Woolacombe to Croyde and beyond


Bolstered by our success of doing a “half day” walk in a day using public transport from Exeter, 2 days later we came back to do the next one, pausing to take in the sky from Barnstaple bridge on our way from the train station to the bus station.


The start was a bit shakey. As we came into the edge of Woolacombe on the bus, we saw a sign for the SWCP Woolacombe via Mortehoe. It wasn’t the way we’d gone, and The Boy was worried we’d gone  wrong, but I quickly explained it was an alternative route and we’d definitely gone the right way last time. Once in Woolacombe we had 15 mins to kill before the chip shop opened and we went and admired the view of the start of the days route along Woolacombe Beach towards Baggy Point, said hi to a clearly visible Lundy, and double checked the signs for the path.  He once again became convinced we’d walked the wrong way, (across the grass and through the car park next to the pavement, rather than along it). He insisted we started to retrace our steps but luckily we came across some random strangers out walking and after a few hints dropped from me they confirmed that we’d definitely come the right way last time and we were allowed to go and buy some lunch. Phew.

Finally, with chips in hand it was time to start the walk proper. Here there was another problem, the guide book suggested not one but three routes (including the beach, which I rather fancied as it was low tide). However my walking companion decided that the route through the dunes was the official one and so that’s the way we went, mere fleeting views of the sea be damned.

Turns out that my brainwave of chips whilst strolling was not so good when my son didn’t spot a huge hole (dug by a dog maybe) and fell dropping chips everywhere.  However his decision was pretty good as I actually found walking through the dunes interesting, even if I couldn’t see much of the sea.

It was still quite sandy and slow going, but before too long we were nearing the far end of the (very long) beach and took a turn up and onto a track, so heading up to the ridge of that heads out to Baggy Point. We got a good view down to Puttsborough sands and could see back the way we’d come to Morte Pt and beyond, which we presumed was Bull Pt.

It wasn’t far onto Baggy Point (even with my companion insisting on going through the dog gates) where we found a mysterious post that we later discovered was a coast guard look out back in the day. Looking back we because increasingly convinced that what we originally thought was Bull Point was in fact Wales, which seemed odd, as the day was greyer than 2 days before so it felt like we couldn’t see as far. We could definitely see Lundy out in the bay and we could also now see Croyde, the mouth of the, Barnstaple/Bideford estury and on round the bay to Hartland Pt and started heading inland.

Then disaster, we met up with the coast path. Turns out we should have gone walked towards the edge more at baggy pt and found the path that comes lower around the headland. I tried to sit on the bench and have some peace and quiet and send the boy back on his own (there were loads of people and families about walking to Baggy pt from Croyde), but he texted me that I had to come see the spectacular view, and yes, when you went the right way there was a nice view of some rocks.

We picked up some postcards in the national trust car park and had a pit stop at a cafe, before going on into Croyde and over the beach (officially, phew).

We were making good time, so decided to go round the next headland, passing some specutacular looking rocks and a gun post, which the boy went to explore whilst I spoke to a local who confirmed that we could indeed see the Gower Peninsular today and also Lundy, although he said it would “trolley off” later doubtless.

We passed what we think was the old coastguard building, which appeared to be getting done up, and then nearly missed the path as you had to cross the main road and then double back on yourself slightly to get onto it. It was a few metres in from the road and several up as the hillside was steep. The views were great but we didn’t have time to stop as the next bus was due soon. We made it to the Saunton Hotel with a couple of minutes to spare before the bus and felt very smug with ourselves that we’d done a bit extra than planned.

This time we did see the sunset in Barnstaple (but no photo’s) and got the train home an hour earlier than the previous trip, much more civilised!

The path between Croyde and Westwood Ho! is never very far from the 21 bus route, which also goes to the station in Barnstaple, so we hope to get in a few more day trips and finish our first “weeks” walking.

Return of the SWCP

Back in July I was so smug with our progress along the South West Coast Path, but the timings didn’t work out in August and then Septmeber was busy and we got no furhter. However, we started to get back on track (literally as well as figuritively) during the October half term.

First up, Ilfracombe to Woolacombe, and this time with No Support Crew. Rather we utilised trains and buses and did the whole thing in a day, getting back home about 13 hours after we left.


We started round the back of the two upturned flower pots that are the Landmark Theatre, but not until after we popped in to use the facilities and I spied this rather amazing tapestry on the wall.

Pretty much straight away we were walking alongside some pretty impressive geology and we realised just how big Ilfracombe was with it all spread out in the view alongside this rather ornate house

After the path took a dogleg through what felt like someones garden, we were soon out of Ilfracombe. I was immediately struck by the contrast between the now brown ferns and those first shoots ready to unfurl on our first walk back in May. We preferred the cooler temperatures to walk in to some of the heat we had to endure ealier in the year too! Sadly we didn’t have time to go and investigate the steps we saw cut into the cliff, I think they probably lead down tot he old lime kiln we saw mention of on an information board.


Apparently the hole in the rock that The Boy is clinging onto was made by a giants fingernail as he scrambled up the cliff, recreated here by the storyteller.


Yup, that looks like the coast path alright.

They sure have some impressive walls in this part of Devon, both new built and long overgrown,  as well as patched up.

As we approached this rather ornate sign from the wrong side we mused on what it said. I couldn’t resist standing a few feet off the path to get a good shot of it and the coast we’d just come from in the background.

Soon after the sign we stopped to watch what we think was a kestrel hovering above a headgerow and then before we knew it we were descening into Lee, passing this rather lovely looking tiny house, complete with what apeared to be a bicycle having a cup of coffee whilst enjoying the view inside!

We detoured slightly from the path in Lee, heading into the village to have a bite to eat in the Grampus Inn, which took us past a beautiful gate with a gate watching a mouse on an apple, and another at the same property with an owl watching another little rodent. We spoke to a friendly woman in the garden after lunch who told us that they were both carved by her husband, but we forgot to ask about the Orca or Grampus on that was nearby.

After food, it was back to the bay in Lee with its impressive rocks, past a door with the strangest shaped hinges I have ever seen, and on to the more strenuous second half of the walk. We weren’t sure what the National Trust Half Way sign was showing half way for!

After such a long break and without the support crew around, I was a little concerned how strenous it would be, but we managed just fine, in fact The Boy kept sprinting up steps when we came across them!

It didn’t seem long before we reached Bull Point, which the start of turning the coast turning  the corner and us heading south not east. We could just make out Wales in the distance and waved goodbye, then we admired a HUGE mushroom near the lighthouse, where the assistant was mowing the lawn.

The stretch to Morte Point also passed fairly easily, despite more ups and downs, maybe finding a box of ducks disguised by a bit of log helped morale!

Morte point was very impressive and pointy and there seemed to be a lot of people walking to here and back from Woolacombe.

From this point the coast path is definitely going south and it wasn’t far on to Woolacombe.  We admired the beach from up high, but decided to use up the remainder of our time before the bus having a little snack in a cafe instead.


Whilst The Boy was disappointed that we missed the sunset (we were waiting for the burrito’s we’d ordered to take to the station and eat on the train back), Barnstaple looked very pretty by moonlight when viewed from the bridge and I was just happy that all the public transport times I’d found online turned out to work in real life!

The walking continues.

So now that I can pretend I still do sewing from time to time, back to the walking….


Actually, this wasn’t walking, this was the view for our Friday night fish and chips on the beach in Combe Martin, just metres from the Coast Path and not much further from our camp site.



And a pretty impressive view it was too!



A nice relaxing start to our weekend.



Saturday was a tad more taxing. We all drove round to Hunters Inn, then the Support Crew (including dog) walked the fairly flat path to Heddons Mouth (I’m jealous not to have made it there myself, only having seen it from on high, its a pretty looking walk through the valley bottom to a small beach with dramatic scenery all around) whilst the Boy and I started the days walk by ascending the steep side of the cleave, luckily there was shade on the way up and the view at the top from Peter Rock was worth it.  Oh, and we had fresh legs too, which helped, having broken up the suggested Lynton to Combe Martin walk.



Next came a flattish section (by coast path standards) along the side of the cliff with nice views (although Wales was just a haze) and we finally spotted one of the crickets we keep hearing, or maybe it was a grasshopper.



After following the still flattish path inland a bit we then had a steep descent into Sherrycoombe (which had a disappointing lack of sherry), we had a pit stop in the shade of a tree and I cooled my feet in the stream and then it was up the other side (further up but less steep than our way down) and we kept on going until we reached Great Hangman, the highest point on the whole of the South West Coast Path, where The Boy posed on the cairn on top and a previous walker had left a declaration of love nearby.



Another flattish section, with evidence of sheep (the wool they’d left hanging on a scratching tree reminded me of prayer flags) to Little Hangman, where we took a small steep diversion to the top, which indeed had better views than Great Hangman as we’d been told, letting us see down into Coombe Martin Bay.



Then we just had to make our way down into Coombe Martin itself, where we met up with the Support Crew and had another meal on the beach, this time cooked by Long Suffering Husband. At this point the signpost said* that we had come 35 miles from Minehead and The Boy worked out this meant we were over 1/20 of the way.



Sunday was a first for us, two days walking in a row. We left the support crew and set off up the hill out of Coombe Martin with a view across the bay back towards Little Hangman, passing some impressive eagle gateposts on our way. There was a short section on the main road, before getting on to what some locals told us used to be the main road, before some of it was eroded, which apparently included a section of cobbles from the 1800’s. The bus shelter turned Tourist Information Point that the guidebook mentioned was no longer there, apparently it was falling off the cliff, and instead the base is now a viewing platform. Then the path passed through a campsite and we were walking between tents, which was a little odd.


Soon we were at Watermouth, the tide was too far in for us to cut across the foreshore, but we had a quick look at the boats and overheard some fisherman discussing where the shoals were (or rather weren’t) and saw a nice cafe, although it was too soon in the day for us to stop. The path technically is alongside the road here, but with such a lovely hedge shielding it from view we didn’t really mind.


The next headland, Widmouth Head, provided a lovely view back across Watermouth to Combe Martin Bay, Little and Great Hangman and beyond and The Boy decided to make a sketch.


Proud Parent Moment.



Meanwhile I watched the boats in Samson’s Bay and beyond, then it was onto and around Rillage Point with it’s cave and more impressive views of Hele Bay and beyond. I think that might be a Giant Hogweed we went past, I was careful we didn’t touch it.


There was a small stretch along the road again as we descended into Hele, where we speculated on why some of the barrier had cable reinforcing it and not others, decided that the Viewpoint With Car Park was no where near as good as the views from the path, and were heartened when the Support Crew happened to drive past waving and cheering, you can just make them out in the distance if know what you’re looking for.



We took advantage of the facilities in Hele to buy cold drinks to help us up the last hill between us and Ilfracombe, Beacon Point, once again shade on the steep way up helped and we were rewarded with views from the top down towards Ilfracombe.


Then it was a pleasant descent down into the town, where we reunited with the rest of the family, had lunch, wondered on how an statue of a pregnant woman rendered in anatomical text book detail can represent truth, walked round Capstone point (sans red petticoats) and had a rest on the beach / clamber on the rocks before heading back home.

So, Minehead to Ilfracombe. Starting to feel like we’re getting somewhere!  And at 3 1/2 days worth of suggested walks we’re half way through Week 1.


*The signposts have proven somewhat erratic at times, occasionally the distance you have walked decreases from one signpost to the next, and they doesn’t exactly match up with either the website or guide book distances either.