144 Woolacombe to Lee Bay

I set off along the road that runs from Woolacombe towards Mortehoe, and take a last look along the wonderful Woolacombe sands. It is a dull day, but people are already on the beach, determined to make the most of this Easter Sunday.

Woolacombe Sands, Ruth's coastal walk

I walk along the top of the cliffs.

child's memorial, above Woolacombe, Ruth's coast walkingAnd come across this memorial to a child.

Treasured memories of
a loving and much loved son and brother
David Stephen Smith
aged 7 1/2 years
lost off these rocks
13th April 1992

rocks below memorial, Ruth walks the coast, Woolacombe, DevonI look over the edge of the cliff at the rocks beneath. The sea looks deceptively calm this morning and the cliffs aren’t particularly high, but I can imagine the water churning round those jagged surfaces. A little boy wouldn’t stand a chance.

He would be nearly 30 if still alive today. There are fresh flowers nearby. Someone is still tending the memorial.

I look at the route ahead. Morte Point (such a horrible name) lies ahead across the bay. A place of many shipwrecks and tragedies.

 looking out to Morte Point, Ruth's walk along the coast, Woolacombe

Onwards. It is shame about the weather – with low clouds, poor light and the constant threat of rain. I am forced to digitally enhance all the photos I take. On a sunny day, the views would be wonderful.

Morte Point, over Barricane Beach, Ruth's coast walking

I walk a little farther along and look over a small cove – Barricane Beach. There are pleasant gardens, houses, a hotel.

Ahead the path seems easy enough. The slopes are green and slope gently down to rocky cliffs. I see a number of people out on the path, mainly dog-walkers.

I hope to get to Ilfracombe today. A longish walk for me – but I think it will be easy-going and anticipate making swift progress.

The slope gradually rises as I approach Morte Point. I stop for a breather and to take a photograph of the way I have just walked.

 looking back to Woolacombe, Ruth on the South West Coast Path

As I reach Morte Point, the path becomes wilder and more exciting. Yes, that really is the path, a ledge across the rocks, worn down by the boots of walkers. (Or maybe the trail has had some mechanical help at this point? I don’t know.)

 Path over Morte Point, Ruth's coastal walking

Beyond Morte Point is Rockham Bay and here begins the really scenic part of this walk. Giant rock-fingers stretch out into the sea, their near vertical folds making interesting patterns. In the distance is Bull Point, with a lighthouse squatting above the cliffs.

From Morte Point to Bull Point, Ruth on the SWCP, North Devon

I see a family peering over a fence at the edge of the cliff. At first I think they have lost something over the edge, but when I get near I realise there are access steps downwards. I am surprised to find a beach on this wild and rugged coast. Rockham beach. But access is closed off because of a landslip.

“Please do not attempt to get onto beach.”

The family look as though they have walked a fair distance to get here. How disappointing.  The little girl is upset – and I catch a photograph of her stomping off in anger.

 Rockham Beach closed sign, Ruth's coastal walking, North Devon

The lighthouse at Bull Point has been restored after the original was destroyed in a rock fall. There are a few holiday homes huddling around its base. I imagine this is a wild and windy place during winter storms. The circular apertures on the lighthouse once housed fog horns, but I gather these have been discontinued.

Bull Point light house, Ruth walking the South West Coast Path, North Devon

Why did I think the path was going to be easy today?

After Bull Point, the path climbs and falls. The first big descent takes me down the side of a long valley and into a rocky cove. The only name I can find on my map to describe this area is Damagehue Rock. A sinister name. I guess that is the outcrop of jagged peaks in the sea. It has the air of a smugglers cove, or a pirates hideout, but  I wouldn’t want to try to land a boat in this place.

Damagehue Rock, Ruth walking the SWCP, near Mortehoe, Devon

I cross the bridge over the stream at the bottom and begin my climb up the other side of the valley. It’s steep. I meet a family coming down, out for a walk with a bouncy dog. He barks at me, ferociously. The family is embarrassed. He is usually friendly. We agree it must be my walking poles.

Stopping for a breather, I watch them climb up the other side.

 looking over Rockingham Bay, Ruth's coastal walk,South West Coast Path

A few minutes later, from a higher view-point I look down and back.

Descent down to Damagehue, Ruth on SWCP, DevonWow. That path is steep. And it’s only from here that you get a true impression of the climb. I wasn’t anticipating the walk would be as strenuous as this. I feel tired and hungry. I must stop for lunch in Lee Bay.

 sharp rocks and cliffs, Ruth on the Tarka Trail, North DevonThe remainder of the walk is lovely. The cliffs are dramatic, with deep clefts and fierce rocks below. A truly beautiful walk.

I come across a sign pointing down a path to Sandy Bay. This confuses me, as no Sandy Bay is marked on my map. I hesitate, but don’t fancy climbing down to a dead-end, so I continue along the main path.

 looking down into Lee Bay, Ruth on the SWCP, near MortehoeAnd a short while later I come to a track and then a road. It is a shocking change in scenery after the wildness of the cliffs.  Houses and tended gardens, with a lovely view down into Lee Bay.

It’s 1pm and I am looking forward to lunch.

There are two Lee Bays in north Devon. This one is a wide expanse of rocks and pools, nestled between two headlands. The main village is just inland, but there is a pub marked on the map and I can see it at the other end of the bay.

It is very quiet. There are a few people clambering about on the shore and a young family is walking with a push-chair along the beach road.

 Lee Bay, near Mortehoe, SWCP, Ruth in North Devon

The pub windows overlook the sea, but they are boarded up. At first I think this is to cover temporary damage due to the winter storms, but it becomes obvious the pub is derelict. What a disappointment!

I ask the woman with the push-chair if there is another pub and she directs me up a footpath to the village. It is just beginning to drizzle and I find The Grampus Inn. A lovely place – jam-packed with families enjoying a Sunday lunch. The rain has driven everyone inside.

There is no table available, but I find an old chair beside  the fire and roast in the heat with a cider and a bag of crisps. There is no decent phone signal, but I manage to send a text to my husband. I’ve had enough walking today. And it’s raining heavily now. Time to stop.

Miles walked today = 5 miles
Total since King’s Lynn = 1,406 miles

There is a good description of a circular walk published online by the Telegraph (2010), starting from the village of Mortehoe, going to Morte Point and then to Bull Point, before returning to the village. A map can be found here.


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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10 Responses to 144 Woolacombe to Lee Bay

  1. Closed down pubs and village shops are all too familiar, but more annoying are places with eccentric closing/working hours (e.g. don’t do meals on Tuesdays) which always seem to coincide with the time of one’s arrival, but we LD walkers still live in hope and usually, through our persistence and self reliance find a solution.

  2. mariekeates says:

    The cliff top memorial is a sad reminder how dangerous these walks can be. It was certainly beautiful but I don’t blame you for stopping. The cliff paths would be slippery in the rain.

  3. Such wonderful and breath taking scenery.

  4. paul sennett says:

    WE LOVED THIS WALK… possibly the best of your walks so far.. full sunshine and we could see the Pembrokeshire and Port Talbot.. where I believe you are now walking,, If others do this walk, the smugglers cottage at Lee does amazing food.. Devon savoury tea and lemon drizzle cake wiith clotted cream.. enough said. At Morte Point, we met 4 men watching porpoises in the bay. One of them told us 2 intersting tales.. Morte Point was used as target practice by Americans practising for Dday landings… shooting MORTARS FROM BOATS!! Also there is a Wellington bomber that crashed in the middle of Woolacoombe Bay during the war, and is now under water near the point.
    Ruth thank you so much for guiding us through an another amazing walk.

    • It was a dull day when I walked this section, and it sounds as if you were much luckier with the weather! Very interesting information about Morte Point being used for target practice.
      This weekend I was walking around The Gower in Wales – where the weather has been beautiful and very clear. From Rhossili, yesterday, I could look back and see this section of the coast, although not in any detail. In fact, I could see all the way back to Hartland Point!

  5. ar says:

    Very useful for those planning also to do these walks – thanks

  6. Karen White says:

    So sad to see the memorial for the little boy.

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