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Salcombe, Devon

Updated on January 16, 2009


Salcombe is a beautiful town in the South Hams district of Devon, south west England..

The town is close to the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary, built mostly on the steep west side of the estuary and lies within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The town's extensive waterfront and the naturally sheltered harbour formed by the estuary gave rise to its success in the Boat and Ship Building industry, as well as a popular sailing port! Tourism changed the town dramatically..with its emerging as one of the nations most beautiful holiday destinations. It is now a haven for pleasure sailing and yachting, scenic walks and wonderful beaches.

Many of the houses in Salcombe are used as second homes by non-locals. Salcombe has some celebrity residents, including Sir Clive Woodward, Kate Bush, Sir Michael Parkinson, and members of Led Zeppelin. Properties with estuary or sea views can fetch between £1m and £5m and some rent for as much as £12000 a week in the high season.


There are a number of shipwrecks off Salcombe. One is of a Bronze Age ship, one of only three known in Britain, which had French made weapons and jewelry. The Salcombe Cannon Wreck is of a 17th century ship that contained 400 Moroccan gold coins and Dutch items. In 1936 a famous finnish 4 masted barque, Herzogin Cecilie stranded at Bolt Head. Also off Salcombe is HMS Untiring (P59) which is a Second World War submarine that was sunk in 1957 as a sonar target.

A description of the South Hams is given in the 9th century charter S298. This does not show Salcombe but its area is part of Badestone (Batson). "Salcombe" first appears in the records in 1244, on the boundaries of Batson and West Portlemouth. In 1570 there were 56 mariners while two years later another survey shows 5 ships under 60 tons at Salcombe.

In 1566 there were 10 seine nets at Salcombe while in the 1580s Salcombe fishermet travelled to Padstow annually for the new herring fishery. While there they rented cottages and storehouses.

During the English civil war the town sided with the Royalists and held out against the Roundheads. The ruins of Fort Charles remain towards the south of the town. It held out from January to May 1646 and was the last Royalist stronghold. This fort was built for Henry VIII to defend the estuary. It was slighted on the orders of Parliament.

There is liitle record of the town between 1650 and 1750 but it is thought that the inhabitants lived by fishing and smuggling. In 1764 the first ho;iday home, The Moult, was built in Salcombe.

In the 19th century Salcombe was a major centre for shipping in the fruit trade. Salcombe vessels sailed to Iberia, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean as well as to the Azores and Newfoundland. The fruit cargos were oranges and lemons from the Azores, and pineapples from the Bahamas and West Indies. Other cargoes brought back included sugar, rum, cocoanuts and shaddocks. In addition wood such as ebony and mahogany was brought for furnishing ships. Salcombe and Kingsbridge were busy ship building places, producing the Salcombe schooner. This was a fast boat that could be sailed with few hands. However, almost half the fleet were lost with all hands. A mutual marine assurance association had been established in 1811 to insure Salcombe ships.

By 1871 the central part of Salcombe, excluding the outlying districts, numbered 776 people, with 34 shipwrights and 13 ships carpenters. There were also 5 sawyers, 3 block makers, 2 ship's riggers, 3 sail makers, a tin plate worker and 4 blacksmiths. However, in the 1870s the fruit trade declined due to outbreaks of orange and pineapple disease and because of the advent of steamships. Some work was found taking salt to Newfoundland and returning with cod but by 1914 there were only three or four locally owned trading ships in the estuary. At this time there was the start of pleasure sailing at Salcombe with the yacht club being founded in 1874. One of the boats raced was the Salcombe yawl for which an owner's association has been set up.

Salcombe became a ship registry port in 1864 but still came under Dartmouth for customs. A customs house was later built at Salcombe which still exists. Between 1796 and 1887 at least 200 vessels were launched from Salcombe. To have more space the shipyards were extended by reclaiming the foreshore. These were later built over and new ones made in Shadycombe Creek. However, many vessels were lost, including 7 local boats off the Azores in November 1851. There were four sailmakers lofts at Salcombe and three shipsmiths in 1851. The majority of the Victorian houses seen in Salcombe today were built by shipowners and masters. After 1880, with the advent of steam propulsion and larger ships, there was less new construction and repair work. Salcombe's seamen and craftsmen moved to the deep sea fishing ports or to the dockyards.

Between the two world wars Salcombe developed as a holiday resort, with Salcombe Sailing Club being founded in 1922.

During the second world war a radar station was set up on Bolt Head and Salcombe became an Advance Amphibeous Base for the United States Navy in September 1943. The Salcombe Hotel became the latter's headquarters and 60 other properties were requistioned, as well as Quonset huts being built on the hill near the Rugby Club. Whitestrand Quay and slipway was constructed. 137 officers and 1793 men were based at Salcombe. 66 ships and many auxiliary vessels sailed from Salcombe on 4 June 1944 as part of "Force U" which landed on Utah Beach, Normandy. Afterwards Shadycombe Creek and Mill Bay were used to repair damaged landing craft. The Base closed on 7 May 1945. A plaque was set up in Normandy Way to commemmorate the United States Navy. Salcombe and district suffered a number of bombing raids during the war and a list of the casualties is available online

There have been many changes to the Salcombe Waterfront since World War II, the most noticeable being the construction of the Creek car and boat park, and the road to Batson. Salcombe became an urban district following an Act of Parliament in 1972.

A Walk In and Around Salcombe...

Snape's Point

Start the walk from Shadycombe car park in Salcombe. The first sighting across the creek is of Snapes Manor on the opposite bank. The 12th century house was built on an ideal site - southfacing, sheltered. There is a lime kiln along the creekside either side of Batson. The site was a Saxon settlement long before Salcombe began to develop. The creek is a haven for birdlife and your walk may well be extended by the inevitable distraction of having to identify the birds, maybe even a sighting of a cirl bunting among the creekside trees.

The footpath turns awaay from the creek in order to skirt the Manor House and then return to the creekside. As you wander towards Scoble Point at the end of Snapes, there are wonderful

views down to Salcombe and across to East Portlemouth. You then climb a hill and on reaching the top, you can marvel at the views: to the south there is the estuary mouth to Bolt Head; to the north the creeks stretching inland.

As you approach Lincombe there is a boatyard where it is rumoured that smugglers landed their

illgotten gains. Climb away from Lincombe and enjoy even more spectacular views of the estuary. From here you cross the car park and proceed along the narrow lane to return to Batson and retrace your path back into Salcombe. Unfortunately there are no pubs along this walk but you will be spoilt for choice in Salcombe, including The Ferry Inn.

Snapes Point..

Snapes Point..
Snapes Point..

Scenes of Beauty..

Salcombe Estuary..

Forth Charles ruins..

North Sands..

On the walk from Hope to Salcombe..

The Salcombe Yacht Club Regatta, which is held from the 9th - 15th August, annually hosts racing for eleven classes as well as three handicap classes. Nearly 300 boats enter annually with approximately 550 sailors taking part.

Best Restaurants..

The Winking Prawn is lucky enough to be based in an amazing area of 'outstanding natural beauty', which is North Sands. There is a beautiful clean beach, a neighbouring large playing field, lots and lots of parking and even a tennis court. The food is fresh and non-pretentious..service is slick yet relaxed!! :-) Recommended!!

The Oyster Shack

Simply Superb!! An outstanding Seafood restaurant with impeccable produce! Service is excellent, it has a view to die for, and is on the list of things you HAVE to do whilst in Salcombe!!


Catch 55 is a lively and attractive bistro, owned and run by Stefanie and Ben Holt-Wilson. The service is snappy and friendly, the food very good and reasonably priced, there is something on the menu to suit all tastes and you can order a large or small portion of any dish which suits children (or adults!) with small appetites. Matched by a snappy little wine list the overall forecast is 'set fair, not a shower in sight'. The results of all this are producing an interesting restaurant that is certainly pulling in the Salcombe jetset and the visitors.

My Salcombe..

I have visited the beautiful town of Salcombe 3 times now. It is just the most magical place! Let me tell the story of my 1st visit to Salcombe..

We arrived late at night, tired after a long journey, with pitch black all around, only the sounds of the seagulls and the waves assured me we had made it!

We unloaded the car..and began to climb the curling steps to this mysterious house i could not yet see. Surrounded either side by a splendid array of Tropical flora & fauna, we climbed these ungodly steep steps laden with bags, excitement growing, the house gradually hoving into view...

A beautiful five bedroom Edwardian house perched on the South side of the estuary. An enormous balcony that looks out towards the bay, over-looked by a spacious conservatory separated by French windows, that allows a panaramic view of the bay even from the kitchen! The house itself seems to be stuck in a Sixties/Seventies time warp, the décor, the curtains and the carpets, the wallpaper, all just wonderfully english! Even the smell of the house turned you into a little kid with a million memories of Seaside nostalgia.. :-)

We relaxed before bed out on the balcony..staring into the darkness. The only sounds to be heard were the waves as they hit the shore, the gulls, the occasional boat..whurring across the bay.

I went to bed feeling like a boy at Christmas.. i couldn't wait for morning!!..

And this is what i woke up to..





4.Ice Cream!!


Like my Lens on Salcombe!?..Feel free to leave a msg!! :-)

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the lovely tour -- what a beautiful place. (Some of your pictures have gone missing -- hope they come back!) Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a beautiful place to visit for a holiday. Can you suggest of cheap Devon holiday cottages near the town?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a beautiful place to visit for a holiday. Can you suggest of cheap Devon holiday cottages near the town?

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      10 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      VEry nice len. I enjoyed the pictures.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Lovely Lens and thanks for submitting it to Travelmania Group 5*.

      Online travel booking and worldwide destination guides

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very nice lens ***** I'll have to check it out soon.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      10 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I don't know Salcombe well but now I've read your lens I want to visit.

    • VBright profile image


      10 years ago I'm jealous. That sounds (well reads anyway, I'm deaf) and looks fabulous. I can just imagine how lovely it is.

      Great lens, thanks for sharing it....5* and a fav!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What a lovely lens! This looks like a gorgeous place, i would love to go there sometime! 5 Stars

    • kerbev profile image


      10 years ago from Upstate, NY

      Looks beautiful!


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