Southwest coast path section 3: Lynton to Combe Martin

Official distance: 13 miles:
Jen distance 14.7 miles.
Total Height climbed: 3,776 ft.
SWCPA grading: Strenuous.

I wanted an early start to the day so left Albert in Combe Martin without having my usual breakfast of very healthy muesli and low fat yoghurt. Aware of the strenuous walk ahead I refuelled in Lynton, a nice unhealthy fry up.

The coast path leaves Lynton by the highly attractive North walk. This is tarmac but no vehicles, a wide footpath with lovely. open sea views. An easy start, which I needed, as the early morning fry up was reminding me of it's presence..

After just under 1k a prominent, pointed lump comes into view. This is valley of the rocks, a remant of the Ice Age, hills of old moraine rubble with rocks and boulders at crazy angles. 

start of valley of the rocks

The coast path skirts round these rather large and steep monoliths, pleasant walking on soft grass. Another path does invite the more daft coast path walker to climb up though ...

who would be so daft with such a long way still to go ...   oh, ok, go on then, after all, I do need to burn some calories.

The way up requires some agility, in places hands need to be used as well as feet so not to be attampted unless you have that agility. Watch also where you put your hands. You may have noticed rather large animal droppings. too large for rabbits and badgers, too small for horses. This area is famous for its wild goats!

View from the top

After my mountaineering exploits, which seemed to kill off the worst effects of the fry-up, it was time to rejoin the main path which soon becomes the toll road through the Lee Abbey estate and for the next 2k this tarmac is the path. A hugely pleasant path though, the road is not much wider than the North walk path leaving Lynton and it's a toll road so traffic is minimal. I never saw any.

Lee Abbey itself is a pleasant place. A Christian retreat and conference centre in a stunning location and serving the most beautiful cream teas in it's visitor centre. Well, there was a long day ahead of me so why not Cool

 

 

The start of the Lee Abbey estate. Another path leads to the right down to Wringecliff beach. This was one invitation I chose to decline in the knowledge that what goes steeply down then has to come steeply back up!

Fast running Heddon water

The road / path now skirts the beautiful Lee Bay before leaving tarmac via a woodland path that skirts the aptly named woody Bay. Then through woods a fast running stretch of water is reached. 

 At this point a number of paths join.  To the left is a detour to a welcome rest point, the Hunters Inn, where this section can be divided.

 

The coast path goes straight on, crossing Heddon water by a picturesque stone bridge. To the right another path hugs the bank of Heddon water to where it meets the sea at Heddons mouth. A detour worth taking if time allows and Heddon water can be crossed close to the mouth avoiding retracing steps.

This is the way I went.

The rocky beach of Heddons Mouth

Returning back to the first bridge the path now forks right before ascending steeply up to the top of Holdstone down. I hesitated, then decided on going straight on to where the Hunters Inn lies, and much needed public toilets. 

THere is also a national trust visitor centre at Hunters Inn, it sells gorgeous Ice Cream and much needed refreshments for the intrepid walker aware of what lies ahead. 

Being an intrepid and slightly geriatric walker I decided that I needed all the help I could get. 

Great hangman summit cairn

Of course this is the Coast Path so what goes up must go down and soon a deep cleft is approached. This is Sherrycombe. At this point the path turns inland, drops steeply into the Combe, then begins a long climb out towards the top of a big lump in front.

The big lump in front is Great Hangman, the Highest point on the whole trail and one of the highest coastal points anywhere in the UK.

Holdstone down looking back towards Heddons mouth, Sherrycombe mid distance along the cliff face.

The summit cairn is big, but so is the view, now the coastline forward stretches towards Combe Martin, Watermouth, Widmouth Head and all the way to Ilfracombe. Simply Magnificent.

I could have sat there for hours.  So peaceful, so beautiful. The perfect water stop, and the statutory Mars Bar.

Looking back to Great Hangman

However I had to remind myself that  Combe Martin and Albert were still 5k away.  Time to get the old legs moving.

The walk down is glorious. Some of the finest coastal walking anywhere. High open moorland, fine coastal scenery, a well marked track, simply glorious.

Little Hangman and Combe Martin

In front stands another lump, This is little hangman, but just before a steep climb seems inevitible so the path swings left and contours around the summit flank. Another path does fork off to go to the summit but I declined the invitation.

 

Wild pear beach in the foreground and Combe Martin nestling just behind.

Finally Combe Martin, the campsite, Albert and a Welcome cup of tea is reached. It was a section that I did not want to end. A long, strenuous section but the rewards are magnificent and it can be broken halfway at Heddons mouth. 

A long stretch but plenty of refuelling places along the way. I might have arrived tired, aching and having burnt up a shed load of calories but I probably still managed to put weight on. Unsure

. Now, where was that fish and chip shop?

Combe Martin marks the end of the Exmoor National park. Beautiful Exmoor and its grand, majestic coastline is now behind us. Many more jewels though in front.

Time taken: 6.0 hours

Jen grading: Lots of strenuous climbs but paths in good condition, clearly marked. Longer but in my view not as hard as the Porlock to Lynmouth section. It is a long undertaking though.

Campsite: Newbury Valley Caravan and camping park, Combe Martin. A lovely location and the facilities are superb. Highly recommended.

Bus to Lynmouth, walk back.

 

Next section: Woolacombe