Watersmeet has got to be one of the most popular walks in North Devon, but if you’re looking for something a little bit longer, make a great walk even better by adding a slight detour to Countisbury.
Why it’s on my list
Many a childhood family outing has been spent walking from Watersmeet to Lynmouth, and those are certainly happy memories for me. My parents showed me some photos from a walk they did that extended it, including a bit of coastal path. The photos looked amazing and my parents were more than happy to share their new route with me, many years on from when they first showed me Watersmeet.
Location: Start at Hillsford Bridge
Parking: parking is free at a small roadside car park by Hillsford Bridge
Length of walk: about 9 miles – allow 4 hours.
Type of walk: Circular with good paths through woodland, coastal paths and a final leg alongside a pretty river. Some medium uphill and downhill stretches.
Dog friendly? Great for dogs – need to put on the lead when walking on the small bits that involve crossing or walking on a road. We unluckily (and very bizarrely!) encountered some sheep on the footpath down from Hillsford Bridge to Watersmeet, but I have been assured that this was a very rare occurrence.
Fabulous – good length for a day’s walk. You don’t have to get up too early and if you also allow time for a sit-down lunch before heading back home, late afternoon/early evening stretches ahead of you for a well-earned rest. Afterwards I felt invigorated and just a little tired, happy in the knowledge that I had seen some very pretty parts of North Devon.
Start from the car park at Hillsford Bridge, which is on the right just after a near 180 degree bend in the road. Walk to the bridge and cross it, taking a footpath that is through a gate on the left hand side, just after the bridge. You will see a sign saying that you are entering Watersmeet Estate.
Carry on along the footpath, which eventually takes you to Watersmeet House. It’s along this part of the walk that we saw the rogue sheep!
Once you’re just about to get to Watersmeet House you can either take the steps down to cross a bridge, or take the long, zigzagging path – you end up coming back the same way, so maybe take the long path down and take the steps up when you’re on your way back to mix things up. Cross the bridge, and if you take a right there are public toilets at Watersmeet House that you might want to make use of.
Take the footpath to the right of the river, carrying on until you reach a signpost at Arnold’s Linhay. Take the path up to Countisbury, which should be one mile away.
This is the uphill part, and as far as uphills go, it’s not too bad. Carry on up, the footpath will rise above a little valley. You will get to a road – cross it and pick up the footpath again on the opposite side of the road, which should have a signpost pointing you towards the coast path to Lynmouth.
Walk slightly uphill, keeping to the right and curving as the path curves to the right and through a gate. Carry on a short while, until you get to a signpost pointing left to the coast path, which takes you almost 180 degrees back on yourself, except you’ll be heading down.
Now just follow the coast path along to Lynmouth, enjoying the glorious views ahead (and behind!) you.
You will come to a part where you will need to walk along a road for a short distance – through a layby and then up on a grass verge running alongside the road. You will come back to a footpath where there is a signpost showing a couple of different routes into Lynmouth – we took the option that went straight ahead.
Walk into Lynmouth, where there will be plenty of options for lunch.
Follow the river inland, which will involve crossing a stone bridge and taking a footpath to the right of the river.
Follow the path to cross a white bridge and keep going along, following the river. This is a lovely bit of the walk, and the part I remember from my childhood – great for kids. Follow as feels natural, and eventually you will return to a familiar piece of footpath, which will take you back to Watersmeet House.
From here take either the winding path or steps up, and follow the footpath back up to Hillsford Bridge, where your vehicle awaits.
The coastal part of the walk from Countisbury to Lynmouth has some superb views – even on a misty/cloudy day the sea and cliffs look beautiful. On a clear day you can see parts of Wales too, and we were lucky to have some bits of bright sunshine along this part. This part is downhill as well, a little steep in parts, so although you obviously have to keep looking where you’re going, it’s great that you get gorgeous coastal views without having to endure some serious uphills.
Not the best
Photos by the river from Watersmeet to Lynmouth look fab, but watch out for those slippery stones. I learned the hard way that you need to take your time and make sure you have sure footing on dry rocks – ouch! I question if the picture was worth it.
I would definitely recommend doing the walk the way described above, rather than Watersmeet to Lynmouth, up to Countisbury and back to Lynmouth. The uphills are certainly better this way, more manageable, and I think the views look better.