South West Coast Path Beer to Branscombe Walk
Even though the South West Coast Path Beer to Branscombe walk is well known, I have to admit that this is one I had not done for quite a few years. Many locals are very familiar with it, but if you’ve not tried it before and are not sure what to expect, then read on.
It’s a stunning part of the coast to walk in East Devon and can be managed in about an hour each way. You need to be reasonably fit for this one as there is a step route down hill to Branscombe, and unless you leave a car at each end there is the inevitable walk back up! Try it whatever the weather – this part of the coast never fails to impress even on a dreary day.
A VIEW ACROSS HOOKEN UMDERCLIFF TOWARDS BRANSCOMBE
Starting Your Walk
So how fit are you feeling, that is the question, as this walk has a number of options. Our little group started at Beer Head car park (near the caravan park). If you are being energetic then you could start the walk in the village of Beer itself and hike up the hill up past the Anchor Inn.
The other option is to start in Seaton and follow my route from Seaton Hole to Beer first.
However with only 3 hours to spare we took the shortest option! Here the coast path starts directly below Beer Head car park (which is pay and display) and really is a very easy to navigate, well worn path. Check fields for cattle if you have a dog and remember to stop and admire the views – there are plenty of rest stops! We missed the glorious sunshine on our walk that we’ve been having recently which means my photos are a bit grey – to be honest though as there is no shade on this walk we were grateful of the cloud.
The path goes right along the top of the cliff – did I mention the views!
After about 20 minutes there is an option to go down over Hooken Cliffs a whole section of chalk that broke away making a mysterious alternative route. There are quite steep steps down, so we choose to do it on the way back instead. Soon you go past the Old Coast Guard Station (used in WW11 as a radio station).
Now here’s an option for a shorter walk – turn inland at this point and follow the footpath signs away from the sea, though farmland and down a track back to Beer.
But please keep going! Before you know it Branscombe Beach comes into view. It’s about 2 miles and takes an hour at a reasonably relaxed pace. There are some steep steps on this last leg down.
“Take a picnic or treat yourself to a cream tea half way round”
Once you have reached bottom you can head for the beach, enjoy a drink at the Sea Shanty or extend your walk into Branscombe Village. There’s plenty to choose from – 2 pubs both with good reputations or the National Trust ‘Old Bakery Tea Rooms‘. There is a also a NT car park in the village if you want to start your walk here.
Views from Branscombe Beach
The views are wonderful and on a clear day stretch for miles around the coast – they are worth the effort of the hills. We are pleased that the cows were very relaxed about us walking through their field!
Heading back we took the alternative route through the Sea Shanty Caravan Park and followed the signs leading to the Hooken Undercliff. This is a wonderful route through a wilderness, created when the cliffs split apart (or something more technical sounding than that)! The path is narrow in places and there are some steep steps which take you back up to the main cliff top path – this was a fabulous route and worth the effort.
So there you have it – another great walk in East Devon.
If you are interested in history there is all sorts you can learn about to help keep you or children interested. Beer was very famous for smuggling and you can read all about Jack Rattenbury and his antics and how they used Beer Caves. The village was also important for lace making and apparently most Honiton Lace was actually made in Beer.
The Hooken Undercliff is a great place to learn about the geology of the Jurassic Coast and it does feel a bit like a lost world – you can almost imagine pterodactyls flying overhead. There is an old lime kiln (somewhere) and on top of the cliffs the Coast Guard Lookout was significant during the war. So whatever your interests be sure to learn more – every day’s a school day!