Countisbury circular walk via Winston's Path
Countisbury, North DevonRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
A short walk from the National Trust holiday cottage and car park at Countisbury with panoramic views reaching from the Bristol Channel, across the East Lyn Valley and over to the high parts of Exmoor above Brendon.
- Bus stop
Start: National Trust car park at Countisbury, grid ref: SS747496
Walk out of the National Trust car park at Countisbury to the main road and turn right. Please be aware of traffic as this is a public road. Walk down the hill in the direction of Lynmouth, with inn on your left and a row of cottages to your right.
Countisbury is thought to mean 'camp on the headland' and comes from the Iron Age fort on Wind Hill, about half a mile west of the Blue Ball Inn. This old coaching inn dates, in part, back to the 13th century and is testament to the historic importance of the road between Lynmouth and Minehead. White's Devonshire Dictionary of 1850 states that Countisbury had 185 souls and "The Rev. W.S. Halliday is lord of the Manor and owner of a great part of the soil." Reverend Halliday also owned Watersmeet House, built as a fishing lodge and now home to our tea-garden (seasonal opening).
Cross the road at end of a row of cottages and take the signposted National Trust Centenary path. Follow this to the right, signposted 'Lynmouth Watersmeet', through the metal gate and across a field to a wooden gate. Go through gate and walk a few paces down to the fingerpost that signs 'Footpath Lynmouth 2 miles', 'Winstons Footpath Watersmeet and 'Countisbury Off Road Path.' From here, there is a panaromic view down Chiselcombe. During the last Ice Age the summer thawing of the top layer of permafrost resulted in a slow flow of loose rock and soil downslope, clearly visible as the large areas of scree on you can see in the valley.
'Combe' is the second most common placename element found in Devon. It comes from the Old English 'cumb' and is of Celtic origin. It's used locally to denote a steep-sided valley that is usually wooded. The Welsh equivalent is 'cwm'. The one you are walking along is called Chiselcombe and you'll follow it down to where it meets the East Lyn River.
At this fingerpost turn to your left along the path signed 'Winstons Footpath Watersmeet. This path is named after Winston Singleton who was Warden of Watersmeet for 34 years and built the path in the 1970s. As this path climbs and follows the contours around the hillside there are panoramic views stretching from the Bristol Channel, across to Wind Hill and Myrtleberry North hill forts and over to Brendon Common to the east.
From this path you can see the remains of one of the most impressive Iron Age forts in Devon, built 2,500 years ago. Often called Countisbury Castle, this fortified hill is thought to be the site of the AD878 Battle of Cynuit where the Saxon army was besieged by the Vikings. Although outnumbered, the Saxons overcame the enemy, changing the course of English history. Some historians have argued that other fortifications could have been the location of this epic battle. Whatever the case, its well taking the footpath off the A39 road for a closer look.
Follow the path, through a gate and down some steps into an area of oak woodland that stretches down the hill to your right all the way to the East Lyn river. When you come to the 4-finger signpost turn left, signed 'Countisbury ½ mile'. Follow the wide grassy path through the gorse, up into the field on Trilly Ridge. There are spectacular 360 degree views from the waymark post along the path.
Walk across the field to the top right corner to a signpost showing 'Countisbury'. Go through the field gate and walk straight along the green track back towards Countisbury, through a couple more gates until you reach the main road. Please be careful here and watch out for traffic. Turn left and walk a short distance back to the car park. We hope that you enjoyed this walk. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of coastline for the enjoyment of all. We need your support to help us continue our work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful landscapes. To find out more about how you can help our work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northdevon
End: National Trust car park at Countisbury, grid ref: SS747496
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 1.25 miles (2kms)
- Time: 30 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 180
A short walk that is classed moderate due to the steps on one section. Dogs welcome; please keep on lead if there is livestock in surrounding fields. No litter bins along the trail so please take back with you. Thank you.
- How to get here:
By foot: Access via the South West Coast Path
By bike: National Cycle Network Regional Route 51 passes nearby. See sustrans
By bus: Service 39, Minehead to Lynmouth, alight Blue Ball Inn, Countisbury
By train: Barnstaple 20 miles (32km); Minehead 15.7 miles (25km)
By car: National Trust car park at Countisbury 2.7 miles (4.5km) out of Lynmouth or 15.7 miles (25km) from Minehead on A39, opposite Blue Ball Inn. Postcode for Sat Nav: EX35 6NE
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