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Section 6 – Two Moors Way - Withypool to Lynmouth

Distance - 17.5 miles Grade - 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 very start you follow uninhabited and remote moorland, broken up by increasingly rare patches of pine woods as you climb from Withypool.


En route, pass Chibbet Cross, the sombre site of the old gibbet (gallows) where criminals, outlaws and deer poachers would be left chained to the posts in this most desolate of spots. You 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.


This 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 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 breath-taking, 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.


The final and dramatic descent to the coast starts here down a deep V shaped heather valley following the tiny gushing Hoar Oak Water (a moorland tributary of the East Lyn River), 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 serves as your guidepost off the moor today, as it has since the 13th century when it marked the ancient boundary of old Exmoor, now standing 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 vast panoramic views across the sea to Wales. Drawn 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.  


The 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 (SSSI), recognised as one of the most varied and largest natural areas of woodland in the region.  It’s an assault on the senses in spring, with an abundance of wildflowers, 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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