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Travel & Holidays in later life


The neighbouring North Devon resorts of Lynmouth and Lynton are completely different in character, but are like Siamese twins connected by a water-powered cliff railway.

Lynmouth started life centuries ago as a simple fishing village at the mouth of River Lyn, which flows down from Exmoor. Lynton - perched on a 500-ft cliff-top - expanded much later, during Victorian and Edwardian times.

The two villages first began charming visitors in Napoleonic times, when leisured travellers decided that holidays in southern France were not so healthy. 

Attracted by the dramatic scenery, poets also came for inspiration, including Wordsworth, Coleridge and Hazlitt. Coleridge launched into writing the ballad of "The Ancient Mariner" when he viewed Lynmouth harbour.


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How to get there

By Car: M5 Exit 27 onto A361.

Public transport: train or bus to Barnstaple, then bus 300 to Lynton.



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Shelley and his 17-year-old wife spent nine weeks in Lynmouth and called the area "Little Switzerland" - a description which has stuck. 

All these romantic, scenic and poetic links attracted well-off Victorians, who built substantial houses on higher-level Lynton. These houses have long since been converted into holiday hotels andThe widened river bed and substantial banks at Lynmouth, following the devastating flood of 1952. guest-houses.

In Lynmouth a 14th century thatched smuggler's inn is now the Rising Sun hotel, complete with a Shelley's Cottage annexe. But that's not the same as Shelley's Hotel, which insists that "Shelley slept here." It also claims the resident ghost of the poet's teenage wife, Harriet, who occasionally wanders through the renovated love-nest. 

During the 19th century, Lynton's growth was handicapped by the steep 500-ft climb from sea level. The zigzag road was a big strain on transport by pony, donkey or horse, whether used for carrying people, coal or household supplies. 

The solution - a water-powered cliff railway - was funded by a rich London publisher, Sir George Newnes, who established famous magazines like 'The Strand' and 'Tit-Bits'. The magazines have long since died, but the railway has worked perfectly since 1890. It's now a listed monument and is high among North Devon's most popular attractions.

Each of the two cable cars can hold 40 passengers. The system is moved up and down by the weight of 700 gallons of water piped from the West Lyn river into a tank underneath the top car, which empties out at the bottom. The incline is one to 1.75. 

Lynton Town Hall In the same year, 1890, a splendid Town Hall was completed, looking as though lifted from a very prosperous Swiss town. 

From spring until autumn, the building is smothered with flowers - part of an 'In Bloom' project of Lynton and Lynmouth that wins national awards. A gardener's delight!

Another of Sir George's projects was the opening in 1898 of the 19-mile narrow-gauge Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, which featured glorious views across Exmoor. The service died about 70 years ago, but a one mile section has now been restored by a railway society and runs along the Hebbon Valley near Parracombe. Operating times can be found on the society's web site .

The twin resorts are popular destinations on day trips from other resorts like Ilfracombe. But they also make a good centre for anyone wanting to explore the scenic beauty of the Heritage Coast and especially of Exmoor National Park itself.

The Southwest Coast Path is routed through Lynmouth and Lynton. The National Park offers 600 miles of marked footpaths and cycle trails across a wide range of gorgeous scenery. Bikes are easily hired locally. There's wildlife to spot: ponies, buzzards and red deer. 

Wild mountain goats use the Valley of the Rocks as their playground, only a one-mile coastal walk west of Lynmouth. The action of wind on stone and shale has created weird formations in this gorge between two ridges of hills.

In complete contrast is the beautiful tree-lined valley that climbs beside the Lyn River to Watersmeet House, built 1832 as a fishing lodge where two rivers meet. It's National Trust property with a teashop and information centre. In Lynton the 16th-century stone-built St Vincent's Cottage is now the Lyn & Exmoor Museum. It displays the local Exmoor lifestyle of the past 200 years, and includes the tools and products of traditional craftsmen. 

In fact craft workers are still active in the area, and you'll find their products in the numerous souvenir shops. But the widest range is available at the traditional Pannier and Craft Market which has been held at Barnstaple since 1855. 

A Rhenish-style tower was built in mid-19th century at Lynmouth harbour. Exmoor is a walkers paradise where visitors can freely wander or they can join one of the many guided walks that are led by National Park rangers.

A typical springtime walk could follow up the East Lyn River, to enjoy the primroses, violets, wood anemones and wild garlic, before climbing to an ancient hill fortress for spectacular views across the valleys. Suchlike events are held throughout the season. 




Check out these alternative West Country destinations:

BATH - weekend in Jane Austen territory

CORNWALL - choosing low season

CORNWALL - NORTH for beaches, cliffs & legends

DARTMOOR - Freedom to roam and explore

DAWLISH - Pioneer railway age resort

EXETER/EXMOUTH - Tour base for South Devon

ILFRACOMBE & NORTH DEVON - The Heritage coast

SIDMOUTH - Devon's Regency gem

SOMERSET - Choosing a farm cottage for a walking holiday

UP THE OTTER IN DEVON - A winter cottage haven


Books to read - click on the cover picture or click on the links below

The Rough Guide to Devon and Cornwall  - Robert Andrews - Covering the wider West Country region, and packed with accommodation recommendations, especially in the lower-cost sector.

Exmoor - High-quality text and photographs by Brian Pearce, in this official guide to the National Park. 

AA Leisure Guide Devon & Exmoor - Features ten recommended walks and two car tours, with information for cyclists. A handy pocket guide suitable for a short stay.

Explorer Map - Exmoor - The superb Ordnance Survey map, essential for anyone wishing to spend more time in the area, discovering its full potential.



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