Walk - Little Hangman

2.1 miles (3.3 km)

Kiln Car Park in Combe Martin - EX34 0DJ Kiln Car Park in Combe Martin

Moderate - Steep ascent and descent on stony, muddy paths that can be very slippery, quiet lanes and tracks

A breathtaking walk in both senses of the word, with tremendous views over Combe Martin Bay and inland, and a gentle stroll downhill through an area once famous for its silver mines. A great walk in autumn, when the rusty bracken bristles with banks of purple heather.

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.

Little Meadow Campsite

Small, uncommercial campsite situated above Watermouth Harbour just a few minutes walk from the Coast path. Beautiful views, hot showers and baked pastries every morning.

Sea Vista

Detached Cottage just off the Path, 3 double bedrooms, 2.5 bath, 2 x lounges. Lots of parking, close to amenities yet in a quiet location


Seaweed, a three-bedroom dog friendly holiday home in Combe Martin comfortably accommodates up to six guests, only a stone's throw from beach, and just a short walk from the South West Coast Path.

Blair Lodge

Quiet location overlooking the bay. 100m gentle walk from the Path, beach, pubs and shops. Evening meals available. Comfy Bar. Wifi. Parking. Tel: 01271 882294

Combe Martin Beach Holiday Park

Combe Martin Beach Holiday Park offers a haven of peace in a picturesque valley, including a woodland walk and natural surroundings for children to roam free and the best sea views in North Devon. Clubhouse with restaurant and bar on-site.

The Poplars Guest House

A welcome break as the guest house is perfectly situated on the South West Coast Path

Pack O Cards

Grade2**listed ancient monument offering comfortable, modern accommodation. King size beds, enduite showers.. Varied menu.

Sandaway Beach Holiday Park

Situated on a cliff's edge with breathtaking sea views. There's a stepped path to the private 'Mermaid's Cove' beach, perfect for fishing & dolphin spotting. Relax and eat at Smuggler's Bar and take in the incredible views. Just 1 mile from the Path.

Collingdale Guest House

Award winning Guest House directly on SWCP with stunning views of Ilfracombe Harbour. 100m from cosy pub, 5 mins walk to restaurants. Packed lunches by prior arrangement. Book direct for best rates

Harcourt Hotel

A small licensed dog-friendly guesthouse, with a friendly, home from home environment offering bed & breakfast, in very close proximity to all amenities, including the Coast Path.

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

Avoncourt Lodge

Simple light and airy B&B with full breakfast, ensuite baths, honesty bar and drying room on SW Coastal Pathway, Ilfracombe. Dog friendly
What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Ilfracombe Tourist Information Centre

Drop in to find all the information you need on things to do and places to visit in Ilfracombe.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the Kiln Car Park in Combe Martin take the Coast Path up the steps past the houses and keep climbing with it to the junction of paths above Wild Pear Beach.

Wild Pear Beach has a small shore of sand and shingle, with rocky outcrops and small sea caves. It is possible to reach it on foot, but the steps once cut into the cliffs were washed away by storms in 2008, leaving a great chasm across the hillside, making it a treacherous trek not to be lightly undertaken. Its resultant inaccessibility has made it a popular nudist venue.

Although nothing can be seen of them now, old Ordnance Survey maps indicate that there was once a lime kiln somewhere above the beach. This would have burnt coal brought in by ships from South Wales to process limestone, also from Wales, to make lime, which was used as an agricultural fertiliser. On their return journey, these ships would have carried iron and manganese from the nearby workings. Records also suggest that there was also a counting house on the beach, used to pay the men's wages.

A little earlier, in 1854, an English cargo vessel, the Eleanor, was caught in gale-force winds out in Combe Martin Bay, and was wrecked in heavy seas on the deadly rocks just off the coast here.

  1. Ignoring the track to the right here, carry on up the hill towards Little Hangman.

The twin cones of the two hangmen hills make them prominent landmarks, visible from various places around Exmoor.

It is tempting to assume that the two hills were so named following use as gallows hills, but their exposed nature makes this unlikely, given that they are frequently subject to high winds.

A local legend suggests that Little Hangman, at least, was named after a sheep rustler, who threw a rope around a ram's neck and led it away, the flock following tamely behind. However, the ram made a run for it, and in its errant foolishness it plunged over the cliffs here, taking the rustler with it. As they fell, the rope caught on a rock, and in the morning a passing sailor was said to have spotted the man hanging from the rope, halfway up the hillside.

However, perhaps the most likely explanation is that the hills are named after “an men”, Cornish for “the rock”.

  1. When the path forks towards West Challacombe, stay left and keep following the Coast Path uphill.

There were mine adits in the cliffs at Wild Pear Beach and at nearby Lester Point, as well as a shaft just below Lester Cliff and about 250 yards to the south of West Challacombe Farm. This was the West Challacombe Mine (also known as West Combmartin or New Combmartin) and was an old site for working silver-lead. It was explored in the late eighteenth century with a view to exploiting it commercially, but this was abandoned a few decades later, although it was working again briefly at the end of the nineteenth century.

Combe Martin was famous for its silver mines. In the fourteenth century it was said that “the battles of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt (1415) were won in the shafts of Combe Martin”, and a century later a German mining engineer was appointed to work hereabouts, with a thousand men at his command (see the Hangmen Hills Walk).

  1. Take the sheep path on your left and follow it up to the cairn on Little Hangman.
  2. Take the other path back down to the Coast Path.
  3. Return to 4, but this time take the other path, forking left from this direction, and follow it around the hedge to the track.
  4. Turn left onto the track to West Challacombe, passing in front of the farm, and head downhill for about a quarter of a mile, ignoring the path off to the right on the way.
  5. Stay with the track, ignoring the other one joining from the right, and carry on down to the lane at the bottom.
  6. Turn right, and go downhill past the school, staying on the bottom road past the museum to return to the car park.

Public transport

Filer's 301 bus service runs regularly between Barnstaple and Combe Martin, and the First North Devon 3 bus runs from Ilfracombe to Combe Martin. The Exmoor Coast 300 bus service also runs between Lynmouth, Combe Martin and Barnstaple during the summer season. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.


Kiln Car Park in Combe Martin at the start of the walk. Post code for sat navs: EX34 0DH


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