Bigbury-on-sea is a gem of the South west an award winning and amazing all round beach ideal for families and water sport enthusiasts. The bay lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty amongst the rolling hills of the South Hams, with its wide bay of gradual golden slopping sand and rockpools hugging rugged cliffs. And just across from the beach the icing on the cake Burgh Island, this mysterious isle and its hidden causeway make Bigbury’s scenic beauty hard to match. It is bay provides the ideal location for a wide and varied selection of water sports including surfing, bodyboarding, kayaking, SUP, and windsurfing, perfect for those searching for that adrenaline rush.
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Car parking and facilities
The official car park at Bigbury is run by South Hams council and rates run from around £1.50 an hour, however in peak season this car park does become very full and local farmers open up their fields just a small walk away from the beach at great rates of just £4 a day. If you are extremely lucky you may also secure a free parking spot next to the slip way running right down to the Beach however these are few and far between.
By the main car park there are a range of facilities including toilets with showers, a handful of beach shops, the Venus cafe serving local organic produces (perfect for post surf hot choccies) and the Discovery surf school where you can hire surfboards, SUPs and kayaks and book onto lessons with their friendly and supportive staff. The beach is life guarded form May to September making ideal for families and those wishing to try new watersports . The beach itself is a golden sand beach with the occasional pebbly patch, it looks its most stunning at low tide when the beach reveals its hidden causeway to the seemingly impassable Burgh Island. The beach is also dog friendly however some restrictions apply in the summer months with only the left hand side of the beach towards the river mouth available to doggos at this time.
The mysterious Burgh island sits just 250 meters from the shore at Bigbury, twice a day this island is accessible on foot when at low tide the water recedes revealing a hidden causeway linking the island to the beach. At high-tide it becomes impassable as the path is submerged once again, bar for the impressive sea tractor which ferries passengers back and forth to the mainland for £2.00 a trip on a 6ft tall platform perched above tractor wheels, (its an impressive site).
Bigbury is a popular water sports beach with many surfers paddle boarders, kayakers, windsurfers, kite surfers frequenting the beach throughout the year. The beach is supported by life guards throughout the summer months and the Discovery surf school provides hire and tuition for a range of activities all year round.
Bigbury bay is a fairly exposed beach break with reliable surf which works throughout the year, although its often much smaller than its neighbouring Bantham beach making it more suited for beginner level surfers. The break works best when southwest swells combine with offshore winds blowing in form a north-easterly direction, this provides the bay with a good mix of groundswells and windswells.
A very popular location for those wishing to paddle either by SUP or kayak, Bigbury is surrounded by a multitude of spectacular paddling routes. The bay itself on a flat day is perfect for those who want to learn and get comfortable on the water. Paddling around Burgh island at high tide is a must (maybe paddle out and enjoy a drink at the Pilchard), this relatively short route allows an alternative perspective of the island and is perfect for those just bringing paddling due to the heavy life guard presence on the beach.
Averton Gifford tidal estuary
Another popular route is up the mouth of the river Avon up to Averton Gifford, however personally I
prefer to start at Averton Gifford and paddle downstream as explained bellow.
A peaceful paddling route is from Averton Gifford paddling downstream with the outgoing tide to
Bantham or Bigbury. This extremely scenic route is oftentimes overlooked by its neighbouring
estuary at Kingsbridge meaning you may be blessed with some solitude on this paddle. This
relaxing route flanked by rolling Devonshire hills and wooded banks can require very little effort if
timed correctly. Allow the tide to do all the hard work by paddling downstream with the outgoing
tide, at narrowing points and the right time you can paddle at four times your normal speed (bliss).
If timed to perfection you can spend a few hours playing on the beaches at either Bigbury or
Bantham, maybe catching a few waves, before paddling back upstream with the high tide. Or
alternatively use a second Vehicle for a pick up.
I’ve made timing mistake a few times in the past and it’s a right polava especially due to the tidal
nature meaning you may have a long slog though the mud and maybe in the dark if you really
mess up like me...
For those more experienced paddlers there are a range of longer routes including paddling around the coast to Mothercombe beach, or up to Hope cove via Thurstone and South Milton sands. These paddles are much longer and do require more fore-planning with tide times so as not to get cut off by the changing tide, or become to exhausted to make it back safely, as always ensure you have the correct safety equipment and the weather
conditions are suitable, not too windy or choppy and ensure you know your ability.
Bigbury’s stunning coastline with its glorious golden beach and surrounding grassy hills makes it an area of outstanding natural beauty and alongside being a hub for watersports it also provides some delightful walks around the southwest costal path.
Burgh Island Explore
Once on Burgh island walkers will find a myriad of crisscrossing pathways up and over the peak, each of these offering spectacular views of the surrounding coastline and out to see (on a good day that is..). It takes about 30 minutes to walk around the island and atop the hill climb walkers will find the Huers hut, believed to be an old fisherman’s chapel and watchtower for shoals of pilchards below. Perhaps this is where the Pilchards inn at the base of the island gains its name. This beautiful 14th century pub is one of the oldest pubs in England and its patrons not only include local fishermen but pirates and smuggles who use to lure ships onto the nearby rocks. This pub is a beautiful spot to relax by the open fire or watch the waves go by before heading back to mainland. Also on the island is the famous Burgh Island Hotel, this grade two listed building with its art décor theme is the inspiration for not one but two Agatha Cristies ‘Poirot’ titles ‘Evil under the Sun’ and ‘And then there were none”, however formal bookings must be made to visit it.
The Ringmore loop
For those looking for a slightly longer stroll the Ringmore loop is prefect. It is roughly 6km and takes about 3 hours at a leisurely pace. This walk will take you along the clifftop tracks, through fields and across the sandy beaches.
From the Bigbury car park head west following the coastal path signs uphill this will soon branch left to Challaborough bay, a small beach and holiday park. Here you can either stick to the costal path or wander across the sandy bay until you reach the opposing headland. Here re-join the costal path as it hugs the coastline and begins climbing upwards. Atop the hill the path will diverge, take the right track leading you inland through fields, continue down this track until you reach Ringmore. Once in the village take the second track it’s a small lane heading right, it soon develops into a footpath which winds and climbs through a small thicker of trees before dropping down and crosses a stream before climbing once again. The track then passes through a couple of gates and over the road before rising up Folly Hill. Here you can take a sharp right to stay on the footpath which will take you parallel to the B3392 without you having to walk along the road from here you can follow the signs back to Bigbury car park and enjoy a refreshing beverage at the Venus cafe or the Pilchard Inn.
For more information about Bigbury-on-sea visit https://www.visitsouthdevon.co.uk/things-to-do/bigbury-on-sea-beach-p232883 or https://www.coastandcountry.co.uk/blog/bigbury-on-sea-south-devon-beach-bible
Images by Anna Butler @annnabutler, Jack Cory @jackcory, and Rhi Dumper @wetsuits_and_hikingboots, Neill Richardson @falselights15
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