Slapton Ley

About this route

The main geological feature at this wonderful site is a dramatic shingle bar running from Strete Gate south to the village of Torcross. Known as Slapton Sands, it separates the sea from an important freshwater lagoon, Slapton Ley.

The ridge is made up of flint, chert and quartz pebbles, some of which are stained red. It is probable that the major formation of this barrier began about 5000 years ago, during a period of sea level changes.  As the sea rose, the water transported the shingle ridge ahead of it. This linked the headland at Strete Gate with Torcross, damming a post-glacial estuary and forming the freshwater lagoon. The sediments that have accumulated in the lagoon now form an important record of environmental changes since the formation of the ridge.

Replenished with shingle by long shore drift of debris derived from cliffs and from sediments on the sea floor, the ridge remains a dynamic structure and is vulnerable to the power of the sea. Indeed, the road that runs along the ridge has recently had to be realigned.


Getting Around

By bus: There is a regular service between Slapton and Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and Plymouth, for latest times visit the Travel Devon website.

By bike: the nearest route is Route 28 of the National Cycle Network

On foot: The site is on the South West Coast Path

By car: Slapton is adjacent to the A379 and Slapton Ley can be accessed by minor roads from the A379. Parking can be a problem in Slapton and so it is advisable to use car parks along Slapton Sands.

All facilities in Slapton and Torcross. Toilets and picnic sites at A379 car parks. Field Centre, bird hide and access to guided tours on site.
Easy walking with some steps, family friendly circular routes available.

Interesting information

A more dramatic example of the power of the sea is demonstrated some way to the south, at Hallsands. This fishing village was once protected by a pebble ridge. However, offshore banks focussed wave energy at this point and this, perhaps combined with intertidal dredging to acquire materials for the construction of naval dockyards near Plymouth in the late 19th century, led to large scale erosion. In particular, a series of storms in 1917 had a devastating effect and by the end of September that year only one house remained habitable.

The ridge and lagoons at Slapton Ley are of national importance for their wildlife, including important communities of plants, breeding and migrating birds.

Slapton Ley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve.

Landscape photo looking along the length of the beach and road at Slapton Ley with lagoon on the left and sea on the right
Slapton Ley by Derek Harper

You can explore more in this area