Walk - Martinhoe Roman Fortlet

5.3 miles (8.6 km)

Hunter's Inn - EX31 4PY Hunter's Inn

Challenging - Woodland paths and grassy tracks, some steep ascent and descent, stony paths high above the sea. A 'Tramper' all terrain mobility scooter can be hired (book in advance) from the National Trust at Heddon Valley, and this can be used to do the section of this walk along the old carraigeway that has wonderful views along the coast and across to Wales. For more details see the Countryside mobility website.

A wonderful walk along a green Roman carriageway high above the sea, winding through rocky scree-clad hillsides covered in old oak woodland, boasting one of England's highest coastal waterfalls in a key geological site. Although it's a long walk for little legs, older children will love the adventurous nature of the walk, the views out across the Bristol Channel to the Welsh coast, and the stories of the Romans who once camped here.

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.

Heddon's Gate Hotel,Martinhoe

Heddon's Gate is hidden in trees on the east side of the Heddon Valley, just above the old carriage drive. Absolute seclusion,wonderful food and a warm welcome.

Martinhoe Cleave Cottages

Stay at these lovely, well-appointed cottages (sleep 2 people each) and explore the dramatic South West Coast Path.

Longmead House, Lynton

We are one of Lynton’s best kept secrets with our beautiful Victorian B&B not only offering plenty of comfort with our picturesque gardens and en-suite bedrooms also serving a breakfast like no other to set you up for the day ahead. 

The Denes Guest House, Lynton

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.

Gable Lodge Guest House, Lynton

This is a beautiful grade 2 listed Victorian house where you will receive a warm welcome. Home cooked meals available.

Fernleigh Guest House, Lynton

The Fernleigh Guest House, in charming Lynton, is a friendly and informal place to stay.  We are open all year and have 5 en-suite bedrooms.

Bay Valley Of The Rocks Hotel

Overlooking the pretty harbour of Lynmouth, early Victorian hotel retains many aspects of its original charm, including an impressive atrium in the lounge and rooms with stunning scenic views.

South View Guest House, Lynton

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.

Sunny Lyn Holiday Park, Lynbridge

Sunny Lyn Camping and Holiday Park is situated just outside Lynmouth and the closest camping to the South West Coast Path.

The Crown Hotel, Lynton

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.

Orchard House Hotel, Lynmouth

Orchard House offers a friendly, homely atmosphere. Full English breakfast, licensed bar, kit drying, luggage transfers, pets & children welcome.

Hillside House B&B, Lynmouth

Situated on the East Lyn River, we are ideally suited to walkers needs, 400 yards from the Coast Path. The perfect location to explore & enjoy coast, riverside & woodland.

The Old Sea Captains House

Set against the mouth of the East Lyn River, the Captain’s House offers an ideal base from which to explore the Exmoor and North Devon coastline.

Lorna Doone House, Lynmouth

Licensed guest house property offering evening meals. Ideally situated for the Coast Path.

The Blue Ball Inn

The Blue Ball Inn is a dog-friendly traditional coaching inn, located in the hamlet of Countisbury, offering a high standard of bed and breakfast accommodation with a warm welcome. 

You'll be spoilt for choice for where to eat and drink along the Path. With lots of local seasonal food on offer, fresh from the farm, field and waters. Try our local ales, ciders, wines and spirits, increasing in variety by the year, as you sit in a cosy pub, fine dining restaurant or chilled café on the beach. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Hunters Inn, Heddon Valley

The Inn sits beautifully in the Heddon Valley, yards from the Coast Path. En-suite bedrooms, excellent home cooked food and lots of real ales and cider.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the road outside the Hunter's Inn, take the path to the right-hand (eastern) side of the inn and walk a short way uphill until it forks. Take the left-hand fork and follow it downhill and alongside the river for about three quarters of a mile, until you come to a path to your right, leading uphill through the woods.
  2. Take this path, and follow it as it climbs steeply out of the woods and pulls up the bare hillside beyond. At the headland it turns abruptly to the right and continues eastwards along the coast, around the outcrops at Great Burland Rocks and into the combe at Hollow Brook.

The waterfall at Hollow Brook flows over a distance of some 400 metres in a series of cascades, including two nearly vertical drops of 50 metres, dropping some 200 metres into the sea. It is thought to be the westcountry's highest coastal waterfall, and one of the highest in Britain. Although coastal waterfalls are common in Exmoor and North Devon, however, there are very few elsewhere in Europe, other than in Norway. 

Hollow Brook is also a place of some geological importance. It is on the boundary between the Lynton Beds and the Hangman Sandstone Group, marking the southern shoreline of the Old Red Sandstone continent which lay to the north some 360-400 million years ago. This makes it a key site for demonstrating the transition, during the Lower/Middle Devonian period, from a shallow water marine environment to a littoral (beach) one. 

  1. The path carries on around the cliffs and starts to climb between the outcrops and into the ancient oak woods. Stay with it as it curves around and starts to drop gently into West Woody Bay Wood.
  2. Leave the Coast Path above Martinhoe Manor and take the right-hand fork onto the track which climbs slowly back up towards the lane above.
  3. When you come to the path pulling steeply uphill to your right, towards Martinhoe, turn onto it and make your way up through the heathland and onto the path running along the top.
  4. Turn right onto this path and follow it as it doubles back the way you came, but at the top of the cliffs, back around the curve of Hollow Brook, through some woodland and then once more out onto the green Roman carriageway which winds dramatically around the headlands.

Note the remains of the stone wall along the seaward side of the path, presumably from the Romans' time here, and the occasional hollow in the hillside to your left where the stone was quarried to build it.

  1. High above Great Burland Rocks and a little way beyond, you will come to a tiny path to your left, winding up the grassy hillside above you to the Roman fortlet at The Beacon.

There is little evidence of any substantial Roman presence in South West England. Although roads were an essential part of their occupation, the only one identified as possibly being Roman leads from Barnstaple into mid-Devon. There have been small finds of items like coins on Exmoor, however, and traces of Roman mining and smelting of iron ore, as well as a fort at Dulverton, on the south-eastern edge of the moor.

Nonetheless, the Silure tribe across the Bristol Channel, in South Wales, were enough of a threat for the Romans to need a lookout station on this coast, somewhere with a good vantage point out across the water. 

They built it first at Old Burrow near County Gate (see the Old Burrow Roman Walk). Between 65 and 80 soldiers were stationed there in AD 50; but although they were well-fed, with an elaborate field oven built into the ramparts, accommodation was merely in tents, and the site was soon found to be too exposed; so a second was built here a few years later. 

Lesson learnt, they built two L-shaped timber barrack blocks here, each containing eight cubicles, with one having another three added later. There were a number of clay and timber field ovens, and a second building, which was rectangular and had two rooms, one of had a forge and is thought to have been a smithy or an armoury. Altogether, the site was big enough to house a century (80 men, oddly enough, not a hundred!). 

Clearly this site, too, was rather exposed; because despite the timber buildings, one winter some of the unfortunate Italian soldiers stationed here froze to death.

  1. Returning to the carriage track, stay with it as it winds around the headland, high above the sea, turning twice to your left and dropping gently downhill to the combe at Hill Brook. From here it dog-legs to your right and curls around into the woods, descending all the while, finally fetching up again outside Hunter's Inn.

Public transport

TW Coaches routes 309 and 310 travel several times a day on the A39 between Barnstaple and Lynmouth, but the nearest bus stop is at Woody Bay Station, some distance from this walk. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

Hunter's Inn

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