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The Two Moors Way

Section 6 – Two Moors Way - Withypool to Lynmouth 17.5 miles

Exmoor National Park  Barle Valley - Walking Holidays in South West EnglandGrade - Moderate to Strenuous grade with steep climbs and descents in places - what these grades mean One section of open and exposed moorland over Exe Head.

Today is the final leg of your journey crossing the high ground of mighty Exmoor and from the off you follow uninhabited and remote moorland, broken up by increasingly rare patches of pine woods as you climb from Withypool.

En route, Chibbets Cross, the sombre site of the old Gibbet where criminals, outlaws and deer poachers would be left chained to the posts in this most desolate of spots. 

Exmoor CowYou leave the now gushing and snaking moorland River Barle to cross the ancient fortified site of Cow Castle said to date back to 500BC or earlier and the stupendous views open up over the moorland heights, classic Exmoor National Park carpets of purple heather and bracken clad slopes.

This is a wild and windswept land of buzzards, old copper mines and wild Exmoor ponies. The isolation is briefly broken at the high level village of Simonsbath where dark silent glades of beech woods lead to the river crossing by a triple-arched medieval bridge. All in all it has an end of civilisation air to it.

Overnight stops in Simonsbath on the Two Moors Way

2 Moors Way - Wildife on Exmoor National Park and walking routes UKThis is the last chance for a drink before you climb out through dark brooding forest plantations to Exmoor’s heights on the open moor over Dure Down and onto Exe Head. The source of this river is just a trickle from the mire here but one flowing back behind you, retracing your steps to empty all the way over to the other side of the land mass as a huge estuary in South Devon.

The landscape is simply breathtaking and you feel yourself on the top of the world up here, watch out for birds of prey, hare, herds of wild ponies and of course grazing deer as you join the route of the Tarka Trail which follows the habitat and wandering of Gavin Maxwell and his otters.

The2 Moors Way Lynmouth Gorges at the end of The Two Moors Trail North Devon final and dramatic descent to the coast starts here down a deep V shaped heather valley following the tiny gushing Hoar Oak Water which quickly picks up volume from the marsh and starts to bound with intensity seaward passing ruined sheep shelters and occasional standing stones.

The lonely Hoar Oak Tree still serves as your guidepost off the moor today as it has since the 13C when it marked the ancient boundary of old Exmoor Forest and it now stands in solitary guard of your re-entry to Devon from the moor. In a final brief burst of upward effort you now ascend the line of Cheriton ridge an ancient highway which opens up vast panoramic views now across the sea to Wales. Drawing you past ancient hut circles and cairns that peer out of the purple heather and bracken the ridge takes a steady descent down the moorland flank to reach the first  habitation for many miles at the houses of Cheriton.  

Lynmouth Tower South West Coast PathThe Two Moors way now climaxes at Gorge Country on the superb woodland trails around Coombe Park high above the Waters Meet waterfalls where the now bounding Hoar oak Water and East Lyn River meet at the head of the gorge. The forest here is another protected site of special scientific interest recognised as one of the most varied and largest natural areas of Woodland in the region.  Its an assault on the senses in Spring, with an abundance of wild flowers, bluebells and primroses poking out from beneath rare sessile oaks all surrounded by the heady aroma of wild garlic and living forest. After the Iron Age Hill Fort at Myrlteberry South the trail finally releases you and you drop dramatically through a series of switchbacks as the coastline beckons. In this area known as the Cleaves, you hang high above the steep sided drop of the main river gorge 1000ft below you. 

Finally, the fascinating Cliffside towns of Lynmouth and Lynton – north Devon’s “Little Switzerland” emerge to greet you as you almost tumble down the hillside off the trail. Here, the foot of the breathtaking gorge collides with the ocean where it empties from a small harbour into the Bristol Channel, surrounded to the left and right by huge imposing cliffs and coastline. It’s a fitting spectacle for the end of a superb walk,  or for those heading off along the South West Coast Path an impressive starting point for the next leg of your adventure.

Overnight stops in Lynmouth at the end of the Two Moors Way

If you have time - Continue your walking adventure along the South West Coast Path to Barnstaple or Minehead.

 

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