This walk is part of the trek Devon's Coast-to-Coast : Plymouth to Wembury and on to Lynmouth.
The final stage is a bit longer than the others but it is a pleasant walk without too many climbs. First of all, it retraces steps back to Withypool, then follows the River Barle to Simonsbath. From there it's over The Chains to meet the Tarka Trail and descend the Cheriton Ridge and along the East Lyn River to end up in Lynmouth.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
(D) Leave YHA Exford and turn left up the road by the side of the River Exe to Monk Cross. Follow the sign for Court Farm B&B, bearing left along the lane (also indicated Public Bridleway to Room Hill). Note the exquisite hedge-laying on the left, a traditional method widely used in Exmoor. Keep straight on along the lane, bearing right at Court Farm, past Rowan Cottage and onto the path (Exe Valley Way) around Southcott and through Court Copse wood. Just after the wood, the path turns sharp right to head up Road Hill, heading southwest, then bear left at a fork in the path to head south to Room Hill road. Go through a wooden gate and cross over the road to a wooden stile leading to a path along the edge of a field. Follow this path through fields to eventually come down some steps and out onto Ash Lane. Turn right down the road and into Withypool.
(1) Follow the road through the village, past The Royal Oak Inn and the Church of St Andrew (a Grade II listed building). Bear right at the fork in the road (Broadmead House) then, turn right after another couple of houses to go through a white gate. If you bear left at Broadmead House it's a short stroll down to Withypool Bridge). Head up the hill, through fields and past a farm to go over a wooden stile to reach Kitridge Lane. Turn left along the road for a couple of miles, past Kitridge farm and up to a wooden gate. Go through the gate and continue heading northwest along the track to cross over Landacre Lane and out onto the moors. At the end of the hedge on the left, the path bears left to head west then southwest to drop down towards the River Barle (Landacre Bridge is down to the left). The path bears right above the river through woods and across streams to finally meet the river at a footbridge. However, don't cross the footbridge, rather head northwest up a small hill to reach an Iron Age hill fort, the Cow Castle Settlement.
(2) Go down the other side from the hill fort to walk alongside the river until you reach another footbridge at Wheal Eliza, a disused copper and iron mine. Don't cross the footbridge but cut behind Flexbarrow to meet the river once again and keep heading northwest along a track that gradually separates from the river to head into Birchcleave Wood. The path stays on the edge of the wood and eventually comes out onto the B 3223. Turn right up the road and into Simonsbath.
(3) The Exmoor Forest Inn just on the left up the road might be a good stop for lunch or just a drink. The route continues up the road past the telephone box to a road on the left (indicated Exmoor National Park, Ashcombe Car Park, Toilets and Limited Access >25m<. The route goes into Ashcombe Wood, planted by the Knight Family (also Birchcleave Wood) in the 1820-40s. The Knights were based in Simonsbath and were largely responsible for planting most of the beech hedges which are now very much part of the Exmoor landscape. The route climbs gently alongside the stream which runs through Ashcombe Bottom and discharges into the River Barle. At Great Ashcombe, just before Prayway Head, the path turns left along the hedge and meets up with the B 3223, through a small wooden gate, as it climbs up to Exe Head Bridge. Turn right and follow the road as it bends left to reach a layby on the left at the top of the hill. Go through a small wooden gate at the far end of the layby and bear right along a track to the hedge. Bear left to the corner of the field the northwest across the top of Dure Down to a ford at Exe Head.
(4) Here we meet the Macmillan Way West and the Tarka Trail (that we follow to Lynmouth). Head north down into a valley to follow a stream that flows into Hoaroak Water, then bear right downstream to the Hoar Oak Tree. This old tree is thought to have formed part of a line of historic oak trees on the boundary between the Forest of Exmoor and the commons of Lynton and Brendon. The route down Hoaroak Water has been on the left, so cross over to reach the oak tree, then continue on the right of the stream, gradually separating from the water's edge to follow the contours of the hill and pick up the Cheriton Ridge, going past a cairn at Alse Barrow. Follow the spur of the ridge as it drops down between fields to pick up a track that heads into Cheriton.
(5) Turn left at an outbuilding (indicated Scoresdown Farm and Ridgeview B&B) to reach another junction. Bear right along Cheriton Road to reach the farm, bearing left through the farm and continue along the lane back down to Hoaroak Water at Smallcombe Bridge. Cross over the bridge and turn immediately right into Old Wood (National Trust) alongside the stream. Follow the path all the way along to Combe Park House and Combe Park Wood, finally emerging onto Cheriton Hill road. Bear left to reach the junction of the B 3223 and the A 39 at Hillsford Bridge.
(6) Bear left up Shamble Way (the A 39) away from the river to a sharp left hand bend and pick up the path directly opposite. The path now heads north through the woods parallel to the A 39 below to the right. Go past an ancient settlement and bear left to Myrtleberry Cleave. There are some stunning views over Watersmeet and the first sight of the coast. The route stays above the trees for most of the way, but after two wooden gates, the path makes a steep descent into a combe, crosses a bridge and continues back up again to regain the top of the cleave. From here, there are good views over the East Lyn Valley. At the edge of Summer House Hill follow the sign marked Oxen Tor.
(7) The path takes you over Oxen Tor and down through the woods of sweet chestnuts on a decent path until you reach a hut on the left. Don't take the wider path on your right but bear left past the hut with high garden walls to your left. The track soon reaches some houses and is now tarmacked all the way down to the A 39 Watersmeet Road. Turn left to reach a junction and bear right then left to go down Riverside Road all the way to the pier at Lynmouth.(A)
D : mi 0 - alt. 860ft - YHA Exford
1 : mi 2.99 - alt. 840ft - Withypool
2 : mi 7.03 - alt. 981ft - Cow Castle Settlement
3 : mi 9 - alt. 1076ft - Simonsbath
4 : mi 11.78 - alt. 1499ft - Exe Head
5 : mi 15.33 - alt. 978ft - Cheriton
6 : mi 16.56 - alt. 679ft - Hillsford Bridge
7 : mi 18.15 - alt. 682ft - Oxen Tor
A : mi 18.9 - alt. 3ft - Lynmouth
There are plenty of places to stop for a refill or bite to eat along the way, in Withypool, Simonsbath and Hillsford Bridge. The woods are good places to keep out of the rain but the route won't wait, so make sure you have the right gear (comfortable boots and waterproofs).
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
Once you have finished the route, don't forget to go into the Lynmouth National Park Centre on the Esplanade (at the end of Riverside Road) to sign the trail book and ask about applying for your certificate to prove you've walked Devon's Coast-to-Coast (or is it the Two Moors Way?). Anyway, enjoy the route and look out for wildlife along the way. Don't rush, just enjoy the journey and make the most of the moment.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.