The weather is currently glorious here in the UK and we took full advantage by booking a few days away on the North Devon coast. Named “Little Switzerland” by the Victorians, the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth enjoy a fabulous location nestled between the sea and the cliffs. Zorro had a ball as the whole area is a dog walking paradise, with deeply cut wooded valleys, rivers, waterfalls and Exmoor – Lorna Doone country.
We stayed in a little thatched cottage in pretty Lynton, the higher of the two towns, and enjoyed spectacular views of the rugged coastline. Going down to Lynmouth was lovely with an easy walk through wooded valleys and streams, but getting back up was no joke. Thankfully, the two towns are linked by the Cliff Railway. Opened in 1890, this environmentally friendly railway is, I believe, unique. There are two cars – one going up and the other going down – which are powered by water. A hydraulic lift operates the cars and as the topmost car is filled from a reservoir, it causes that car to move down while simultaneously lifting the other car upwards. Again, the views are pretty amazing and it’s said that it’s the closest thing to being in a helicopter without actually leaving the ground. It certainly felt that way to me.
We also visited Watersmeet, which is now owned by the National Trust. A leisurely walk along the river gorge past waterfalls and the occasional interest of the area’s wildlife, is rewarded by a much needed and appreciated coffee and cake at an old fishing lodge which is now a pretty tea shop right in the middle of the woods.
We took a walk on Hollerday Hill and viewed the remains of an Iron Age settlement, again with spectacular views. This was also the site of a huge mansion owned by the area’s Victorian benefactor, whose property was mysteriously burned to the ground at the turn of the century, supposedly by the suffragettes, although this was never proved. We then walked on to the mysterious Valley of Rocks. There are many stories and legends associated with this fascinating area, such as the weird rock formation named Rugged Jack. Here legend has it that the devil appeared to a group of druids who were dancing and revelling on a Sunday and promptly turned them to stone. Then there’s the original site of the church in Lynton which it is said the pixies disapproved of. Each morning the workers would arrive to find the previous day’s building work had been demolished and the stones moved across the way to another site. It was soon decided that the church should be built in this new site to avoid the pixies’ wrath.
While tales of pixies, fairies and ghosts abound in this region, for me what makes it magical is the sheer beauty of the area. We all came home refreshed, renewed and with aching legs. But it was well worth it.