Walk - Sherrycombe and Girt Down

4.9 miles (7.9 km)

Overhead barrier car park at Holdstone Down - EX34 0PF Overhead barrier car park at Holdstone Down

Challenging - Footpaths, tracks and quiet lanes, with some very steep ascent and descent.

A high-level walk through atmospheric coastal heathland, with far-reaching views, some plunging valleys and a fascinating variety of archaeological remains. A great route in autumn, when the heathland is bright with gorse and heather and noisy migrant birds feast on the berries on the rowan, thorn and elder bushes.

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.

Cranleigh House B&B, Combe Martin

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

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.

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.

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. 

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!

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.

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.

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.

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 car park turn left onto the road and stay with it for about a quarter of a mile, until you come to the footpath on the left.
  2. Turn onto the footpath and follow it for a couple of hundred yards, to where it meets the Coast Path.
  3. Go left onto the Coast Path and follow it around above Red Cleave.

The track between Holdstone Down and Trentishoe was to be “Sea View Road”, the main artery of an ambitious nineteenth-century housing estate scheme masterminded by a private individual from Surrey. 143 houses were scheduled to be built; but in the event only 50 plots were sold, and only two remain today (see the Holdstone Down Walk).

The eroded nature of the Hangman Grits bedrock along here made for a stepped or terraced hillside which was inhabited by as long ago as the Bronze Age (730 – 2500 BC). There are the remnants of hut circles in the area from this time, as well as barrows and cairns and stone settings.

There is evidence of early field systems, possibly from prehistoric times, including slight traces of fossilised hedge banks, although much of this was obliterated later by mediaeval agricultural traditions, when it may have been farmed as common land. The Parliamentary Inclosure of the nineteenth century, which aimed to consolidate the process of turning open common land into fields (which had been happening throughout Britain for several centuries by then), appears to have been no more than a paper exercise here, with “field” boundaries being marked by no more than the occasional marker stone, some of which can still be seen, although in a state of disrepair.

Holdstone Down itself, the heathland above and to your left as you walk along Sea View Road, was designated as the first, and thus most important, “holy mountain”, by the Aetherius Society, when the society's founder was visited on its summit by “The Master Jesus”, who came to him in a radiant form and told him that he was to become the mouthpiece of the “interplanetary parliament” (see the Holdstone Down Walk).

The society sends regular pilgrimages to Holdstone, and the area is a very popular venue for UFO-spotters.

  1. The path drops gently downhill for some distance and then pulls back up again as it curves around to the south above Sherrycombe.

Local legend has it that German U-Boats used to put in at Sherrycombe for fresh water, and traces have been found of mortar positions here from World War II, as well as the remains of a tank and an armoured vehicle, and spent ammunition cartridges.

  1. Ignore the path to your left, heading uphill, and carry on southwards.

The western flank of Sherrycombe was part of the Girt Down Mine (see the Hangman Hills Walk), and evidence of the iron mining activity can be seen in the gully on this hillside, where a stream flows from a suspected adit, and in the two surface hollows which follow the lode uphill from it. Manganese, lead and – more famously – silver were also mined in the district.

  1. When the path forks, stay right and pass through a hunting gate to drop steeply down into Sherrycombe, zigzagging equally steeply up the other side on the Coast Path.
  2. Hitting the open access land, do not carry on up Great Hangman, but turn left off the coastpath to walk through between fields to Girt Down Farm.
  3. At the farm exit, follow the vehicle track downhill to the road.
  4. Turn left onto the road and walk for about a kilometre, until you come to a footpath on the left, off Vellacott Lane.
  5. Take the footpath through fields and past the campsite, to the road to the south of Holdstone Hill (and the entrance to Holdstone Farm).
  6. Turn left onto the road.
  7. Ignore the footpath to the left, and stay with the road back to the car park and the start of the walk.

Public transport

There is no easy way of reaching the start of this walk using public transport.

Parking

At the start of the walk

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