Gentle walk to Heddon's Mouth
Heddon Valley, North DevonRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
A gentle stroll through ancient woodland alongside the River Heddon, to where it meets the sea between some of England's highest cliffs. Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Heddon Valley is home to a variety of wildlife including otters and the rare high brown fritillary butterfly. You'll also find a restored 19th-century lime kiln on the beach.
- Bus stop
Start: National Trust gift shop, grid ref: SS655480
With the National Trust shop on your right, walk down the road towards the Hunter's Inn. Keeping the Inn to your right, follow the road over the River Heddon and carry on as it curves up to the left and then to the right over the stone bridge - please be aware of the traffic on this section. Just after the bridge look to your right - Harry's Orchard was planted in memory of Harry Westcott, a former National Trust employee.
33yd (30m) past the stone bridge, turn right and go through the gate along the footpath signed Heddon's Mouth. You'll follow these signs all the way to the beach. Please close all gates behind you.
The towering cliffs at either side of Heddon's Mouth are some of the highest in England. They are made from Devonian sandstone and are almost 400 million years old. 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 large areas of scree today.
Follow the footpath until you reach the next gate. As you are walking look across the river into the meadow and up into the woodland to your left, home to sessile oaks, ash and some rare whitebeams. If you're lucky you might even see an otter in the river and at certain times of year you may see dippers, grey wagtails and herons.
The population of this rare butterfly has declined 90 per cent since the 1970s, largely due to the ending of woodland coppicing. We maintain the woods and meadows in the Heddon Valley to encourage breeding. The best season to spot this beautiful butterfly is between mid-June and early July.
Go through the gate and carry on straight. The path is gently undulating and passes a stretch of traditional dry stone wall, a thriving habitat for insects. You'll also see large patches of scree left over from the last Ice Age. Carry on past the wooden bridge. The valley now opens out - you'll see vast stretches of heather light up the slopes in August, and in early autumn the air is tinged with the coconut smell of bright yellow gorse flowers.
Just beyond the top of a slight incline the path reaches its end at the 19th-century lime kiln at the beach; for your own safety, please do not enter the kiln. This is a wonderful viewpoint down onto the pebble beach, up to the top of the cliffs and back along the valley behind you. Rest a while on the bench and absorb the myriad of sounds - waves crashing on the beach, pebbles rolling back and forth, and the birdsong. Please do not take rough-terrain mobility scooters beyond the lime kiln, again for your own safety, and if you walk down onto the beach, please keep away from the base of the cliffs.
The lime kiln found on the beach at Heddon's Mouth was originally restored by us in 1982. In the 19th century, limestone and coal were brought across the Bristol Channel and burnt in the kiln to make the lime needed to counteract the acidity of the local soil.
Retrace your steps back up the valley, this time with the river on your left, back to the National Trust shop and car park, enjoying the different vistas seen from this direction. 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 gift shop, grid ref: SS655480
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- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 2 miles (3.3km)
- Time: 1 hour
- OS Map: Landranger 180
This linear walk follows a graded pathway across easy terrain, with one gentle incline as you near the sea. Suitable for all terrain pushchairs and rough-terrain mobility scooters, but please be aware that the path is stony and can be uneven in places. Dogs welcome on leads, as there is livestock in surrounding fields. No litter bins along the trail so please take your rubbish back to the bin in the car park.
- How to get here:
By foot: Access via the South West Coast Path
By bike: National Cycle Network Regional Route 51 passes near the property. See Sustrans website.
By train: Barnstaple, 16.5 miles (26.5kms)
By car: Halfway along A39, between Combe Martin and Lynmouth, turn off for Hunter's Inn. Postcode for Sat Nav: EX31 4PY
- National Trust shop and ice-cream counter at the start of this walk
- Toilets near the car park
- Pub (not NT) near start of walk
- Contact us