Walk - Shipload Bay

3.7 miles (6.0 km)

Exmansworthy car park - EX39 6AR Exmansworthy car park

Easy - Footpaths, green lanes and a quiet road. The ground may be muddy, but the walk is over easy ground without too much gradient.

Many a smuggler is said to have unloaded his boat at Shipload Bay, but the sea has long since washed away the old donkey path up the steep cliffs - and the National Trust's wooden steps too, so it is no longer possible to descend to the tiny beach. There is plenty to appreciate from the high clifftop instead: look out for seals below, and sometimes even dolphins a little way out to sea. This is a gentle walk along an ancient green lane and through fields, returning along the cliffs above the rocky shoreline, with views across the Bristol Channel to Lundy Island.

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.

Gawlish Farm B&B

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

West Titchberry Farm, Hartland Point

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

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.

East Titchberry Farm Cottage

Beautiful 2 bedroom thatched cottage on a National Trust working farm overlooking Lundy Island

Clouds Bed & Breakfast

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

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

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. 

Hartland Caravan Holidays

Nautically themed static caravans. Bed linen & towels provided. 2min walk to shops, cafe & pub. Single night stays welcome.

Great Philham House, near Hartland

3 miles from the South West Coast Path at Hartland Quay, the original farm house has been modernised and refurbished. 3 rooms - a double, king size and twin-each with TV, tea and coffee. Full English breakfast.

Elmscott Youth Hostel

Full self-catering facilities, seasonal small shop, 32 Beds. Exclusive hire available. Open all year. Single night stays welcome

Elmscott Farm B&B

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

The Old Smithy B&B, Clovelly

Situated in the higher part of the olde worlde village of Clovelly, overlooking beautiful Bideford Bay, and North Devon coastline, close to the South West Coast Path.

Pillowery Park, near Clovelly

Pillowery Park is in a quiet lane with uninterrupted views of the countryside. Coast Path walkers welcome with free lifts from the path by arrangement.

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.  

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. Coming out of the car park at Exmansworthy, turn right on the road and walk past East Fattacott Farm and onto its West Fattacott neighbour. Carry on ahead along the lane, through the farmyard, turning left at the end to pick up the path along the green lane. Turn left with the lane shortly afterwards and follow it between fields, parallel to the coast. At the end of the lane, continue ahead along the left-hand hedge through several fields, ignoring a track to your left along the way, until you come out on the South West Coast Path above Shipload Bay.

A short distance to the south west is East Titchberry Farm. Its name comes from the Saxon 'Tettisbury', meaning 'Tetta's fort', suggesting that there might have been a promontory fort here in the Iron Age, like the one at nearby Windbury (see the Windbury Head Walk). The farm was given to the National Trust in 1943, and its fifteenth-century farmhouse is a listed building. The cob-and-thatch granary in front of it and the associated malthouse were built in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. In the malthouse, sprouting barley was spread on a perforated wooden floor and 'kiln-dried' - a process in which a wood or charcoal fire was lit beneath the floor and the smoke directed upwards through smoke channels. The heat turned the grains of barley into malt, producing enzymes which broke down the proteins in the grains into forms which could be used by yeast. The malt was then used to make beer.

  1. Turn right on the Coast Path above Shipload Bay, and follow it out to Eldern Point, high above the bay.
  2. Above the Point turn sharply right again to head east along Gawlish Cliff. Stay with the path as it pulls out around a small headland above the tiny rocky cove at Barley Bay and then a moment later detours around the coastal edge of a field. Carry on along Fatacott Cliff to where the path pulls out around another headland above Chapman Rock. Just after this the path drops through a scrubby valley, climbing out the other side to return to the edge of the fields. Shortly afterwards you come to a permissive path signed to Exmansworthy.

According to the National Trust "Gawlish Cliff field system occupies a north facing cliff-top field. Terraced into five uneven strips, possibly the result, in part, of land slippage. They are similar in form to the strip-lynchets of medieval strip-field systems extended up steep slopes, and may be medieval in origin."

On a clear day there are fine views across the Bristol Channel to Lundy Island, a granite outcrop some 12 miles off the North Devon Coast. Geologists once thought that the island had broken away from the mainland, since its granite appeared to match some of the rocks to be found in Devon and Cornwall. Later, radiometric dating proved that it was much younger than these rocks, which are from the Carboniferous period, between 362 and 290 million years ago. The rock on Lundy dates from about 65 – 62 million years ago, and it is thought that the island was linked with Scotland and Northern Ireland and may have been formed as a result of volcanic action.

Lundy is 3½ miles long and ½ mile wide, and it has a colourful past. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation there from as far back as the Middle Stone Age. There are inscribed stones and an early Christian enclosure from the fifth or sixth century AD.

More recently, however, the island was the scene of a number of far from holy activities. In the early part of the seventeenth century it was occupied by Barbary pirates. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries its ungodly owner, the Sheriff of Devon and MP for Barnstaple, Thomas Benson, used it for insurance swindles, a huge tobacco smuggling scam, and human trafficking, diverting convicts being carried by his ships to the New World, landing them instead on Lundy Island where they served as his own slaves.

Law and order were restored to the island after this, and nowadays it is a tranquil haven for its handful of permanent residents and an inspirational destination for its visitors. Wildlife flourishes here, too, especially the puffins after which it is named (Lund-Ey is Norse for Puffin). It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its plants and seabirds, and Britain's only Marine Nature Reserve for its reef habitats and rare sea species.

  1. Turn right onto the path to Exmansworthy and follow it along the hedge through two fields, turning right along the lane after the second and turning left on the road beyond to return to the car park at Exmansworthy.

Smuggling on the North Devon coast was much more hazardous than on the south coast, where goods from the continent could be brought into a secluded bay on the English Channel all year round. The rougher conditions on the exposed north coast made it difficult to land in winter, and the swell often broke the rafts used by the smugglers to bring their contraband ashore, constructed from tubs roped together. For this reason, the coastguards charged with preventing 'free traders' from landing their contraband concentrated their efforts on the south coast, mostly leaving this remote and rocky wilderness to its own devices. This meant that a smuggler willing to brave the dangerous conditions was unlikely to be intercepted by the revenue men.

Goods brought in here mostly originated in the West Indies, with various handy offshore warehouses in Ireland and on Lundy Island and the Scilly Isles. A small boat could easily rendezvous with an ocean-going vessel in the shelter of Bideford Bay. Clovelly was a notorious smugglers' haunt, and there are many caves between there and Shipload Bay that were once used for storing the contraband. The smugglers kept people away by spreading rumours that the caves were inhabited by cannibals, who kept barrels of salted human flesh inside.

Parking

At Exmansworthy, at the start of the walk.

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