Autumn is the perfect time to explore Devon by bus.
With the roads being quieter now that the Summer hols are over why not grab your bus pass and hop on the bus to enjoy the spectacular views over the Devon hedges while someone else drives. It’s so easy to plan your journey on the Stagecoach and First Group local bus service websites, and there are also Park and Ride services in Exeter, Barnstaple, Dartmouth and Plymouth. You can download bus maps from the Devon County Council website, visit the Plymouth City Council website or for the English Riviera, visit the Torbay Council website.
We’ve put together an example route to help you enjoy some of the local beauty spots by hopping on and off the bus with a bit of walking back from the pub…
The South West Coast Path and the Exe Estuary trail
There are frequent local bus and train services between Exeter and Dawlish Warren. You can get off the bus along the way and join the stunning walk that takes you along part of the South West Coast Path and between Exeter and Starcross part of the Exe Estuary Trail – a newly completed cycle and walking trail. If starting from the historic city of Exeter, this walk follows the Exe Valley Trail alongside the Exeter Canal and the River Exe.
From the Exeter bus station walk through the Princesshay shopping centre to Exeter Cathedral a beautiful location surrounded by historic buildings and a large green in the city centre and a good starting point for a walk to the historic Quay. Pass the front of the Cathedral on your left and down the road alongside the front to a little car park and turn left into Bear Street forking to the right where it becomes Palace Gate. Cross the busy South Street via the pedestrian crossing on the right and then head along Coombe Street, which is opposite South Street. This takes you in a subway under the busy A3015. If you want to catch the bus you can hop on at one of the many stops along the A3015 Topsham Road, see the map here. Continue walking on the path beside the Cathedral and Quay car park to your left and then turn right down the steps to the busy and quaint quay area.
The area is a good stopping point for a look around the craft and vintage shops in the arches along the river, or to have some refreshments at the bars and cafes. On reaching the waterfront turn right with the water on your left to cross the bridge. Turn left along the river side. On the left you soon come to the old cable-hauled ferry, Butts Ferry, which also crosses the river here. After the modern houses on the right where it opens into a square you can see the basin of the Exeter Canal, now an attractive leisure area with boats moored alongside the canal.
The path runs along the river on a raised wall with the railway line close by on the right, where the main-line trains run to Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall. If you enjoy walking keep to the cycle path heading south.
As you head out of Exeter, the canal re-joins the river at Turf Locks (great waterside pub here) where the river becomes wider, as it gets nearer to the coast. You can catch the bus from the Swans Nest pub stop further along, if you come off the path there and catch the bus to Powderham castle gates. The path and bus route pass Powderham Castle. This is the home of the Earl of Devon and the castle is situated in large gardens with a deer park and you may see some deer from the road. Stop off and take a tour of the castle or visit the farm shop and BBC Gardener’s World presenter, Toby Buckland’s garden centre in the castle grounds. The Castle & Grounds are open to visitors until 27th October 2017, Sunday to Friday 11am to 4:30pm and closed every Saturday. Please note The Castle & Grounds will be closed for a private function pn the 15th October 2017.
The path from the Powderham estate continues along to join the official coast path at Starcross if you do not wish to hop back on the bus. The path passes Starcross Yacht Club on the left. A few places along this road there are steps up onto the railway line on the left, which you can cross and get to the estuary itself to take in the wonderful views, but ensure you check for trains coming first before you cross the tracks. After around 1.5 miles the road turns right a little way back from the river. Just before this meets the busy A379 you turn left on the signed footpath and cycle path. This takes you back alongside the railway line and river as we approach Starcross. Pass a car park on the right and continue south along the road to soon reach the railway station. This is a good place to break the walk if you’ve had enough as there are trains (typically hourly) and a bus stop here to Cockwood. During the summer there is also a ferry from Starcross to Exmouth on the other side of the estuary.
From Starcross it is an easy walk back to Hazelwood Holiday Park in Dawlish Warren, passing pretty Cockwood Harbour on the way ( The Anchor seafood restaurant and dog friendly pub overlooks the pretty harbour. In Cockwood the A379 runs along the north of the harbour but continues west, we turn right now on a more minor road around the back of the harbour. This road lacks a pavement however but does not have so much traffic. Follow the road along the west and south edges of the harbour and then continue on the road south. Care is needed as there is no pavement but thankfully a narrow pavement soon starts on the left. Again there are a couple of steps up onto the railway line which you can cross to get down to the estuary to enjoy the views, now with the town of Exmouth opposite and the coast beyond. Continue with the road as it forks a little away from the railway line and coast to the small village of Eastdon. A new cycle path has helpfully been constructed alongside the road. This runs parallel to the road on the estuary side of the road. It then soon comes out alongside the road beside the caravan parks that mark Dawlish Warren.