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A broad river rushing around rocks flows under a wooden footbridge, framed by green-leaved trees
A footbridge over the river at Watersmeet, Devon | © National Trust Images/Richard Martin Scott

Countisbury and Westerwood figure-of-eight walk

From panoramic views of Lynmouth and the Bristol Channel on the South West Coast Path, to twisting sessile oak woodland and riverside paths near Watersmeet, this trail shows the variety of walking on Exmoor. Discover the stories behind historic routes and Iron Age settlements as you walk.

The origins of Countisbury

Countisbury is thought to mean ‘camp on the headland’, and comes from the spectacular Iron Age fort on Wind Hill, about half a mile west of the Blue Ball Inn.

Total steps: 12

Total steps: 12

Start point

Barna Barrow National Trust car park, grid ref: SS744497

Step 1

At the top of the car park, turn left and follow the grassy path to the right of a wall. When the path splits, fork left until you reach the fingerpost. Look across to Countisbury Church and aim for the pedestrian gate on the right-hand side of the churchyard wall. Go through the gate and churchyard. Follow the lane through Countisbury down to the road and into the Blue Ball Inn car park. Turn right out of the car park and cross the road when safe.

Two walkers and one person using an all-terrain mobility vehicle look out from a grassy hill, across the sea and to a coastal town
Visitors at Countisbury Hill, near Lynmouth, Exmoor | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

Step 2

Next to the Exmoor Bunkhouse take the path to the right through the metal gate, signposted ‘Lynmouth Watersmeet’. Follow the path across the field to the wooden gate. Go through the gate and walk a little way down to the fingerpost and follow the path for ‘Lynmouth 2’. Turn right here, towards Lynmouth, along the path that skirts around the small dew pond supported by a drystone wall. On the far side of the pond the path forks. Take the left-hand path.

The exterior of Exmoor Bunkhouse, Lynmouth, Devon
Take the path to the right of the Exmoor Bunkhouse | © National Trust / Mike Henton

Step 3

Approximately 90yd (80m) along, you’ll come to another fingerpost on your right signed 'Countisbury / Arnold’s Linhay’. Take the grassy path to your left that skirts high along the north-west side of Chiselcombe. As you walk, look over to your left to the sweeping views across the East Lyn Valley and to the grassy swathe of another Iron Age earthworks, Myrtleberry North, in the distance.

Close-up shot of bright pink seed pods with an orange interior, on thing, green-leaved branches
Look out for the bright seed pods of the spindle tree in autumn | © National Trust Images/Chris Davies

Step 4

Go through the wooden gate. To your left is Westerwood, a sessile oak woodland that stretches along this side of the valley all the way to Lynmouth. Many of the trees are covered in lichen and moss, testament to Devon having some of the cleanest air in the UK. Notice the drystone wall to your right, home to a wide variety of small plants – an important habitat for insects. As the woodland opens out, look up to your right towards the base of the Iron Age fort, Wind Hill.

Step 5

At the next fingerpost, take the fork to the left signposted 'Lynmouth 1¼ via Arnold’s Linhay', and follow this path as it winds its way down the side of the valley to the river. In the autumn and winter when the trees are stripped of foliage, you can see the wonderful shapes made by the oaks in Westerwood, as their boughs have twisted and curled in their search for light.

A Roe deer partly hidden by foliage, looking directly at the camera
Roe deer have distinctive white tails | © National Trust Images / John Malley

Step 6

As you walk through the wood, look for a fingerpost on your right – it's where the path you're walking on reaches a T-junction, but it's easy to miss. At this fingerpost turn sharp left off Arnold's Linhay, which continues on to Lynmouth, and take the path signposted 'Footpath Watersmeet 1'. You're now walking upstream with the East Lyn River on your right.

Step 7

Where the path forks, there's a fingerpost signed 'Footpath Watersmeet 1 Riverside Walk' to the right and 'Footpath Watersmeet 1 Woodland Walk' to the left. Turn left and follow the path as it meanders its way along the side of the valley.

Step 8

At the next three-finger signpost, which has 'Chiselcombe' on its vertical post, turn left, signed 'Footpath Countisbury.' (You can follow the path straight on at this point, signed 'Watersmeet ½', and enjoy a drink, snack or cream tea at Watersmeet Tea-room. You can then retrace your steps to this point and carry on with your walk.)

Step 9

After a short climb, go through the wooden gate and stay on the grassy trail as it winds its way up the bottom of this steep-sided valley called 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 both sides of the path.

Step 10

At the head of the valley you'll arrive back at the the fingerpost mentioned in Step 2. Turn right along the path signed 'Winston's Footpath Watersmeet'. This path is named after Winston Singleton, who was Warden of Watersmeet for 34 years and built the path in the 1970s. The path climbs and contours around the hillside.

Step 11

Follow the path, through a gate and down some steps into another area of oak woodland. When you come to the four-finger signpost turn left, signed 'Countisbury ½ mile'. Follow the steep 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.

Step 12

Walk across the field to the top-right corner and 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. Carefully cross the road and turn left, then retrace your steps along the lane to the right, through the churchyard and across the clifftop back to Barna Barrow car park.

End point

Barna Barrow National Trust car park, grid ref: SS744497

Trail map

Ordnance Survey map of the Countisbury and Westerwood figure-of-eight walk
Map of the Countisbury and Westerwood figure-of-eight walk | © Crown copyright and database rights 2022 Ordnance Survey

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