A must-visit day outOver 170 acres of diverse habitat and wildlife, fascinating history and stunning scenery
Stroll, hike, explore or simply sit and enjoy the panoramic view from one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in South Devon. Berry Head hosts over 170 acres of diverse habitat and wildlife, fascinating history and stunning scenery.
This is a must-visit day out and is either a pleasant 30-minute walk or short drive from Brixham.
Dogs are very welcome on Berry Head & in the cafe, where we ask that they are well behaved and stay on a lead. NB they may need to be kept on leads in certain areas when livestock are present (see signs on site).
Disability access is good with tarmac or laid paths into both the North and South Forts. The car park is around 300m from our cafe, on a mostly level, good track.
Within the Northern Fort you can find; the Guardhouse, the Artillery Store (now an information on our 2nd most famous resident: centre, and the shortest, highest & deepest lighthouse in the country. The South-West Coast Path runs through the reserve, originally used by the coastguard as a means to get from lighthouse to lighthouse patrolling for smugglers.
First you must visit the end of Berry Head – you will see why when you get there! But while you’re here there are lovely quieter spots to explore too: the South fort, quarry, or the bivouac area in the woodland. All are great for seeing an abundance of wildlife. Why not go on a hunt for the Air Traffic Beacon which you may mistake for a UFO, a perfect activity for families?
If you are interested in a longer walk, it’s a lovely walk down into Brixham, past some of Brixham’s other key attractions like the Shoalstone seawater lido, the Breakwater and beach and intimate views of the harbour. If you’re feeling adventurous, head towards Kingswear along The South West Coastal Path. But make sure to grab some supplies from the cafe as there are no facilities after the Guardhouse!
Berry Head is home to a colourful and rare assortment of plants, animal species and grasslands – the site has recorded 200 varieties of bird, fifty of which breed within or close to the reserve. Hidden in the quarry caves are a small colony of greater horseshoe bats, one of Britain’s most endangered species. The high cliffs are host to the largest breeding colonies of guillemots on the south coast of England and these are Berry Head’s most famous residents, peaking at 1,400 birds during the breeding season. These cliffs are subject to an Area of Special Protection order between March and July, for breeding season, to safeguard the colony from disturbances by marine vessels and climbers.
Out to sea, the regularly-sighted harbour porpoise and bottle-nosed dolphins are joined on occasion by a host of cetaceans: sperm, fin, humpback and pilot whales have all been sighted in Torbay in recent years, along with irregular visits of huge pods of common dolphins (a super-pod of over 800 was spotted in 2014) and rarer Risso’s & white-beaked dolphins in 2015.
Towering 200 feet above the English Channel, the headland once protected Torbay’s valuable naval anchorage during the Napoleonic Wars (1803- 1815). The two garrisoned forts, dating back to 1795, protected Brixham Harbour from the threat of a French invasion .
The Northern Fort housed 600 men (regular army & local militia) plus twelve 42-pounder cannons located on the end of the headland.
The Southern Fort protected the Northern Fort from land attack and contained a barracks, powder magazine, kitchen and storehouse.
During the 1780’s, limestone was quarried from Berry Head and this continued for around 200 years, in some years producing over 200,000 tons of material. The purity of limestone long made Berry Head important for agriculture, industry and construction and so extensive were the workings that in places the quarry floor falls below sea level.
History of the Cafe
The Guardhouse was completed in 1802 and would have been a core part of the fort. When entering the cafe take a look at the tunnel that runs out to the cliffs that was perhaps used as ammunition storage – although nobody really knows, so your guesses are always welcome!
We know that by the early 1900s the Guardhouse was already being used as a tea room. We have old pictures from this time dotted around the walls of the cafe. For much of the 1980s and 1990s a lady called Marjorie lived here with her dogs and had a small cafe in her downstairs living area. The cafe extension was built in 2008-09 on Marjorie’s vegetable patch.
In May 2014, the current owners Alex and Lucy bought the business, moving from Milton Keyes for a complete change of lifestyle. Along with their team they have made the Guardhouse into a popular, family friendly cafe, with the ethos of trying to live up to, and look after, this beautiful headland.