Fort Charles, Salcombe

About this route

This historic coastal Fort provides a stunning viewpoint of the Kingsbridge Estuary and Salcombe Harbour. Fort Charles (also known as Salcombe Castle) was constructed in AD 1544, following a French invasion scare in the reign of King Henry VIII. A century later, the semi-circular gun battery and drum tower were re-occupied during the English Civil War (AD 1641 – 46). The renamed ‘Fort Charles’ was commanded by a local royalist Sir Edmund Fortescue and contemporary sources record an artillery garrison of 65 men and 2 ‘laundresses’. Now that’s a lot of washing! In AD 1644 the fort surrendered to parliamentary forces and was partially demolished. A single surviving stone pier of the battery was modified into a look-out turret during the later Napoleonic period, showing that Fort Charles has had a long and valiant history defending the mouth of the estuary.

Interreg Atlantic Area and TIDE logo

Getting Around

On foot: Fort Charles is a short walk along the B3204 from Salcombe Harbour. Turn left onto Cliff road and the Fort is a short distance on the foreshore, just before North Sands Bay. The fort can also be accessed from Devon road, using Salcombe footpath PROW 24. Please note that the Fort ruins can only be accessed at low tide (view Salcombe Tide Table).

By bus and train: There is a mainline train station at Totnes and bus service 164 runs from Totnes/Totnes Station to Salcombe Harbour via Kingsbridge. There is also a local bus service 606, from Kingsbridge to Salcombe. Timetables are available on Travel Devon.

By road: Fort Charles is located on the western side of the Kingsbridge Estuary, at the entrance to Salcombe Harbour, nearby North Sands Bay. The latter is signposted off the A381 Kingsbridge (via Marlborough) to Salcombe road. There is a small car park at North Sands Bay.

Close to Fort Charles, is a long stay car park at North Sands Bay (TQ8 8JQ) with onsite accessible public toilets and café/restaurant. There is disabled access to North Sands beach which is family and dog friendly (Please note the Fort and beach are not accessible at high tide).
The ruins are sited on a rocky foreshore, which is covered in deep water at high tide. accessing the fort is therefore only possible at low tide and requires a reasonable level of fitness, over rocky terrain. the site is not suitable for disabled and/or elderly visitor access.

Interesting information

You can find out more about Fort Charles at the nearby Salcombe Maritime Museum. This friendly little museum is a treasure trove of models, paintings, photographs and artefacts which tell the story of Salcombe’s links with ships and the sea from ancient times to the Second World War. In Salcombe Maritime Museum you can see the original key to Fort Charles, cannonballs from the siege and a pair of Sir Edmund Fortescue’s spurs.

Salcombe Castle is also included as a stop along the Walking Through History’ Trail Guide: Salcombe-Bolt Head – Soar Mill Cove walk. The site is also accessible from the South West Coast Path.

Photo of Fort Charles
Fort Charles copyright Devon County Council