Thatched cottages, twin sandy beaches and a salty sea breeze ever whistling through the narrow lanes will greet you should you opt to visit the picture-perfect settlement of Hope Cove in the South Hams. Complete with two villages, endless stretches of coastline, and the chance to escape from it all– literally, there’s no phone signal- here’s a quick guide to the best things to do in Hope Cove!
For history buffs like me, it’s well worth noting that Hope Cove is the only place in England where the Spanish Armada actually touched the land. During the 16th-century, the San Pedro el Mayor (a ship transformed into a floating hospital) was shipwrecked on the rocks between Inner and Outer Hope.
While the ship’s one hundred and forty survivors were first sentenced to death, they were eventually sent back home to Spain. In other histories, Hope Cove was well known as a smugglers’ haunt and the remains of dozens of other ships can be found up and down the shores of Bigbury Bay.
The oldest part of the two villages can be found right on the shoreline and the settlement was once part of the parish of the nearby town of Malborough up until the 1970s. Nestled in the very heart of Inner Hope, there’s a post office, a pub, and an award-winning coffee shop, as well as the village’s main car park.
The second village of Hope Cove is set a little way away from the sea and also has its own beach. Outer Hope may be further away from the azure blue waters, but its prominent position high up the hillside means that it offers breathtaking views onto the village of Inner Hope below, as well as the glistening sea beyond. On a clear day, you can see as far away as Rame Head, in Cornwall some thirteen miles away.
The Cove Cafe Bar
Recently awarded the UK’s Best Independent Craft Beer Bar, the Cove Cafe Bar has over fifty beers, ales, and ciders on offer. Set over two levels with indoor and outdoor seating, there’s plenty of food options on offer as well, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free fare.
The Hope & Anchor Pub
Owned and operated by Cornish run St Austell Brewery, the Hope & Anchor offers open-air dining in the warmer months and the chance to cosy up indoors with a hot beverage when it comes to the wintertime. Situated half a minute walk from the beach below, this is also where you’ll want to spend the night should you choose to stay overnight in Hope Cove!
Coastal Walks & Bolt Tail
Of course, one of the main attractions of visiting the former fishing village (now Hope Cove’s main source of income comes in the form of tourism), is the sea itself! One of the best coastal trails nearby is the chance to walk the mile-long cliff walk to South Milton Sands. To the other side of the village, the high headland of Bolt Tail offers stunning panoramic views along the Devonian coastline.
Beaches at Hope Cove
The twin beaches of Hope Cove are perfect for paddling in the glittering waters, soaking up some sea air, or simply lying on the sandy banks. While the place gets pretty busy in the summer months (make sure to arrive earlier in the day to ensure you find a parking spot- space is pretty limited), it’s nowhere near as popular as the nearby South Milton Sands and means that should you visit the beaches of Hope Cove, you’ll probably be able to find a spot on the beach for yourself!
Things to do near Hope Cove
South Milton Sands: Best-known as being the site of the impossibly shaped column of Thurlestone Rock, South Milton Sands is the perfect place to picnic in the summer months and to explore the nearby countryside. Once there, there’s also a lovely beach café which serves piping hot cheesy chips all year ’round.
Soar Mill Cove: The rather secluded Soar Mill Cove is home to a sandy stretch of beach and is situated in the very heart of a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. Like much of the rest of the South Hams, phone signal is lacking, thus giving you the opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking scenery without distractions from the modern world.
Ruins of St Andrew’s in South Huish: Just a few miles from the twin villages at Hope Cove, the ruins of St Andrew’s in South Huish are best-visited mid-summer when the flowers are in bloom and the church remains hauntingly beautiful.
Bigbury-on-Sea & Burgh Island: The charming Devonian fishing village is set in the wider area of Bigbury Bay, named for a quaint hamlet with an adjacent tidal island. One of the very best things to do in the South Hams is to wander across to the small island which was once featured in an Agatha Christie novel, or take the ‘sea tractor’ if the tide is high!