Devon Coastal Walks - 1

Mortehoe and North Devon's Deadly Coast!


Walk Length: 10 km /  6.25 miles; this can be shortened to 9 km / 5.5 miles by missing Lee Bay and Lee Village and to 7 km / 4.5 miles by missing Morte Point. Mortehoe has a summer bus service to and from Ilfracombe and Barnstaple. In addition, Lee Bay has buses to and from Ilfracombe. For timetable details contact Traveline on 0871 200 22 33.

Facilities: Mortehoe - pubs, refreshments, shops, toilets, buses, Heritage Centre; car park
Lee Bay - hotel/bar, toilet, buses; car park
Lee Village - pub, shop

OS Maps:

Landranger (1:50,000 scale) Number 180 Barnstaple and Ilfracombe
Explorer (1: 25,000 scale) Number 139 Bideford, Ilfracombe and Barnstaple

For further information on the Tarka Trail and the South West Coast Path, click here. To order books and leaflets on Devon paths and trails, click here.

Mortehoe is a small village on Devon's northern coast, with a charming atmosphere and perhaps even a sense of remoteness which is emphasized by its location behind the rocky outcrop of Morte Point.

This delightful walk starts at Mortehoe and then goes cross country to the village of Lee Bay, before cutting back to the South West Coast Path (which, along this section, is also part of the Tarka Trail) via Bull Point and Morte Point. This is a challenging section of coast, and even though the views are superb, you'll need to be aware of the fact that there are several steep ascents, for which you should leave plenty of time. Fortunately you can take advantage of several short cuts back to the Mortehoe.

So, starting in the centre of the village, walk along the road opposite the car park, which is signposted for Lighthouse and Lee (along North Morte Road). This track takes you to a white gate across the top of the private road to Bull Point lighthouse. You can walk along here - it is a public right of way - so pass through the gate and go along the narrow lane ahead. As it descends, you get great views over the sea: the coast of Wales should be visible on a clear day on the distant horizon. Walk along the lane for 600 m (660 yards) until you get to a sharp left turn. Watch out for a signpost on the right, alongside some white posts; here, take a right turn down the steps, along a path which is signed for Lee and Bennett's Mouth. When you get to the bottom, turn right and go over the footbridge (which is signed for Lee). Next, follow the path until you get to a gate, at which point you should continue ahead and up into a field. Once there, keep walking along the right hand side of this field. There's a standing stone near the end of the field, which was probably originally of religious significance - nowadays it serves as a rubbing stone for cattle.

When you get to the end of the field go over the stile and take a right turn along the track. After a short distance, cross the stile on the left and then walk along the edge of the field going downhill, following the signs "Footpath to Lee". You'll be able to enjoy superb views all the way across to Wales. Follow the path down to another stile, go over it and continue along the ancient green lane. This will take you to a more modern, surfaced lane along which you can continue downhill. The lane gets more steep and turns right, at which point watch for the Coast Path sign marker at a wicket gate on your left. You'll take this way back, but before you do, why not go on down the hill to Lee? The lane takes you first to Lee Bay, where there is a hotel and bar (and transport to Ilfracombe if you've had enough!). If you turn tight at the end of the beach, following the signs for "Footpath to Lee Village", you'll get to the attractive village with toilets, tea-rooms, craft outlets, a pub and a shop.

If you now wish to return to your original route, retrace your steps back up the steep hill to the wicket gate with the coast path sign. Take the coast path - you'll find that it first rises then dips down as it crosses a stream before rising again. This route may be quite challenging, depending on your level of fitness, and you may wish to rest when you get to the bench seat at the top: from here there are  excellent views along the coast past Lee Bay and even as far as the distant Welsh coast. After you've rested, you have another descent in store, which takes you to the secluded cove called Bennett's Mouth, and then yet another ascent. (From Bennett's Mouth you can take a signed short cut which goes back Mortehoe.) If you take the full route, once you have climbed up the path out of Bennett's Mouth, you'll see Lundy Island on the horizon ahead, and Bull Point lighthouse ahead and below you. Bull Point is a location which features in "Tarka the Otter", Henry Williamson's famous novel, as Tarka follows his mate White-tip along the coast.

Walk down besides the wall of the lighthouse, go across the access road (which forms a short cut back to Mortehoe) and climb the steps so you can continue along the coast path. There's a short, rather sharp climb up the path before it takes you down to the beach at Rockham Bay. As you go along, there's another climb before the path levels out as it approaches Morte Point. You can see the jagged rocks off shore, the cause of many shipwrecks, which possible gave the area its name (mort being French for death).

Continue walking on the path round the headland. After you've rounded the headland, the views change dramatically. You can see Lundy Island on the horizon, as well as Hartland Point, the most north-westerly point of Devon, in the far distance. Take the coast path until you get to a bench where the grassy path forks: take the left hand fork, walk inland and uphill towards the bracken- and gorse-covered hills. When you get to the next fork, go left, and continue to walk uphill. Your path is joined by another on the left; keep going upwards towards a stone wall, but as you approach the wall, do not go over the stile but bear left, so as to keep the wall on your right. Follow the path uphill, going past a National Trust monument/cairn, after which you pass through a metal gate - watch for Mortehoe Cemetery as you continue along the tarmac path to Mortehoe Church. You can then find your way back to the centre of the village.

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