16th May 2024

Reading time


A Guide to South Coast Sailing Hotspots

Super yachting, West Country style.


The southern coast of Cornwall and Devon contains some of Britain’s prime sailing hotspots, pretty towns and villages perfect for second home owners and relocators who want to spend their downtime messing around on the water. 

And as well as smart marinas, a busy regatta season, and fabulous local sailing these hotspots also offer buyers the best of the West Country seaside lifestyle – think sandy beaches, great restaurants, and gorgeous countryside just inland.

Fashionable Fowey is probably Cornwall’s most established sailing destination and the port town is certainly picture postcard pretty, with pastel painted houses ranged on the hillside above the River Fowey. Sailing has been this charming town’s lifeblood for generations. The calm waters of its estuary providing a safe spot for novices to hone their skills while more experienced sailors can explore the coastline of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Fowey’s natural deep water harbour is suitable for water craft from kayak to superyacht, and there is a marina in the town.

The highlight of the year is the Fowey Royal Regatta, held in August and organised by the town’s two smart boat clubs, the Royal Fowey Yacht Club and Fowey Gallants Sailing Club. It offers a full programme of races, and lots of land-based fun.

Off the water there are wonderful beaches like the family friendly Whitehouse Beach or the peaceful Readymoney Cove Beach. Back in town the cobbled streets of Fowey are surprisingly sophisticated, lined with art galleries, independent cafes, and some really outstanding seafood restaurants.

Whilst in Fowey visits to the Eden Project and the splendid Lost Gardens of Heligan are a must. The protected countryside of the Roseland Heritage Coast offers plenty of opportunities for walking, cycling, and horse riding. 

Prices in Fowey vary from around £2.5m for a substantial four to five bedroom house in an elevated position with fabulous views, to compact but pretty fisherman’s cottages, priced from around £400,000. 

Perfect sailing conditions in Salcombe

The undisputed leader of the South West sailing pack, Salcombe, in Devon, combines near perfect conditions for yachtsmen and women, and a cracking range of restaurants, pubs, and boutiques,  plus separate marinas for residents and visitors at Salcombe Harbour.

Sailing is such an important part of the town’s history that it even has a class of boat named after it. The Salcombe Yawl was developed in the late 1800s as a nifty, speedy, little racing boat with three sails, and the town’s owners association organises regular races and events. Other sailors take to the waves in everything from dinghies and keelboats to superyachts, and Salcombe’s August regatta is a great spectacle. 

When not under sail there is plenty to do in Salcombe, known by locals as Chelsea-on-Sea, from chilling on one of its two sandy beaches, browsing its independent boutiques, hiking the South West Coast Path, or simply hanging out at the chi chi Harbour Beach Club or cute seaside cafes like The Winking Prawn. 

Regularly named as the most expensive piece of coastal real estate in Britain, Salcombe’s high prices are partly thanks to its enviable lifestyle, and partly down to its geography. With the sea on one side and a stretch of protected countryside on the other, there are few opportunities for new house building. Demand for homes far exceeds supply, making it a safe, sound property investment as well as a lifestyle choice.

But buyers who want a really best in class Salcombe home may well find themselves in a competitive bidding situation, and many of the very best homes never come on to the open market at all. A substantial family home – period or modern – set one the elevated roads above the estuary, would cost between around £3m and £5m. Or you could opt for a chocolate box cottage for around £800,000. Salcombe also has a stock of stylish, contemporary waterfront apartment buildings, priced at around £1.2m for a convenient three bedroom lock up and leave home.

The relaxed Devonian secret of Noss Mayo

If you would prefer a lower key West Country haven then Noss Mayo, some 20 miles west of Salcombe, is a small but perfectly formed Devonian secret. This compact waterfront village (population: around 500) is set on the estuary of the River Yealm and is a wonderful spot for sailing, walking, birdwatching, and fishing. 

Despite its modest stature Noss Mayo has a local sailing club, the Yealm Yacht Club, with a buzzing clubhouse, and hosts an annual summer regatta. Otherwise the town’s social life centres on its two waterfront pubs, the Swan Inn and the Ship Inn. 

Its local beaches, including the off the beaten track National Trust owned Cellar Beach, will not disappoint. And the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is on the doorstep providing sublime countryside.

Lesser known than the likes of Fowey and Salcombe, Noss Mayo also offers excellent comparative value for money. A detached family home overlooking the River Yealm and close to the centre of the village would cost around between around £800,000 to £1.2m. A character cottage in the heart of the village would trade for between £700,000 and £800,000.

Falmouth’s all-year-round charm

One of the great things about Falmouth, one of Cornwall’s most historic port towns, is that it is a truly year-round destination. While some of the UK’s seaside towns and villages shut down for the winter season Falmouth just keeps going.

The home town of Poldark author William Graham ticks all of the classic West Country boxes with four sandy beaches, an exceptionally pretty quayside lined with pubs and restaurants, and the lovely scenery of the Roseland Peninsula all around. 

But Falmouth is also a working town, with its own university campus, which means it remains vibrant when the summer holidaymakers go home. It has a full complement of shops, both everyday and luxury, plus two train stations if you prefer not to have to drive all the time.

For amateur yachtsmen and women there are several sailing schools, and for the more experienced hand there is the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. There is also a marina plus deep water moorings at the mouth of the Penryn River, amongst the deepest natural harbours in the world. And the Pendennis Shipyard is the place to go whether you want a custom superyacht or just some repairs.  

Falmouth’s most sought after addresses are its elevated streets like Boscawen Road and Cliff Road, prized by buyers for their sea views. Family homes here sell within the £1m to £2m bracket, and there are also some very high specification apartment buildings with penthouses priced just north of £1m.

If you value your privacy, however, you could realign your search just south of town, in Maenporth, where homes on private roads come with panoramic views and large plots, plus easy footpath access down to Maenporth Beach.

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