This lovely walk has magnificent coastal views and country scenery and is around five miles long. The circular walk starts at Hele Bay on the road from Ilfracombe to Combe Martin and the route is via Watermouth Cove and Berrynarbor. There are two options for parking, either at Hele Bay in a pay and display car park, or at the top of the hill in a free car park. On the plus side, if the pay and display car park is used this means the end of the walk is all downhill, whereas for the free car park there is one more hill to climb.
From the car park at the top of the hill overlooking Hele Bay, take the coast path which is clearly marked. The path runs steeply downhill via a number of steps and eventually evens out to run adjacent to the road. There are lovely views of the coast all along the path.
A view of Watermouth Cove with Little Hangman and Great Hangman in the distance.
Continue along the path which will eventually bring you to a number of steps where you can leave the footpath and walk along the main road. However, ignore this option for the road is dangerous at this point. Carry on to the next set of steps which will also take you out onto the road where, this time, there is a pavement. Alternatively, at low tide it is possible to continue along the path and clamber across the beach to Watermouth Cove.
Continue along the road and past Watermouth Castle on the right. The building was designed by George Wightwick in the mid-19th century as residence for the Bassett family. It is not a true castle, but a country house built to resemble one. It has been designated as a Grade II listed building and is now a family theme park.
Continue along the road to a path on the left which leads to Watermouth Cove Caravan Park. Proceed through the caravan park and up the hill, keeping to the left boundary of the field. Near the top of the field is a wooden seat which provides an opportunity for a welcome rest and overlooks Broadsands Beach far below.
Broadsands Beach is owned by Watermouth Valley Camping Park. It can be accessed by 220 cliff steps from the old Ilfracombe to Combe Martin Coast Road. However, it is important to check the tide times as most of the beach disappears at high tide.
At the top of the field you will enter a small lane where you need to turn left. A hotel called “Sandy Cove” is found along here and provides an excellent opportunity for lunch or a drink. There is an amazing view of the coastline and Little and Great Hangman hills from the garden. Leaving “Sandy Cove” turn left and then right up a no-through road. Follow this lane to the top where it will take you out onto the main road. Cross the road with care and follow the road directly opposite which leads to the village of Berrynarbor.
Follow the road downhill and past the church. Alternatively a short cut can be taken through the graveyard which takes you back to the road via these steps. Berrynarbor is a pretty little village which has won prizes in several years for the Best Village in Bloom. Continue on down the hill and past the Olde Globe Inn which provides an alternative choice for refreshment.
Continue to the bottom of the hill and then turn left just past the bus shelter. This is Haggington Hill and my Great Grandfather’s family lived in number 10. I have looked for the cottage, but have come to the conclusion it must have been demolished to make way for a more modern dwelling. Haggington Hill is very steep and seems to go on and on. Once you get past the main houses there are some lovely woodlands to the right and eventually you pass under a tunnel which can be seen in the pictures below.
Near the top of the hill you will come to another row of pretty cottages called Goosewell. Continue along this road, ignoring a turning to the left to Barnstaple and eventually you will make you way downhill towards the village of Hele which can be seen in the distance.
Not far from Goosewell Cottages we saw these flowers growing in the hedge. They are a bit like delphiniums and I think they are larkspur. Not sure if they are actually wild or if they have escaped from someone’s garden, but it is not something you usually see in the hedgerows.
As you near the bottom of the hill you will see a signpost on the right pointing to Hele Corn Mill, which is now a small cafe. The water mill is a Grade II listed building dating back to at least 1525. Wheat was brought here from local farms on horse drawn carts and ground into wholemeal flour. By the 1930s, the mill was only used to grind animal feed, and by the 1960s it was derelict. However, it was restored in 1974 by a local man and is now fully working and used to grind organic wheat to provide flour for the award winning tea room.
The original wooden water wheel was replaced with this cast iron one in 1927 and is still in full working order.
From the corn mill continue along the path through the woods which will bring you out onto the main road. The pay and display car park is opposite, or walk up the hill to the free car park at the top.