Walk - Speke's Mill Mouth

3.9 miles (6.3 km)

Hartland Quay - EX39 6DU Hartland Quay

Moderate - Coastal path and inland footpaths, tracks, lanes and quiet country roads, with some steep ascent and descent.

A walk through the best of Hartland's hanging valleys. These were left high and dry by the sea's erosion of the spectacular cliffs, so that the streams running down from the moorland above fall dramatically to the shore in breathtaking coastal waterfalls. Banks of wildflowers provide a riot of colour in spring and summer, and peregrines and kestrels hunt above grasslands teeming with wildlife. The walk starts and finishes at Hartland Quay, where the historic hotel houses a fascinating museum as well as providing sumptuous hospitality. The return route takes in St Nectan's Church in Stoke village, sometimes dubbed 'The Cathedral of North Devon'.

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.

Elmscott Youth Hostel,near Hartland Quay

Full self-catering facilities, seasonal small shop. 32 Beds Tel: 01237441367. Out of season call 01237 441276 or email [email protected]  Open from 5pm for arrivals. 

Little Barton, Hartland

20 mins walk from the SW Coast Path at Spekes Mill, Little Barton Farmhouse sleeps 10 and the Cottage sleeps up to 6.  The Cottage can be booked for 2, for 2 nights or more. 

Cheristow Lavender Organic B&B, Hartland

Traditional low impact beef farm with stunning views.

Ideal for walkers, ½ hour walk from the Path offering pickup/drop off at Hartland Quay. Self-service breakfast with organic homemade bread, jams, pastries, tea & coffee.

Stoke Barton Farm Campsite

Set 1/2 mile from coast path, we offer camping and full facilities incl.Seasonal shop. 2 Pixie Huts with king size sprung beds. 01237441238

1 Coastguard Cottages B&B, Hartland

A relaxed friendly warm welcome awaits walkers half a mile inland from the cliff top footpath at Hartland Quay, along with fantastic home produced sauasges,bacon,eggs and preserves.

Clouds B&B, Stoke near Hartland

Clouds at Stoke, 0.7 miles from Clifftop Path. Superking or Twin Beds. Bath and Walk in Drench Shower. Home Baking with warm welcome.

Elmscott Farm B&B

Excellent farmhouse food and a warm welcome await you. Games room and spacious garden.

Southole Barns,Elmscott,Hartland

A haven of peace and tranquility, the Barns enjoy amazing views amidst the timeless beauty of the North Devon countryside with the Coast Path on the doorstep.  

West Titchberry Farm, Hartland Point

Welcoming B&B conveniently situated for Coast Path. Evening meal and packed lunches on request. Pick up/drop off available. 01237 441287.

Gawlish Farm B&B

B&B and Self Catering. Single Night Stays. Hearty locally sourced breakfast. Tel: 01237 441320. email: [email protected]

Southdown B&B

Lovely 17th C. cottage. En-suite rooms. Phone 01237 4315041. Lifts to/from Coast Path from Westward Ho! to Bude. Off road car parking. Great breakfast using local produce. Dogs welcome.

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.

The [email protected]

Perfect pitstop for walkers, located on the Path. Enjoy a Cream Tea by the sea, with a clear view of Lundy. Packed lunches can be delivered to accommodation.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the far end of the car park above the Hartland Quay Hotel, pick up the South West Coast Path as it heads south towards Spekes Mill.

A romantic outpost in a spectacular setting, Hartland Quay has been used as a location in many films, including 'Treasure Island' and 'Solomon Kane'. Built towards the end of the sixteenth century, the first reference to the quay - as 'Mr Abbott's Key' - was in 1602/3, and is thought to refer to William Abbot of Hartland Abbey. By 1629 the breakers driven onto the pier by Atlantic storms had pounded it so hard that it was already in need of repair.  The work was carried out again although the area is remote and was not easily reached overland. In 1729 and in 1887 it needed repairing again. When the railway arrived in Bideford at the end of the nineteenth century, the old customs houses and warehouses were converted to an hotel. Today the old stables are The Wreckers Retreat Bar, and their hay and corn lofts now en-suite bedrooms. They also house a fascinating museum telling of traders and smugglers, as well as shipwrecks and lifesavers.

The Hartland coastline is prized by geologists for the dramatic folds and faults in its cliffs and rocks. This is the result of huge forces at work beneath the Earth's surface during a period of mountain-building, about 300 million years ago, known as the Variscan Orogeny. Fossils in the face of the towering cliffs tell of the creatures which once lived in the sand and mud at the bottom of a brackish sea. The hard fingers of sandstone running out into the water tell of the deadly ridges beneath the sea which wrecked many a ship over the centuries.

The path runs behind the dramatically soaring peak at St Catherine's Tor, at the side of a 'sea-dissected valley'. The rock along this coastline is so hard that, although over the millennia the pounding waves have eroded it into tall cliffs, the rivers running down to the sea have failed to carve a channel into it. As a result they reach the coast high above the shoreline and fall to the beach in spectacular waterfalls. Beside St Catherine's Tor the waves have exploited a weakness in the rocks and have cut a deep inlet that has crossed the valley and caused the Spekes river to fall into a lower valley that runs at an angle to it, formed as a result of the crashing waves.

There was once a chapel on the tor, thought to have been part of the monastery at Hartland Abbey. The monks also had a swannery in the valley, and they built a dam across it to enclose the pond for their swans. The remains of the large earthen stone-faced walls can still be seen here.

  1. Take the stepping stones across the stream and follow the Coast Path waymarker across the field. Go along the path through the gate beyond, ignoring paths heading inland to the left, to descend steeply to Speke's Mill Mouth.

Here another dramatic waterfall cascades down the sheer rock face from the sea-dissected valley and tumbles into the valley below in a series of spectacular falls.

  1. Shortly after the Speke's Mill Mouth waterfall, the path forks. Bear left here, away from the Coast Path as it continues along above the cliffs, and bear right a moment later to follow the public footpath along a good track to Lymebridge. Stay on this track, bearing right at the next fork and ignoring all paths on either side, to walk to the road. Turn left on the road and walk to the crossroads ahead.
  2. Detour left here to Docton Mill Gardens and Tearoom, but otherwise turn left and climb steeply to the next crossroads, at Kernstone Cross.
  3. At Kernstone carry straight on ahead, towards Stoke and Hartland, following the track to Wargery Farm. At the farm follow the lane as it descends to the river, climbing steeply on the far side to the outskirts of Stoke and continuing ahead into the village at the next crossroads.
  4. In Stoke turn left and follow the footpath through the churchyard, signed to Hartland Quay. Coming out of the far end of the churchyard, follow the footpath over some steps to pass in front of the row of cottages, and then turn right onto the footpath running through the field, parallel to the road. At Rocket House take the path to the left and follow it steeply downhill, back to hartland Quay.

St Nectan is said to have been one of the 24 missionary offspring of the fifth-century King Brychan of Brycheiniog. The saint established his hermitage in a remote and densely wooded valley. The well that he used for drinking water and baptisms can be seen just down the road. Built in the fourteenth century, today's church at Stoke replaced a collegiate church founded in 1050 by Gytha, mother of King Harold, which had been built on the site of St Nectan's early hermitage.

According to tradition, a swineherd gave St Nectan two cows in return for helping the man recover his lost pigs. On discovering that the cows were stolen, St Nectan tracked down the thieves and tried to convert them to Christianity. In response, they beheaded him. The legend says that Nectan picked up his head and carried it back to his well before he collapsed and died, and foxgloves grew wherever his blood fell.

Parking

Parking is available at Hartland Quay (Postcode for Sat Navs: EX39 6DU). There is a small charge in peak season. The road down to the Quay is closed for an unspecified period from 2 October (details available from Hartland Quay Hotel) after which parking is free until Good Friday. There is also limited parking by the church in Stoke.

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