I inhaled deeply, tasting the salty sea air and gazed around me in awe. Despite living ten minutes away from this exact spot, I still felt a rush of adrenaline as I climbed the last rock and stood facing the Bristol Channel. The wind whipped my hair and I felt the smile creep over my face as I sat right on the edge and dangled my legs off the cliff. Below me the waves crashed into the rocks and I watched the seagulls swoop and dive, playing in the spray. A golden path of light danced on the sea…the fading sun casting its final colours onto the glimmering water. I was on the top of The Valley Of Rocks. This beautiful place lies a short walk away from the quiet town of Lynton in North Devon, England and has fascinated me since I moved here with my family ten years ago. I have many memories of these rocks…skipping and climbing them with my friends as a teenager, nearly setting the bushes on fire with a barbecue gone wrong and watching countless sunsets with friends, family or lovers. They hold a special place in my heart. It’s where I cried my eyes out when my long term relationship broke down, wept tears of anger as I grieved the death of my father only weeks ago, and shouted out my frustration into the wind. It was also a place for many shrieks of laughter, giggles and joyful moments, as the sun set and the valley filled with dark shadows. It feels like home.
Visiting North Devon
To really appreciate the beauty of the area, you have to see it for yourself. North Devon in general is a fantastic place to visit and is often overlooked. Based in the South West of England, it comprises of stunning coastline, miles of sandy beaches, heather covered moorland and quaint Seaside villages. Head towards the coast and the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth (20 miles from Barnstaple). As you arrive at the first of the two towns (Lynton) follow the signs to The Valley Of Rocks and park up in the car park. I would recommend walking up the furthest rock, all the way to the top in order to get the best view. Once you have spent a few hours exploring the area, head back into Lynton for some lunch or a well needed cup of tea. Locals tip: The best cafe around is called Charlie Fridays and your trip would not be complete without it! Imagine mouth watering cakes, endless coffee concoctions and a relaxed, hippy vibe! Lynton also has a small, intimate cinema which is great if you are staying for a few days! From there, you can head down to Lynmouth, the town below where you will find a quaint little harbour, pretty cobbled streets and some great local shops. The towns are connected by a water powered cliff railway…a simple yet fantastic invention! Opening in 1890, it was designed to deal with the increasing number of tourists in the area and to help bring supplies such as coal and lime from the harbour in Lynmouth, up the steep hill to Lynton. The Cliff railway runs using water from the West Lyn River (a mile away) and is as simple as filling the tank under the cable car at the top of the hill until the weight causes it to descend. The cable that attaches the two cars then pulls the empty one back to the top and the process starts again. Brakemen control the speed in each car and the two cars pass in the middle of the hill. Today, it is a tourist attraction and you can ride up and down between the towns and enjoy the spectacular views!
Once in Lynmouth, take a stroll along the beach and enjoy a very British cream tea sat in one of the little cafes. From here, you can also walk along the river to Watersmeet which is a two hour walk ending at a little cafe. Beautiful woodland, bubbling water and lots of wildlife can be enjoyed as you make your way back towards Lynmouth. Lynmouth has lots to offer and you can easily spend a few days exploring the local area and learning about the history of the great flood that devastated the area in 1952. Over 100 buildings were destroyed and 34 people lost their lives. The Lynmouth flood memorial hall is a must visit and you can read first hand accounts of the people that were involved and facts on the disaster.
If you fancy a change in scenery, head up the hill towards Minehead and onto Exmoor. Vast, open moorland and rolling hills greet you. This is a perfect spot for a picnic or for the more adventurous of you, horse-riding over the moor. I spent many hours as a child and teenager galloping across this beautiful landscape. Exmoor is blessed with being the first place in Europe to be given the status of being a Dark sky reserve meaning it is one of the best places to stargaze! In my opinion, nothing beats snuggling up in a duvet with a cup of hot chocolate and being completely blown away by the night sky.
Walking on Exmoor is a highly popular activity and with over 100km of trials to choose form, your options are vast. As well as the trickier routes. there are also family and disabled friendly walks. A few places also offer the hire of “trampers”: off-road mobility scooters for those who struggle with walking or have a disability. Visit http://www.accessiblecountryside.org.uk/devon for more details on the areas in which these are available.
I have very fond memories of visiting this area as a child, and living there when I was older. I’m sure that with each visit, you too will come to love the unrivalled views and vast range of activities on offer. If you find yourself in the area, be sure to give me a shout and I will let you in on more local tips and places to visit. Until next time, XO