Walk - Wester Wood

3.5 miles (5.6 km)

Layby on inland side of A39 Countisbury Hill - EX35 6ND Layby on inland side of A39 Countisbury Hill

Moderate - Footpaths, quiet lanes, woodland paths, some ascent and descent. In places the path is narrow and the drop to the sea can look daunting, so you will need a head for heights.

Iron Age hillforts, Saxon-Danish battles, a Domesday manor and a twentieth-century tragedy, all in a spectacular setting, first along a path high above the dark sea at Lynmouth and then through idyllic woodland with bubbling waterfalls and a quietly chuckling river. A lovely walk in spring, when swathes of bluebells and wild garlic are dotted with celandines and the air rings with birdsong. A good route for children, too, who will love the adventurous flavour of the terrain and its tempestuous history.

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

The Denes Guest House

The Denes offer locally sourced food and comfortable en-suite bedrooms, facilities to dry outdoor gear and a selection of maps. Books, DVDs and board games for relaxation.

Orchard House Hotel

Friendly, homely atmosphere. Full English breakfast, licensed bar, kit drying, luggage transfers,single occupancy reductions,walking parties welcome as well as pets & children

Sinai House

4 Star accommodation with incredible sea views, offering peace and tranquillity. "Where Exmoor meets the Sea". Ideally located for the South West Coast Path.

The Crown Hotel

A warm welcome awaits at the Crown Hotel, originally a coaching inn. Located in the heart of Lynton, a quiet base to explore N.Devon's rugged coastline. One night stays and dogs welcome.

The North Cliff Hotel

Right on the SW Coast Path, now fully refurbished. Families & groups welcome, dog friendly, drying room, lounge, bar, dinner, a terrace with amazing coastal views and free parking.

South View Guest House

We look forward to welcoming you to our newly refurbished & upgraded Edwardian Guest House. Ideally located for pubs, restaurants, shops and the spectacular North Devon Coast Path.

Gable Lodge Guest House

Family run guest house offering family friendly bed and breakfast accommodation. Freshly prepared evening meals using local produce.

Longmead House

Elegant Victorian house offers comfort walkers will appreciate, easy access to the Valley of Rocks and the Coast Path. Supper platters and packed lunches available

Martinhoe Cleave Cottages

Three lovely cottages within Exmoor National Park close to the SW Coast Path and the dramatic moorland and coastal scenery of north Devon

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the tarmac layby on the inland side of the road, cross the road and walk about 125 yards down the hill and find a path opposite a small pull in which drops a little way down the hillside to join the Coast Path. Turn right onto the Coast Path and stay with it for about a mile as it travels between the sea and the road.

The path to the left en route leads to Sillery Sands, now rather more shingle than sand. However due to tidal damage this is now permanently closed.

The building ahead and above, on Butter Hill, is a former maritime lookout post, used to observe commercial shipping in the Bristol Channel.

The church below the lookout post is the St John the Evangelist Church at Countisbury. In 1086 the settlement of Countisbury was recorded in the Domesday Book as having a population of about 75, with a sizeable acreage of woodland and pasture land, putting it in the middle range of wealth at the time. Just over a century later, around 1200, Henry III gave the manor, along with that of Lynton, to Ford Abbey.

  1. About 300 yards after the Coast Path starts to pull seawards away from the road, at the corner of a stone wall, take an unmarked path leading sharply uphill to your right. Follow the wall to go through a field gate then turn left following the sign down to the road.

The name Countisbury is thought to derive from a Saxon word meaning 'camp on the headland', referring to the Iron Age hillfort which was on Wind Hill. You will notice the marker to your right on the Coast Path. Its enormous ramparts extend from below you on the path all the way up the hill to the mound at the top, and it was a prominent site during the Iron Age. In addition, there are two smaller Iron Age sites on the far side of the hill (see below).

Wind Hill is also said to be the location for a battle in AD 878, when a Saxon army led by Odda defeated a party of Viking invaders led by Hubba the Dane. This was a battle of some consequence, being a notable defeat of Danish invaders by an army led by someone other than King Alfred. However, other places also claim the battle as their own, including Northam, further down the coast near Appledore (see the Appledore & Northam Burrows Walk).

  1. Cross the road and pick up the left-hand one of two paths.  At a junction of paths by a pond take the path down the valley signposted towards Watersmeet.
  2. When you come to a T-junction at Chiselcombe turn right and continue on this path (The Coleridge Way) above the river for about two miles following the direction signs for Lynmouth, ignoring all the paths heading away on both sides (although there are wonderful spots for a picnic beside the river if you want to do a detour to the left for this purpose).

The thickly-wooded hills shadowing the river here on the opposite bank are known as 'The Cleaves', cleave being a steep-sided valley whose name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'cleof' meaning cliff. There is another Iron Age fort on Myrtle Cleave, and a dramatic summit with spectacular views at Oxen Tor, between this and Lyn Tor (see the Two Cleaves Walk).

This is the East Lyn River, notorious for the part it played in the tragic flooding of Lynmouth in 1952, when 34 people lost their lives (see the Two Cleaves Walk).

    1. About 250 yards after the path runs onto the road, take the road to your right pulling sharply uphill and turning two hairpins before passing the drive to Countisbury Lodge on your left. Continue on up the road turning another hairpin and keep going to the top, where you turn right above Countisbury Lodge and then go straight on along a tarmac driveway to emerge once more on the A39 on Countisbury Hill.
    2. Cross the road and join the Coast Path as it snakes along the bank at the side of the road and then between the road and the sea until you reach the path back up to the road and the layby at the start of the walk. 

    Public transport

    You can reach Lynmouth by bus from many nearby towns and villages including, Minehead, Porlock, Barnstaple, and Combe Martin. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

    Parking

    For sat navs users, the approximate postcode of the layby is EX35 6ND. It's on the right hand side of the road as head up the hill eastwards out of Lynmouth towards Porlock.

    Alternatively you can also use the car park at Lynmouth seafront, and follow the Coast Path to the start of the walk.

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