Walk - Sugarloaf Hill

3.3 miles (5.3 km)

County Gate - EX35 6NQ County Gate

Moderate - Footpaths and tracks, with some steep ascent and descent

A climb through forest and mixed woodland to breathtaking views from high above the Bristol Channel, amid plunging combes with tumbling waterfalls, pretty little copses and fields bounded by old stone walls, and open heathland with prehistoric remains – it's the walk that's got it all!

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the car park at County Gate cross the road (carefully!) and pick up the track opposite, running to the east and slightly downhill
  2. When the path forks, take the left-hand track which runs steeply down beside Coscombe, bordering the forest.
  3. As this track flattens out, it meets the Coast Path at a T-junction. Turn right onto this, heading roughly eastwards, through a combe and onto Yenworthy Combe beyond.

A combe here is a deep seam running down a hillside, carved out by the passage of water. As you would expect, there is usually a stream still tumbling down through the combe, often as a waterfall: Hollowbrook Waterfall at Martinhoe, a little further down the coast, is one of Britain's highest coastal waterfalls (see the Martinhoe Roman Fortlet walk), and there are numerous others in the wooded combes along this part of the Coast Path (see the Culbone Woods walk).

The path falling away downhill to your left in Yenworthy Combe leads to Glenthorne Beach. A detour here shows the remains of a boathouse and a coalhouse, both part of the Glenthorne estate (see the Bossington to Selworthy walk), and one of the many lime kilns that can be seen along this part of the coastline. The path also leads to a pinetum, with trees planted between 1840 and 1860, some of which are now as tall as 100 feet. There is a trout farm belonging to the estate, and an ice house cut into the banks of a stream and reached by a tunnel.

The path heading steeply uphill to your right turns eastwards itself halfway up the combe, with a third easterly path on the way up to it. Either of these paths gives an alternative route back to the Coast Path just above the next point on the walk, with spectacular views across the Bristol Channel as you proceed; but otherwise stay with the Coast Path below the steep path in Yenworthy Combe, and follow it uphill and then down again, through the wood, until you come to the next junction of paths.

  1. Here take the path uphill and to your right, doubling back above the way you have come before turning again to continue roughly eastwards up through Yenworthy Wood and into Wheatham Combe. The path turns southwards here, and starts climbing up the hillside towards the open fields above.

It's a long haul through a very pretty combe, and a very good place for a picnic, with more magnificent views out across the Bristol Channel if you choose the right spot.

  1. A few hundred yards after crossing the stream, you reach a gate. Here the Coast Path heads east again, towards Porlock; but you carry on uphill, in the direction marked Oareford.
  2. At the next fence, a couple of hundred yards further on again, the path divides. Take the right-hand turn, across the fields toward County Gate via Yenworthy Lodge, and stay with this path as it follows the field boundaries for the next three quarters of a mile.

The area to the south, towards the A39, is Yenworthy Common. In 1896, while quarrying, a cist containing a skeleton and beaker was found here, and is thought to be from a Bronze Age burial cairn on the common. The cist was about 3 foot 6 long and 22 inches wide, and the skeleton would have been buried in a crouched position, probably on its side.

There are also Bronze Age bowl barrows on this part of Yenworthy Common, although these are obscured beneath dense heather.

  1. At Yenworthy Lodge, cross the lane and pick up the footpath opposite which leads westwards, past the buildings, to County Gate.

Yenworthy Lodge is an outdoor centre run by Oxford County Council for visiting school groups.

There is another Bronze Age site on the area to the south of this track, with standing stones and earthworks. On Cosgate Hill, across the valley as you return to County Gate, there are other features from the Bronze Age. These were thought to be hut circles; but it has since been suggested that they were saucer barrows, or possibly even not from the Bronze Age at all, but mediaeval enclosures. There are also round barrows here, however, which probably are Bronze Age, although once again they are submerged in thick heather.

  1. The track will return you to the second point on the walk, from where you carry on uphill towards the road, and cross back to the car park at the top.

Nearby refreshments

The Blue Ball Inn at Countisbury, a few miles to the west along the A39 from the car park, or the Culbone Stables Inn, a few miles to the east

Public transport

There are several buses a day between Lynmouth and Minehead via Porlock, that stop at County Gate. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

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