One of the largest counties in the UK, Devon has two stunning coastlines, two rugged moorlands and a patchwork of lush green countryside which begs you to pull on your walking boots and step out to explore. It’s not difficult to find a scenic walking route wherever you are in the county, but if you’re looking for something extra special, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, we’ve outlined our top five secret walks in Devon, from leisurely circular routes to exhilarating point-to-point coastal walks. Hand-selected as some of the county’s lesser-known trails, these rambles showcase Devon’s captivating beauty in all its glory.
Erme Estuary, South Hams
The Erme Estuary is a coastal idyll which is little explored, even by locals. Set in a beautiful section of the South Hams which is often overlooked, it’s worth the adventurous drive down narrow lanes to revel for a short while in its peace and seclusion.
Parking: By the church in the village of Kingston.
Distance: 5.6 miles, circular
Terrain: Challenging, with 7 stiles, often muddy terrain and steep sections with steps or a scramble.
The walk: Setting off from the church in the rural village of Kingston, you’ll walk through fields, woods and down green lanes before meandering along the estuary by Wonwell Beach. If the tide is low, the weather warm and you feel inclined, you can wade across the river to Mothecombe beach – a lovely way to cool your feet down before setting off along the coast.
The path continues up to Redcove Point where you can pause and admire the views of Battisborough Island and then ramble on along the grass-topped cliffs above Fernycombe Beach to Beacon Point where you’ll again be captivated by the panoramic seascape. Take the steep scramble down to dog-friendly Westcombe Beach, a lovely spot for a picnic, or save your legs and continue along the top path, turning back inland towards Kingston.
The path continues to skirt alongside Oakenbury Ponds before heading back into the village, where a well-earned lunch awaits in the 16th century Dolphin Inn. Dog and walker friendly, its cosy interior with inglenook fireplaces will induce a sleepy post-walk stupor in minutes!
Detailed description: The AA walks
Blackdown Rings, Avon Valley, South Hams
The highlights of this idyllic rural walk are an Iron Age hillfort and the remains of a Norman Motte and Bailey castle.
Parking: Blackdown Rings car park
Distance: 6.25 miles, circular
Terrain: Mainly even along footpaths, green lanes and surfaced roads. May be muddy in parts.
The walk: The hillfort is the first thing you’ll come across on your walk, so take some time to explore while pondering on its interesting history before meandering through the wooded Avon Valley where you can spot wildflowers and woodland creatures. The last part of the walk involves retracing your steps, giving you another opportunity to admire the hillfort.
Detailed description: South Devon AONB
Brownsham and Clovelly, North Devon
While Clovelly is one of the most popular stops for tourists on the North Devon coast, there is a way to complete this spectacular woodland walk without meeting another soul. Incorporating a section of the South West Coast Path you can explore secluded Mouth Mill along the way, which features in our article 15 Secret North Devon Beaches.
Parking: Brownsham National Trust Car Park
Distance: 5.1 miles
Terrain: Coastal and countryside footpaths, lots of up and down, some steep and muddy sections.
The walk: From the car park, the walk starts with a downhill stroll through Brownsham Woods, where you should keep your eyes peeled for a variety of flora and fauna: from oak, ash, birch and hazel trees to orchids and butterflies at the right time of year. The route then passes through fields towards the Clovelly Estate, where you can take a detour down the historic cobbled streets and enjoy a pint or lunch in the harbourside pub if the mood takes you.
Joining the coast path again, you’ll meander along the clifftop and into the woodland before descending steeply to Mouth Mill Cove where you’ll notice an old lime kiln, a common sight on the North Devon coast. Zigzagging up through the woods, from here the walk ends with a stroll along a green lane back to the car park or a sit down in Lower Brownsham Farm Tearoom for a well-deserved coffee and cake.
Detailed description: South West Coast Path
Abbeyford Woods, Okehampton, West Devon
Abbeyford Woods display a myriad of colours as the season's change, with autumn being one of the most striking times to visit. The woods offer a fantastic network of accessible paths which are wheelchair and pushchair friendly.
Parking: Abbeyford Woods car park
Distance: Range of distances
Terrain: Compacted, wheelchair and pushchair friendly woodland paths.
The walk: There are a variety of routes to choose from at Abbeyford Woods, depending on whether you fancy a riverside stroll, a ramble along the Tarka Trail or a woodland adventure. Along the way, you may be lucky enough to spot wildlife such as roe deer, red deer, buzzards and adders, as well as an array of majestic tree species. Take a picnic, because you’ll want to linger a while in this peaceful spot.
More information: The Woodland Trust
Bellever Forest, nr Postbridge, Dartmoor
A tranquil moorland setting provides the backdrop for enjoyable woodland walks with plenty for the whole family to enjoy. Bellever Forest offers a number of waymarked trails and access to the historic bridleway, The Lich Way.
Parking: Bellever Forest Car Park (charges apply)
Distance: Walks vary from a 240m accessible path to the long-distance Lich Way.
Terrain: The disabled access trail is accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Other trails are moderate to strenuous, through the forest.
The walk: The 2.2-mile Bellever Trail is a scenic ramble through the forest with some gentle inclines but nothing too strenuous. Landmarks on the route include hut circles and stone cists, and you may come across a Dartmoor pony or two! The 3-mile Postbridge Trail can be added on to the Bellever Trail for a longer walk to admire the awe-inspiring views from Bellever Tor. Take your camera, as Dartmoor features among our 10 best Devon locations to photograph. This route can be strenuous and has steep sections.
If you’re looking for a longer walk, set off along the Lich Way, which runs across the moor, following in the footsteps of those walking to bury their dead at Lydford parish church during the 13th century.
Detailed description: Forestry Commission
Whether you’re looking for a luxurious hotel, a cosy holiday cottage or a welcoming B&B, you’re sure to find the perfect base for exploring the county within our collection of accommodation in Devon.
If you’re planning a trip and would like to find out what not to miss from a local’s point of view, take a look at our Insider’s Guide to Devon.