Top five places in Sidmouth to explore and photograph
Updated: May 14
What is Sidmouth like? Take a camera and find out
This guide provides the avid photographer (of any ability) with five of my recommended spots around Sidmouth to explore with a camera.
Sidmouth in East Devon is often referred to as the 'jewel in the crown' on the Jurassic coast. It certainly is a beautiful seaside town and a photographer's dream to explore, with an abundance of subjects and locations to discover.
Ever since I was little Sidmouth has been a much-loved place for me and my family. While growing up in nearby Ottery St Mary, I would regularly spend my weekends in the regency town with my mum, dad and three siblings.
When my father died in 2001 he left me his old SLR Pentax ME camera and that was when I first discovered my passion for photography.
Six years later and my passion became my career. I joined the local newspaper, the Sidmouth Herald, as a staff photographer and I have since explored and photographed nearly every corner of this delightful seaside destination.
1. Connaught Gardens
To the western end of the seafront you will discover the beautiful public park of Connaught Gardens.
No visit to Sidmouth would be complete without a stroll around this wonderful secluded area. Maintained by East Devon District Council and the volunteers of local horticultural group Sidmouth in Bloom, these gardens provide any photographer with a near endless array of subject matter.
There is a different mix of plants and trees to discover in the glorious wildflower beds and don't miss the cacti greenhouse, especially if you enjoy taking close-up pictures.
(Take a look at my macro photography Facebook page - My Little World - to see some examples of the shots you could capture while exploring the gardens).
The sights from the eastern side of the gardens are simply beautiful and on a clear day you can enjoy stunning views right across the seafront, towards Salcombe Regis and beyond.
There is a small, fairly hidden, old stairway that connects Connaught Gardens to the walkway and beach below - but be careful; it is steep and not for the feint-hearted.
In the very heart of the grounds you will find the bandstand and lawn, which is the place to be to enjoy the many public performances throughout the year. You can often watch the Sidmouth Town Band in concert here, as well as a whole host of other musicians and dance groups, performing during Sidmouth Folk Festival week in the summer.
There's nothing quite like taking a picnic along and sitting back to enjoy the live music and dance. See my gallery from Folk Festival 2018 for more pictures of this fantastic event.
Remember to keep an eye on the notice boards by the steps to Manor Road for a list of upcoming events and remember to take your camera along!
Remember to keep an eye on the notice boards by the steps to Manor Road for a list of upcoming events and don't forget to take your camera along.
At the western end of the gardens you will find The Clock Tower Cakery & Restaurant - a welcome place to stop for a coffee and cake and enjoy the glorious views across the water. While you are here, don't miss my exhibition in the restaurant where you can also purchase some of my work.
When you are ready to continue your photographic adventure then head out through the picturesque stonewall archway, which beautifully frames High Peak hill and the sea stacks of Ladram Bay in the distance. From here you will discover the steep white steps of Jacob's Ladder, which descends to the pebbly beach below.
The ladder and clock tower are both iconic sights of Sidmouth, and despite being a much photographed spot it's still possible to find unique viewpoints to take pictures from - it just takes a little bit of thought.
For instance: at low tide you can walk out to the rock pools at Chit Rocks, located on the beach at the foot of the steps. If you get down low enough then you might just be able to frame-up a different kind of view to the everyday one most people come away with (see my picture below).
Why not try your own take on this landmark from this same viewpoint? Perhaps look for a reflection of the steps in the rock pools or put the camera on a tripod and capture a long exposure of the ladder - showing movement of the clouds behind and people walking up the steps.
More information about Connaught gardens can be found on: East Devon District Council's website.
2. The Byes
The Byes is a stunning riverside park stretching for just over a mile from the toll house at Salcombe Road to the small village of Sidford to the north of Sidmouth.
Walking the length of the park takes in many rolling fields and grassy meadows while following the tranquil River Sid as it winds its way to the sea.
If wildlife photography is your preferred subject then be sure to keep a lookout for kingfishers, dippers and grey wagtails hunting by the water's edge.
During the summer months you can enjoy the beauty of the wildflower meadows, which grow at the edge of the park. These are purposely seeded by the Sid Vale Association to encourage an enriched habitat that attracts all manner of insects, especially bees and butterflies, perfect subjects for you to practise your close-up camera skills.
3. Salcombe Hill
When I think of Sidmouth I immediately picture the iconic red sandstone of the Jurassic cliffs, which make up this stretch of the coastline.
Climbing above the rooftops to the eastern end of the seafront you will see the steep slope of Salcombe Hill (maintained by the National Trust).
It's a relatively short and moderate climb up and along this stretch of the South West Coast Path, from the seafront to the top of the hill, where you can sit on the bench and enjoy the glorious vista across Sidmouth.
To reach Salcombe Hill from the seafront, first walk to the far side of the eastern end of the promenade and cross Alma bridge, which spans the mouth of the River Sid.
DO NOT be tempted to go down to the beach here. The cliff face is very unstable and rock falls are common - this part of the beach is very dangerous.
Instead, climb the slope and head on up the hill, following signs for the South West Coast Path.
Once you have rejoined the path, having walked up Cliff Road and Laskey's Lane, you will find the entrance to the long clifftop field. But before you carry on up, have a wander around the small field to your right, known as Alma Field.
This area is managed by Sidmouth Town Council, which sows wild flowers here that burst in to flower for late springtime. The vibrant mix of poppies, ox-eye daisies and other colourful plants attract many kinds of pollinators and simply cries out for a macro lens to be fitted to your camera.
Once you've taken in your fill of the gorgeous wildflowers continue on up the path and make your way into the large field that stretches for most of the length of the climb.
As you reach the end of the grassy field you will find a bench to rest your feet and to appreciate the sumptuous views of the Sid Valley.
Most landscape photographers will tell you to put a wide-angle lens in your kit bag for capturing sweeping vistas, such as the one above. I couldn't agree more; but why limit your range of potential photos by sticking to recommended types of equipment? If you are comfortable with carrying larger and heavier lenses around then I would definitely suggest taking a telephoto, too, and seeing what you can frame-up from afar.
The last leg of the climb up Salcombe Hill passes through a small wooded patch. Thankfully, the National Trust maintains the wooden steps here, which would otherwise be worn away during heavy rainfall and walkers passing through.
This woodland pathway is quite picturesque, especially during springtime, when the leaves are fresh. It is equally photogenic in winter when the bare slender trees lend themselves to monochrome. Don't pass up on the opportunity to capture this lovely area on camera.
The steps lead on up to a series of pathways and you can continue following the South West Coast Path, on towards Salcombe Regis. Bear to the left and you will come across Salcombe Hill car park, managed by the National Trust, where you can arrange to be picked up from. Alternatively park up and start your circular walk from here.
4. Mutter's Moor
It can be argued that Sidmouth has something to offer for nearly everyone who visits.
There is a variety of excellent shops for the shopper looking for the next birthday present. Delicious delights to be found in the butchers, bakery, sweet shop, fudge shop, ice-cream pantry and numerous other independent traders.
If you are an active person then there is an excellent paddle board hire company on the seafront (seasonal).
And, of course, there are the many lovely walks around the town to enjoy.
One of my favourite places to stretch my legs and spend time with the camera is Mutter's Moor.
If you are fresh-faced to Sidmouth and looking to find somewhere nice to wander, away from the hubbub of the town centre, then you might want to explore Mutter's Moor.
First-timers to Sidmouth might be surprised to learn that there is a wonderful area of moorland right on the doorstep of the town.
You could be deceived into thinking that the moor is sparse and at times desolate. Cold winter mornings can seem drab and dull to the untrained eye.
But scratch the surface and you will see that there is much to discover and photograph.
I personally love a good cold December morning on the moor, which is often accompanied by a foggy sunrise.
If you are an early riser looking for a photographic playground then you won't be disappointed with a walk around the moor.
Number one rule before you head out, (anywhere), is to tell someone where you are going and what time you will aim to be back. There are numerous twisting paths to follow, and although the moorland is relatively small, it is still easy to get lost and end up somewhere like Otterton... I won't tell you who did that once, ahem!
Photographic kit: It's up to you what you take on an outing but your choice will probably be determined by what you need and what you can carry. Personally, I always bring my DSLR with a wide-telephoto lens (24-120mm), ideal for the majority of subjects, and my long 150-600mm lens, perfect for wildlife spotting.
It is also worth considering taking a macro lens with you - fantastic for those close-ups of dewy spider webs and frosty veined leaves.
It goes without saying that a tripod is a must for any serious landscape photographer. Early light is very low and you'll probably want to capture shots with good depth of field (sharp from foreground to background). To do this you will need to use a small aperture, which requires more light from longer exposures - hence the need for a tripod.
Mutter's Moor can be enjoyed in any season.
The actual moorland habitat is relatively small and can easily be walked around within an hour or two.
There are a number of wooded areas surrounding the moor and these open up even more photographic opportunities.
There is a specific patch on the moor where many foxgloves grow during early spring and it comes alive with the buzzing of bees and other insects - another great subject matter for macro/wildlife photographers.
One of my favourite views of the surrounding landscape can be enjoyed from a bench at the edge of the moorland. It is a treasure to discover and I won't tell you exactly where to find it - sometimes the joy is in discovering these places for yourself. All I'll say is bear left once you have walked halfway along the main path... just don't end up in Otterton!
5. High Peak
Rising over 500ft to the southwest of Sidmouth is High Peak, a partially eroded Iron Age hill fort of rich archaeological significance.
Reaching the summit of High Peak can be accomplished by following the South West coastal path from either Sidmouth or Ladram Bay.
Both walks are suited for accomplished ramblers and especially so for those aiming to enjoy the sumptuous views from the highest point of the hill.
I prefer to park up in the car park at Mutter's Moor and walk across the road, beginning my journey from the top of Peak Hill.
Although the public do have a right of way the land is shared with sheep, cattle and wild ponies. All of which can make for great subjects to photograph.
I love visiting this area in springtime to see the newborn lambs jumping around and playing together. I thoroughly recommend using a long lens to photograph the wild animals, keeping at a good distance so as not to disturb them, with the added benefit of separating a lamb or a pony from the verdant background.
Remember that if you are taking a four legged friend to keep it on a lead not just because of grazing animals but it is a sheer drop and easy for a dog to tumble over the edge.
The half a mile or so walk to High Peak is moderately easy with just a few steep and tight points here and there.
The views of the surrounding landscape are wonderful but don't be tempted to look over the edge of the cliff. There isn't much to see until you reach High Peak itself and it can be dangerous as the cliff face is unstable and eroding in places.
Near to the final stage of the walk up High Peak is a welcome bench, which provides stunning views right across the length of Sidmouth's coast. This is a perfect spot to rest a while before starting the final leg towards the summit.
Once you have recharged your batteries head on upwards and you will soon come across an entrance on your left. Enter here and carry on walking along the path.
You will soon discover a steep rugged footpath on your left-hand side which will take you to the highest point of High Peak.
WARNING: This is not an easy climb to the top and should not be attempted by less able walkers - there are a lot of loose stones and it can be slippery in parts, especially if wet.
This part of the walk is the location of much archaeological research with pre-Roman and post Roman pottery having been found here.
The vista from atop of High Peak has to be my favourite view of Sidmouth.
It is from here that I have captured some of my best images of the town and its surrounding landscape.
For me, no trip along the South West coast path would be complete without a diversion up High Peak to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Be sure to take as many pictures as you can and don't be discouraged from using a long lens as well as a wide.
But above all, whatever you do, enjoy this magical view in beautiful East Devon.
I hope you have enjoyed this Sidmouth photo guide of five of my recommended walks and if you have any questions about these places, or perhaps suggestions of your own favourite spots to visit, then please get in touch at: email@example.com