Veronica & Brett
Lynton to Combe Martin on the SWCP
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
Date: 17th October, 2020
Location: Exmoor, North Devon (SWCP Section 3)
Distance: 22 km (13 miles)
Elevation gain: 1,030 m (3380 ft)
Duration: 7 hours
Highlights: Sunrise at Valley of the Rocks, multiple waterfalls, reaching the highest point on the South West Coast Path
Summary: A remote trail that stays high, with plentiful views over the Bristol Channel. However, multiple dips down into valleys for river crossings make this a challenging stretch of the coast path.
Our most recent adventure was like many of our others, decided the day before (turns out we're not very good at planning our hikes in advance). After a gorgeous circular walk around the forests near Lynton on Friday, we were eager to try something a little more challenging and so we agreed that we'd take the coastal path to the next town along: Combe Martin.
Sunrise at the Valley of the Rocks
We set out early so we could watch sunrise at the dramatic Valley of the Rocks. We were up at 6 and managed to successfully pack our tent away in the dark for the first time, with the stars still shining overhead.
While we'd initially planned on eating breakfast up on the ridge, we got distracted by the beautiful conditions and ended up just taking photos (our film photos will be added to the post when they've been developed!). From the man on the highest rock in a very aesthetic yellow jacket, to the couple silhouetted against the sunrise, the conditions were perfect for a good photoshoot.
We loved being up on the ridge when the only people up there were other photographers – the only ones crazy (and determined) enough to have gotten up early enough to get to the rocks for sunrise.
After taking plenty of photos, we scrambled across the rest of the ridge and back down into the valley, where we found a perfect rock on which to cook apple cinnamon porridge for breakfast. And then it was back onto the coast path and off west towards Combe Martin!
The walk to Combe Martin
The day's hike was fairly varied, winding through a mix of valley forests and open hillsides which offered sweeping vistas out towards Wales. We especially loved the waterfalls and scraggly trees and enjoyed seeing numerous posh hillside houses which look dangerously close to the edge of cliffs.
The geology was not what we were used to from our hikes in South Devon. Unlike the chalky red and white cliffs we've grown accustomed to, the geology of Exmoor was more rocky, with steep slopes and scree (loose stones) peppered about. While the majority of the trail remained at a high elevation, the trail rose and fell with a number of river crossings, forcing us down into valleys and back up strenuous ascents.
We felt very lucky that the weather remained good throughout our hike, growing cloudy for only the last couple kilometres. We stopped for lunch in a farmer's field, enjoying the sunshine while our couscous cooked.
At 318 metres, the peak of Great Hangman is the highest point on the South West Coast Path – as well as being England's highest sea cliff! From there we could see out towards Combe Martin and Ilfracombe.
Although we were a little worried about missing the last bus from Combe Martin to Barnstaple, we knew we would regret not climbing up to Little Hangman peak. We recognised the peak as one that we'd seen from our trip together last year in North Devon. At the top, we ended up speaking with two policemen from Ilfracombe who were walking part of the coast path for charity. After they asked us to take their photo, we got them to return the favour.
The rest of the walk was downhill from there, dropping into Combe Martin at around 15:30. With aching legs and dreams of spaghetti, we decided to get the next bus back to Barnstable so we could be home in time for dinner, which unfortunately gave us no time to explore the town.
All-in-all, we were very happy to have completed our longest and highest day on the coast path. This trip has given us the confidence boost we needed to try some longer days out on the coast together.
To many more adventures!
Veronica & Brett
Trail map: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/tue-20-oct-2020-11-42-93661c1?u=m
Getting to Lynton: Bus 309 or 310 from Barnstaple (the closest train station)
Getting to Combe Martin: Bus 301 from Barnstaple
Accommodation: Plenty of options in both Lynton and Combe Martin. We camped at Sunny Lynn Holiday Park which was in a great location for exploring the area around Lynton/Lynmouth.