Heddon Mouth

Heddon Mouth

Heddon Valley

Heddon Valley


The River Heddon is a river in Devon, in the south of England. Running along the western edges of Exmoor, the river reaches the North Devon coast at Heddon's Mouth. The nearest road access to the beach is at Hunter's Inn, approximately 2 km south of sea-fall. The area was very popular with the Romantic poets, especially William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

The Heddon Valley is renowned for its natural environment,[citation needed] with bridges and stepping stones along the river, meadows, and walks which start from the National Trust shop and information centre which has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1963.

*** – Hedddon Mouth – ***

The cobbled beach at Heddon's Mouth is approximately 300m wide and is only accessible through footpaths on the National Trust land or via the South West Coast Path. There are remains of a lime kiln on its western edge. The valley immediately landwards of the beach has steep slopes to its east and west, with the hills climbing over 200 m in altitude within 500 m of the river. The remains of a Roman fortlet are visible on the hilltop to the east of Heddon's Mouth.

In previous times it was a popular venue for smugglers, but is now a popular destination for ramblers. In 1885 a Mr E.D. Weedon was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal for saving the life of Mr T. Groves at the locality. In 1923 a pleasure steamer that had just left Ilfracombe broke its rudder and began to drift out to sea, but was towed to the cove and its 400 passengers safely decanted.

The cove is so isolated that during World War II, a German U-Boat captain was able to allow his men ashore in search of fresh water supplies and relaxation without fear of detection. The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway once ran through part of the valley, halting at the small village of Parracombe.

*** – Exploring – ***


The Heddon Valley, is a deep, lush wooded river valley or 'combe' running down to the sea. Visit the National Trust shop and information centre and make use of their car park and toilets. The Hunter's Inn serves delicious meals and every pint or meal you enjoy directly supports the conservation in the valley, a great way to start your exploration of this part of West Exmoor.

Heddon's Mouth.
Just a short walk from the Heddon Valley National Trust car park, visiting Heddon's Mouth is a must do. Follow the path alongside the river and enjoy the shade from gnarly sessile oaks, opening out to sheer scree slopes that dominate the skyline. The pebbly beach at Heddon's Mouth is ever changing and dramatic.

Woody Bay.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, Woody Bay is the perfect location. Walk down the steep track to this secluded pebble beach which is towered over by looming cliffs, and listen to the sounds of seabirds. A fantastic place for a wild swim or a quiet family picnic.

Hangman Hills.
Towering sea cliffs and spectacular moorland scenery offering energetic walking and wonderful views over Combe Martin and the Bristol Channel. The miners' paths and old iron ore works at Blackstone Point evoke a long mining history.

Holdstone and Trentishoe Downs.
These apparently unspoilt heathlands have been marked by human activity for millennia. With evidence of Bronze Age huts and cairns, there is also more recent archaeology: Military exercises took place here in the 1940s, and beneath the heather lie the remains of mortar positions, a tank turret and shell casings.

You can see lime kilns at Combe Martin, Woody Bay, Lynmouth, Watersmeet and at Heddon’s Mouth. These are relics of a huge 19th-century industry supplying lime to fertilise the acidic soil of Exmoor. Although limestone was quarried locally around Combe Martin, larger quantities were shipped - together with coal for burning - from South Wales. Most kilns were built on harbour sides or beaches to avoid the need to transport raw materials over land.

When it became cheaper to crush the limestone the kilns were no longer needed and have been unused for over 100 years. The kiln at Heddon’s Mouth was restored in 1982 and a new boulder wall, built in 1991, now protects the kiln from storms and high tides.

*** – History – ***

Find out more about Colonel Benjamin Lake and the Woody Bay Estate Company in a thrilling history of fraud, deception and embezzlement in Victorian Martinhoe.

Colonel Benjamin Greene Lake was an ambitious man with a vision inspired by his era. He was born in 1839 in Orpington, Kent, two years into the reign of Queen Victoria. It was an auspicious time: slavery in the United Kingdom was abolished in 1838; steam railway and iron clad paddle steamers opened up the country and the seas; and there was the beginning of social and political reform.

As a young man a visit to The Great Exhibition in 1851 at Crystal Palace must have left a lasting impression. The Crimean War, mutinies in India, followed by the Boer War may well have influenced his decision to join Her Majesty’s Auxillary Forces (the 3rd Mdx RV ). He rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and although the rank was an honorary one he later styled himself as Colonel Lake.

Under the long-term Liberal government of William Gladstone, and the enduring successful reign of Queen Victoria, Britain was experiencing an unprecedented period of stability allowing for exciting new discoveries and flourishing entrepreneurship. Benjamin Lake became a successful solicitor in a family business, at first with his father and after his death, with his cousin George Edward Lake at Lincoln’s Inn, London.

In his lifetime he would have seen Darwin publish ‘Origin of Species’, electric light installed for domestic use for the first time, Marconi discover radio waves and followed the building of the Suez Canal. He would have been driven by these exciting discoveries of his time to make his own mark on the world.

Following his dream, in 1885 at the age of 46, he purchased the Martinhoe Manor Estate from Sir Nicholas William Throckmorton, Baronet from Warwickshire. Described in the 1870 edition of John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetter of England and Wales as,
“…a parish with a picturesque little Village…Acres 2.549 Real property, £1,186. Pop 219. Houses 44. The manor was originally called Martin’s Hoe or Martin’s Hill; took its name from the family of Martyn, who were anciently its owners; went from them to Mauger St.Albyn, and remained with his descendents till 1422; and thence passed through various hands to Sir R Throckmorton. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Exeter. Value £109.”
Possibly emulating Sir George Newnes grand designs in Lyton and Lynmouth Benjamin Lake had his own ambitious schemes to develop the then named Wooda Bay as an exclusive holiday resort. Three miles west of Lynton and 8 miles east of Combe Martin it seemed to be an excellent location. Commercial paddle steamers were plying their trade along the south-west coast and it had become fashionable to ‘take the air’ at such sea-side resorts as Lynmouth and Ilfracombe.

That all was not well with his financial affairs may have been foreseen from the fact that Lake immediately mortgaged the estate for £25,000 to settle the debt he had incurred by speculating in Kent Coal shares in which he lost £28,000 in 1878. Further financial difficulties were to plague his development plans for the next five years.

He immediately embarked on an ambitious scheme of road building and construction. In 1888-1894 he converted the manor house, known as Wooda Bay, into the Wooda Bay Hotel which is now known as Martinhoe Manor. He planned and built eight houses including a post office and the Glen Hotel and the Stables now known as Woody Bay Hotel and The Coach House. In 1893-5 he built a 16ft wide road from Hunter’s Inn to Wooda Bay over the common to Martinhoe Cross and in 1896 a further new road running past the Glen Hotel to join the cliff road. A further coach road was built running between the bay and Hunter’s Inn.

November 23rd 1894 saw the plans for a grand pier, access and other works to the beach and the bay, posted in the London Gazette.
"To make, construct, and maintain an open pier, causeway, or jetty, to be constructed of piles strongly braced and supported, and with iron stairways…”
It was initially planned to be about 100 yards long with a dog-leg extension and a landing stage but due to financial difficulties he had to settle for a single pier 80 yards long. Construction stated in 1895 but in October a heavy north-west gale sprang up and drove ashore the vessel from which they were driving the piles. The contractors lost their pile-driver and steam engine and went bankrupt. It was eventually completed and officially opened 15th April 1897. However, bad planning meant that inclement weather and low tides prevented the first ships from docking and furthermore the pier was not long enough to cater for landings at low tide.

In 1895 Lady Newnes cut the first sod for the new narrow-gauge steam, Lynton to Barnstaple Railway. Lake agreed to allow the directors of the railway to locate a station at Martinhoe Cross on his land free of charge. In exchange he would be allowed to site a junction at the now renamed Wooda Bay Station for his branch line to access the bay. He also had plans for a cliff railway down to the bay based on the design of the Lynton-Lynmouth verticular railway that runs up the cliffs giving access between the two towns. Woody Bay station was finished and opened on 11th May 1898 along with the Lynton to Barnstaple Railway.

Hunter’s Inn, situated in the Heddon Valley, was originally a thatched farm cottage on the Martinhoe Estate. It became a meeting place for local people and ale was served there from the eighteenth century by the Berry family, who were the original tenants. Sadly in 1895 it was almost entirely destroyed by fire. Not to be deterred Benjamin Lake decided to lay the foundations for a grand new Inn that same year. It was designed to look like a fashionable Swiss Chalet due to the district of Lynton and Lynmouth being known as ‘Little Switzerland’.

Colonel Lake continued pouring money into the area in an effort to see his dream become a reality. This included a small golf-course, opened in 1894, at Martinhoe Common, and a bathing pool on the beach at Woody Bay. His standing in the local community grew and he became chairman of the Law Society and a Devon Justice of the Peace. However, as it transpired, it wasn’t all his own money.

On Tuesday 22nd January 1901 he appeared before the magistrate court at the Old Bailey in London. Denying any knowledge of the misuse of funds he blamed everything on his cousin’s book-keeping, saying that any irregularities for which he had been responsible had been done at his cousin’s request, and that he only found out about the full extent of the fraud upon his cousin’s death in Berlin in 1899.

It seems, from some sources, that controversy even surrounds his cousin’s death. George kept a mistress in a £3000 per annum establishment and was entangled with another lady. Even though a coffin and paperwork were flown back to England people were said to have seen him alive and well several years later. This claim, however, did not stop an official investigation by the Treasury and an indictment containing no fewer than seventeen charges.

The jury were only asked to give their verdict on four cases, and in three out of the four the verdict was ‘Guilty’. Benjamin Lake was forced into bankruptcy with debts of over £170,000, a great deal of money. On the day Queen Victoria died 1901 he was sentenced to twelve years ‘penal servitude’ for using his client’s savings. The Judge, Mr Justice Wills, likened the case to that of Jabez Balfour, another late Victorian swindler and and in summing up the case showed little mercy.

“Only a few years ago Mr.Benjamin Lake had been President of the Incorporated Law Society, and chairman of the Disciplinary Committee which investigates charges of alleged malpractice by solicitors and was a man of wide business experience, and especially versed in finance. Mr Lake’s punishment is severe, but it is not out of proportion to the far-reaching nature of his offence. His has not only cheated and ruined many of his clients, but he has, in the words of the Times, “done more than any living person to diffuse a sense of distrust and suspicion injurious to a profession in the members of which we must repose confidence.”

At the end of the trial, Benjamin Lake’s last words were;
“My Lord, I may, before I pass from the dock, thank you for the infinite pains you have taken. Those who may know my daily life know how far it is from possible for me to commit such offences. If I have been guilty, as your Lordship is bound to presume, your sentence is a light one.”
Jabez Balfour who also served time in Portland Prison described it in his memoirs as “a heart-breaking, soul-enslaving, brain-destroying, hell upon earth".

Benjamin Lake served eight years of his sentence before obtaining an early release in July 1906 due to ill health. He died of general atheroma, influenza and apoplexy (stroke) coma on 22nd June in 1909 at his son’s home of Woodfield Lodge in Streatham, at 70 years of age.

So what happened to his grand designs? Any prospect of further intensive developments around Martinhoe sadly died with him. Wooda Bay estates including some 1930 acres, Wooda Bay Station Hotel, Hunter’s Inn and various other property and plots of land in and around Woody Bay were auctioned in 1900. Squire Charles Frederick Bailey bought the first nine lots including the Wooda Bay Hotel for £6500 along with the Wooda Bay Building Estate. A local brewery Starkey Knight and Ford purchased the Station Hotel and surrounding farmland which they put out to lease including the Wooda Bay Golf Links.

The pier was severely damaged by a storm in 1899, followed by another one year later. It has been suggested that the locals ‘helped it on its way’ as it was never repaired and the remains were demolished for scrap by them in 1902. It is rumoured that the good pitch pine recovered from the pier can be found in refurbishments to local houses. The foundations and access can still be seen on the shoreline today and local fishermen and visitors alike practise their sport from the pier base at low tide.

Neither the branch railway line nor the cliff railway were ever built. Furthermore, despite a Royal visit to Woody Bay station in 1905 when Princess Christian and Princess Victoria left the train to take a drive in the countryside, the Lynton-Barnstaple Railway itself could not compete with the improving road transport and closed after only 37 years in 1935. The station was purchased in 1995 by the Lynton-Barnstaple Railway Trust and Woody Bay Station opened for visitors in 2004.

The Hunter’s Inn was not completed until 1906 and when horses gave way to motor-vehicles drew an increasing number of visits from day-trippers in charabanc outings, reaching its peak in the 1970’s. It is today a successful business serving visitors, guests and locals all year round.

Some might say that divine justice was served in the end. History saw misappropriated public funds used to privately develop the area, but in 1965 it entered into public use when the estate was sold to the National Trust. Today thousands of visitors every year unknowingly enjoy the legacy that Benjamin Lake left behind when they walk the carriageway, visit the beach at Woody Bay, take a lunch at Hunter’s Inn or enjoy a ride in a steam train at Woody Bay Station. Perhaps a few of them might be inspired by his vision or find wisdom in this cautionary tale.


*** – Visiting – ***

Discover some of the great walks around Heddon Valley. From short trails to enjoy with the family to longer hikes along the North Devon coast, there's something for everyone. There are even paths suitable for all-terrain pushchairs and trampers. Dogs are welcome throughout Heddon Valley and in the Hunter's Inn too, there is even doggie ice cream available in the shop.

The Pantry. The pantry is open every weekend serving take away hot drinks, cakes and ice creams. In line with government guidance, you're required to wear a face covering in most enclosed spaces, unless exempt. Please bring one with you.

*** – Gentle walk to Heddon's Mouth – ***

A gentle stroll through ancient woodland alongside the River Heddon, to where it meets the sea between some of England's highest cliffs. Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Heddon Valley is home to a variety of wildlife including otters and the rare high brown fritillary butterfly. You'll also find a restored 19th-century lime kiln on the beach, and a traditional country inn at the end of the walk in the local 'Swiss style'. The walk is classified as Easy, it is two miles long and should take about one hour. It is dog friendly. This route is fully accessible. There are two all-terrain mobility scooters, or ‘Trampers’, available to hire in the Heddon Valley.

Start: National Trust gift shop.

  • 1. With the National Trust shop on your right, walk down the road towards the Hunter's Inn. Keeping the Inn to your right, follow the road over the River Heddon and carry on as it curves up to the left and then to the right over the stone bridge - please be aware of the traffic on this section. Just after the bridge look to your right - Harry's Orchard was planted in memory of Harry Westcott, a former National Trust employee.
  • 2. 33 yards (30m) past the stone bridge, turn right and go through the gate along the footpath signed Heddon's Mouth. You'll follow these signs all the way to the beach. Please close all gates behind you.
  • Heddon's Mouth. The towering cliffs at either side of Heddon's Mouth are some of the highest in England. They are made from Devonian sandstone and are almost 400 million years old. During the last Ice Age the summer thawing of the top layer of permafrost resulted in a slow flow of loose rock and soil downslope, clearly visible as large areas of scree today.
  • 3. Follow the footpath until you reach the next gate. As you are walking look across the river into the meadow and up into the woodland to your left, home to sessile oaks, ash and some rare whitebeams. If you're lucky you might even see an otter in the river and at certain times of year you may see dippers, grey wagtails and herons.
  • High brown fritillary butterfly. The population of this rare butterfly has declined 90 per cent since the 1970s, largely due to the ending of woodland coppicing. We maintain the woods and meadows in the Heddon Valley to encourage breeding. The best season to spot this beautiful butterfly is between mid-June and early July.
  • 4. Go through the gate and carry on straight. The path is gently undulating and passes a stretch of traditional dry stone wall, a thriving habitat for insects. You'll also see large patches of scree left over from the last Ice Age. Carry on past the wooden bridge. The valley now opens out - you'll see vast stretches of heather light up the slopes in August, and in early autumn the air is tinged with the coconut smell of bright yellow gorse flowers.
  • 5. Just beyond the top of a slight incline the path reaches its end at the 19th century lime kiln at the beach; for your own safety, please do not enter the kiln. This is a wonderful viewpoint down onto the pebble beach, up to the top of the cliffs and back along the valley behind you. Rest a while on the bench and absorb the myriad of sounds - waves crashing on the beach, pebbles rolling back and forth, and the birdsong. Please do not take rough-terrain mobility scooters beyond the lime kiln for your own safety, and if you walk down onto the beach, please keep away from the base of the cliffs.
  • Lime kiln. The lime kiln found on the beach at Heddon's Mouth was originally restored by us in 1982. In the 19th century, limestone and coal were brought across the Bristol Channel and burnt in the kiln to make the lime needed to counteract the acidity of the local soil.
  • 6. Retrace your steps back up the valley, this time with the river on your left, back to the National Trust shop and car park, enjoying the different vistas seen from this direction.
  • The National Trust hope that you enjoyed this walk. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of coastline for the enjoyment of all. They need your support to help them continue their work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful landscapes. To find out more about how you can help their work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northdevon.
  • End: National Trust gift shop. You made it.

  • *** – Heddon Valley to Woody Bay Walk – ***

    A varied walk that follows an historic 19th century carriageway and a section of the South West Coast Path along some of the highest and most dramatic cliffs in England. The views along the coast and across to Wales are breathtaking. Along the way you will pass a Roman Fortlet and walk through ancient sessile oak woodlands. In the spring and summer the cliffs are alive with a variety of sea birds. The walk is classified as Challenging, it is six miles long and should take between two and a half and three hours. It is dog friendly. This route is fully accessible. There are two all-terrain mobility scooters, or ‘Trampers’, available to hire in the Heddon Valley.

    Start: National Trust gift shop.

  • 1. With the National Trust shop on your right, walk down the road towards the Hunter's Inn public house. At the junction turn right, and then left along the bridleway by the side of the inn. At the fork take the footpath to your right signposted Woody Bay 2 ¾ miles. You are now walking through Road Wood along a wide track known as 'The Carriageway' that you are going to follow along its length up and along the cliffs to Woody Bay. This first section along Hill Brook Combe is home to bilberry, common cow-wheat, wild strawberry and wood avens. In early summer this section is full of foxgloves as a result of the work the NT have done in recent years in cutting back encroaching sycamores.
  • The Carriageway. In 1885 'Colonel' Benjamin Lake bought the Martinhoe Manor estate with grand plans to create a splendid tourist destination in Woody Bay. By 1899 he had built a pier in Woody Bay for steamers carrying wealthy passengers to dock at. The carriageway you are walking on was designed to carry these same tourists by carriage from Woody Bay to the Hunter's Inn in the Heddon Valley. In 1900 the 'Colonel' was declared bankrupt with his grand plans never having come to fruition.
  • 2. Carry on straight up and along the Carriageway as it climbs around the headland above Heddon's Mouth and Highveer Rocks. On a clear day there are far-reaching views over the Bristol Channel to Wales, down to the lime kiln at Heddon's Mouth, up the Heddon Valley and to the northwest to Lundy island.
  • 3. As you follow the track you can see Woody Bay, Valley of the Rocks, Lynmouth Bay and Foreland Point stretching out before you. Look for the signpost on your right that leads up to Martinhoe Roman Fortlet.
  • Martinhoe Roman Fortlet. This small, square fortlet situated on cliffs overlooking Heddon's Mouth is one of several that can be found in Devon. It was manned until AD75 under the command of the Second Augustan legion based at Exeter. With a little imagination you can almost see the barracks, smell the drifting smoke from numerous fires and hear the cries of the soldiers based here. In 1960 archaeologists discovered a plate inscribed with the name of Silvanus, a soldier, together with ceramics, cooking pots and a coin from the reign of Emperor Nero.
  • 4. Returning to the main track, continue towards Woody Bay. Above Hollow Brook Combe the path is flanked by sessile oaks and rare whitebeams. This is an excellent place to look out for the peregrines and buzzards that breed in this area.
  • 5. Pass through the gate, closing it behind you. You are now walking through West Woody Bay Wood, home to ash, larch and birch, as well as more oaks. Keep an eye out for red deer and woodpeckers.
  • 6. Stay straight on the Carriageway to where it meets the road on a sharp hairpin bend. Turn left and follow road down the hill, past a small NT car park, an alternative starting point for this walk. Just past the car park turn left down a road shown as a dead end that leads to Woody Bay. The woods you are walking through are under constant threat from Rhododendron ponticum and Himalayan Knotweed and since 1987 they have been carrying out a continual eradication programme.
  • 7. On a very sharp right-hand bend in the road look for the South West Coast Path on your left, signposted 'Coastpath Hunters Inn'. Turn onto this path which you are going to stay on all the way back to your start point. Follow the steep incline up the side of the cliff and pass through the gate into a woodland of sessile oaks, sheared by the wind over decades into a myriad of twisted shapes. In the late spring the floor of this woodland is carpeted with bluebells. Hollow Brook Combe waterfall drops in a series of cascades 219 yards (200m) to the sea.
  • 8. Carry on up the side of the combe to Great Burland Rocks. This is an excellent vantage point from which to look for the guillemots, razorbills and other seabirds in the bird colony down below you to the east at Wringapeak.
  • Seabirds. A wide variety of sea birds nest and breed on the cliffs between Woody Bay and Heddon's Mouth, most particularly on the rocks of Wringapeak to the east of the vantage point at Great Burland Rocks. Guillemeots, razorbills, Manx shearwaters, black backed gulls, kittiiwakes and fulmars are just some of the species you might see.
  • 9. Carry on along the footpath to where it turns back up the Heddon Valley along the side of the combe. This is a good position from which to look down onto the beach and the lime kiln, and across the valley to where the coast path makes its away precipitously around the headland and on to Combe Martin. In autumn the gorse on this section scents the air with the smell of coconuts. You might also see cormorants and ravens here.
  • 10. Carry on down the hill, across some scree, where you'll meet a footpath signposted to the right to the beach. Unless you wish to make a short detour to the pebble beach and lime kiln at Heddon's Mouth, turn left along South West Coast Path signposted ½ mile to Hunters Inn, follow the signposts back to the pub and the Trust gift shop and ice cream parlour.
  • The National Trust hope that you enjoyed this walk. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of coastline for the enjoyment of all. They need your support to help them continue their work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful landscapes. To find out more about how you can help their work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northdevon.
  • End: National Trust gift shop. You made it.

  • *** – Heddon Valley coast walk – ***

    This short but challenging walk takes you along some of the highest and most spectacular sea cliffs in England and is a must-do for butterfly lovers and photographers, as well as a great dog walk. The path climbs steeply upwards across scree slopes to Peter's Rock where there are far-reaching views across to Wales. Further along there are spectacular views along the coast to Great and Little Hangman and Lundy Island. Parts of this walk offer habitat to the rare High Brown fritillary butterfly, as well as to more common Dark Green and Silver-washed fritillaries. There are wildflowers in abundance in spring and in August the cliffs are blanketed in purple heather. The walk is classified as Challenging, it is 3.5 miles long and should take about one and a half hours to complete. It is dog friendly.

    Start: National Trust Gift shop.

  • 1. With the National Trust shop on your right, walk down the road towards the Hunter's Inn. Keeping the Inn to your right, follow the road over the River Heddon and carry on as it curves up to the left and then to the right over the stone bridge. Please be aware of the traffic on this section. Just after the bridge look to your right - Harry's Orchard was planted in memory of Harry Westcott, a former National Trust employee.
  • 2. 33yards (30m) past the stone bridge turn right and go through the gate along the footpath signed Heddon's Mouth. Walk down the graded track until you reach a steep path up to the left. There is a bench at the junction and a fingerpost showing the South West Coast Path acorn symbol.
  • 3. Turn left here and follow the path as it climbs steeply up the valley side. Go through the gate and stay on the path. As you do so look to your right at the wonderful beech trees that have grown up out of the traditional dry stone wall. In late spring the slope to your left is carpeted in bluebells. You can also see stitchworts, wild violets and red campions. Keep eye out for deer - you might be lucky enough to see some. Follow the path as it levels out as you walk towards the sea, across the scree slope to Peter's Rock. During the last Ice Age the summer thawing of the top layer of permafrost resulted in a slow flow of loose rock and soil downslope, clearly visible as the large areas of scree you can see today. Don't forget to stop a while and look at the amazing views across the Heddon Valley to the 19th-century carriageway that leads to Woody Bay.
  • 4. From Peter's Rock follow the coast path round to the left with the cliffs falling away to the sea to your right - you are now walking along some of the highest sea cliffs in England. In August the cliffs along this stretch of the path are covered with purple heather - a photographer's delight. Go round the headland where you will see, stretching out in front of you, the wonderful coastal panorama of Holdstone Down, Great and Little Hangman, the bay of Combe Martin and on a very clear day Lundy Island.
  • Marine and bird life. Watch out for seabirds such as razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes as well as different types of gulls. You can also see peregrines on occasion and on clear summer days when the sea is flat you may even see a school of porpoises passing by.
  • 5. Stay on the coast path round the edge of the cliff until you come to a fingerpost signed 'South West Coast Path Combe Martin' to your right and left to Trentishoe Church. Turn left and follow the path up and over the field.
  • Butterflies. If you spot a fritillary chances are it's the Dark Green variety, as High Browns do not venture so high. Unlike the High Brown fritillary, the Dark Green fritillary is widespread in the UK. The butterfly has more of a green tinge to its undersides than the rare High Brown, and no silver-pupilled brown spots. Silver-washed fritillaries are most common here from mid July to late August. Note the pointed forewings which help distinguish them from other orange fritillaries in Heddon Valley. You may also see grayling, purple hairstreak and the odd wall brown butterflies on your walk.
  • 6. Follow the path keeping the dry stone wall to your right as it goes along the edge of the valley - Trentishoe Combe. At one point you will be able to look to your left down onto the path you climbed up to Peter's Rock. In the spring the slope that falls away down to your left is carpeted with bluebells - a wonderful sight on a clear sunny day as they are completely in the open. There are also spectacular views from here down into Heddon Valley to the National Trust shop where you started this walk. In the spring look for pink foxgloves growing out of the stone wall to your right. There is the wonderful honey-sweet smell of bluebells and the rich, toasted coconut aroma from bright yellow gorse flowers in the air in spring. There are also a lot of bugles along this path in late May.
  • 7. Follow the path as it makes its way downhill to a 2-finger signpost on a tarmac lane next to the National Trust sign for Trentishoe Combe. Look at the meadow to your right here in the spring as it is, for a short while, completely filled with daisies. Turn left and follow the lane down through the woods.
  • High Brown fritillary. Heddon Valley holds one of the best UK populations of the spectacular High Brown fritillary that files from mid June to mid-late July. Look for it on violets growing under the bracken. Many of the narrow paths through bracken have been created especially for this butterfly to encourage the egg-laying females which require some open areas. The High Brown fritillary has disappeared from 80 per cent of its range since the 1970s. Look for the row of dark brown pearls towards the edge of its hind wing undersides which distinguish it from the Dark Green fritillary.
  • 8. When you reach the T-junction turn left signed Hunter's Inn ¼ mile. Follow this road back to your starting point at the National Trust gift shop and ice cream parlour.
  • End: Gift shop. You made it!
  • Woody Bay

    Woody Bay


    *** – Facilities – ***


  • • The car park is open. Please follow social distancing measures. The toilets are open..
  • • In line with government guidance, you're required to wear a face covering in most enclosed spaces, unless exempt. Please bring one with you.
  • • Enjoy a variety of walks, ranging from riverside paths to clifftop scrambles.
  • • Go horse riding or cycling along the bridleways in Heddon Valley woods.
  • • Be the Lord of your very own Manor by staying in the NT holiday cottage at West Challacombe near Combe Martin (sleeps 5) (0344 800 2070).
  • • Toilets by shop.
  • • Pay & display car park, free for members.
  • • Dogs welcome, off leads where appropriate.
  • • Information sign at Hunters Inn to help you plan your visit or ask in the ranger's office.
  • Family:-

  • • Keep dogs on leads across farmed land and moorland.
  • Access:-

  • • The trampers (all terrain mobility scooters) are currently not being hired out due to COVID-19.
  • • Additional free parking at Trentishoe Down (west) and (east) and Holdstone Down (not National Trust).
  • • Pay and display parking at Combe Martin - National Park Info Centre (not National Trust).
  • • Designated disabled parking spaces at Heddon Valley car park.
  • • Drop-off point outside Heddon Valley shop and information centre.
  • • Mobility toilet located next to Heddon Valley shop.
  • • The walk to Heddon's Mouth consists of moderately level gravel and is maintained for trampers and pushchairs.
  • • Larger vehicles are advised to use the access route to the valley from the Trentishoe direction, and please be aware that for very large vehicles, access can still be challenging.
  • • Please click here for the full access statement.

    Location : Heddon Valley, Near Parracombe, Barnstaple, Devon, EX31 4PY

    Transport: Barnstaple (National Rail) then bus 17 miles. Bus Routes : 309 and 310. Regular service from Barnstaple to Lynton (passing close Barnstaple train station), alight just north of Parracombe, then 2 miles.

    Opening Times : Dawn to Dusk.

    Tickets : Free.

    Tel: 01598 763402