BNWC header graphic
Back to W Country home page

Bigbury on Sea

Back to location finder

General details:

A very scenic location with Burgh Island (only an island at HW) being the dominant feature.

Depending on winds and swells, this can be both a flat water/blasting, and a wave venue.

photo of upper car park
photo of lower car park
photo of Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island
photo of West bay
photo of Burgh Island
photo of east bay
view over the W bay
looking W to Burgh Island
view over the E bay
photo of Burgh Island Tractor
photo of E side of bay showing rocks at low water photo looking E
pan view over Burgh Island

The car parks - although large - fill up with tourists & holiday-makers on sunny days. It's a pay & display car park, charges apply all year round, and there *are* attendants checking tickets! The higher level car park gives better access to the W bay, whilst still giving access to the E bay. The lower car park gives acces to the E bay, and is closer to the river mouth.

To be honest, I've only sailed here once, & that was in light (force 3-4) North Westerlies, using my AHD Free Diamond 77 & 9.4m2 sail. I was also sailing on the more unusual West bay, blasting back & forth between Burgh Island & Challaborough. There were some large swells over by Challaborough that day: Dropping the 9.4m2 rig meant a fair bit of work getting going again!

It's more normal to sail on the E bay - this is where the waves swing in, and wavesailors will sail over here & by the river mouth where the waves build up. If you need any convincing of the size & power of the waves that Bigbury *can* get, take a look at Windsurf mag - March 2004!

Bigbury on Sea is also home to it's unique "tractor": This purpose-built, hydraulically-driven beast is there to take visitors to & from Burgh Island when the tide's in. Worth the 60p (in 2004) just for the experience!

back to top

Directions to the right place:

Bigbury on Sea is quite a trek through the countryside once you've left the A38. Take a good map or SatNav with you.

Head down the M5 until you fall off the end of it, then stick to the A38. After about 25 miles on the A38, turn L onto the A3121 - probably signed towards Kingsbridge and/or Ugborough (I kid you not).

After about 6 miles, turn L at the T jn onto the A379 towards Modbury & Kingsbridge. Drive through Modbury & about 1 mile further, turn R onto the B3392 towards Bigbury. Drive straight through Bigbury heading towards Bigbury-on-Sea. After about 5 miles on the B3392, you eventually drop down Folly Hill into Bigbury-on-Sea (at last). At the bottom of the hill, the road becomes Marine Dr and bends round to the R. Turn L here into the car park directly opposite Burgh Island.

The car park is on 2 levels - you need to get there early to get to the lower level, close to the beach - quite a challenge when you've spent at least an hour getting here from the end of the M5! Parking costs around £4 /day.

If you have a trailer, the signs have conflicting info: some saying trailers aren't allowed, others making no reference. When I checked with S Hams council (Jul '04) they clarified it by saying that - whilst trailers are not specifically encouraged, it's ok as long as the trailer is safely secured & you buy a ticket for it. IE: you pay double! There are daily car park attendant visits, so beware.

If you get there exceptionally early (ie: before the local (wind)surfers), you might be lucky enough to grab one of the 6 free parking spots a little way back up Folly Hill.

Click here for a location map

back to top

How the winds work:

Wind Direction Comments
N Offshore. Gusty. Unknown conditions
NE Works well - funnels down the river valley. Flat water blasting.
E Works well - funnels down the river valley. Flat water blasting.
SE Unknown conditions
S Dead onshore. Can be hard work.
SW Can be very good. Cross-on. Can produce big waves around HW.
W Good at HW. Gets very choppy & interesting on the W side of Burgh Island, especially as you head over towards Challaborough. Flat water on the East side of Burgh Island, unless there's a swell bending round.
NW Somewhat offshore. Good wave riding.
back to top

Tidal conditions:

HW springs tend to occur around 07:00 - 08:00 (19:00 - 20:00). HW neaps around 12:00 - 15:30 (GMT). Max tidal range ~ 6m.

back to top


Strong currents in the river mouth.

Rocks to the E of Burgh Island.

Wind shadow from Burgh Island

Car park charges if you have a trailer.

back to top


Car park next to beach - right at the bottom of the hill dropping-down into Bigbury on Sea.

6 free parking spots up the hill (if you get there early enough).

Cafe on lower level of car park.

Interesting & reknowned tractor to take you across to Burgh Island at thigh tide.

Good Spar shop back on the road towards Bigbury (good pasties & great choice of Belgian beers!)

back to top

B&B's / campsites

Mount Folly Farm, Bigbury. V basic, informal, inexpensive campsite overlooking Bigbury on Sea & Burgh Island. They also have a self-catering holiday cottage. Telephone: 01548 810267 Fax: 01548 810267
Open all year.

Pennymoor camping & caravan park, Modbury

The Royal Oak Inn, Bigbury (email:, Tel: 01548 810313) does B&B. Double room £55/night in Jul '04.

Follyfoot B&B, Challaborough (email:, tel: 01548 810036.) ~£25 per person per night in Jul '04

back to top

Pubs and eateries

The Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island is open normal pub hours. If the tide is high you can get there on the Tractor which goes back and forth whenever the way is impassable - it isn't going to break the bank - and it's the only one in the world apparently.

Royal Oak Inn, Bigbury. Good beer, good food.

There's a cafe on the mainland side, just up from the car park, which has a fairly extensive menu, though the prices are quite high.

back to top

Content supplied by. Update from Phil Comber - Aug '03, & Kathy Challis - Apr 2010. Thanks, guys.

Note: All comments and opinions mentioned in this section of the site are the personal opinions of the various contributors. Inevitably, one person's favourite may be another person's least favourite.

The information provided here is provided in good faith. We can take no responsibility for the consequences of any inaccuracies. Should you find any inaccuracies, then please take the trouble to tell us, using any of the update buttons above.

back to top

This page last updated: 6th Nov, 2020.

Valid XHTML 1.0!