The official Devon Coast to Coast Path runs for 117 miles between Wembury on the south coast and Lynmouth on the north coast, incorporating The Two Moors Way and Erme-Plym Trail. Originally, we planned to take the train to and from Devon and use a baggage transfer company but with a tight schedule and rain forecast for much of the week, we drove down so that if the weather was really bad, we could take off in the car and explore further afield, rather than doggedly walking the path. The disadvantage was that we had to return to the car each evening by taxi as public transport was virtually non-existent in the remote areas.
We used the Coast to Coast Path as the basis for our trip but as a vague direction rather than a strict ruling to walk every single mile.
Day 1 – Wembury Beach (circular walk)
Rather than walk the official route, we decided to incorporate a little of the South West Coast Path in our day, so started northwards on the Erme-Plym Trail section of the Coast to Coast Path from Wembury Beach and then cut off through shoulder high oilseed rape, which left us covered in yellow petals, to join the South West Coast Path which we followed back to Wembury Beach.
As it was raining, we dragged on waterproof coats and trousers from the start and after twenty minutes, I realised my left foot was getting damp because the seal on my faithful walking boots had come slightly adrift and was allowing water in. Luckily, I managed to buy a tube of glue to repair the hole, which held for the rest of the week.
Accommodation: Cadleigh Manor B & B – off the route but the owners offer a collection and drop-off service.
Day 2 – Ivybridge to Scoriton
Another rainy day as we headed from the town and up onto Dartmoor, soon finding the track along an old railway bed that made easy walking for several miles, though in places the track was more like a river. Finally, the rain lifted, though the day was still damp and overcast, and we sheltered from the wind in the ruins of a stone building to eat our lunch.
Leaving the security of the track, we headed uphill across open moorland and then descended to cross the river via a clapper bridge, formed of large granite slabs on low piers. Following the river, the way became rather boggy in places and I managed to sink my foot so that wet mud slurped over the top of my boot. Thankfully we soon headed uphill across moorland. Our guidebook blithely stated “pick up an obvious path that descends into the wooded valley” but there seemed plenty of indistinct paths heading in every direction, rather than anything obvious.
After much map and compass checking we carried on walking until we found and followed an obvious path. Unfortunately, it was the wrong path but we eventually worked out where needed to be and made our way off the moor and descended into Scoriton by mid-afternoon. We had a wander around the hamlet, which was little more than a few houses with a farm, pub and village hall side by side in the street before collecting the car from Ivybridge and settling in for the evening in The Tradesmans Arms.
Accommodation: The Tradesmans Arms – pub with basic rooms, good pub grub
Day 3 – Scoriton to Widecombe
Set up for the day by a hearty breakfast with a fabulous view of the countryside, we headed out of Scoriton away from moorland and into a more pastoral landscape. At Dunstone Down we had to decide whether to head for Chagford or Widecombe and as it started to rain, we decided to make it a short day’s walking and visit Widecombe. After all, everybody has heard of Widecombe Fair with Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Big mistake. There were tourists everywhere but the only attractions were to visit the church, buy souvenirs from a couple of shops and then sit in a pub or cafe.
We called a taxi, hoping for a speedy exit, but the estimated wait was three hours. Resigned, we lingered over a cup of tea, examined the church in detail and then sat sheltering from the rain reading a newspaper until the taxi arrived to whisk us back to the car in Scoriton.
We drove up to Chagford, where I would far rather have spent the afternoon instead of sitting on that cold bench in Widecombe.
Accommodation: Higher Weddicot Barn B&B – beautiful rural setting, approximately one mile off route but you can make detour if you don’t mind missing some of the official route.
Day 4 – Chagford to Morchard Road
Resisting the urge to linger in Chagford, we bought a pork pie from the butcher and headed past the open air swimming pool and along the beautiful riverside walk, passing the sculpture in the river island and onto the Castle Drogo Estate. The path runs high above the Teign Gorge, with spectacular views and steep drops below.
We paused for a drink outside the shop in picturesque Drewsteignton and then left the wilds of Dartmoor behind us as we walked through farmland with the soil turning redder as we progressed. This was a long day’s walk with quite a bit on roads but at least the rain held off.
Accommodation: The Devonshire Dumpling – roadside pub with basic rooms
Day 5 – Morchard Road to Witheridge
The weather forecast was for rain all day and for once, they were spot on. As this was Bill’s birthday we couldn’t see the point of walking all day in the rain, so instead of walking to Knowstone as planned, we took a taxi to Witheridge and walked back to Morchard Road. It rained hard all morning and by the end of this eleven mile stretch, it became a bit of a trudge, especially walking uphill through long wet grass wearing waterproof trousers.
Thankful that we had the car, we spent the afternoon wandering around the museum in Tiverton where Bill found an old cart with John Wheaton painted on the side and then visited an agricultural superstore, which proved interesting diversions out of the rain before heading up to Knowstone to celebrate Bill’s birthday with a very delicious meal at The Masons Arms.
Accommodation: Rosemary Cottage, Knowstone – tasteful and comfortable B&B in the village
Day 6 – Withypool (circular walk)
Knowstone and Withypool are both in very rural locations and such were the logistics and cost of organising a taxi to collect the car at the end of the day’s walk that we drove to Withypool. Just as we arrived there was a deluge of rain, which seemed to be the norm for our week, so we ducked into the Tea Room for a coffee while we waited for the rain to pass. We took the riverside walk down to the Tarr Steps, which combined a meandering path through river meadows with a narrow rocky track through trees. We reached the Tarr Steps with Sunday lunch in full swing and the place was busy with families and dogs in complete contrast to the quiet and solitude only half a mile away from the road. As we sat in the garden of the pub enjoying a cold drink, it started to rain again, though just a light shower. I expected an exodus inside, but people just pulled on their coats and sat eating their scone and clotted cream in the rain. It all seemed very English.
Leaving the crowds behind us, we crossed over the clapper bridge and walked back to Withypool across fields high above the river and along lanes banked with wildflowers before skirting around and over Withypool Hill to drop down into the village. The sun was shining, so we sat outside the tea room and shared a rather delicious cream tea before checking in to The Royal Oak.
Accommodation: Royal Oak – pub with good food and rooms
Day 7 – Simonsbath to Lynmouth
The last day! We decided to drive to Simonsbath to make it easier to collect the car later in the day. Our book gave an estimated time of 6 ½ hours to complete the Simonsbath to Lynmouth section, which we thought would be a good length walk, but we finished in a much shorter time and regretted missing out the earlier section.
Having negotiated our way out of the car park – always best to check that you’re going the right way – we set off in brilliant sunshine. It was a splendid day to be walking and there was plenty of variety with stony paths, grassy fields, finding the least wet way to cross the river and a glorious two mile stretch along Cheriton Ridge with fabulous views followed by ascent into the wooded gorge.
Finally, we glimpsed the sea and after a steep zig-zag descent and ascent we stopped for a final sea view before taking the long path downhill to Lynmouth. Bill had carried a small pebble from Wenbury Beach in his rucksack (I lost mine) so we made our way down to the sea to drop the pebble on the north coast before taking the water powered cliff railway up the steep cliff to Lynton.
The end of the walk!
Accommodation: Chough’s Nest Hotel – family run hotel on the cliffs with fantastic sea views.