Devon Country Walks - 1

Devon's Little Switzerland - around Lynmouth


Walk Length: 8 km / 5 miles One long steady climb of 100m / 330ft One short sharp climb of 60m / 200 ft
Lynmouth is accessible by bus: The Exmoor Coastlink service, from Taunton, Barnstaple, Minehead and Ilfracombe operates 7 days a week (a more frequent service at weekends) and a regular bus links Barnstaple and Lynton.
Call the Traveline 0871 200 22 33 for details.

Lymnouth - all facilities
Watersmeet - cafe and toilets - seasonal, April - October

OS Maps:
Explorer (1:25,000) OL9 Exmoor
Landranger (1:50,000) Number 180 Barnstaple and Ilfracombe

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.

This appealing circular walk is based on the scenic little town of Lymnouth, on Devon's northern coast. A walk of great contrasts, its outbound leg follows the delightful valley of the East Lyn River while the return route follows the the Two Moors Way and the Tarka Trail along the upper heights of the valley.

Start at the little tower at Lynmouth Harbour and from here walk inland, following the harbour. The steep hill on your right, next to the inn, was originally the only road into Lynmouth, which serves to illustrate how isolated the village was at that time. Your route takes you inland, past the footbridge, along the banks of the rocky River Lyn. When you get to the the bridge at the road junction, walk across the road and take the path beside the river. At this bridge, the East and West Lyn rivers join. Your route goes on along the valley of the East Lyn, which is deep and wooded. (The term "cleave" is a Devon word for valley.) Go over the the next footbridge which crosses the river, which you'll find at the end of the car park, and then take a right turn along the lane and continue to walk alongside the river.

When you get to the end of the lane, keep on the footpath and walk ahead into East Lyn Cleave. When you arrive at next footbridge, you still keep to the riverside path, which at this point is signposted to Watersmeet. This valley is an important area of ancient oak woodland; in fact it is one of the largest areas of semi-natural ancient woodland which is left in the South West of England.

As you walk, keep on following the signs to Watersmeet, going back over the river at another footbridge. It's not long before you get to the National Trust seasonal café and snack bar at Watersmeet. The term Watersmeet, not surprisingly, refers to the fact that two rivers meet here; the cafe (open from April to October) was built in the 19th century as a lodge for fishermen just when the area was becoming fashionable. Once you've refreshed yourself, keep walking along the path, first climbing, then descending to a pair of footbridges. The route follows the Hoar Oak Water.

You'll take the steps which you can see climbing on the right straight after the first footbridge - the signage is for Hillsford Bridge - then walk on ahead parallel to this fast-flowing river. A short way along the path a brief diversion on your right goes to a viewpoint for a waterfall. You may see dippers on stones in the rocky river bed. As you walk, you will climb steadily until the path reaches Hillsford Bridge, which is where the road from Simonsbath crosses the Hoar Oak Water.

Walk through the gate and take a right turn over the bridge. When you get to the road junction ahead, your trail joins the route of two long-distance walks: the Two Moors Way and the Tarka Trail. Past the bridge, walk across the main road ahead to get to the grass verge where you can see the "steep hill" and "road bend" roadsigns; walk up this verge to the sharp bend at the top of the hill. When you get to the top, follow the clear path ahead signposted to Lynmouth; the path sports the MW symbol to guide you. (The MW is the symbol of the Two Moors Way).

The pathway climbs through pleasant woodland before emerging at Myrtleberry, which happens to be an Iron Age settlement site, one of several in this area, and no doubt built here because of the defensive advantage that views of surrounding countryside could confer. Continue to follow the path marked with MW and signposted for Lynmouth. You'll soon spot the wooded dome of Hollerday Hill with Lynton sheltering below, after which Lynmouth and its harbour come into view at the foot of the hill.

The pathway you're following takes a series of steep zigs and zags downwards before crossing a stream, then goes back up again in similar fashion, reaching a higher elevation than before. As you get nearer to the sea, look out for the signpost which marks the way to Lynmouth and the MW on the less distinct path to the right. That's your way: go down there and enjoy the stunning views over Lynton and Lynmouth which open out from this path. The path descends quite steeply at times, zigzagging down to Lynmouth and entering the town on an enclosed path. Take care if the path is slippery. If you're heading for the town centre and harbour, take a left turn at the road, then go right and turn immediately left at the next junction.

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