Southwest Coast Path sections 8
Official mileage: 11.2 miles
Jen's Mileage: 11.6 miles
Total height climbed 2,911 feet.

Westward Ho! looking back towards the Taw estuary

This section is rated by the SWCPA as strenuous, and between Abbotsham and reaching the hobby a couple of miles from Clovelly it certainly lives up to that rating.  There is barely a level stretch anywhere and what is not level is steep, in places very steep.

Leaving Westward Ho!,  guided by a rather nice signpost, the first mile or so is gentle walking.



At Abbotsham a good view of the bay and coastline ahead comes into view. On a good day the white houses of Clovelly stand out clearly against the dark backdrop of dense woods, Hartland point curves away and Lundy Island can be seen 12 miles off the coast.

Abbotsham beach. Clovelly is the white patch left centre, Hartland point extreme right.

The walk is quite moderate until reaching Abbotsham beach and the remains of lime kilns. This was also about the last time that I saw Clovelly in the distance, low cloud, mist and rain was going to be my companion soon.


ruined lime kiln on Abbotsham cliffs

From now on though there is barely a level section for the next 9 miles. The streams that drain off the hillside may be small but the valleys they cut are deep, the sides steep.

First is Greencliff then a number of Combes.

Greencliff immediately in front, The steeply wooded cliffs stretch out towards Hartland point.

Dense undergrowth, narrow path and the bay stretching towards Hartland point

After Greencliff the path starts to become more wooded and quite narrow in places. Whist descents match ascents it is not possible to go quickly down because of the narrow path, often no more than a foot's width wide, so care is needed to avoid a painful, and possibly an ankle or knee turning fall. The density of encroaching vegetation also holds moisture so even after a dry spell of weather the path can be quite slippery in places.

Shortly after crossing a small beach with very large pebbles, and the obligatory steep climb out, the path enters dense woodland. There are now very few glimpses of the coast in front, mostly the only view is the path dropping and climbing through the trees.

I was thinking how difficult this path would be in the wet. I was quite glad there had been a prolonged dry spell. The steep drops on a slippery muddy path could be quite hazrdous.

It then started to rain!

After about three miles of walking through dense woods the small and highly attractive hamlet of Bucks Mill is reached. 


Bucks Mill. The approach is steep as is the exit, between the two houses centre.

The descent into Bucks mill is steep and slippery. A further hazard is that path erosion has exposed the rock layer below and some parts of the path, inclined at crazy angles, are quite polished. 

In wet weather, as this was, great care is needed. A fall here could be severe. 

The climb out is equally ateep and by now I was finding  the miles of dense woodland quite oppressive. My mood wasn't helped by the continuous rain.

Finally the Hobby is reached.  This is a 19th century wide gravelled track, designed for carriages and gentle folk to enjoy the charms of Clovelly.

By this time I was looking forward to enjoying the charms of the local fish and chip shop. It had been hard going from Abbotsham, my legs were tired, the woods were becoming depressing and the rain was getting more persistent and harder.


The hobby

There is about two miles of this track to follow before Clovelly is reached. It seems to go on forever but the good news is that the terrain is much easier. It is not long before gaps in the woodland allow for views fo Clovelly to come into sight.

Clovelly, seen through the murk from the hobby.

Finally the visitor centre above Clovelly is reached. The path itself does not descend into the village and no cars are allowed.

It is a hugely picturesque village and has been the subject of many articles and photographs. The cobbled path through the village to the harbour is steep and slippery in the wet.

The tourists take a Landrover bus. 

The tired and weary coast path walker hesitates... and thinks "no. I'll just buy a postcard and look at that".

I just wanted to find Albert and put the kettle on so I cheated. The picture of the village is from another section of this website. 



Time taken:  5 1/2 hours.

Jen grading:  Moderate at the start then strenuous, finishing with lots of quite tedious, walking. The density of the woodland coupled with the difficulty underfoot makes this quite a draining and uninspiring section.

Campsite: Churchfields Car park, Appledore. Ownded by Torridge District council who charge £5 for motorhomes to stop the night. A glorious locaton, brilliant Fish and Chip shop 100 yards away.

Parked Albert up at the visitor centre, caught the bus back to Bideford and walked from there back to Albert.