Walk - Lynton and Lynmouth Hike
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2018. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Picking up the Coast Path just a short way to the north of the church at Countisbury, turn with it as it runs downhill towards Lynmouth between the sea and the road, ignoring the small paths to either side along the way, until you reach the seafront.
On the left-hand side as you head down Countisbury Hill, note the little wooden marker pointing out the remains of the giant ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort climbing impressively up over Wind Hill, across the road. It is also said to be the location for a major battle in AD 878, when a Saxon army led by Odda defeated a party of Viking invaders led by Hubba the Dane (see the Wester Wood Walk).
Also nearby are the remains of a much later conflict: the platform of a gun emplacement, and an associated shed, thought to be an ammunition store.
- From the seafront at Lynmouth, make your way along the Coast Path to the cliff railway.
The water-powered railway, opened in 1890 at a cost of £8000, was part of an extensive scheme to open Lynmouth and Lynton up to the many commercial possibilities being enjoyed by the neighbouring resorts of Minehead and Ilfracombe by virtue of their position on the busy Bristol Channel. The scheme included a pier, and a narrow gauge railway link to Barnstaple, and was masterminded by a local businessman in cahoots with a London lawyer, and financed by two wealthy incomers whose families became entrenched in a bitter feud (see the Glenthorne, Hollerday Hill and South Cleave Walks).
- At this point ignoring the Coast Path as it meanders uphill over the railway, instead carry on along the harbour road around the coast as far as you can go, and stay with the path as it doubles back on itself. It will keep zigzagging up through the woods, until finally you come back to the Coast Path.
- On the Coast Path, turn right and follow it high above the sea for a little over a mile, ignoring the path leading away uphill and inland, to your left, a little beyond the halfway point. Shortly after the disused quarry the path curves to your left, around a craggy hillside with breathtaking rock formations looming above you, and then drops down beneath Castle Rocks, to fetch up at the roundabout beyond. Take a detour up Castle Rock for some spectacular coastal views.
The rock formations enjoy names like the White Lady, Ragged Jack, and the Devil's Cheesewring. The latter is said to be a group of druids, turned to stone by the devil when he found them dancing naked on a Sunday; and beneath it, according to RD Blackmore in his novel Lorna Doone was Mother Meldrum's Kitchen, a cave which nonetheless doesn't exist outside the pages of the book (see the Lorna Doone Walk).
- Following the path down to the roundabout, turn right (southwestwards) onto the road, and follow it down to Lee Abbey.
Although it is now run as a Christian conference centre, Lee Abbey has never been used by a monastic community, but was built in by Charles Bailey, who purchased estate, recorded in the Domesday Book as Ley Manor, in 1841 and built himself a new manor house designed to look like an abbey.
- Pick up the bridleway to the left which climbs gently into the woods, to the junction of paths a little way beyond.
- Turn sharply left, doubling back on yourself uphill. Ignore the tiny path away to your right, and carry on until the bridleway doubles back on itself again.
- Don't turn with the bridleway this time, but leave it, to take the small path continuing ahead of you, up onto the heathland high above the Valley of Rocks. Zigzag with it as it climbs, and follow it along the ridge and down the other side, finally reaching the road at the far end of the path, ignoring the path that branches off to the car park on your left as you descend.
Down in the valley are various remnants of prehistoric settlements, including Celtic field systems and possibly Bronze Age hut circles (see the South Cleave Walk).
- Turn left onto the road, and follow it around a sharp left-hand bend moments later, and then fork right with it as it heads eastwards towards Lynbridge.
- Pick up the footpath on your left and follow it around the curve of the road.
- Turn right onto the lane beyond and travel southwards down it to where it joins the B3234 at Lynbridge.
- Cross the road, and the bridge beyond, and turn left onto the footpath which runs alongside the river. Stay with this path as it climbs high above the river, ignoring the small path running downhill to Glen Lyn Gorge on your left, and the one heading south, to your right, once you've reached the top, as well as the one branching off to the left at the same place.
- When your path hits the Two Moors Way/Tarka Trail path, turn right onto it, ignoring the track heading down towards West Lyn when you reach the top. Your path plunges abruptly through a wooded cleave, climbing steeply again through Myrtleberry Cleave. Once more ignoring the small paths to right and then left, stay with the Two Moors Way/Tarka Trail as it curves around the side of the hill, into woodland, and drops gently to the A39 below.
Above Myrtleberry Cleave is another Iron Age hillfort, a waymarker pointing to its well-preserved circular ramparts.
- Turn left onto the road and go south with it a few yards to the junction at Woodford Bridge. Leave the A39 here as it doubles back on itself, and cross the road beyond, and the bridge, to pick up the path running alongside the river on the eastern side of the A39. Stay with this path as it turns sharply eastwards about three quarters of a mile later.
- Cross the river to Watersmeet House, and follow the new river a short way eastwards to pick up the path heading uphill through the woods on your left. Follow the footpath up through the fields, to emerge on the road at Countisbury.
- Cross the road and pick up the path to the church to return to the start of the walk.
Mother Meldrum's Tea Room in the Valley of Rocks, Lee Abbey Tea Cottage, Watersmeet House, the Rockford Inn...