A Sunny Winter Dog Walk at Start Point

It doesn’t matter how many times we enjoy this hour long circular dog walk, the view, light and landscape always stop us in our tracks. We’re reminded why The South Hams in South Devon is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Golden gorse is out everywhere on our short drive from dog-friendly Watermill Cottages in 20 acres of secret stunning, coastal valley, down through pretty Slapton village with its medieval tower, between the sea and freshwater Slapton Ley to Torcross and into the next bay, following signs to Start Point and Lighthouse.

We stroll down the cliff path from the Start Point car park between hedges of coconut-scented gorse towards the sea. May the dog is loving this too! The sea sparkles ahead before a panorama of foamy coast opens up, scalloped into bays and headlands.  Sunbeams make the rocks and waves glitter.

Secret Dog-Friendly Beach.  Mattiscombe Sands, our favourite secret local beach, is reached by stepping down the cliff path from here. There are rock pools to play in, a freshwater stream for the dogs, black outcrops biting the sky for drama, waves for percussion. And south-facing, so a sun trap even in winter as it’s protected from the cooler easterlies.

The signpost invites us down, or to continue along The Coast Path to tiny Lannacombe beach or further west.  With short light in early Jan, we turn east and walk around the cliff slopes to look for seals at Pear Tree Point rocks.  We’ve often watched seals and their pups watching us, almost human with such expressive eyes, but today there are no seals, just moody light and turquoise sea. It feels like very faraway.

Start Point Lighthouse grows as we approach it around the headland. At first, a huge white match wedged into the cliff, then prouder and larger. Walkers taking the anti-clockwise route tell us they’ve seen seals. We stare and stare but really can’t persuade ourselves that that rock in the waves is a head!

Reaching the spine of Start Point, its name derived from the Anglo-Saxon word steort, meaning tail, we gaze over the whole of Start Bay beyond and the choppy white waters of The Skerries beneath, the rocky reef that runs into the sea for 6.5 kms.  It’s the reason for the lighthouse. Soft sunshine illuminates the coastal villages of Hallsands and Beesands, and the ruins of the Hallsands houses that were washed into the sea a century ago.

A mosaic of small hedged fields decorates the soft hills between the bays. Slapton Ley shines behind the shingle bank that keeps the sea out, mostly. Far distant is the Dartmouth daymark, pointing out the harbour entrance. We walk up the tarmac slope, choosing not to visit the lighthouse today, eyes right as light dances and changes our focus.

Dog Friendly Pub Advice. And a short drive to Beesands beach – we could have walked, but light is short and lunch is calling!  Crab soup and whitebait at The Cricket Inn, with May the dog, after a bit of ball throwing, of course.

Then home to Watermill Cottages for a log fire and a little nap, the dog and us. Well, it is winter and a little hibernation in the afternoon is good for the soul! We dream of turquoise sea and coconut air. And tennis balls on beaches…

Short breaks from £245 at one of the five dog-friendly Watermill Cottages set in a secret, traffic-free valley behind Slapton nr Dartmouth, from January to the end of March 2019.  Call Christine & John on 01803 770219 or enquire online.

Winter/Spring Short Break Offers


Come, breathe some clean coastal air and recharge your energy with a weekend or midweek short break in a cosy South Devon cottage with wood burner at dog-friendly Watermill Cottages in the stunning Gara Valley near Slapton Sands. In the heart of South Devon AONB and near the SW Coast Path.

SW Coast Path

Valley strolls on green lanes, beach walks and great views or explore Dartmouth, the sailing town, quaint Totnes and pretty South Hams villages. Lots of cream tea and dining options from beach shack to cosy cafes & pubs, with excellent restaurants serving local specialities. And a log fire to come home to.

pale hellebore

Snowdrops. primroses and violets are coming out, hellebores and heliotropes are in bloom. The air is so pure here that the trees glow with lichen.

Slapton Sands

At dawn, the valley fills with birdsong.  At dusk, it’s owls we hear. Our beaches are so uplifting early in the year, our valley so peaceful. 

Come, relax and unwind – call Christine and John on 01803 770219 to book your short break before Easter – prices start from £245. Or send us an enquiry form.

We look forward to welcoming you!



Harry’s holidays…

Harry’s holidays…

 A grand old man, Harry is 14 and has spent every Whit week holiday for nine years at Watermill Cottages.  

And although his back legs are not too steady these days, and though sleep is almost, not quite, but almost, more important than food – he is a Labrador after all – he always goes for his morning and evening amble down to the stream to cool his paws, sniff the air and catch the breeze.

 He loves scents and knows them well here, he’s at home in Barleycorn Cottage where he’s stayed every year for nine years.  It matters, as his eyes don’t see too well now.  His nose tells him who we all are!

As you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, Harry needs help getting out of the stream.  Out for him is always up on to the grass.  It most certainly is NOT up a plank of wood, onto a flat rock and then onto the lawn.  

‘Honestly, who do they think I am!’  gruffed Harry, as he deftly removed a burnt sausage from beside the bbq.



The Times recommends Watermill Cottages 23 May 2015

The Times recommends Watermill Cottages 23 May 2015

The Times recommends Watermill Cottages

The Times, to our delighted surprise, recommended us in its Travel Doctor column on Saturday May 23 2015.  

Watermill Cottages’ 20 acres of rural coastal retreat near Slapton Sands beach in South Devon’s AONB is perfect for families of all ages and sizes with plenty of dogs!

It was in the Weekend Section, which  Andy at Strete General Stores had luckily held for us on Sunday morning.

The Times quoted prices for May half-term 2016 for Rose, Quack and Barleycorn Cottages – the same price as 2015 – prices and availability for 2015 are on this link.  

For 2016 prices and availability please call us on 01803 770219 or email christine@watermillcottages.co.uk

Word has got out!