North Devon Walking Routes - 3 Unmissable Trails
Updated: Jul 9
The South West Coast Path is "Walking at its most diverse, most spectacular and most delicious" according to Lonely Planet, and we couldn't agree more. From the wilds of West Exmoor to the dramatic Hartland coastline, North Devon is a walker's paradise. We've used our local knowledge to answer:
What are the best walking routes in North Devon and Woolacombe?
What's a great short walking route from Woolacombe?
What's the best walking route to get from Ilfracombe to Woolacombe?
What's the best route to see the Valley of the Rocks?
If you ever need any more local know-how we are always here to help - recommending routes, coffee stops and transport options. As a starter for ten, we have put together three fantastic local routes to whet your interest, each is perfect if you are staying in beautiful Woolacombe and want to explore the South West Coast Path.
Walk this way...
Short Stroll: Woolacombe to Potter's Hill Walking Route
This circular route can be described as steep but sweet. Indeed, it's well worth a brief huff and puff for brilliant views of Morte Point and Woolacombe, along with an abundance of coastal flora and fauna. The lush coastal grasslands are especially rich for smaller birds, mammals and reptiles.
Start: Marine Drive car park hut, grid ref SS458433
From the beginning of Marine Drive car park, walk up the grassy bank and through a field gate and follow the footpath up hill, signed by a finger post saying Public Footpath. Continue up the hill as the path winds its way around Potters Hill.
Bear left at the first waymark you reach. When you reach the second waymark, head straight on, continuing on up to Woolacombe Down.
Go through the bridlegate and follow the track up, passing a bench with fantastic views over to Baggy Point and Hartland.
Continue along this track until you reach another field gate. Go through the gate and head down hill.
Take the footpath to the right, waymarked to Marine Drive. When you reach Marine Drive go left for 20 metres then take the footpath down into the dunes on your right.
When you reach the dunes follow the South West Coast Path signs to the right. Where the path forks, take the right hand fork which will take you through the dunes and back to your starting point.
Something a little longer: Woolacombe to Potter's Hill Walking Route
Beginning in pretty Ilfracombe, this walk features some of the finest coastal scenery anywhere. A handy bus-walk, we recommend catching bus 3B from Woolacombe to Ilfracombe, then ending in Woolacombe. As you leave bustling Ilfracombe behind you, you'll love the grass-topped cliffs and the dark, jagged, brooding rocks of Morte Point. Look out for fulmars as they glide below you and ravens or peregrines flying high above the cliffs.
The twisting and turning zig-zag walk to the top of Ilfracombe Torrs was carved into the cliff face by the Victorians. Follow in their footsteps and be rewarded with fantastic views of the coastline and Ilfracombe.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Distance: 13.3 km
Timing: 3.5 hours
Highlights: Bustling Ilfracombe, Lee Bay, Bull Point Lighthouse, craggy Morte Point, Barricane Bay
The signs for the coast path are not easy to spot in the town, so the best way is to head up from the harbour, towards the bandstand and the Granville Hotel, which is on a hill at the back of the town. The coast path starts from the end of this road (Granville Road), which passes the Tunnels Beach.
the coast path is signed from the end of Granville Road by the National Trust Torrs Walk sign. At the top of the Torrs walk, bear right and follow the path down the field to the stile in the corner. Continue ahead, around the hill to another stile, then cross the field to meet the old coach road ahead. Bear right on this track, which later becomes a minor road into Lee Bay.
Lee is a pretty place, with a pub. The beach is a mixture of sand and slate from the cliffs behind, giving the beach a grey colour. The cliffs around here are impressive. There is a small stream flowing out into the sea at Lee Bay, with a bridge to cross it at the back of the beach.
The next length from Lee Bay is quite strenuous. The path initially goes out of lee on the road, but is then signed to the right, taking you through a brick-pillared gate. Two steep valleys are crossed before Bull Point and its lighthouse are reached (a great spot for a well-earned picnic!)
Continue on the path that takes you out around Morte point - a spectacular slate ridge like a dinosaur's back emerging from the sea. The path runs at a low level around the headland and as you reach the tip of the headland, there are stunning views towards Woolacombe and Baggy Point.
As you round the headland, the path continues at a fairly low level until it reaches the road for a short while near Morethoe. A little stroll by road takes you to the beautiful Barricane Beach. This is a sheltered and attractive cove, famous for the shells that get washed up here. Then it's just a short walk into Woolacombe.
Challenging Walking Route: Lynmouth to Combe Martin
This is an epic walk of many contrasting personalities. From the rocky crags and pinnacles of the Valley of the Rocks to the wooded cliffs at Woody Bay and the wide open spaces of Holdstone Down, there are many sights to behold. However, none is more impressive than the heights of the Great Hangman. This is the highest point of the South West Coast Path and one of the highest coastal locations in the UK.
Lynton and Combe Martin are connected by a summer bus service (year-round at weekends) so we recommend driving to Lynmouth and then returning to your car by bus once the route is complete - please ask a member of our team if you need help planning your journey.
Distance: 21.4 km
Timing: 7 hours
Highlights: The Valley of the Rocks, the cliff railway at Lynton, wooded cliffs at Woody Bay and The Great Hangman - one of the highest coastal locations in the country
Walk to the Rhenish Tower overlooking the harbour. Take the cliff railway to Lynton. From the top, follow the path to the High Street and turn left to reach the Valley of the Rocks Hotel. turn left down North walk between the hotel and church, to cross over the top railway bridge.
The next section follows a minor but sometimes busy road. Continue past the toll house and up a hill. A permissive path on the right to Crock Point gives stunning views before the Coast Path leaves the road just before the Woody Bay Hotel opposite the Red House. Arriving at another road, turn left uphill, following the Coast Path signs as you go.
When this superb stretch reaches the dramatic Heddon's Mouth valley follow it down to the valley floor. On reaching the stone bridge over Heddon Rover, turn right, over the river, and at the next path turn hard left. Continue 90 metres to the signpost on the right to Combe Martin.
Climb steeply from the valley floor, keeping right at the top where the path levels off. Continue round the headland (take care in windy conditions), then the path leads inland to reach a stone wall; this runs parallel to the sea. The wall ends and the signed path continues across the heathland of Holdstone Down.
At Sherrycombe the route follows the grass track along the top of the combe to the inland end and then down. Ascending Great Hangman from Sherrycombe, bear away from the wall on the left and ignore the many paths going to the right, meeting the wall higher up. From Great Hangman the path is obvious to Little Hangman and beyond to Combe Martin.
Walking Holidays in North Devon
For the perfect base to return to after a day walking the South west Coast Path, take a look at our self-catering accommodation in Woolacombe - the Beach Retreats. They've everything you need for a morning coffee, some post-hike relaxing by the pool, and more:
2 bedrooms (sleeping 4 - 6)
1 or 2 bathrooms
Spacious open-plan kitchen / lounge
Private outside space - great for drying your kit and relaxing!
Easy walking distance from local beaches, shops and restaurants