Filled with cute cafés and situated by the sea, the quaint village of Shaldon was once home to a multitude of smugglers…. Although the Devonian settlement is often overlooked in favour of larger towns lying along the Devon coastline, that doesn’t mean you should overlook it, nor does it mean that there’s not plenty to see and do in this charming village!
Shaldon: A Quaint Village with a Rich History
Shaldon sits on the opposite side of the estuary to the iconic town of Teignmouth. It’s characterized by its Georgian architecture and sandy beaches. The streets are filled with flowers and the entire community is built on reclaimed land. The original settlement of Shaldon was located much further upstream, at Ringmore.
Once home to a thriving farming community, inhabitants of the village were also known for making lobster pots and fishing. And, indeed, you can still find evidence of the village’s rich past in the numerous fishing baskets lining the streets in the form of flower pots.
Today the village is focused on tourism; cafés, restaurants, and other notable attractions can be found dotted around Shaldon. Each year, the village hosts the Shaldon Regatta. Dating all the way back to 1817, it’s one of the oldest races in the world and runs for 9 days every August.
Shaldon Village Square
Approaching the center of Shaldon by car, a roadside sign warns of ‘narrow streets‘. And the description is not entirely wrong…. Enter the very heart of the village and you’ll find the streets becoming smaller and smaller. The walls close in but feel more cozy than claustrophobic.
The entire village is focused around one main square. Lined with Georgian houses and dotted with colourful flowerbeds, Shaldon Village Square is also home to a pristine bowling lawn. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a local ice cream (almost all the cafés in the neighbouring streets serve Salcombe Ice Cream) and get a feel for a typical Devonian village.
Shaldon beach, Teignmouth
The main beach in Shaldon lies in front of the village, on reclaimed land. The waves gently lap the shoreline, but the currents further at sea are strong. Shaldon Beach overlooks the nearby seafront of neighbouring Teignmouth and is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or even just a short stroll along the seashore.
Ness Cove, Ness Dr, Shaldon TQ14 0HP
With so many cafés and restaurants dotted around the village, it was hard to decide which one to frequent for lunch! However, the promise of rosemary fries with homemade aioli (which turned out to be completely delicious), as well as the café’s commitment to sustainability made it the perfect place to enjoy a light bite to eat.
The majority of the food containers, as well as the cutlery used, are compostable. All drinks come in glass bottles and customers are encouraged to use the recycling bins provided. Much of the food served is sourced locally. As such, Ode Café is one of the most sustainable eateries in Southwest England.
S W Coast Path, Shaldon, Teignmouth TQ14 0HP
Centuries ago, South Devon was home to a thriving industry of lime kilns. The lime kiln lies down a narrow set of steps, not far from the village’s main car park. Hidden away in a leafy corner, this kiln is well preserved and is one of only a few still surviving.
Lime kilns such as this were used to burn the limestone that can be found abundantly throughout coastal cliff faces in the area. The rock was burned in kilns like this in order to produce lime for building works and agriculture. This particular lime kiln probably dates back to the 18th or 19th-Century.
S W Coast Path, Shaldon, Teignmouth TQ14 0HP
Immediately to the right of the lime kiln, you’ll see a small entryway. A dimly lit tunnel stretches ahead, cutting through the cliff face. Emerge on the other side, and you’ll find a sandy beach and deep blue sea. Although the tunnel is open 24 hours a day, and access to the beach is always available, I’d probably avoid this tunnel if I were on my own at night!
Once upon a time, the shores of Devon and Cornwall were a haven for smugglers. Pirates would frequent the shores of the Southwest shores in order to secretly deliver their goods. In a bid to smuggle in illegal alcohol, and avoid hefty taxes and import duties, the smugglers dug caves and tunnels deep into the rock face. The tunnel leading to Ness Beach is one of these tunnels.
Though it has long since been widened, and electric lights have been added, the tunnels remain damp. Slightly claustrophobic once inside, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have walked these tunnels on a regular basis… particularly by candlelight while trying to avoid detection.
Ness Dr, Shaldon, Teignmouth TQ14 0HP
Not far from the entrance to the tunnel leading to Ness Beach, you’ll find the Ness Pub. Nestled on a small ledge close to the beach, the outdoor terrace is the perfect place to enjoy a locally brewed pint, or refreshing soft drink. Overlooking the Teign Estuary, the pub welcomes dogs and offers free WiFi (though cell reception is generally quite good in the area- with the exception of no signal in the middle of the smuggler’s tunnel!)
Homeyards Botanical Gardens
Torquay Rd, Shaldon, Teignmouth TQ14 0BD
Hidden a little up an unlikely side street, you’ll find a steep hill. Wander up this hill and you’ll come to a little gate with a sign for ‘Homeyards Botanical Gardens’. Open 24 hours a day, this tropical paradise once belonged to the owners of the nearby Ness House (now the Ness Pub).
In the gardens, you’ll find ponds, grottoes and even a castle. The Castle offers views over the surrounding Bay and was constructed in 1931. The gardens themselves were designed and created by Maria Laetitia Kempe in the early 1930s.
The gardens were opened to the public in the 1950s. Today, they are a lovely and tranquil escape from the narrow streets below. Free to wander around, they offer a quiet space to sit and plenty of great views over the surrounding bay and across the water to nearby Teignmouth.