Walk - Holdstone Down
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- Take the path out of the car park to the left as you drive in, and follow it around to the top of the hill at Holdstone Down.
Like the rest of this part of the coastline, Holdstone Down feels very remote, due to its height above the sea (the highest sea cliff in England is Great Hangman, to the west of Holdstone Down). It is further isolated by the fact that there are few roads here, and little traffic.
Possibly because of this sense of isolation, it is a very popular place with UFO-spotters, and a great many extra-terrestrial encounters are claimed to have taken place on its summit, not least the incident in 1958 which led to its becoming a worldwide pilgrimage site for cosmic energy-harvesters.
In 23rd July of that year, Master of Western Yoga and founder of the mystical Aetherius Society, Dr George King, was sent to Holdstone Down by a “Cosmic Intelligence”, who told him that he was about to become “the voice of interplanetary parliament.”
When he got here he was “contacted by the great Being of Love we call The Master Jesus, who appeared before him in a radiant physical form.”
According to the society's website, “This great Cosmic Avatar sent streams of spiritual power through Dr. King, deep into the mountain itself, making Holdstone Down forever holy. This was the first mountain to be charged in the great Mission called Operation Starlight.”
For the next three years Dr King and his followers dedicated themselves to seeking out other “holy mountains” like Holdstone Down, sacred places which were then “charged by these elevated Ascended and Cosmic Masters with spiritual power and became beacons of light for all humankind.”
Other “holy mountains” in Britain include Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, Carnedd Llewelyn in Snowdonia, the Old Man of Coniston in the Lake District, Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor and Yes Tor on Dartmoor, Ben Hope and Creag an Leth-choin in Scotland, and Kinder Scout in the Peak District. Anyone who visits these sacred places can summon up their power, the society believes, and radiate it out to the world through prayer and mantra.
Note the stone on the summit, inscribed with the date and Dr King's initials, commemorating the event.
- From the summit, turn left onto the next path and follow it downhill and westwards, ignoring the little animal tracks which lead away into the gorse thickets, until you come to the Coast Path, about half a mile beyond.
Like other high, remote places along the Exmoor part of the coastline (see the Barna Barrow History Walk) this was a popular residential area in the Bronze Age (between 3000 and 5000 years ago), and there are a number of hut circles dating from that time, as well as cairns and barrows. There is a sense of prehistory as you make your way along the Coast Path between here and Trentishoe, an impression heightened by the stunted, twisted bushes and the relics of stone walls around ancient enclosures.
- Turn right here and follow the Coast Path round above Red Cleave for about a mile, until the path forks.
Much more recently, at the end of the nineteenth century, a gentleman from Surrey bought up the swathe of land here, between Sherrycombe to the west and Trentishoe to the east, with a view to building an estate of 143 houses. The track over Holdstone Down was “Sea View Road”, which was to be its main artery, with another projected road running perpendicular to it and glorying in the name of “Beach Road”, although the gradient of the cliffs made this an impossiblity. Perhaps he thought he might emulate the group of entrepreneurs over in Lynton, to the east, who were busy setting up the cliff railway at the time (see the Hollerday Hill Walk).
Only 50 plots were sold, however – still being for sale as recently as 1947 – and today only two of the planned houses are occupied.
The Exmoor coastline is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, one of the features giving it this status being the coastal heathland. Gorse and bracken cloak much of the land, with bell heather, ling heather, bristle bent grass and bilberry growing beneath. Reptiles like lizards and adders can sometimes be seen basking here on a hot day, and it is a favourite habitat of many insects, including rare brown fritillary butterflies. Birds include stonechats, whinchats and Dartford Warblers, as well as peregrine falcons, kestrels, buzzards and ravens.
- Take the right-hand fork, turning off the Coast Path here, and follow it gently uphill towards the houses and the road.
It was in the grounds of the Glass Box across the road at the top that Dr King had the visitation which led to his founding the Aetherius Society, given to celebrating “the Great Being, known as The Galaxy”. Until recently the Glass Box was the society's headquarters, being ideally situated for watching spaceships landing on Holdstone Down, but now it is privately owned.
- Turn right onto the road and return to the car park at the start of the walk.
At Hunter's Inn, a short way to the east, at Heddon Valley, or in Combe Martin