Devon Coastal Walks - 7

The Island of Lundy

Walk through the Kingdom of Heaven, as Lundy is often called, an island of great natural beauty and tranquillity. In 1991 Lundy Island’s deep-water jetty was completed, allowing the MS Oldenburg, the island’s own ship, to dock. In previous years the 267 passengers it often carried had to be transferred, one at a time, to a launch (with the help of four sturdy seamen). Another transfer had to made onto a landing barge and finally a wooden jetty, an exciting experience but a very time-consuming one. Now all passengers can disembark in nine minutes - giving day visitors nearly two hours longer on the island. During the winter months the Oldenburg is taken out of service and a scheduled helicopter service takes over (November to March).

Lundy is a lump of granite, 3 1/2 miles/5.6km long and 1/2 mile/0.8km across. Cliffs rise vertically from the shore to 500 ft/152m. It lies in the Bristol Channel, 23 miles west of Ilfracombe. Its name is Norse and means puffin island. It is a natural fortress and has had a tempestuous history as a pirate lair. In the 12th century the Marisco family terrorised the coasts of Wales, Devon and Cornwall. In the early 17th century Captain Salkeld, “King of Lundy”, attacked lucrative merchant shipping in the channel. By the 19th century the island was more law abiding; granite from Lundy’s quarries was legitimately used to build the Victoria Embankment. The island was then owned by the Rev. William Hudson Heaven, who created his “Kingdom of Heaven”. It is an island for relaxing, bird watching, climbing, diving, fishing and walking - and it remains a heaven on earth.

Lundy was bought by the National Trust in 1969. It is now managed by the Landmark Trust charity, which has pleasingly restored the island’s historic buildings to create holiday homes of character.


Grade: Easy after you have climbed Beach Road.

Parking: At the harbour from where you board the MS Oldenburgh – Ilfracombe or Bideford.

Walk: Distance 7 miles/11.2km   Time 3-4 hours. Time between boats.

Start: Jetty, Lundy

Terrain: Easy to walk paths and tracks over the high level plateau. You are allowed to wander at will over the island, provided you shut gates behind you. Longish stiff climb up Beach Road to start your exploration of the fine island.

Refreshments: The Marisco Tavern.

Public toilets: Close to the tavern.

Map: OS Landranger 180.

NB: No pets allowed on the island. If you are unable to cope with Beach Road, arrange before you visit to be picked up by a Landrover and taken up to the top.

For information phone: 01237 431831

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.

1 From the landing beach, climb the cliff road (Beach Road) recently repaired after serious damage caused by heavy rain and high seas. Go past Millcombe House, built for the Heaven family in 1835. Continue on up to the Marisco Tavern, the hub of island life, where you can drink Lundy beer and Lundy spring water and eat delicious local food. To visit the shop for provisions for your picnic, walk right from the pub.

2 Return past the tavern to visit the church of St Helena, built by the Rev William Heaven, and then on to view the 13th century castle renovated by the Landmark Trust. Head north along the west coast, keeping the sea to your left. At Rocket Pole Pond spare some crumbs for the large carp, which respond eagerly. Bear right to walk northwards along the lovely coastline, to pass the Old Light, built in 1820 with a light 567 feet above sea level, which proved too high. It has 144 steps if you wish to climb to the top. The light was abandoned when two others were built.

3 Just after the Quarter Wall, the first of three cross-island walls to divide the area into holdings, you may wish to descend left to see the old battery and the cannon used to warn of fog (allow 30 minutes to the bottom and back).

4 Saunter on towards the Halfway Wall, passing the chasm caused by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 and then on high above Jenny’s Cove, named after the Jenny wrecked in 1797 and said to be carrying a cargo of ivory and gold dust. Then carry on to Threequarter Wall. Beyond the latter is the Devil’s Slide, a sheer rock face, much favoured by climbers. Press on to North West Point of the island, and its lighthouse, built in 1897.

5 Return along the main track, which keeps to the spine of the island. If time you may prefer to use the paths that keep to the leeward (east) side of the island, where you can enjoy the varied plant life.

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