The Southwest Coast Path: Section 2: Porlock to Lynmouth
Official distance: 14 miles
Jen distance 16.4 miles
Total Height climbed: 3,156 ft.
SWCPA grading: Moderate.

The "official" section starts at Porlock Weir but no one told Albert.  He was at Porlock 2.8 k away so first I had a 2.8 k walk to the start point. Not unpleasant, tarmac is tarmac but this was quiet and peaceful tarmac at 8.30 in the morning.

Then, finally, at Porlock Weir time to leave tarmac for the path,  a pleasant walk behind the Anchor pub, across some fields and into woods.




Pleasant Porlock Weir and the Anchor pub, the footpath leaves the road to continue behind.

Woods dominate this section. About 10km of the path is through them.

Just under 2 miles after leaving Porlock weir so the small church of Culborne is reached. It is the smallest church in England to hold regular services, a maximum capacity of about 30 people, including I suspect the odd coast path walker who has just seen what lies ahead. A quite steep section through woods that used to be a leper colony.

Set in a wooded combe and approachable only down an unmade track, Culbone church

About 1/4m past Culbone and the path divides. The "official" route goes to the left, past some farms and on made roads, the "alternative" goes off to the right.

This is an area badly affected by landslip and soon the track starts to resemble an arboreal war zone. Fallen trees everywhere requiring considerable agility to go either over, under or around, as well as boulders, rubble and even parts of the path broken away.

 A lot of the path has had to be closed resulting in diversions often consisting of steep stepped ascents to get round. This can make for some hard walking.

After about 3 miles the two paths reunite and also for the first time there are glimpses of the coast ahead and it is a beautiful coastline, where glorious high Exmoor tumbles into the Bristol Channel.

Foreland point and a glimpse of the highest point on this section, Countisbury hill.

The view back, the coast path visible cutting across the hill

The intrepid traveller is now learning a new word in the lexicon of coast path walking. 

Combe.  Combe means wooded ravine cut by a stream. Combe means a steep drop down followed by a steep climb up. See "Combe" on a map and start chomping on the high energy biscuits, you are going to need all you can get. There are three wooded "combes" on this section, ever so terribly pretty apparently, my misted eyes hardly noticed and the pleasant sound of birdsong was drowned out by wheezing, rasping breath as I struggled up out of the last.

Then, finally the wood clears, the track meets tarmac, the track to Foreland point Lighthouse,  and there is another "Combe". This one is called Coddow Combe and it is not wooded, in fact a picturesque little bridge crosses over it, quite a sylvan setting, except for the sting in the tail. The big lump in front.



The track to Coddow Combe and Foreland point lighthouse. The coast path can be seen steeply climbing the big lump in the centre.

The lump in front is Countisbury hill and it has to be crossed, either by a steep path up one flank, or by following the track to the lighthouse and a steep path up another flank,

The "official" route is to go up the steep flank leaving the tarmac at Coddow combe bridge. Steps have been helpfully cut. Very helpful for the wheezing coast park walker is now going to need all the help going. 

This is the last climb before Lynmouth and for tired old legs it was steep, hard and long.

Looking back to Coddow bridge at the bottom of the steps.

Finally, after nearly a mile of steeply ascending track, the neck between Countisbury hill and foreland point is crossed and the first views of Lynmouth come into sight.

I was quite pleased. I thought I might never get to see the place as the climb seemed to go on forever.

Lynmouth and Lynton, the cliff railway connecting Lynmouth (at the bottom) to Lynton (at the top) can be seen just to the right of the cove.

THere is still two and a bit miles to get to Lynmouth and first the path runs to the back of Countisbury church, the main Exmoor coast road and across the road the Blue ball inn.

THe temptation to stop and give thanks for finally being allowed to get this far, before popping over the road for much needed refreshment, is quite overwhelming.

Staunchly though I plodded on, the path running parallel with the road for a while, before dropping down, steeply of course, to Sillery beach and a short walk into Lynmouth.

Journeys end. Sillery Beach Lynmouth, looking back to Countisbury hill and Foreland point.

I could not have gone much further. I thought of 21 years ago when, carrying a big heavy rucksack and facing the climb out from Coddow Combe I just wanted to grab a sleeping bag and groundsheet out of my rucksack and camp the night, convinced I had reached the end of my stamina.

This section is graded moderate by the South West Coast Path association. I still think now, as I did 21 years ago, it is a bit of an underestimate of the effort required. 


Time taken: 5.0 hours

Jen grading: Some easy bits, some steep long bits and some quite broken and difficult bits. A bit more than just moderate

Campsite: Porlock caravan park. Recommended. Even more impressed by day 2.  Very well managed, clean, and even on a very busy bank holiday weekend, quiet.  Lovely. Great facilities, great position, great owners.

Walk to Lynmouth, bus back.



Next section: Lynmouth to Combe Martin