Following on from yesterday’s first post about my escapade in Exmoor, I’m continuing the story onto the Heritage Coastline.
The north of Exmoor National Park’s rich green moorlands is a sharply torn rip through the cliffs, a steep drop to the Atlantic Ocean below. Thin winding roads line the ragged hilltops, with little more than steep layers of shrubbery between you and the sea.
As dramatic and intimidating as the harsh cuts of cliffs may be, the small towns that lay beneath and between are contrary in atmosphere.
Our time on the coastline began with yet another vertical walk down a thick tree covered path guided by the sound of trickling water and children’s laughter. Where two rivers come together is Watersmeet, a small canyon between acres of Jurassic forest. Only reached by steep paths and long walks through the ancient woodlands, the river gauge attracts many visitors to its natural beauty.
Long cascading falls trickle into a wide stream, where families and their pups splash among the rocks. A former fishing lodge serves tea, scones and warm filling pasties to the queues of hungry visitors, a large garden at the front for sensible picnickers.
It reminded me of the hikes and waterfalls I’d experienced in America. I’d discovered Exmoor’s very own Yosemite. Although busy with Bank Holiday campers, it was undeniably tranquil next to the running waters. It seemed everyone couldn’t deny the powerful calming effect Watersmeet had on them.
Valley of the Rocks
The dramatic peak of the Heritage Coastline lives up to its name with wide gaping grounds studded in large rocks. Where the valley meets the ocean are a collection of intriguing formations; Castle Rock, Ragged Jack and the White Lady.
A somewhat path led us to the crown of Castle Rock, where views over the rest of the coastline are at their most striking. The sheer drop to the sea was a daunting thrill, experienced at its best from the rock’s hanging edge.
Looking out across the ocean, the hills of South Wales peeped through the mist, only seen with a slight squint to the eye. Down below in the waters, a vocal visitor swore she could spot swarms of jellyfish but for an easier sighting of wildlife, the valley’s cliff climbing goats are a joy to watch.
Lynmouth and Lynton
A hike or drive from the valley are the next door neighbours of Lynmouth and Lynton. Two towns at opposing ends of a steep hill are connected by a famous cliff railway powered by water. The funicular rail is an experience in itself, where two carriages have glided up and down past each other in the same way since 1890.
At the top of the hill sits Lynton, filled with galleries and popular restaurants including Vanilla Pod. This local favourite combines Middle Eastern flavours with fresh seafood and even welcomes dogs for a sophisticated dinner.
Down by the sea in Lynmouth is a boat filled harbour with a salty scent in the air. A handful of gift shops, galleries, pubs and tea rooms line a road back up to Watersmeet, some held in 14th century cottages with thatched roofs.
Across the busy road of tourists and people driving through is a small church and row of B&Bs, leading towards a memorial park dedicated to the travesty of the 1952 flood that destroyed much of the town.
As the British rain came down, we took cover in a quiet tea room next to the popular Rising Sun, where a warm welcoming owner offered us tea to accompany her stories of moving to Exmoor. “You must go to Woods restaurant in Dulverton!” she told us, but sadly our last night left us no room to make a booking. Thankfully we had time to stop by her next recommendation.
As the warm Exmoor sun left the sky, taking the rain with her, a wash of deep blue reflected upon the waters below. Driving into Porlock Weir, it was clear as to why this was a well-kept favourite for overnight caravan-ers and fishermen.
The sea was silently still, a perfect mirror for the beautiful landscape above it, dotted in rowing boats and small sailing vessels.
Two pubs looked out to the ocean, packed with punters who either eventually sauntered home or wandered back to their caravans parked up by the stony beach for the night.
Despite how cosy and warm I was in our spacious farmyard cottage, I couldn’t help feeling a little envious of the happy campers snoozing to the sound of the sea. That’s the thing about Exmoor, its enchantment is more than addictive. So much so that you’ll miss it in your sleep.