If you’re looking for a fairly easy-to-access South West Coast Path hike that’ll take you around half a day and is a bit of a challenge, how about the Teignmouth to Babbacombe hike?
This South Devon hike connects the Victorian seaside resort of Teignmouth with the start of Torbay, spanning around eight miles.
From Babbacombe, you can either hike around ? to reach Torquay (but this will double your hike time) or walk inland or take a bus to Torquay.
I recently did this hike; here’s everything you need to know about the Teignmouth to Babbacombe hike!
About the Teignmouth to Babbacombe hike
- Distance: 8 miles/
- Elevation gain: 638 metres
- Max elevation: 124 metres
- Time: 3 hours 30 moving time (not including breaks)
- Difficulty: Challenging, but nowhere near as tough as the SWCP walks in the north of Devon and Cornwall.
- Terrain: Largely a path running through woodland, some open field walking, minimal road walking. We hiked at the end of November and it wasn’t muddy (nowhere near the levels of my Ladram Bay to Sidmouth walk the week before), but it hadn’t rained for a few days.
Starting the Teignmouth to Babbacombe walk
This walk begins in Teignmouth. Officially, the South West Coast Path route leads to Teignmouth Back Beach and then involves taking the Teignmouth to Shaldon ferry (allegedly the oldest ferry in the country).
However, we opted to walk towards the Teignmouth-Shaldon bridge and cross this instead, as we arrived before the first ferries of the day departed (usually around 10:00am).
Note: The ferry costs £2 per person and as far as I’m aware, they don’t accept cards.
Once you reach Shaldon, by ferry or on foot, walk in a Southern direction to reach the coast path.
Ascending from Shaldon
The coast path initially traverses through some woodland, over Ness Cove Beach (if you have time, I’d recommend taking the smuggling tunnel detour to this beach, it’s lovely).
This is where it starts to get hilly! The path becomes quite undulating for the first half of the walk, with steep uphill sections, some with steps and some just on the hills.
It’s nothing on the sections in North Devon and Cornwall (*ahem* Hartland Quay to Bude), but we were a little out of practice of hiking the hillier sections of the path and found it a bit of a challenge!
There’s one section where it looks like the coast path turns out onto the road. Keep an eye out for a little acorn sign pointing down the side of the road, to a (much safer!) pathway that runs parallel.
After a few uphills and downhills, it thankfully becomes a little less taxing!
The only place of any excitement to stop is Maidencombe.
This is a tiny village with a pub – although, if it’s open (there should be signs on the apporach with opening times), I’d highly recommend walking down to the beach and having a coffee at Cafe Rio.
Here, service is exemplary, food is varied (they have oat and soya milk for coffee and plenty of veggie options) and the view is spectacular.
If you’re hiking on a summer’s day (not in November like us!), Maidencombe would be a lovely spot for a swim, too.
There are public toilets (open from Easter until September) on the way to the beach, or the cafe has a toilet for customers.
The terrain’s not too difficult here, as you head to Watcombe.
There’s a small beach here, although it doesn’t have any services. The coast path actually bypasses the beach completely, so you’ll need to detour to see it!
We stopped for lunch just up from Watcombe (there are no benches in the combe itself, but we found one just above).
Soon after passing by Watcombe, we caught views of Babbacombe in the distance. The good news? After a fairly challenging start, the path really levels out here and it’s not too tough at all.
Arriving in Babbacombe
You’ve got a few options when you arrive in Babbacombe:
- Cut inland from Petit Tor: This is what we did, as we wanted to take the road route inland to reach Torquay, where we could take a train back to Exmouth (where we live).
- Walk to Babbacombe Downs: I almost wish we’d done the extra walk to Babbacombe Downs, as the views to Oddicombe Bay are incredible. But, we’ll be doing the Babbacombe to Torquay walk soon and will take them in then!
- Walk down to Oddicombe Beach: This will add a lot more downhill and subsequently uphill to your hike, but the rewards are great – Oddicombe Beach is spectacular.
- Take the Babbacombe Cliff Railway: Definitely the best addition to your Teignmouth to Babbacombe hike!
How to get back to Teignmouth
Babbacombe doesn’t have a station, but it does have a direct bus link back to Teignmouth (the 22). This runs every hour and takes around 30 minutes.
If you want to take the train back, the 22 bus also runs to Torquay and takes around 26 minutes.
We wanted to take the train back to Exmouth, but opted to walk to Torquay (around 45 minutes) as we would have just missed a bus. Torre station is around the same walk.
This isn’t particuarly inspiring walking, but you will go past the Babbacombe Model Village, Bygones and Torre Abbey, so you could add any of these onto your day!
From Torquay, trains leave every half an hour to Teignmouth, stations in Exeter and Exmouth. There’s also the occasional train to London!
Tips for the hike
Here are my top tips for the hike!
- Take cash if you want to take the boat: Most small passenger ferries in Devon are cash-only (my partner recently had to bank transfer somebody because he didn’t have cash, but not everyone will do this!). As far as I’m aware, it’s £2.
- Poles will be your friend: While you don’t really need hiking poles for the area east of this, I think you will want them for this section of path (and for others further west in South Devon). I use these Black Diamond poles and love how lightweight yet sturdy they are!
- Stop at Cafe Rio: This is one of the best beachside cafes I’ve been to on the path – definitely recommend stopping here.
- If Cafe Rio isn’t open, bring your lunch: There isn’t really anywhere else to eat en-route.
- Check timetables before heading out: This is Devon, after all! If you’re relying on the number 22 bus to take you back, check timetables before heading out so you know if you have one to aim for.
- Spend more time in Babbacombe and less in Torquay: Sorry, Torquay, but you’re not my favourite place! Babbacombe has the lovely Oddicombe Beach, the cliff railway, the model village and Bygones, so if you’re looking for somewhere to hang out in after your hike, choose Babbacombe!
Things to do in the area
Some of the best things to do include:
- Seeing the Black Swans at Dawlish.
- Hanging out at Teignmouth Back Beach.
- Kent’s Cavern Caves in Torquay.
- Babbacombe Cliff Railway that leads down to Oddicombe Beach.
- Beaches around Torquay.
- Beaches around Teignmouth.
Where to stay in the area
Looking for a hotel in Teignmouth, Babbacombe or Torquay? Here’s my pick:
Teignmouth: Cliffden Hotel
Celebrated for its superb location, this hotel boasts large gardens with lovely views. It’s close to the town centre and has friendly staff, comfortable rooms and modern en-suite bathrooms.
Babbacombe: Babbacombe Hotel
Close to the coastal path, Babbacombe Hotel boasts a terrace with sea views. Rooms are homey and comfortable and a great breakfast is served every day.
Torquay: The Belgrave Sands Hotel & Spa
The Belgrave Sands Hotel & Spa is the ideal place to relax after a long day of hiking on the coast path! With modern en-suite rooms to sleep in and an indoor pool with spa, you’ll feel like new after spending a day here!
Are you ready for the Teignmouth to Babbacombe hike?
It’s a little challenging, but it’s not too long and quite easy to get to by public transport – the Teignouth to Babbacombe hike is fantastic for any avid SWCP-ers!
Don’t forget to check out my full guide to hiking the South West Coast Path, which has links to all of my other hiking reviews!
Or, here are some guides to my other hikes in the area: