Autumn in the South Hams is a beguiling time when the weather casts its moods across the landscape. One minute its crisp and clear, when the warming rays of sunshine make you feel grateful that skies are blue and all is well with the world, and the next a shroud of fog hides all of Devon’s glories or the rain lashes down in fury, cleansing every crevice of the land so that everything will be sparkling and new for when the sun returns.
Autumn leaves give a last hurrah of vibrant colour as they adorn trees along the River Dart in a cloak of orange, yellow and red before silently floating to the ground to form a pile of crisp and crunchy leaves that slowly but surely disappear as another year passes.
Early morning mists linger in the valleys and along the rivers like grey chiffon shrouding the countryside in mystery before it disappears to reveal a patch work quilt of muted greens, punctuated by ploughed fields thick with red Devon soil.
This stunning countryside is home to an intricate web of footpaths, green lanes and permissive routes through woodland, meadows and tiny hamlets and along the South West Coast Path that lead you on a beguiling tour of this mesmerising landscape.
On brisk days waves crash and throw themselves agains the sharp rocky outcrops and cliff face which stand tall like mighty warriors against this relentless battering, until all is quiet again and as the gentle sea swirls and whirls in and around the rocks, the sereneness of the deep azure colours seems to beckon you in.
Chills winds will signal the relentless creep of winter, like a tide that never turns, slowly enveloping everything before it, but if you have the right kit (a proper waterproof coat and walking boats are a must) there is nothing quite like an autumn walk. It’s elemental, invigorating, and it gives you a real sense of achievement.
Dartmouth is surrounded by stunning countryside and walks, and Bayards Cove Inn is the perfect place for your autumn break, where sumptuous rooms will welcome you like a long lost friend after a day exploring and where our chefs will create the most stunning food, sourced locally, to fuel your appetite. We also welcome dogs, with beds, bowls and treats provided.
Try these two lovely walks
A circular walk from Dartmouth Castle
Start at Dartmouth Castle, built between 1481 and 1494, and head west along the coast path, passing places with intriguing names like Deadman Cove, Ladies Cove, Compass Cove, Shinglehill Cove, and Western Combe Cove; and jagged rocks that jut out of the sea like sentries, bearing names like Meg Rocks and Dancing Beggars and where cormorants stand as if attached to a crucifix and the gannets wait in readiness for a shoal of sardines when they’ll plunge into the sea in a frenzy, picking them off one by one.
At Warren Point head north into the South Hams countryside and follow the path through Little Dartmouth along hedgerows, paths and fields. Take a detour around Gallants Bower which has 360º views. It was built between 1643 and 1645 to defend Dartmouth against the Parliamentarians. It saw the fiercest action in 1646, when it came under attack from Roundhead forces under General Fairfax. The Royalists having already fled the town and the castle finally retreated to Gallants Bower where they soon surrendered.
Four years later the fort was dismantled. It is now one of the best preserved in the country and is a Scheduled and Listed Ancient Monument.
Then head back to Dartmouth Castle and home to Bayards Cove Inn.
For detailed information of this walk please visit the National Trust website here.
Take the lower ferry to Kingswear then head south along the South West Coast Path to Kingswear Castle, built in 1502, which guarded the narrow entrance to the Dart estuary with Dartmouth Castle and is now a holiday cottage owned by the Landmark Trust.
At The Warren you’ll have fine views across the estuary and out to sea and down below is Newfoundland Cove. Tudor explorers John Davis and Humphrey Gilbert operated from the River Dart between 1578 and 1605. John Davis discovered the Falkland Islands, while Humphrey Gilbert colonised Newfoundland, leading to strong links between Dartmouth and the Canadian province.
Continue on to the Lookout Station and the extensive remains of the Brownstone Battery, built during the Second World War in 1940 to prevent enemy landings on the beaches to the east.
It was known that Hitler had formulated a plan, Operation Sealion, to invade Britain, and Brownstone Battery was an integral part of the defence against this land invasion. Dartmouth was seen as being particularly vulnerable to attack: as well as being an important port in its own right, it was frequently used by the navy and had a motor torpedo boat installation. It was decommissioned in the late 1950s, and when the National Trust acquired the site in 1981, substantial work was undertaken to preserve its buildings, as one of the few batteries remaining intact from the Second World War.
The return is via the Daymark Tower, erected in 1864 to show sailors the way into the harbour.
Look out towards the mighty Mew Stone and where you might see seals, and peregrines, the fastest creature on earth, and listen for the chink of stonechats and the piping whistle of oystercatchers.
For more information about this walk please visit here.