South Devon AONB


Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are Britain’s best landscapes. There are 46 of them, all designated by government and protected  by law. Each one has its own special character.

The South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated by government in 1960. It covers 60 glorious miles of coastline, estuaries and countryside between Plymouth and Torbay.

South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of a family of protected landscapes in the UK. With the guidance of a Partnership Committee, the AONB Team work to enhance South Devon’s outstanding beauty, for which the designation was applied.

In this section you can view stunning images of the AONB and learn of the plan to manage it, and how you and many others are involved in its care.

The special features of South Devon AONB include its rugged coastline, sandy beaches, secretive estuaries, patchwork countryside and historic villages – to name but a few! Visit our Coast & Countryside section and discover more.

Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary

The feeder streams

The Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary is unusual because it has no large river feeding it, just a series of small streams from Frogmore, Bowcombe, Batson, East Allington, Sherford and other surrounding villages, rising at springs some 140 metres above sea level.

The estuary

The Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary is tidal up as far as Kingsbridge, the bridging point five miles inland. Like the other estuaries of South Devon, the original deep river valley has been inundated by later sea level rise, with the tide flooding in to create a wide expanse of water.

Kingsbridge Quay


As well as being part of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the estuary is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a local nature reserve and lies within the South Devon Heritage Coast.


Two tides a day fill this ‘ria’ or drowned river valley with sea water. With no river input the estuary is almost entirely a marine system which has brought about some rare and important habitats and species. Reed beds, mudflats and eelgrass beds all help to support the abundance of wildlife that inhabits Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary.

The expansive mudflats in its upper regions contain a huge abundance of worms, snails and bacteria, which in turn provide an important food source for wading birds and fish populations within the estuary. The lower fringe of the foreshore is inhabited by eelgrass providing a nursery habitat for fish and seahorses.

The Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary is also home to species of crab, shellfish, otters and it is not uncommon to see dolphins, seals and basking sharks venturing into the estuary to feed. Find out more about the wildlife on the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary.

for interactive maps and ideas on days out click here


Tel: 01803 861384