Some of the beaches in South Devon have great access. Open car parks almost on the sand, flat paths onto the beach, a choice of cafe’s and watersports hire, and lifeguards and toilets.
Others don’t. Negotiate nettle-lined winding paths, numerous steps down a cliff to a beach where even the seagulls avoid due to the lack of facilities. But the appeal of remote beaches lies in their quiet, uncrowded experience they offer, even on the sunniest of August days.
Ness Beach falls into the second group. Well actually its better than some of the local beaches for accessibility. But it has something unique – access via a tunnel originally used by smugglers; a tunnel long enough to require lighting along it’s length.
Access to the beach
There is a pay and display car park above the beach (called Ness Car Park) which is the only option for visiting the beach by car. It’s a spacious car park overlooking the River Teign estuary with grassy areas for picnics. On the subject, the car park is home to the town’s Tourist Information Centre and ideal for visiting Shaldon as a path leads down to the water’s edge and along to the village centre.
Ness Beach is signposted from the car park next to the entrance to Shaldon Zoo. From here the tunnel takes you through the cliffs and down to the beach on the other side. The tunnel itself is around 60 metres long and there are steps leading down to the beach, so it is possible to negotiate with a pushchair and beach gear for example, but not with a wheelchair.
On the beach
Once you emerge from the tunnel and down the steps onto the beach, you feel removed from the real world; a shingle beach with sand a low tide surrounded by red cliffs with no facilities. Just the beach, the sea, and passing boats. And the smugglers are long since gone…