Walk - South Cleave - Valley of Rocks

4.7 miles (7.5 km)

Lynmouth seafront car park - EX35 6EN Lynmouth Seafront Car Park

Challenging - Paths, tracks and a quiet road, with ascent and descent, some of it steep, and some exposure

A high-level walk with an optional ride on the world-famous water-powered cliff railway and an unusual perspective on the Valley of Rocks, from the heathland on the north side, with some woodland walks and prehistoric field systems and settlements, as well as the astonishing rock formations for which the valley is renowned.

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.

Longmead House

One of Lynton’s best kept secrets, beautiful Victorian B&B offers plenty of comfort after a long day’s walk with picturesque gardens, en-suite bedrooms and breakfast like no other.

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.

Gable Lodge Guest House

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

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.

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.

St Vincent Guest House

Beautiful grade II Georgian B&B in the heart of Lynton, minutes from the coastal path. Packed lunch by arrangement & all diets catered for.

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

Hillside House B&B

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

Licensed guest house ideally suited for the Coast Path. Evening meals by request.

Mannacott Farm, near Hunters Inn

Delicious farmhouse breakfast served with views over Trentishoe Down. Contact 01598 763227 or [email protected] Packed lunch available on request. 

Martinhoe Cleave Cottages

Stay at these lovely, well-appointed cottages (2 cottages sleep 2 people and one cottage sleeps 2-4 people) and explore the dramatic South West Coast Path. Tel: 01598 753987

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.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. Starting at the seafront, pick up the Coast Path and walk with it to the cliff railway. Alternatively, you might like to take a ride up the hill on the railway and pick up the Coast Path at the top.

The Lynmouth-Lynton water-powered cliff railway is world-famous, and it has never once been out of action in its 120 years. It was the result of the collaboration between local businessman John Heywood and London lawyer (with a second home in Lynton), Thomas Hewitt, using the services of local builder Bob Jones. With a certain amount of political power between them, which helped establish the project as viable, they nonetheless lacked sufficient capital to carry it out. As luck would have it, publisher George Newnes arrived in the district at just the right time, starry-eyed and with the funds to finance the funicular, and he was easily persuaded to do just that. (Newnes built himself a house on the side of Hollerday Hill, en route, which was subsequently burnt down, but the remains can still be seen in the woods on the hill – see the Hollerday Hill Walk).

Local engineer George Marks had been recruited to design the cliff railway. Realising that the length of the rails (862 feet) and the steepness of the cliffs (almost vertical) made it important to have extremely efficient brakes, he devised a system using four different sets of brakes: two sets of friction brakes, pressure being applied by hydraulic pistons to steel blocks holding each of the two cars on the crown of the rails, and two sets of hydraulic callipers. Interestingly, the hydraulic fluid used was water, not oil.

Each of the two cars driving the railway has a water tank holding 700 gallons of water, and as the passengers board, the tanks are fully filled, the variation in weight caused by the passengers being accommodated by the brakes on the cars. When it is time to go, the driver of one car begins to empty his tank. His car rises up the rails, causing the other to sink, as their relative weights change, making the whole completely carbon-neutral.

What makes the railway is unique is the fact that the water discharged is allowed to run away, where other similar railways have to pump theirs through the system to be reused. This is thanks to the political clout of Messrs Hewitt and Heywood, which enabled them to negotiate an Act of Parliament in 1888 which gave them a perpetual right to extract up to 60,000 gallons a day.

The funicular opened in 1890 and its final cost was £8000.

  1. Follow the Coast Path as it zigzags over the cliff railway to the lane above.
  2. Turn right onto this lane, and onto the path a little way beyond which travels around the cliffs, high above the sea. Wind with it around all the spectacular rock formations, until you come to the very appropriately-named Castle Rock, a mile or so beyond. Take a detour here for breathtaking views – or save your energy for later, when your climb up South Cleave will give you another chance to savour this amazing landscape.
  3. Reaching the road below Castle Rock, turn right, around the roundabout, and walk along the road to Lee Abbey.
  4. Just after the abbey, turn left onto the bridleway which climbs gently through the woods above the abbey.
  5. When the bridleway doubles back on itself, fork left with it and carry on uphill.
  6. When it doubles back on itself again, just as you are coming out of the woods, leave it, and take the path leading straight ahead, onto the open hillside. Zigzag up the hillside to the heathland high above the Valley of Rocks, and follow the path along the top of the hill.

The valley bottom below is well sheltered from all except southwesterly winds, and there is extensive evidence of prehistoric habitation here. The remains of low stone walls, visible through the bracken and stones, are the fragments of a Celtic type field system. There are also two circular enclosures that may have been stock pounds or settlements, and it seems likely that there are Bronze Age hut circles, although these are obscured by the bracken.

  1. The path starts to descend above the car park in the Vallewy of Rocks, turning sharply right and then dropping down to meet another track above the cemetery. Turn left onto this new track and follow it down to the road.
  2. Turn right onto the road for a short distance, to where two paths lead away to your left.
  3. Take the right-hand of these paths and zigzag up the hillside with it. Detour left for great views back over the valley, or continue on the left-hand path which leads around the coastal side of Hollerday Hill. Stay with this path, following the signs to Lynton (though the detours around the ruins of Hollerday House and the Iron Age hillfort are fascinating if you have the time and energy for them).
  4. Turn left onto the road beyond, and then left again on North Walk Hill to pick up the Coast Path again.
  5. Follow the Coast Path back over the cliff railway to return to the start of the walk.

Public transport

You can reach Lynmouth by bus from Barnstaple and most of the towns and villages along this section of coast. 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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