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Stunning Salcombe…but Surprisingly Swelly!

Salcombe…WOW! What a stunning little place this is ❤️ A hugely popular stop on a West Country cruise, Salcombe is an idyllic harbour surrounded by Devon’s rolling, green hills. A rather exclusive resort, ‘boating’ is at the heart of Salcombe.

After a rather uncomfortable sail/motor-sail from Dartmouth we were met by the Harbour Master on arrival and took a mooring buoy opposite the impressive looking Harbour Hotel. The cost was £2 per metre, per night (June 2022) however if you book a week and pay in advance you get 7 nights for the price of 5! The mooring buoys are marked with a ‘V’ however they do not have a pickup line. Fortunately the Harbour Master is usually on hand to help take lines, otherwise lassoing is probably the safest method to initially get you ‘on’. Like Dartmouth, you get a handy little harbour guide full of useful information on facilities, tides, events and nearby attractions. If you don’t fancy a mooring buoy then there is a large non-walk ashore pontoon in ‘The Bag’ area of the harbour or limited walk ashore berths are available overnight between the hours of 7pm and 8am, subject to agreement from the Harbour Master. But be prepared to be rafted if on a buoy or pontoon, we had heard that it’s not uncommon to have 5 boats rafted on one buoy! Fortunately we escaped this during our stay as that all sounds a little intense for our liking! Alternatively there is an anchorage north of ‘The Bag’.

Salcombe is well catered for the cruiser and other places would do well to take a leaf out of their book! The Normandy Pontoon has a good sized area for tenders and a ‘pick up and drop off’ area with fresh water access for your main vessel, maximum stay 30 minutes. Rubbish can be taken to the floating pontoon opposite the Normandy Pontoon, or to the visitor’s pontoon in ‘The Bag’. Both have recycling points. There is also a fuel barge. Ashore there are two individual shower rooms, next to the public toilets at Whitestrand. You will need a code to access these, available on payment of your mooring. We must say that the hot water in the shower was awesome, and the hand painted tiles by local school children a lovely touch! Visitors are also welcome to use the facilities at the Salcombe Yacht Club.

Salcombe Resident Mooring Dinghy Park

As a town focused on boating it comes as no surprise that the majority of shops here are nautically themed. Practically every well known clothing brand has a store here…Quba, Seasalt, Fat Face, Musto, Mountain Warehouse, Jack Willis, Joules, Crew Clothing, Helly Hanson…to name but a few! But you will also find unique boutiques, art and photography galleries and homeware stores. And you won’t miss Cranch’s sweetshop, in its distinctive bright pink colourings, but choosing what sweet delights to purchase will be a difficult decision!

Salcombe is also home to Salcombe Gin and you will find their distillery on Island Street, the traditional boat building quarter of Salcombe. Taster sessions are available whereby you will learn about the distillation process and get to sample some of their gins.

Island Street is also home to The Boatstore, a well stocked chandlery and clothing store. We got a replacement 907 gas bottle here, now £40 a shot 😱 (why is everything creeping up in price!!!) Further along this quirky little street you will find more local shops and businesses plus a small but well stocked Co-op.

Speaking of things increasing in price, we were a little taken aback to be charged nearly £7 for a pint at The Ferry Inn! The pub is Salcombe’s oldest pub, dating back to 1739, and has a beautiful beer garden overlooking the estuary. The bartender was very polite and let us sample a few ales before we made our choice. However at £6.80 a pint we thought this a bit steep so needless to say we only had the one!

Now, as our title suggests, we were very surprised to find that Salcombe can actually be quite swelly at times. Initially we thought it was because we were close to the harbour entrance with wind against tide and after a couple of rather restless nights asked if we could be moved. The Harbour Master was very accommodating and guided us to a vacant resident mooring buoy further up by the entrance to Southpool Creek. However the swell remained, but not all the time. It would come and go. In a southerly blow, and particularly on an ebb tide, the swell would be surprisingly rough. After a number of uncomfortable rocks we worked out that the swell would start roughly 2 hours before slack water in the main channel and would last for around 3 hours. Of course this didn’t stop the swell from coming but at least we sort of knew when to expect it!

Mooring Buoy in Salcombe

The beaches here are glorious with soft white sand but beware that they can shelve off quickly in places. Some of these beaches are privately owned but the owners do let us mere mortals use them. You could easily be mistaken for being in the Mediterranean with the white sands and turquoise waters, especially if the weather plays its part too!

Beach opposite Salcombe Town

An enjoyable walk will take you from Salcombe along the coastal path to North Sands beach, with its beautiful sandy beach and rock pools for exploring. Continuing onwards you will reach South Sands beach, yet another well protected sandy cove, perfect for bathing. Here you will also find the new Harbour Hotel & Spa, opened in 2021, with its alfresco dining area, and plans to include a beach bar area with hammocks and bean bags!. South Sands is also the destination for the unique ‘Sea Tractor‘ – the South Sands passenger ferry runs between Whitestrand, in the centre of Salcombe, and South Sands where it is met by the ‘Sea Tractor’ which travels out into the water to meet the ferry!

Sea tractor going to meet the South Sands ferry

From South Sands you can carry on into the surrounding countryside and the impressive three-mile circular walk to Bolt Head via Sharp Tor. The dramatic coastline provides fantastic views of the Salcombe Estuary and into Starehole Bay.

Coastal Path to Bolt Head

Look out for the memorial stones along the route including a distance marker dedicated to W Newton Drew of Ringrone, Salcombe and one to The Salcombe Lifeboat disaster, one of the worst in RNLI history. It was erected in 2016 to mark a century since thirteen of the fifteen man crew of the RNLI William and Emma lifeboat were drowned trying to cross the bar on October 27, 1916.

Memorial to the Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster

Our time in Salcombe was coming to an end. Checking the forecasts it was looking good for our continued journey west…Plymouth here we come!

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