Hartland Quay seascape
Hartland Quay seascape

The hamlet of Hartland Quay is high on a hill above the long shingle beach of Hartland Quay Sands. The beach is quiet now, but in 1944 it was a beehive of activity as US Army forces used it as a training ground in preparation for the D-Day landings in Normandy. Hartland Quay Sands was chosen for the exercises because of its similarity to the beaches in Normandy where the assault was due to take place.

In a tragic accident during the training, over 800 soldiers lost their lives at sea off Hartland Quay, and their memory is preserved in a memorial column erected by the US at the north end of the beach.

A path leads inland from the beach to Hartland Abbey, a Georgian manor house built upon the foundations of a 12th-century Augustinian monastery.

Hartland Quay coastal path
Hartland Quay coastal path

Inland of the shingle is the wetland nature reserve of Hartland Quay Ley, the largest natural freshwater lake in the west of England. The Hartland Quay Ley Field Studies Centre manages the nature reserve and provides a venue to study and preserve the wetland environment of the Ley. The Ley is a haven for birdwatchers, and for those who simply enjoy lovely countryside walks along this stretch of coastline.

A short walk south along the coastal path brings you to Spekes Mill Mouth, a spectacular waterfall spilling down from the heights of a hanging valley.

Inland of the Quay is Stoke village, a pleasing mix of older cottages grouped about winding lanes, and newer houses looking out over the sea. There are several restaurants, shops, and pubs, including the Tower Inn, which sits cosily beneath the striking ruins of a tall, square tower, a folly built in medieval style for the owners of Hartland Abbey.

The tower, known as Castle Folly, recalls the presence of a medieval college of priests that once stood at Hartland. The remainder of the college buildings were destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but the tower remains to add a touch of history to this quiet corner of Devon.

About Hartland Quay
Address: Stoke, Devon, England
Attraction Type: Countryside
Location: At the end of a country lane past Stoke village. Paid parking at the end of the lane.
Location map
OS: SS223245
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Spekes Mill Mouth Waterfall - 0.6 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Hartland, St Nectan's Church - 0.8 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Hartland Abbey - 1.1 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Docton Mill Gardens - 1.3 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Clovelly, All Saints Church - 5.4 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Clovelly Court Gardens - 5.4 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Morwenstow, St John's Holy Well - 5.8 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Morwenstow, St John's Church - 6 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

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