West Soar Signal Station

About this route

West Soar Signal Station is a rare example of a surviving late 18th century Napoleonic signalling station.  It was one of a long chain of inter-visible Admiralty coastal stations that were constructed along Britain’s south and east coasts in order to alert ships and naval bases to the presence of enemy ships in the Channel.  Whilst Napoleon decided against an invasion attempt, the signal stations continued in use, using a universal flag system to pass messages to ships as well as being lookout posts for Customs Officers in their (often futile) search for west country smugglers.

The surprisingly complete signal station at West Soar now stands on National Trust land above Steeple Cove and is located within a few metres of the South West Coast Path.  It comprises a small square, stone-built tower about 3m square, with segmental-arch doorways.  The upper floor has a small window facing the sea, so a telescope might scan the coast and observe ships’ movements.  The flagpoles on which the signalling flags, pennants and balls were hoisted probably stood outside the building.  The next station to the east was at Prawle Point but the location of the station to the west is unknown.  The signalling role may have been limited at times by poor visibility in the Channel.

The Napoleonic station continued to have a use 150 years later during World War II, when the surrounding area became an airfield.  This significant, maritime historic building is now protected as a Listed Building (Grade II) and has recently undergone archaeological recording and conservation works as part of a South West Coast Path project.

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Getting Around

On foot: West Soar Signal station is accessible from the South West Coast Path between Salcombe and Hope Cove, standing as a landmark building, just 170m inland above Steeple Cove.

By bus: There is a mainline train station at Totnes and buses from there and also Plymouth City Centre to Kingsbridge.  There is a local bus service, No. 606, from Kingsbridge to Salcombe.

Timetables are available at Travel Devon.

By road:  There is a National Trust car park at East Soar and a public car park at West Soar.  Follow signs to Soar off the A381 at Malborough.

The signal station is on National Trust land.  Information on facilities, terrain and access is available on the National Trust website for East Soar.