny crags. There are wide-ranging views over the wide sweep of Start Bay as you drop down to the lighthouse at the tip of Start Point, and then the path travels over rock and coastal heathland to a secluded sandy beach, reached only on foot from the Coast Path. On a good day, it is the perfect place for a picnic. The narrow path is rocky and exposed in places, so give it a miss if the weather is bad.
Credit to https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walksdb/92/ for route plan above & text below.
From the car park go through the gate (or cross the stile beside it), to follow the Coast Path along the track running down the length of the peninsula towards the sea. Ignore the path branching off to the right above Nestley Point to stay with your track right down to the lighthouse at Start Point.
Start Point is one of the most exposed peninsulas on the English Coast, running almost a mile into the sea, and the lighthouse has been guiding vessels along the English Channel for over 150 years. A prominent landmark from both directions, it was built in 1836 to the design of James Walker, with a battlemented parapet reflecting the Gothic style of architecture popular at the time. Originally it had two white lights, one of them revolving but the other fixed to mark the hazard of Skerries Bank (which is marked today by a red light). Despite being the first lighthouse fitted with Alan Stevenson's revolutionary dioptric apparatus – a refractive lens that used prismatic rings instead of the traditional silvered mirrors – it was inadequate in fog and in the 1860s a bell was installed.
Today the path to the lighthouse is a little easier to navigate and the building is often open to visitors if the weather is fine. 45-minute tours are run throughout the day. Check the Trinity House website (www.trinityhouse.co.uk) for details or telephone 01803 771802. The tower is 28 metres high, 62 metres above the sea at high water. Its white light flashes 3 times every 15 seconds and can be seen for 25 nautical miles. Its fog signal sounds once every 60 seconds.
Leaving the lighthouse, retrace your steps up the track for about a quarter of a mile, to the Coast Path fingerpost.
Looking out over Start Bay from here it is very easy to see why the sea has played such a major role in the history of this area. No more than a mile to the north, the original village of Hallsands is sometimes known as 'The Village that Fell into the Sea' after it did just that. The protective shingle barrier along the coastline was substantially depleted towards the end of the nineteenth century, when it was dredged to provide the sand and gravel needed to extend the naval docks at Keyham, on the far side of Plymouth. In 1903 severe gales swept away many of the houses, and the village was evacuated in 1917 when further storms undermined the remaining houses. At the far end of the bay, near the River Dart, the same thing had happened to the fishing village of Strete Undercliffe a couple of centuries earlier, probably in the Great Storm of 1703.
For many generations, the sea had provided a livelihood for villagers along the length of the bay. Although the only commercial fishing that happens here nowadays is for lobsters and crabs, apart from a small amount of line fishing for local restaurants, in the past it was a much bigger industry here. At the end of the 19th-century, before the general decline in stocks of fish, there were dozens of fishing boats working here, catching eel and cod as well as the crabs and lobsters.
The bay was also a key location for smugglers and pirates, and in their earliest days the settlements were built a mile or two inland, and a network of ancient green lanes still links many of them to the shoreline (see the Woodhuish & Mansands Walk). As life became safer along the coast so people began to build houses closer to the sea, which was so important to their way of life.
The line of breakers, or 'white horses', about a mile offshore are caused by Skerries Bank. This bank of sand and rock is no more than six feet below the surface at the lowest tide and in calm conditions, it is a popular spot for small boat fishing. As the tide rises, however, the incoming water is channelled between Skerries Bank and the shore and in rough weather, the speed of the riptide makes for treacherous waters (hence the need for a separate marker on the lighthouse).
This time take the path to the left, travelling over the rocky spine of the headland. The next section of the path is rough underfoot and runs close to the cliff edge in places, so take care, supervising children and dogs. Turn northwards with the Coast Path at the point to walk to Great Mattiscombe Sand. Steep steps lead down to the beach, and a track heads uphill inland.
Leaving the beach, take this inland track, following it uphill above the stream, to return to the car park at the start of the walk
Great Mattiscombe was once known as 'More Rope Bay'. According to local legend, a ship was lured to shore by wreckers looking for plunder, and less villainous residents attempted to rescue its unfortunate crew by lowering a rope down the cliffs to the rocks where they were stranded. In vain the survivors called for more rope.
There are a number of rocky outcrops visible on the beach at Great Mattiscombe at low tide, and it is a popular place for bouldering (low-level rock-climbing carried out without ropes). Grey seals can sometimes be seen down on the rocks below the path, too, and in late winter and spring, you may be lucky enough to see one or two white pups with them. In the summer, look out for the fins of the (harmless) basking sharks in the waters beyond the point.
The flowers around the coves attract butterflies, and the species to be seen here include green hairstreaks and clouded yellows. It is a great area for bird-watching too. Listen out for the cirl bunting, making a comeback in South Devon thanks to the efforts of the RSPB and other local landowners. Other spring and summer songbirds include tree sparrows and corn buntings, as well as chiffchaffs, goldcrests and firecrests. Ravens and buzzards wheel over the rocks, and sometimes red-legged partridges can be seen, or a little owl, even in daytime. Winter migrants to be seen here include great northern and black-throated divers, as well as gannets, kittiwakes and auks. Oyster-catchers and curlews scavenge along the tideline, as well sandpipers, grey plovers and redshanks. Occasionally you can see groups of eiders, and in stormy weather flocks of thousands of great black-backed gulls are sometimes seen flying westwards, and a few skuas.
Start Point (Postcode for Sat Navs: TQ7 2ET).
Seals are often in spots like this.
There was a wedding reception at Mattiscombe on the day I took this photo, if you look close!
Walking a little further than Mattiscombe, towards Lannacombe.
Walking straight from the car park towards Mattiscombe, if you decide not to go in the direction of the Light House first. If you go towards the light house, this is your homeward stretch back to the car park.