Walk - Lantern Hill, Ilfracombe
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
This walk is one of a series of walks to be found at www.phototrails.org The website aims "to help everyone discover and enjoy access to the countryside, tailored to their own needs and preferences." It is run by the Fieldfare Trust who work with people with disabilities and countryside managers to improve access to the countryside for everyone.
Although now North Devon's largest holiday town, Ilfracombe has its origins in Saxon times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. During the medieval period it had two centres, around the church and around the harbour. It was important as a fishing harbour and commercial port and there was a quay here in the Middle Ages.
Lantern Hill is located above the Quay at Ilfracombe harbour. At the top is St Nicholas's Chapel which is a seamen's chapel dating from the 14th century. It is known to have been used as a lighthouse at the time of Henry V111 and the present lantern tower was added around 1800.
The 1839 Stranger’s Guide written by Edwin Lammas states: "The principal room of this building is opened during the summer months, for the accommodation of the public, as a reading room, supported by subscription; where the gentlemen amuse themselves by reading the newspaper, and the ladies by scribbling in a scrap-book kept for the purpose".
White's Devonshire Directory of 1850 notes that "Lantern Rock, rising nearly to a point, and having on its conical summit a light house, which is 140 feet above low water mark, was formerly a chapel."
At the last meeting of the Ilfracombe Manorial Court on Saturday 11th December 1858, at which the Lord of the Manor of Ilfracombe, Sir Bouchier Wrey held the chair, the following was reported: "....the gentlemen of the jury then proceeded to the lighthouse, and to the great credit of Mr. John Davie, the careful keeper of that important pharos, they found the lantern, reflectors and everything connected with the service in excellent order".
In 1895 the Ilfracombe Gazette and Observer noted: "The building is a very ancient one; was originally a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas, and a place of pilgrimage - one bishop granting an indulgence of forty days to all who should visit the said capellum Sancti Nicholia. The mark of another superstition still remains on it; the horse-shoe, which our forefathers and foremothers believed would prevent the curse of the witch from taking effect,...."
There is a large pay and display car park at the end of the Quay just below Lantern Hill. There are accessible parking bays available although all users have to pay for parking.
- Leave the car park at the north west end by Lantern Hill. As this is a circular walk, visitors can choose which direction to go, this guide turns left from the entrance and follows a clockwise direction.
This is a circular walk up to and around St Nicholas's Chapel giving lovely views of Ilfracombe harbour. The majority of the walk has gradients of approx 20% (1:5). The paths have good tarmacadam surfaces and are generally 2 metres wide, smooth and well maintained. There are few handrails along the path but there are numerous benches and seats available.
- There are two levels along the walk with the footpath levelling off at the base of the Chapel where there is a viewing and information area. There are then narrow steps or an alternative steep footpath leading up to the Chapel. The chapel has a very narrow approach and steps into the main entrance.
For more information about the route please download and print out the easy access pdf from phototrail.org.
Ilfracombe has a wide selection of places in which to eat and drink.