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Heddon Valley and Woody Bay

The North Devon coastline is no short of views that stretch out as far as the South Wales coastline. However, you will need to pick the correct day to do this hike, as these specific views are weather-dependent. If the sun is out and there is a clear blue sky for miles, your eagle eyes will spot a glimpse of Wales in the far distance. This hiking trail is an excellent example of the views you can catch and the steep hills you can climb to see them.

Starting from the Hunter’s Inn, near Martinhoe, a bridleway to the Inn’s right-hand side will lead you to Heddon Mouth. There will then be two paths leading off in different directions, which may initially be disorientating. To distinguish the correct path, a signpost for Woody Bay will present views overlooking Heddon Mouth and the pebble beach. This path includes a carriageway that inclines steadily and bears off to the right, facing away from Heddon Mouth.

A question found at the start of this hike, which tests the knowledge of hikers of all ages

As you hike this incline, the calming sound of gushing water can be heard. While continuing this incline, the path will backtrack, heading back towards the Mouth and giving the first of many precise and gorgeous views. This would be a good time to pause briefly and snap some pictures of this view of Heddon Mouth and the pebble beach.

After this pause, you will need to continue along this path, which you will realise is just a tiny segment of the South West Coastal Path. This also begins your hike along the coastline of North Devon, where the sound of seagulls and the sharp winds flowing around you can be heard.

A panoramic view of the Bristol Channel along the North Devon coastline

Martinhoe’s Roman Fortlet can also be discovered on this part of the hike, which was historically manned until 75AD. A small path inclines to this fortlet; however, it is surrounded by plants and may be challenging to access. You can give this a go if you’re up to this challenge, but if not, the path will continue along this coastline and then bear right again into a wood filled with sessile oak trees.

You will then approach a gate you can open to pass (either this or save effort and take the open access on the left-hand side). This gate marks the start of your stroll through West Woody Bay Wood, where, if you’re lucky, you can spot one or two red deer. Woodpeckers can also be spotted here if you are eagle-eyed.

Strolling through West Woody Bay Wood, searching for red deer

Continuing along this carriageway, you will shortly approach a tranquil road that sharply bends while declining. There will be a minute car park on the right and a short noticeboard on the left, which gives more details about Woody Bay. This marks the halfway point of this hiking route.

The noticeboard encountered at the halfway point of the hike

Just after passing this car park, you will notice another road which has been given its status as a cul-de-sac. You will need to stroll down this road until you reach another sharp bend. This is when a steep path heading upwards will be found, which you must tackle. A signpost guiding hikers back to Heddon Mouth confirms that it is the correct path. It shouldn’t be a problem tackling this climb if you are keen to discover closer views of the coastline of North Devon.

After this steep climb, you will encounter more sessile oak trees surrounding this trail segment. These oak trees are presented in various shapes and sizes, made possible by the wind's power to shear them well. Their twists and turns have created many interesting shapes over the previous decades.

You will slowly approach a clearing after trailing along the path, surrounded by these oak trees. While approaching it, Hollow Brook Combe Waterfall can be heard, with its sound of gushing water cascading down to the sea. You will also find yourself walking through a small stream with the minor part of this waterfall in view. After walking on an incline, you will encounter the Great Burland Rocks.

The coastal path leading up to Great Burland Rocks

It can be argued that this juncture will be the best stopping place for all hikers taking this route. This is all down to the relaxation you will feel while sitting on these rocks and admiring the oceanic blue below you. Sea birds are known to nest on the cliffs below you, some of which you may hear squawking from somewhere invisible to the human eye from your position.

The coastal footpath overlooking this immense amount of ocean blue will then continue onwards back along the Heddon Valley to its mouth. Another set of rocks will be found on the right-hand side, where you can stop again to admire the Bristol Channel before heading further inland. Views of the lime kiln can also be spotted at this corner, along with the minuscule beach. A small handful of beachgoers can also be spotted below. However, they may look hesitant to enter the ice-cold water.

The path will then decline and will begin taking you back to the hike’s starting point. Other hikers around you may be taking the same route, and their eagerness to get back to the Hunter’s Inn for a rewarding pint will surge in them if so. Reaching the bottom of this decline will hit you with a choice: to continue back to the Hunter’s Inn or take a short detour to the lime kiln and beach. This will be up to you, but personally, a refreshing pint would be calling me more than the crashing waves.

The path heading downward toward the starting point of the hike

If you turn left to return to the Hunter’s Inn, you will approach a bridge on the right. There are also two paths, one leading to a picnic area and another which is the correct path to take. You will need to take the path on the left to proceed, which comes with one final steep incline. Thankfully, this isn’t as big as any of the other inclines.

Shortly afterward, you will notice Hunter’s Inn coming into view. You will then find yourself walking through the garden behind this Inn, where there is a small playground to entertain the kids. After walking through this garden, the trail will come out at Jose’s Lane, which you can walk up back towards the entrance to the Inn.

The back of Hunter's Inn, where this beautiful adventure began

So ends your adventure across Heddon’s Mouth and Woody Bay while taking in sea views of the Bristol Channel. Now go forth and enjoy your rewarding beverage in the Hunter’s Inn, or even treat yourself to a night’s stay if you need to rest your weary legs.

The Travelling Foodie's Facts and Figures

• This dog-friendly challenging route will take about 2.5-3 hours to complete, depending on your ability level.

• Hikers of all ages and abilities can be amused by the few questions that can be found on this trail relating to the local wildlife.

• The gorse found nearer the end of the hike provides a pleasant aroma of coconuts, so it may be worth stopping briefly to smell this.

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