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Living in Salcombe: The Local Area Guide

The beautiful seaside town of Salcombe is located at the most southerly part of Devon and boasts wonderful coastal scenery and beautiful beaches. The town is mostly built on the west side of the Kingsbridge Estuary and lies within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has a classic English seaside waterfront and a naturally sheltered harbour that formed the basis of its success as a boat and ship building port.

Until about 100 years ago Salcombe earned its living from the sea. Fishing, seafaring, boat building, smuggling and perhaps even piracy were its principal trades. The oldest local buildings were built inland because the sea was a place of danger in the shape of invasions, piracy and slavery; it’s said that hundreds of Devon people were kidnapped in the 1600s. Salcombe has a colourful history and even boasts the first holiday home, which was built there in 1764. Between the wars the town developed into a holiday resort for people who wanted beautiful scenery, sea fishing and sailing, and it remains a popular tourist resort to this day.


At the 2011 census, Salcombe had a population of 3,353 people. The town has the second highest number of holidays homes in the UK, estimated at between 45 and 75% and, thanks to its moneyed visitors, is sometimes known as ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’. Due to its popularity as a tourist destination, the populations swells in August from just over 3,500 to 25,000. It is not a very ethnically diverse area, with 96% of people identifying as white British at the last census. As you would expect from a beautiful seaside resort it has a high proportion of older people, with almost 25% of the population being retired. Salcombe has a high proportion of celebrity residents, with Kate Bush, Sir Micheal Parkinson, Mary Berry and members of Led Zeppelin all having houses there.


Salcombe has plenty of primary schools, three of which – Stokenham Area Primary School, Ermington Primary School and Stoke Fleming Community PSwrimary School – are rated as being ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. There is also a high proportion of primary schools in the area that are rated as being ‘good’. There is also a good selection of secondary schools, with Kingsbridge Academy and Ivybridge Community College being classed as ‘outstanding’. The nearest university is 52 miles away in Plymouth.


Salcombe is relatively remote and, in common with many towns in this part of Devon, doesn’t have its own train station. The nearest one is at Totnes, where there is an onward bus connection to the town, a journey of about an hour and a half. There are a few local bus routes that run from Salcombe to Kingsbridge and Salcombe to Totnes, where further bus and train routes can be joined. The nearest motorway junction is at the end of the M5 at Exeter. Salcombe can be reached by travelling for another hour on various A roads. The nearest airport is Exeter International, which has services to many domestic destinations and a limited number of European ones.

Amenities and shopping

Salcombe is incredibly picturesque and, as you’d expect from a seaside town that attracts wealthy residents and tourists, plenty of good quality shops, restaurants and bars. The town centre is made up of narrow, winding streets and priority is given to pedestrians, so a park and ride scheme operates during the summer from the outskirts of the town. Salcombe has a good selection of upmarket clothes shops, including Joules, Jack Wills, Henri Lloyd and Fat Face, as well as a nice selection of independent boutique-style shops selling everything from jewellery to toys. When it comes to food and drink there is a huge amount of choice with plenty of good restaurants, cosy pubs, delicatessens and cafes to choose from.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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