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.

Blair Lodge, Combe Martin

Quiet location on the South West Coast Path, near the beach, we offer a warm welcome to weary, possibly wet walkers. Tea and cake awaits and, if required, dinner, laundry facilities and lifts.

Cranleigh House B&B, Combe Martin

We are a comfortable, dog friendly, vegetarian/vegan, Yoga B+B. Bike storage and overnight drying facilities available.

Fontenay B&B, Combe Martin

A family run bed and breakfast within very close proximity of the coast path. We offer a warm friendly welcome along with our home products and cooking.

Newberry Beach Lodge, Combe Martin

A pebbles throw from the award winning Newberry & Combe Martin beaches, local pubs and cafes. Enjoy a soak in a roll-top bath after a day's walking!

Mellstock House, Combe Martin

A free pick up/drop off service is available to the Coast Path, we offer boot trays, drying room, laundry service, packed lunches, cosy bar and evening meals. All our rooms are en-suite and have TV/DVD, tea/coffee etc with free WIFI. 

Channel Vista Guesthouse

This friendly, hikers' haven is open Feb-Dec. By SWCP, beaches & amenities. Free Wifi & Parking; Conservatory Bar; Laundry & Drying

Marlyn B&B

We've three en-suites with fine bedding, good food, views and 3 nearby pubs. Parking and coast road buses for break days and longer stays.

Little Meadow Campsite, Ilfracombe

Small uncommercial site, panoramic views over the Hangman Hills of Exmoor, Combe Martin Bay and Bristol Channel. Quiet peaceful camping in North Devon's tranquil surroundings.

Stowford Farm Meadows

Stowford Farm Meadows is a superb camping & caravan site, from which to explore the best of North Devon.

Hele Valley Holiday Park, Ilfracombe

Located in the beautiful seaside town of Ilfracombe along the stunningly rugged North Devon coast. The perfect destination for relaxing and for walking the South West Coast Path.

The Collingdale Guest House, Ilfracombe

Award winning Guest House directly on SWCP with stunning views of Ilfracombe Harbour. Minutes to the Moors, Seconds to the Sea. Book direct for best rates.

Ocean Backpackers, Ilfracombe

Quality independent Youth hostel with large self catering kitchen, communal lounge and dining room. Private en-suite rooms and dorms. Open all year.

The Olive Branch Guesthouse, Ilfracombe

4AA* Guesthouse just minutes walk from the coast path! Hikers/runners/cyclists most welcome! Free WIFI + Large Inclusive Breakfast.

Harcourt Hotel, Ilfracombe

Small "dog friendly Hotel " with a clean, friendly, home from home environment, in very close proximity to all amenities, including the Coast Path.

The Old Eclectick

Newly opened! Dog-friendly spacious en suite double room in Grade II listed property with big private terrace overlooking Fore St and views down to The Harbour – 5 mins from the South West Coast Path. 

Avoncourt Lodge

Simple, light, airy B and B with home cooked breakfast, honesty bar and drying room. Ideal base for Torrs Walk and a 10-minute stroll to town centre.

Martinhoe Cleave Cottages

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

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.

Westwell Hall

Luxury, adults only, dog-friendly guest house with direct access to Path. Cordon Bleu evening meals available. Fabulous sea views.

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 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.

Parking

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

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