145 Lee Bay to Ilfracombe

What is wrong with the British weather? It’s Easter Monday and the sun is shining! Lee Bay looks even better on a sunny day and with the tide high.

01 Lee Bay, Ruth on her coastal walk, north Devon

I plan a short hike this morning. My aim is to walk along the South West Coast Path from Lee to Ilfracombe, where I will meet up with my hubby and his mother, before we set off on our long drive home.

 John, his mum, Ruth, Lee Bay, South West Coast Path leaving Lee Bay, Ruth walking the South West Coast PathBut first, we take a quick ‘timer’ photograph of the three of us, standing by the sea wall. (Unknown to me, my mother in law was feeling very unwell, but still managed to smile.)

I walk past the boarded up pub and down the road, before seeing the footpath sign. It points up a track and I find I have some road walking to do.

The route rises gradually and I find the going hard. Private properties stand between the track and the sea, and I feel resentful, as I always do, when my view of the sea is obscured. But I am soon at the top, where a gate marks the end of the roadway and the beginning of a proper path.

road unsuitable for motors, Ruth on her coastal walk, Lee Bay to Ilfracombe

Along with the notice advising the route ahead is ‘Unsuitable for motors’, the gate has a sign, warning of dangerous farmland animals.

Field with warning sign, Ruth's coastal walk, Devon

Yes. The field contains every walker’s least favourite animals. The most dangerous beasts in the English countryside. Cows.

Field with warning sign, Ruth's coastal walk, Devon

And they are standing on my path. I approach cautiously, avoiding direct eye contact. But I am allowed to look at them through my camera lens. This is when I discover they are not cows. They are bullocks.

Bullocks on the SWCP, Ruth Livingstone

I am not sure whether bullocks are more dangerous than cows, but they show no sign of moving off the path, and so I have to make a long detour around the bottom edge of the field.

When I reach the far side, I look back. The bullocks are still fiercely guarding the path. Lee Bay is hidden behind the hill. Beyond I can see the headland of Morte Point. In front of Morte Point another headland is just visible, this one is aptly called Bull Point.

looking back over Lee Bay to Bull Point, Ruth on her coastal walk, Devon

This area is called Flat Point and belongs to the National Trust. I really wish the NT wouldn’t let so much of their property be used as farmland. It would be nice to see some natural plants and wild flowers growing, instead of animal-grazed grasslands. The only plants that manage to avoid being munched by cattle are hawthorn and gorse bushes.

Looking ahead I can see a series of gently folded slopes and the distant buildings of Ilfracombe.

 looking ahead to Ilfracombe and the Hangmans, Ruth on the SWCP, Devon

The next part of the walk is lovely, despite signs that tell me to stick to the paths (a difficult feat when the paths have been taken over by ferocious cattle). I see a number of other walkers, but the area is far from crowded and I really enjoy the rest of the walk.

South West Coast Path, Breakneck Point, Ruth on the Tarka Trail near Ilfracombe

I walk through fields of sheep and watch some young lambs playing. Sheep are not scary, but they do munch everything in sight – just like cattle – apart from the prickly plants like gorse, brambles and thistles.

There is an easy route down into Ilfracombe, but I take the adventurous route – a winding path that heads down the cliff towards the sea. Here I meet a few other walkers and some sweaty runners.

Torrs Park, Seven Hills, Ruth walking the coast to Ilfracombe

As I get closer to Ilfracombe, I see it has a very narrow beach, nestled in front of a hump of land called Capstone Point. And some strange rounded buildings that look like giant industrial kilns of some sort.

Coming down to Ilfracombe, Ruth on her coastal trek, north Devon

I emerge at the top of Runnymede gardens and enjoy the view of Ilfracombe. It looks like an interesting town with some fine Victorian buildings.

 Ilfracombe, Ruth walking the coast around the UK

Walking around the giant ‘kilns’, I realise that these strangely shaped objects are modern buildings that house Ilfracombe’s theatre and tourist centre. This is a weird design that goes well with the coastline but seems out of keeping with the rest of the town.

I find my husband and his mother sitting in a café and I end my walk for the day. I could have gone further, but it’s time to go home.

Today’s walk = 4 miles
Total from Kings Lynn = 1,410 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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7 Responses to 145 Lee Bay to Ilfracombe

  1. I sometimes wonder about the National Trust. They are ok at looking after buildings but a bit erratic with land management. I have seen them cutting down mature Yew trees on Arnside Knott, supposedly to create environment for a rare butterfly. They also felled a line of majestic trees on either side of the cul de sac road leading up to The Knott. I questioned this and was told it was done to make it easier for the farmer to maintain his land and also to give better access for emergency vehicles which would be a very unlikely occurrence, and as far as I could see would not have been a problem with the trees in situ.

    • I would prefer to see more land left to return to natural woodland, rather than keeping so much as pastureland. Felling trees to allow easy access to farmland seems an act of vandalism!

  2. grahambenbow says:

    I remember being on holiday in the West Country a few years back and the Western Morning News ran a headline which include the term “Iffragloom” referring to the rundown state of the town, at the time I thought it was quite pleasant, with an unusual layout, but there were quite a few empty properties in the main shopping street.

    As for the cows me and my wife have had so many run ins with over the years she now almost refuses to enter a field without a load of coaxing. One walk we took a huge diversion only ending up having to a cross a field with cows. In Bavaria this summer the cows liked standing on the paths as well, we had to climb up a very steep slope to avoid them. Because they wear bells you can always hear them approaching.

    • Hi Graham, if I enter a field of cows with my husband, I’m ashamed to say I make him go first! I really liked Ilfracombe. It seemed lively and was a proper town, not the usual dead seaside place full of empty holiday homes. I am about to devote a whole blog post to my walk around it 🙂

  3. mariekeates says:

    I loved Ilfracombe, although it is many years since I was last there. There were lots of interesting little shops, good cream teas and a pretty town. I’m glad the bulls left you alone. Recently I read that cows, especially when they have calves, are more dangerous than bulls. I’m not sure I entirely believe this.

  4. paul sennett says:

    Ruth,, the cows/ bulls/ and their calves were thankfully in a field off the path.. They were however huge , so I can see why you were nervous.. This walk was an absolute delight over The Torrs above Ilfracombe… and then down in to Lee. God had a great day when he made the North Devon coast. The signpostiing out of Ilfracombe was amazing with directional boots set in the ground…

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