Morte Point walk: stumble over a stegosaurus

Mortehoe near Woolacombe, North Devon

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
The oldest parts of the church of St Mary date back to Norman times © National Trust /Jonathan Fairhurst

The oldest parts of the church of St Mary date back to Norman times

Watch out for kestrels on the hunt as you walk around Morte Point © National Trust images /David Noton

Watch out for kestrels on the hunt as you walk around Morte Point

Each August we run a smugglers and wreckers story telling event © National Trust / Hannah Jefferson

Each August we run a smugglers and wreckers story telling event

Lichen are nature's own indicators of low levels of air pollution. © National Trust / Karen Birch

Lichen are nature's own indicators of low levels of air pollution.

Route overview

Once notorious for smugglers and wreckers, this stretch of coastline is now a great place to get away from the crowds and enjoy the dramatic scenery of cliffs, rocky headlands and sandy bays. The route takes you out onto Morte Point, with great views towards Woolacombe beach and Baggy Point. Bring some binoculars as you may see Atlantic grey seals, which play close to the shore - they pop up for air every 15 minutes, so find a good seat and be patient a while.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Map of a circular walk around Morte Point
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Mortehoe village car park, grid ref: SS458453

  1. From Mortehoe village car park turn left past the village shop. Take the lane on the right between the church and The Ship Aground pub, signposted 'Coast Path'. Continue onto the National Trust path to Morte Point, keeping to the right of the cemetary and entering through the official gates onto Morte Point itself.

    Show/HideWorth a quick detour

    Why not have a quick look into St Mary's church at Mortehoe. The first records of this church date back to 1258, and there are some really interesting graves, including those of shipwrecked sailors.

    The oldest parts of the church of St Mary date back to Norman times © National Trust /Jonathan Fairhurst
  2. Continue straight on, taking the broad grass track downhill. Turn left after 220yd (200m) to join a footpath which links to the coast path. The path will now take you around Morte Point.

    Show/HideClimb the stegosaurus

    When you reach the very tip of Morte Point, take 5 minutes to have a scramble up the spiky rocks - be careful, the rocks can be sharp and slippy. Doesn't it look like the back of a Stegosaurus? Can you see the waves crashing over the Morte Stone? This is where many ships have come aground in storms - and one of the reasons that Morte Point has a deadly reputation.

    Watch out for kestrels on the hunt as you walk around Morte Point © National Trust images /David Noton
  3. When you reach the finger post follow the direction which says 'Mortehoe ½ mile'.

    Show/HideBe afraid, be very afraid...

    On stormy nights, the highly feared 'Mortemen' would tie lanterns to the tails of their animals and walk them around the edge of Morte Point to lure in passing vessels. Sailors would sail closer to the lights only to have their boats smashed upon the rocks they believed to be a harbour. The wreckers would charge down to the waters edge crying 'ship aground' to meet any sailors who made it as far as the shore. Pitchforks were used to drown any unfortunate survivors before the wreckers plundered the boats. The erection of Bull Point lighthouse in 1879 ended the wrecking.

    Each August we run a smugglers and wreckers story telling event © National Trust / Hannah Jefferson
  4. Continue up a gentle slope, keeping the old derelict wall on the left until you reach the point where you entered Morte Point and retrace your steps to the car park.

    Show/HideWhat's in a wall?

    Some of the walls on Morte Point are ancient relics in themselves, they have been here for at least a couple of hundred years. Why don't you take a close up look at the lichens that are growing? Lichens love pure air, which means Morte Point is a really healthy place to be. How many different colours and types can you spot?

    Lichen are nature's own indicators of low levels of air pollution. © National Trust / Karen Birch

End: Mortehoe village car park

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 2.2 miles (3.5kms)
  • Time: 1 hour 30 mins to 2 hours
  • OS Map: Explorer 139
  • Terrain:

    Circular walk with high cliffs in places and footpaths can be muddy and slippery in wet weather. Children should be supervised at all times. Dogs welcome under close control.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: South West Coast Path runs through this area from Croyde to Ilfracombe

    By bike: National Cycle Network Route 27 runs from Ilfracombe to Barnstaple above Woolacombe Bay, passing close to Mortehoe

    By bus: Stagecoach Devon 21A, Barnstaple to Mortehoe Hail & Ride stop, then 10 minute walk  to Mortehoe Musuem. See Travelline

    By car: A361, Barnstaple to Ilfracombe, then onto B3343 to Woolacombe and Mortehoe. Follow signposted road to Mortehoe. Car Park at Mortehoe Museum (not National Trust, parking fee applies). Postcode: EX34 7DT

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