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.

Philham Holiday Lets

Rural, warm comfortable self-catering accommodation 3 miles from Hartland Quay. Each with wi-fi, tv, towels, linen and fully equipped kitchen & washer dryer

West Titchberry Farm

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

Pitt Farm Camping

Working dairy farm with basic facilities for budget camping

Coastal Cabins Glamping

Coastal Cabins Glamping - Award winning glamping North Devon style, at its finest.


A relaxed friendly warm welcome awaits walkers. Sel-catering double room annexe with own entrance or Shepherd's Hut (sleeps 2). Breakfasts and list by prior arrangement

Hartland Quay Hotel, Hartland

On the edge of the Atlantic ocean, the Hartland Quay Hotel and Wreckers Retreat Bar provides refuge and refreshment for tired walkers!

Stoke Barton Farm Campsite

Set 1/2 mile from the Path, we offer camping and full facilities incl.Taxi available to the nearest shops. 2 Pixie Huts with king size sprung beds

Hartland Caravan Holidays

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

Little Barton Hartland Cottage & Farmhouse

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

Fosfelle Country House Glamping and Cottages

Fosfelle Cottages, Camping and Glamping. Perfect for those who want to stay within easy access of the coastal path with its easy access to Hartland, Clovelly and Bude.

West Welsford Wild Camping

Basic camping on cornish dairy farm. 2 miles from the coast. Great views.

Harbour View Cottage

A beautiful cottage offering the only B & B in Clovelly's traffic free High Street on the route of the SWCP. Packed lunches, laundry facilities & evening meal by arrangement.

Roeys Retreat Campsite

On-site Shop, Facilities, Children's Area, Dogs Welcome, Communal BBQs & Fire Pits to use.

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.

Hartland Point Refreshment Kiosk

A welcome Refreshment stop - fresh coffee, tea, soft drinks, light bites, snacks, ice creams etc.

Docton Mill Gardens and Tea Rooms

Located in a delightful sheltered courtyard. Famous for cream-teas and also offer a selection of filled rolls, crab, salmon, beef, cheese and a variety of homemade cakes served with a selection of teas & beverages. Open 1 April - 5 October.

Red Lion Hotel

18th Century Inn on the Harbour. Locally caught fish from the Bay including Lobster. 3 Dog-friendly rooms. Single Nights Stays Welcome

What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

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.


At Exmansworthy, at the start of the walk.


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