Heading in the direction of Kingsbridge, the next village after Torcross is Stokenham. There’s not much of a reason to stop here except for the fact there are a couple of enticing pubs that might attract your attention. Assuming you don’t want to try out both at the same time which one should you choose?
They are both very old pubs, but quite different, so it boils down to the type of venue you prefer. To put it simply the thatched Tradesman’s Arms is the type of pub that visitors to Devon like to see in an Olde Worlde sort of way. Having said that it feels more like a restaurant then a pub. I haven’t eaten here and so I can’t really tell you about the food, but although the beer’s good I would feel more comfortable down at the Church House if I was only stopping for a drink.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Church House Inns are quite common in Devon and many of them have a lot of character and live up to the stereotype of thick stone walls, low beams and large fireplaces. I’m not saying that this pub doesn’t have any character, but it’s not quite like many of the others in that respect. In a way it’s tried to bring itself up to the modern age a bit with a more contemporary feel in a rustic sort of way, and it seems to work - with the locals at least.
Pubs are dying at an alarming rate of knots, so if that’s what it takes to keep a place alive then who am I to argue? It’s got to be much better to have a thriving local pub rather than a dead one set in aspic.
So there you have it. A quaint olde worlde pub with an emphasis on food or an old pub that’s changed its colours to match the modern day in a way that the locals seem to like. The choice is yours.
- Beer Tasting
- Food and Dining
Torcross and Slapton Ley
Slapton Ley is the largest natural freshwater lake in south west England and is only separated from the sea by the shingle bar that runs along Slapton Line.
This National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest is owned by the Whitley Wildlife and Conservation Trust and managed by the Field Studies Council which runs an educational centre at the Slapton end of the Ley.
For the casual visitor some of the best views of the lake can be had at the Torcross end where there’s a bird hide next to the Pay & Display car park and a duck feeding area nearby.
The small village of Torcross practically sits on the beach and can provide most things people would want for a lazy day on the beach in summer. Winter can be an altogether different thing though as the storms last February (2014) reminded us. This whole stretch of coastline took a battering and a lot of damage was done to all the coastal communities.
Fortunately, the well respected Start Bay Inn managed to survive. According to the pub’s website it’s been here since the 14th century when it was known as the Fisherman’s Arms. Back then small fishing boats were brought ashore right up to the pub’s doors, and it’s virtually the same today.
The Start Bay Inn has been in the same family since 1977 and has gained a reputation for its trademark Fish ‘Chips which come in portions that would satisfy Desperate Dan.
They have a regular source of fresh fish available from the local boats all year round. It really doesn’t come any fresher than that- and the local beer’s pretty good too.
For information about Torcross and Exercise Tiger please take a look here
- Food and Dining
Slapton village is just off the main Slapton Line (as the road is called that runs along the shore), and although it’s only a short distance up the lane the question has to be asked whether it’s worth the detour.
It all depends on how much time you have available of course because it’s only a tiny village with not much to see. If I’m being honest there’s a lot of other things that will attract your attention more than Slapton village will, but if time is of no real consequence it might just be worth a short pit stop because it has a medieval church and two village pubs. In other words it’s a typical South Hams village.
Driving (or walking) along the narrow lane will bring you to the Queens Arms. This could be a convenient first stop, if for no other reason than they have a reasonably sized car park if you’re driving. Out of the two pubs in the village this is the one that most locals would use. It’s been left in a bit of a time warp, but there’s something quite comforting about that I reckon - and it’s a friendly place too.
From the car park you can look down over to the 14th cent church of St. James the Great. I’ve been through the village numerous times but never made it inside the church so I can’t tell you too much about it I’m afraid - and the reason I’ve never managed it is because I’m normally heading for my own church - The Tower Inn.
It gets its name from the adjacent14th century tower that is the sole remains of the Chantry of St. Mary’s College. It’s a spooky sort of place but it all adds to the appeal of the Tower Inn. I’ve always enjoyed visiting this hostelry, It’s nothing fancy mind you, but because it’s off the beaten track a bit it still manages to cater for those who don’t mind searching out a good pub. They have a few rooms as well if you can’t bear to tear yourself away.
- Beer Tasting
If you hear any local talking about the Slapton Line they’re not talking about a railway but the road that connects the villages of Strete and Torcross. This road separates the English Channel from the freshwater lake of Slapton Ley, and if you’ve ever driven along this scenic mile long stretch of road, it won’t come as any surprise to learn that it’s very susceptible to storm damage. In fact it’s a surprise to many people that it’s managed to survive at all, but so far it has, which is a blessing for both locals and visitors alike.
The road is actually built on a shingle ridge, and it’s this shingle that makes the beach relatively uncrowded.
The three main access points to the beach are at Strete Gate (where there’s an unofficial nudist beach at Pilchard Cove), the Memorial car park approx mid-way along, and at the southern end at Torcross. There’s disabled access and dogs are allowed all year round.
Slapton Sands is a place to come if you like a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by lovely countryside, and a wartime history that may surprise you - and which I’ll be writing about separately.
- Travel with Pets
Slapton Ley Nature Reserve
Slapton Ley Nature Reserve, is a large fresh water lake next to Slapton Sands. Only the beach & a road stop the sea encroaching in to the Ley.
Many bird watchers come here, they have hides around the lake to view the wildlife. There is also Slapton Ley Field Centre, which is an educational centre who do courses about the Ley.
- National/State Park
At the far east end of Slapton Sands is Pilchard Cove, this sandy area of beach has been a nudist beach for over 60 years.
Park at the Strete Gate Carpark & head along the beach away from Torcross.
The far end of the beach at Pilchard cove is known as a meeting place for gay men.
Have a wander along the seafront & around the tiny village. I think there are only 3 or 4 shops here.
Every winter the houses along the front get a hammering from the rough seas, which is why there is a huge retaining wall. The next village along, Hallsands was taken by the sea in 1917 during a particularly violent storm.
Operation Tiger Memorial
Near the Tank there are 2 memorials to Operation Tiger, when ever I have been there have always been flowers placed here. Enlarge the photo & hopefully it is readable.
Both memorials tell the story of events.
- Historical Travel
This WW2 tank has been a memorial here for a good few years now & there are always poppies & flowers laid here. It is the norm to hear American accents in the season at the memorial tank.
There is usually someone selling books & videos about the tragic events of 1944.
- Historical Travel
The beach at Slapton is HUGE, both wide & a couple of miles long. The western end is the village of Torcross, with cafes, pub, hotel & village shop.
At the eastern end is a carpark & usually an icecream van. Slapton a pebbly beach so not sure where the "Sands" came from! The drop in to the sea is very steep. It really is not suitable for children, but great for adults. Watch out for the strong undercurrents here though.
The beach here is so big, it never gets too busy. Walk more than 150 meters from the car park & you are usually on your own.
- Family Travel