The Exmoor coastline is famous for its stunning un-spoilt beauty. Lynmouth sits at the epicentre of this breathtaking stretch of coastline, which includes the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and where Exmoor meets the sea. Walking, cycling and just admiring the scenery are common pastimes, but so are many other more active or sedentary pursuits and attractions, some of which are highlighted below.
The South West Coast Path starts at Minehead in Somerset, runs past Exmoor and Lynmouth in North Devon, right around Cornwall, then along the South Devon and Dorset coasts to Poole Harbour. This is a distance of 630 miles, which is over twice the distance of the Pennine Way and makes it by far the longest National Trail in Britain.
The 103 mile Two Moors Way footpath - the oldest regional footpath in Devon, crosses some of the wildest parts of Exmoor and runs across mid-Devon and Dartmoor between Lynmouth in the North and Ivybridge in the South. The path’s Northern end is at the front gate of Bonnicott House, where a marker stone is sited.
Created 125,000 years ago when the Lyn found a shorter route to the sea via Lynmouth, leaving it’s former bed high and dry at Lynton, this dramatic rock-scape, with it’s inhabitants of wild goats, are the highest rock cliffs in England, Mother Meldrum’s tea gardens, and the village cricket club settled in the bowl of the valley, all create a special place that visitors return to time and again.
A National Trust tea garden, formerly a 19th century fishing lodge, situated at the meeting of the East Lyn and Hoaroak Waters, this is a popular target for walkers and only a mile or so up the beautiful East Lyn valley from the Bonnicott. The famed tea gardens can be enjoyed sitting inside, outside under the wooden pergola or under the huge spreading trees. Walks from this point radiate out straight on up the East Lyn to Brendon, up over the hill to Countisbury, on up the Hoaroak to Hillsford Bridge, or over the Myrtleberry Cleave and Summerhouse hill to Lynbridge, Lynmouth or Lynton. Of course, after a cream tea, another option is to return to Lynmouth on the same path and enjoy some more relaxation either at the Bonnicott or alongside the river in a deck-chair!
Home of Miss Rosalie Chichester, an avid collector of model ships, tapestries, pewter, costumes and exotic shells, set amidst a large private estate of gardens, streams, woodlands and parkland with rare breeds. Enjoy a carriage ride round the grounds or picnic by the lake. The National Trust’s Carriage Collection is held here.
An enchanting garden complex set within the Torridge valley, designed to provide year-round interest and inspiration to all gardeners and garden lovers. Enjoy over 2,000 roses, herb garden and potager, herbaceous borders, cottage garden, foliage and plantsman’s garden, winter garden, fruit and vegetable garden, arboretum and model gardens, fully licensed restaurant and Wisteria tea rooms.
Steam trains to the seaside! Twenty miles of steam travel by coast and country between Bishops Lydeard (near Taunton) and Minehead, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the golden age of rail travel. Ten stations, restored and maintained by volunteer enthusiasts reaching historic buildings, opening up country walks, and skirting the Quantock Hills, Exmoor and the Exmoor coast.
Lundy lies off the coast of North Devon, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel with nothing between it and America. In the hubbub of the modern world it is a place apart, peaceful and unspoilt. Visitors are carried to Lundy from either Bideford or Ilfracombe on the MS Oldenburg, Lundy's own ship. She is a graceful motor vessel, fast, comfortable and built on traditional lines. Below decks she retains her original panelling and brass fittings, but has been skilfully modernised to provide heated saloons, bar, buffet, shop and information centre.
Charles Kingsley, author of “Westward Ho!” and “The Water Babies”, stayed at Kingsley Cottage and took inspiration from the breathtaking scenery and wonderful walks. Once hauled by donkeys, the modern-day beast of burden for “Up-along” or “Down-along” as the cobbled street is known, is the sledge. Historically a bustling mackerel and herring fishing port, Clovelly and it’s surroundings are notorious for smuggling, wrecking and piracy, and there is a strong seafaring tradition from the 14th century quayside, including the village’s own lifeboat since 1870.
Originally opened in May 1898 as a narrow gauge railway designed to be able to follow the natural contours of the land between Barnstaple and Lynton, the line was closed and dismantled in 1935 due to the onslaught of the car. Re-opened at Woody Bay Station in 2004 with a mile-long steam trip towards Parracombe, the line is maintained by a core of volunteer enthusiasts and the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Trust, with future extensions intended.
High above Combe Martin take time to wander around permanently planted beds of hardy fuschias, covering the 450 varieties in approximately 2,000 plants. Browse the perennial and rockery plant selections or enjoy a cream tea in peace and tranquility.
Award-winning craftsmen transforming hot molten crystal into elegant shapes, perfecting a craft more than 3,000 years old, and all visible from elevated viewing platforms – watch the crystal come to life in front of your very eyes! Live demonstrations on the history of glass, studio glassmaking, engraving and hands-on activities – have a hand-cast or foot-cast, have a go at glass blowing or paint your own glass.
Created in the 19th century, the 20 acre garden descends in a series of ornamental terraces hedged with fuchsias and lavender from a handsome Queen Ann house. At the bottom of a ravine is The Lake surrounded by huge Thuja - Plicata trees, the oldest of their kind in the country, interspersed with a mass of rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas and succulent plants. Explore the Dairy Lawn, the grotto, the ice house, the kitchen garden with it’s huge lean-to greenhouse and old espaliered apple trees. Tapeley Park now has an Organic Permaculture Garden and tucked away in the Wild Garden is a new children's play area.
Enjoy the delightful surroundings of Porlock, nestling at the foot of Porlock Hill at the western end of Porlock Vale, bounded to the north by its shingle ridge with breathtaking views over the Bristol Channel and to the south, by the rolling hills of the Exmoor National Park. 1.5 miles away is Porlock Weir, passing through West Porlock on the way. Porlock Weir is a picturesque village with an enchanting 16th century coaching inn, hotel and destination restaurant.
Dunster is an idyllic medieval village within Exmoor National Park offering a wealth of heritage and history from the National Trust's 11th century Dunster castle to the Old Yarn Market in the middle of the high street. Dunster hosts a wide range of boutiques, shops, restaurants and pubs, and with over 200 listed buildings Dunster is preserved so that generations to come can enjoy the historic qualities of this unique village. There is a working water mill in the village. Dunster is also served by the West Somerset Steam Railway although the station is almost a mile from the village centre. The Castle and grounds belong to the National Trust.
The stately home of Hartland Abbey was once an Augustinian priory. The 300 foot high jagged cliffs at nearby Hartland Quay are spectacular, and a short walk away brings you to Speke's Mill Mouth, a dramatic waterfall splitting the cliffs. The stretch of South West Coast Path between Hartland Quay and Hartland Point is breathtaking - there's no other word for it, and the coves and cliff formations manage to be both beautiful and dramatic all at the same time. The three mile walk itself is quite tough. The path is full of ups and downs - and some of them are very steep. You also get to walk through some lovely green valleys with views up to the village of Stoke at the top. Towards the end of the walk, you'll see the eye-catching lighthouse at Hartland, and all the way along this stretch of path, you can see Lundy in the distance.
The theme of the museum is the social history of Lynton and the surrounding villages through the ages. The earliest display is of Neolithic and Bronze Age flint artefacts, and there are displays from the last century. This is a charming, rural museum with a collection of agricultural and domestic tools from Lynton and Exmoor. Housed in Lynton's oldest surviving domestic dwelling, it includes a traditional cottage kitchen with large stone fireplace, bread oven, pots, pans and domestic clutter. The building even includes its own ghost!
The Tarka Trail, over 180 miles in length, takes a looping route through North and Mid Devon, from the rugged Atlantic Coast, the Estuaries of the Two Rivers of Tarka the Otter fame, the Rivers Taw and Torridge through rural Devon Countryside onto the Northern Slopes of Dartmoor, and the source of the River Taw. Along the North Devon Coast, the trail follows the South West Coast Path, taking in Baggy Point, Mortehoe, Lynmouth and up Contisbury Hill to Exmoor and Lorna Doone Country. The Trail from Barnstaple, (down the River Taw), to Bideford and following the River Torridge to Torrington takes the route of a disused railway line and is particularly suited for both cyclists and walkers.
Near Porlock in Somerset, attractions include hawk walks, falconry experience days, clay pigeon shooting, bottle feeding and animal handling, and hawk and falconry flying displays.
First opened under the National Garden Scheme, Heddon Hall Garden has attracted widespread admiration as gardener's garden, with rare species, ferns, shrubs and trees all thriving in their natural valley setting, many of which are the results of plant hunting and dendrological trips abroad. The walled garden has clipped box hedges and cordoned fruit trees as well as flowers, herbs and vegetables. The mainly herbaceous rose garden leads onto a glorious informal rockery and bog garden, where the River Heddon tumbles into the three recently renovated stew ponds. Behind this detail is a backdrop of mature oaks, beeches and acers, as well as a wide range of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias.
A 16th century watermill with an 18 feet overshot wheel, restored from derelict and maintained in full working order together with a wealth of information and associated machinery. Unique stoneware, earthenware and raku pottery made at the mill with hands-on make-a-pot-at-the-wheel sessions. Firing, glazing and onward posting of the finished article can all be arranged on the day.
The Elliott Gallery houses a dramatic exhibition of paintings, sculpture and craftwork, one of the largest collections in North Devon, from local landscapes to more abstract and imaginative works. Many of the original works of art on display at the gallery are for sale. As well as paintings, the displays include pottery, woodcarvings, stained and engraved glass, model ships and much more, by both local North Devon craftsmen and nationally known artists.
North Devon can boast 8 golf courses tailored to the needs and expertise of the individual golfer. Pay-and-play public courses, private courses, championship courses, ranges, golf schools, links (the oldest links course in England at the Royal North Devon Golf Club, Westward Ho!), parkland, heathland and countryside courses are all here for the playing, and all are within 45 minutes drive of Bonnicott House! All arrangements can be made in advance of guests arriving, with lessons, tee times and luncheons booked and ready-to-go.
Where to start and where to finish? Still water, river, shore, and sea fishing are all readily available and close by. Rainbow and wild brown trout, sea trout and salmon for the rivers and still waters on the fly, coarse fishing for your roach, rudd, bream, tench, perch and carp, sea bass for the surf game but also garfish, pollack, mullet, ray, tope, cod and whiting in their seasons and right environments, Expert tuition is there to be tapped-into, but equally the waters are also there so you can just tackle-up and get on with it!
There is abundant local shooting for all abilities at the North Devon Shooting Ground and South West Shooting School, both within 25 minutes of Bonnicott House. The North Devon Shooting Ground offers clay target shooting at one of North Devon's oldest grounds (established 1979), a beautiful natural valley and targets for all standards with professional qualified instruction. The South West Shooting School is a championship ground in Ilfracombe, offering clay Pigeon shooting supervised by a qualified coach and champion shot in a beautiful natural valley setting. Bonnicott House has a gun cupboard for the use of guests.
Riding lessons, trekking and hacks are all available from farms and established riding stables locally, all within 20 minutes of Bonnicott House. Take the high road up over Exmoor or follow the coastal route to enjoy the stunning scenery. Have horse will travel.
Paint-balling, go-karting, quad-biking, 4-by-4 driving are all available locally, as well as the usual water sports associated with a coastal town. Kayaking on the East Lyn, surfing off Lynmouth beach (as the saying goes – “if you can surf off Lynmouth you can surf anywhere in the world”), kite surfing at Woolacombe, Croyde or Saunton sands and sea fishing.