Waterside Wanderings

Exploring Devon’s inland waters.

This article was written on 12 July 2021
and is a 6 minute read

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Of course, Devon has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches, but what if you’d like to avoid the crowds and explore our inland waters? From magnificent waterfalls to tranquil lakes, there’s more to Devon than sand and surf.


The ‘Goat Walk’ in Topsham is a well-constructed path which takes you along the Exe Estuary as part of a circular walk around the town. Starting at the historic Quay, it has pretty views over the estuary and takes in an RSPB bird hide where you might spot avocets and egrets. The GPS Routes website offers detail of the walk and printable maps, but just ask any local to point you in the right direction. Be aware the water can occasionally lap the path, so be cautious if you’re doing this walk with older or very young people. Oh, and don’t expect to see any goats!

While in Topsham, you might fancy a swim in the town’s lovely, heated, open air pool. This 25 metre pool is excellent for both serious swimmers and families. It’s open from late April to mid-September. Check the website for session times and prices. At time of writing, numbers are limited to 45, so get there early! We do, of course, have our own under-cover heated pool at Forest Glade, which you might prefer on a rainy day.

Topsham Goat Walk

Exe Cruises

Based along the coast in Exmouth, Stuart Line Cruises run a range of trips on the River Exe and around the beaches and coves of the coastline. In the summer months, their colourful boats sail along the Exe Estuary, the Jurassic Coast and the South Devon Coast. The commentary on their boats helps you to understand the features of the stunning scenery and interesting wildlife.

Dartmoor and Exmoor

If you favour swimming in a wilder location, the rivers, waterfalls and pools of Dartmoor are well-known for offering a variety of tranquil – if chilly – swimming spots. The health and psychological benefits of a dip in unheated, natural waters have long been known. Check out wildswimming.co.uk for more information and a selection of places to swim. Be aware that conditions on Dartmoor rivers can change quite rapidly, especially after heavy rain.

Dartmoor wild swimming

Canonteign Falls boasts the highest waterfall in the South West. Escape to this private country estate for riverside walks, or fun in the gardens and adventure playgrounds. Tickets currently need to be booked online – visit their website for prices and information.

From the highest waterfall, we turn to the deepest gorge. Lydford Gorge, on the NW edge of Dartmoor is managed by the National Trust. It’s a more challenging walking experience, so sturdy boots are advisable. At one end of the walk is the Devil’s Cauldron whirlpool (currently closed while social distancing is in place) and at the other is the White Lady Waterfall. Due to the rugged path and some steep drops, it’s not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs.

The Whitelady Waterfall at Lydford Gorge, Devon. National Trust Images – John Millar

Venture over to our other nearby moor – Exmoor – to take in its beautiful lakes. Wimbleball Lake is a fantastic centre for a range of outdoor activities. Walking and cycling tracks run around the perimeter and you can hire kayaks, canoes and SUPs (stand-up paddleboards) from the activity centre. The land around Fernworthy Reservoir is famed for its archaeological remains. Imagine life in Bronze Age hut circles, or look out for the lake’s abundant wildlife, all while enjoying waterside views. For more lakes and reservoirs, visit the SW Lakes Trust website and find out what else Dartmoor and Exmoor have to offer in our previous blog.


More urban in nature, but still a wonderful waterside spot, Exeter Quay is easy to access and offers a range of activities, shops and eateries. Stroll around the canal basin, peruse the craft shops in the arches, or hire a kayak for a wonderful paddle along the canal to enjoy lunch at Double Locks. Carry on towards the coast for the Turf Locks Hotel, with magnificent views over the estuary. AS Watersports hire out canoes and kayaks and their website has a good map of the area. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Quay, the Exeter Memories website has some fantastic insights.

Exeter Quay

While you’ve got the kayaking bug, Tiverton Canal also offers a peaceful way to explore the mid-Devon countryside. Read our previous blog about the Grand Western Canal, its abundant wildlife and the fabulous horse-drawn barge which operates out of the canal basin. 

Swans on the Grand Western Canal

River Walks

Part of the South West Coast Path, the walk from Budleigh Salterton to Otterton Mill presents loads of bird-watching opportunities and beautiful views. The first section of the path from Budleigh Salterton to White Bridge is suitable for buggies and wheelchair users. This area is also popular with SUP paddlers, who enjoy its calm waters.

SUP on the water near Budleigh

For an easy and local riverside experience, we’d suggest a potter along the River Culm. There are footpaths running all the way from Coldharbour Mill in Uffculme to the Culm Valley Inn at Culmstock. Just follow the public footpath signs. The entire walk there and back is about 5 miles, but it’s fairly easy walking and you can choose to only walk one section if you prefer. You might waterproof footwear for some of the path and you’re likely to encounter friendly friesian cows along the route. If you just want a quick splash in the river, go direct to Culmstock where, under the stone arches of the road bridge opposite the pub, you’ll find a small river beach, popular with children and where the river runs quite slowly, making it safe for paddling and a spot of swimming.  Information on this and other local walks is available from Reception.

If you find a beautiful waterside spot that you think our other guests might enjoy, please do let us know.


Always check that an attraction is open before visiting, to avoid disappointment. We do our best to make sure that information and links are up to date, but we can’t be held responsible for content on external websites. Inclusion in one of our blogs does not mean endorsement and we do not receive any payment from companies featured.