Stand up paddle boarding Abbotsham Cliffs to Buck’s Mill, Bideford, North Devon.
Remote, reefy, rocky and cliffy adventure SUP, touring spot open to the elements.
Conditions along Abbotsham Cliffs can be serenely flat and calm – especially during good weather spells in summer. This can be a good time to tick this adventure SUP route off. During more changeable parts of the year you’ll be at the mercy of weather gods. And being so remote there’s no easy get out if things go awry. With a rocky, reefy bottom you’ll need to keep your wits about you. And if there’s surf the many reef set us can light up. But they’re definitely not for inexperienced paddlers!
Rocks! And lots of them. This is reef break city with zero sandy beach. At certain stages of tide rock formations poke u through the water whereas at higher tide these disappear. But still, lurking just beneath the surface. Ready to snag a leash, ding a board or even a body. Waves – and powerful ones at that – can materialise with a strong pulse of ground swell in effect. Abbotsham Cliffs is also exposed to the wind. We’d suggest avoiding if any kind of westerly air flow is gusting. It’ll make paddling hard work at the very least.
Access to Abbotsham Cliffs Beach is tricky. You could try this put in but you’ll be carting your gear across farmer’s fields and it’s a little way. Far better is to paddle from Westward Ho! and hang a left round the headland. This can all be part of the Abbotsham Cliffs adventure SUP route anyway. As we said above if you need to come ashore then you can do so on calmer days but don’t expect an easy get out with sometimes shore break (at higher tide) making the process hazardous.
Zero. You’ll most likely never see another stand up paddle boarder on this route. Occasionally, when conditions are good, surfers will be in the water. But if this is the case conditions aren’t ideal for paddling.
Zero. Abbotsham Cliffs is about as remote as it gets. Everything you require will need to be lashed to your stand up paddle board – ideally a touring SUP. You can pick up bits and bobs in Westward Ho!. or if you’re hiking in to start at Abbotsham Beach then there’s a small shop. But Abbotsham is a quiet village with only one pub (The Thatched Inn) that doesn’t keep all day opening hours.
Abbotsham Cliffs is a real adventure SUP location that’s amazing to tick off. But only if you’re experienced and on the right day. The whole coastline here is reef, with some seriously hazardous stacks and parts to the route. If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong stage of tide.
High water covers the reef all along this part of North Devon’s coastline and it’s possible to paddle right up close to the beach. The inside section of reef below you is almost a flat tabletop (mostly). If there’s surf these areas can serve up awesome waves. But they’re not for the faint of heart. As the tide recedes it starts to expose gnarly reef and rocks which are well worth avoiding. On calmer days you can see these through clear water, just beneath the surface. Take note and keep clear. As long as you stay in deeper water then all will be well. Be warned that there’s no easy get out if you encounter problems though. So you’ll need to be self sufficient and carry a means of contact. Such as a mobile phone stashed in a waterproof pouch or VHF.
The easiest start point to the Abbotsham Cliffs adventure SUP route is from Westward Ho!. Paddle from the sand and keep left. Go round the headland and you’re well on the trail. In the distance, you can see Hartland Point and the white lighthouse perched on the cliffs. Keep paddling and you’ll eventually come to Abbotsham Beach. You’ll know you’re here because the cliffs slope down to a dip. It’s possible to walk across the fields here and eventually end up in Abbotsham village. But it’s a jaunt.
Keep going towards Greencliff and Peppercombe. The whole vista is pretty spectacular and breathtaking. Keep your eyes on the prize and eventually, the coast starts to bend a little more. Once past Buck’s Mills you’re on the Clovelly trail which can be aimed for if you really want to make a mission of it. Or get out at Buck’s. If you choose to do this then make sure you have transport back to base.
Alternatively, head back the way you came towards Westward Ho!. If this is your choice keep an eye on the weather as it’s likely to change over the period of time you’re paddling. It should go without saying that this route isn’t a five minute job!
In this area, there are plenty more secluded and secret adventure SUP routes you could check out. Mouthmill Beach, for instance, or Hartland Quay are worth a look. Again, be honest with yourself regarding skill and experience if considering putting in at these spots. If you’ve got it then these locations are absolute bliss for adventure paddling. But equally, being so remote, with a harsh coastline, can see it not be so idyllic.
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