Walk - Hartland Quay Circular
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.
- From the car park above the Hartland Quay Hotel, follow the Coast Path sign to Spekes Mill along a fairly wide path.
Views of the spectacular rock formations and black finger like reefs exposed at low tide, provide a fantastic start to the walk, especially when contrasted with banks of pink thrift, sheeps bit and yellow birdsfoot trefoil present in late spring and early summer.
- The path takes you around the headland towards St Catherine’s Tor, a prominence that is believed to have had a Roman Villa or chapel on top, although this may well have fallen into the sea along with much of the Tor. As you follow the path which runs upstream behind the Tor, take a moment to look at the waterfall tumbling to the beach below. Cross the stream via the stepping stones and follow the acorn sign across the field to a gate. The path is easy to follow here with spectacular views up the coastline and beyond to Lundy Island, but does then fall quite steeply down to Spekes Mill Mouth.
Here, the two streams that rise on the high ground of Bursdon Moor cascade down a sheer rock face and through a series of smaller falls before tumbling to the sea below.
All the land between Hartland Quay and Speke's Mill Mouth is managed with conservation in mind under a government funded scheme called Environmental Stewardship.
For the last ten or so years, the landowners have been positively managing their coastal heathland and grassland. Invasive gorse has been controlled by burning, while cattle graze during summer to help enrich the pasture. Additionally, a number of fields through which you pass used to grow arable crops - nowadays it's difficult to tell which ones!
- At Spekes Mill Mouth you leave the South West Coast Path and follow the public footpath sign to Lymebridge up a wide stony track. Stay on this track, keeping right at the fork ahead, and passing through a lightly wooded area, until you reach a road.
- To continue the walk, follow the lane left to a crossroads and left again up a steep hill, however a short detour to Docton Mill gardens is available by turning right on meeting the road. Continue straight on at Kernstone Cross, following the farm track to Wargery Farm. The track leads you left, providing glimpses of Lundy Island and the church tower in Stoke. The path gradually narrows and passes through some pretty wooded areas.
There are some steep climbs here and the path is quite uneven until you reach the lane which leads to Stoke.
- On entering Stoke, turn left and follow the road signposted to Hartland Quay, right past some tea rooms and St Nectan’s Church, and pick up the public footpath at the corner of some coastguard cottages.
Known as the “Cathedral of North Devon”, this 14th century church has the second tallest tower in Devon and its original wooden rood screen.
- You can avoid the road altogether by walking through the churchyard and over the steps in the far right corner, and then pick up the public footpath running in front of the cottages. The path runs parallel to the road through some fields and over some stone steps, past Rocket House and over a stile where you pick up the Coast Path back to the car park.
There is a hotel, pub and shop at Hartland Quay and tea rooms at Docton Mill and Stoke. There is also a shop and some pubs in the nearby village of Hartland.