Walk - Wester Wood

3.3 miles (5.3 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.

This walk is also good for dogs as it passes a beach and pubs where dogs are welcome. Have a look at our Top Dog Walks on the South West Coast Path for more dog friendly beaches and pubs. 

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the layby on the right-hand side of the road, cross the road and find the path opposite which drops a little way down the hillside and joins the Coast Path. Turn right onto the Coast Path. Ignoring the path leading away to the left halfway along, stay with the Coast Path 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, but an exciting place to explore for those of an adventurous bent. There are interesting rock formations and mineral deposits on the rocks. Be sure to check out the tide tables first, however, as the beach can be quickly cut off by the tide, making escape possible only for those with climbing experience and equipment. Storms sometimes damage the steps at the bottom of the path, too, so take particular care if you decide to venture down.

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, take the path leading sharply uphill to your right, heading for the road, and beyond it to Wind Hill.

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 the two paths beyond, following it downhill and into the woods.
  2. When you come to the fork in the paths, take the right-hand one and follow it along above the river for about two miles, 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 to emerge once more onto 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, until you return to the layby at the start of the walk.

Dogs are allowed on Lynmouth Beach throughout the year.

    Nearby refreshments

    There are numerous restaurants, cafés and tearooms in Lynmouth, or try the 13th century Blue Ball Inn at Countisbury.
    During the walk in Lynmouth the Rising Sun and the Rock House Hotel are recommended by users of www.doggiepubs.org.uk as serving good food and being dog-friendly.

    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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