Devon Coastal Walks - 2
Hope Cove - the South West Coast Path
Hope Cove, which is located in the far south of the county, can justifiably claim to be one of the most picturesque settlements on the Devon section of the South West Coast Path. There are two parts to the village, Inner Hope Cove and Outer Hope Cove, the second of which is the larger of the two, and which has most of the shops, pubs and toilets. Hope Cove is well-sheltered from fierce southerly storms by the headland called Bolt Tail.
This very enjoyable walk starts in an eastwards direction along a ridge line which is parallel to the south coast before it ascends the cliffs and eventually finishes by rounding Bolt Tail. The starting point is at Inner Hope, in the Sun Bay inn; Inner Hope is served by buses from Kingsbridge, and you'll also find a car park here, together with a larger one in Outer Hope.
From the Sun Bay Inn, take the South West Coast Path to the right, going uphill on the road signposted to Outer Hope. When you get to the paths' junction at the top of the hill, turn to your right, heading inland, along the track signed to GaImpton: there's a superb view over Outer Hope, which dates from 1281, having its origins in smuggling and now being much used as a base for diving trips. When you get to the top of the steps, go across the road and walk up the track opposite, which leads into a field. Keep going forwards along the field edge, keeping the hedge on your right.
As you walk, you'll see GaImpton coming into view ahead to your left. The distinctive tower and church was built in the 1870s when the parish became autonomous, the parish church up to that point being located in South Huish in the next valley. You'll also see some magnificent views down the coast: Burgh Island is clear, and as you follow the coast around you'll see Stoke Point, the Mew Stone located off Wembury, and, in the far distance, Rame Head in Cornwall, identifiable by the outline of the chapel on its highest point - but you'll need a clear day to see it!
After you've walked over a couple of fields you'll find yourself on a track again, which continues for about 1.25 km (0.75 miles), passing through five fields, before it arrives at a gate. You'll see a gravelled surface where the paths join: turn right here, pass through a second gate and walk down the edge of the field, keeping the hedge to your left. In the bottom left corner of the field, go cross a stile and continue diagonally left across this small field until you reach the bottom left-hand corner where you cross another stile.
Now descend, walking along the side of a lawn until you reach a track, and then turn left and continue forwards along the narrow lane until you reach a junction where there's a sign for Bolberry and Hope Cove. Walk down this lane to the hamlet of Bolberry, an old settlement which is actually mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086). The name comes from the stretch of land marked by the two headlands of Bolt Head and Bolt Tail.
At the junction, walk ahead to the left until you come to another junction; take a right turn, following the signpost for Bolberry Down, and walk up the fairly steep and rather long hill, a walk which may feel challenging on a hot day, but the top of the hill is the highest point on your walk. At the top of the hill you'll see the Port Light Inn whose history encompasses a pre-war golf club, and an RAF radio station. Walk ahead into the car park in the village of Bolberry Down, and then take a right turn onto the Coast Path, where you will see waymarkers with the acorn symbol of the coast path which will guide you back to Hope Cove.
This section of the Coast Path offers easy, level walking, where you can enjoy the sound and sight of the sea. After a while the path descends off Bolberry Down and heads towards Bolt Tall headland. As you walk, superb views over Hope Cove develop on the right; and noticeable in the bay beyond is the stone with a hole from which the village of Thurlestone takes its name ("thirl" being the Old English word meaning "hole").
At the next stile keep going ahead, following the signposts for the Coast Path. As you walk along the headland of Bolt Tail, you'll cross the clear line of an earth bank. This is part of a late Iron Age cliff fortification, a rampart built to defend the headland. From Bolt Tail keep following the Coast Path walking along the northern side of the headland, a route which will take you back towards Hope Cove. Walk along the path off the headland and follow it through a wooded section until you arrive at Inner Hope near the now-unused lifeboat station. To end your walk, go up the road behind the cove and you'll soon be back outside the Sun Bay Inn.