Walk - Trentishoe Down

2.4 miles (3.9 km)

Elwill Bay, 'Glass box' car park north west of Trentishoe Down - EX34 0PF Elwill Bay, 'Glass box' car park north west of Trentishoe Down

Challenging - Paths and tracks, a quiet country lane, with lots of ascent and descent

A short but challenging walk through moorland, heathland and woodland, with coastal views over dramatically plunging hillsides and out across the Bristol Channel. Trentishoe was remote enough for smugglers to hide their contraband in the church tower and their stables, and in the 1970s it was a popular venue for Glastonbury-style music festivals, where the concept of 'sustainable living' was already being promoted.

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 Valley Campsite

Tucked away in two meadows bordering the river surrounded by Oaks, quiet and isolated yet within easy walking distance of the National Trust visitor centre & Hunters Inn

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

Heddon Orchard Bothy

Heddon Bothy is a simple, basic four person hideaway. Bring your cooking and sleeping equipment. This is indoor camping for adventurers.

Exmoor Coast Holidays

Campsite on working Cider Farm, Shop, off Licence, Restaurant and Bar

Pack O Cards

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

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.

Newberry Beach Lodge

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!

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.

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.

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.

Bobbies Bakes

Come & try our delicious handmade bakes.. from our multi award winning bakery overlooking the sea front of Combe Martin. Perfect 👌🏻

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the car park take the path north-eastwards and gently downhill, to meet the Coast Path.
  2. Turn right onto the Coast Path and follow it roughly eastwards for about 300m, until you come to a path leading away from it on the right, in roughly the direction you are already travelling.

There are some dramatically plunging hillsides between here and Heddon Valley, where the land appears to drop into the sea, and there are some great views over the lumps and bumps of these from the higher points of the Coast Path along here. This is the famous “humpback” profile of the Exmoor coastline, formed of a rock type known as the Hangman Grits, and England's highest sea cliff is a little distance to the west, at Great Hangman (see the Hangman Hills Walk).

  1. Turn right and on this path and pull uphill with it until you reach the road.
  2. Turn left onto road for a couple of hundred yards, and then stay with it until you come to the fork.

The left-hand lane here leads to the hamlet of Trentishoe. The name means “spur on a rounded hillside”, from the Old English word “trendel”, meaning circle.

Smuggling was rife in the area in the nineteenth century, and there are tales of contraband being hidden in the church tower at Trentishoe. There is also a story of a certain local resident, Jim Hoyle, who in 1827 hid 262 barrels of brandy under his stable floor. Customs officers seized the alcohol, worth £1180 at the time, but Mr Hoyle is said to have escaped through a window.

The tiny church of St Peter might have challenged Culbone Church for the abiding title of England's smallest church (see the Culbone Church Walk), but for the addition of a new chancel in 1861.

Towards the end of the century, in 1873, a poor scholar from Hove, James Hannington, was ordained deacon in 1873 and appointed to Trentishoe parish. Hearing of the murder of two Christian missionaries on the shores of Lake Victoria some years later, however, Hannington offered his services to the Church Missionary Society and headed a party of six men who were sent to Zanzibar. He was sent home again shortly afterwards, suffering from dysentery and fever, but returned to Africa in 1885 – now a bishop – with the intention of opening a new route into Uganda. This was to cost him his life, when he was imprisoned and subsequently killed on the orders of King Mwanga II of Buganda. In 1938-9, the Diocese of Chichester built a church in his memory.

  1. You want to leave the road at the fork, however, crossing over the right-hand road and taking the path opposite, to follow it south-eastwards around the edge of the hill.
  2. Follow the footpath steeply downhill towards the woods. Take the right fork above the woods, turning onto Ladies Mile and curving with it towards the bottom of the hill, above Mill Ham and approaching Trentishoe Manor.

Ladies' Mile footpath was made for the ladies of the manor to walk to the church. They would have had to allow plenty of time to reach the church, what with the gradient and the pretty scenery, but it would have been a delightful stroll for them downhill towards their Sunday lunch, with the heathland and the woodland around them, the larks trilling overhead and the songbirds singing in the woods.

  1. Take the (smaller) permitted path to the right and uphill before the manor, climbing up over the moorland to the road to the west of Trentishoe Down, carrying straight on uphill when a path and a track lead away to the left.

In the 1970s, Trentishoe was the setting for several annual music festivals. In the spirit of the times, the stated aim of the festivals was “to bring together as many people as possible that are involved in living in alternative lifestyles, in one place, to do their thing. To build an alternative campsite that, as far as possible, is ecologically sound, existing in harmony with the environment.”

Each festival lasted about three weeks and was held on the hillside above the Bristol Channel, the land being hired for the princely sum of £25. The festival organisers' vision was to construct a small-scale, temporary infrastructure using natural sources of energy, recycling waste products, providing cheap alternative structures for shelter and making whole food available in free food kitchens. There is a story of an opportunistic fast-food van, turning up in the hope of a bit of business, being sent smartly on its way, the revellers being fed instead on wholesome alternatives like ratatouille and chapatis.

  1. At the road, turn right and return to the car park.

Public transport

There is no easy way of reaching the start of this walk by public transport as the nearest bus stop  is at Easterclose Cross on the A39.


Elwill Bay, 'Glass box' car park north west of Trentishoe Down at the start of the walk. Approx postcode for sat navs - EX34 0PF


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