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Man sitting on mossy rock with dog beside him, looking at a fast-moving river with lush foliage on both banks
Visitor with dog at Watersmeet, Devon | © National Trust Images/Hilary Daniel

Countisbury to Watersmeet circular walk

An interesting walk rich in wildlife, including otters and salmon, that crosses a variety of landscapes, ranging from open fields, woodlands and riverbanks to the rare opportunity to walk along the bottom of a deep Devon combe without having to wade through a river.

Total steps: 11

Total steps: 11

Start point

National Trust car park at Barna Barrow, EX35 6NE, grid ref: SS744497

Step 1

Walk up through Barna Barrow Car Park towards the Bristol Channel. At the top of the car park turn left and follow the grassy path to the right of a wall. When the paths fork take the left-hand route until you reach the finger post. From here you can enjoy extensive views across to Lynton and Lynmouth. Look across to Countisbury Church and aim for the pedestrian gate which is at the right-hand side of the churchyard wall. Go through the gate and through the churchyard. Follow the lane through Countisbury down to the road and into the car park of The Blue Ball Inn. Turn right out of the car park and cross the road where it is safe to do so.

Step 2

Cross the road at the end of a row of cottages and take the signposted National Trust Centenary Path. Follow this to the right, through a metal gate, across the field to the wooden gate. Go through gate and walk a few paces down to the fingerpost. Do not follow any of the Please follow the grassy path that is not signposted that takes you down into the valley, or combe, as this type of feature is known as in Devon.

Step 3

As you walk along this path you'll see areas of scree, evidence of the last Ice Age. There's more information about this on our trails for the Heddon Valley. Walk through an area of sessile oaks to a gate go straight through and carry on to a T-junction. You can now hear the East Lyn River just a short way ahead of you. Turn right and walk through Westerwood until you reach another T-junction.

Step 4

At the T-junction there's a signpost. Turn left here signed 'Footpath Watersmeet ¬Ω mile.' As you walk along the riverside watch out for salmon and trout in the river. Otters can also be spotted on occasions. The mainly oak woods are home to a wide variety of birds that fill the air with their songs, particularly in the spring and summer. You might also see grey herons as they sit silently on branches just above the river keeping an eye out for an opportunistic feed. Stay on this path all the way to Watersmeet House, keeping the river to your right.

Step 5

Once a fishing lodge for a wealthy local family, Watersmeet House is now home to a National Trust gift shop and tea-garden, (seasonal opening - please check website for opening times). The East Lyn is one of the few rivers in North Devon that can be paddled by kayakers. The entry point is on the opposite bank to the tea shop garden; it's popular when the water level is high enough as it's a highly technical route. The river is also open for fishing at certain times of the year. Salmon, plus sea and brown trout can be caught in a number of named pools. Details can be found on the information board at the end of the footpath as you arrive at Watersmeet House.

Step 6

Before continuing your walk up the East Lyn Valley, cross the two wooden bridges to the right of the house and take a look at the waterfalls at the confluence of the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water. The mine adit you see as you cross the first bridge is a remnant of speculative mineral exploration in Victorian times by wealthy local landowners. Return across the bridges to the house and turn right to follow the path up the East Lyn River, past the house on your left and keeping the river on your right. Follow the path signed 'Public Footpath and Fishermans Path Rockford and Brendon'.

Step 7

Stay on path to another finger post - follow the sign to Brendon. The path climbs a little way up the side of the valley before coming back down to the water's edge when you enter Barton Woods. This section of the walk is spectacular in the autumn when the forest floor is carpeted with copper-coloured leaves. In the spring, swathes of bluebells appear, scenting the air with their delicate fragrance. Follow the path by the side of the river, still to your right, until you can see Ash Bridge - a footbridge over the river - ahead of you.

Step 8

Do not go as far as footbridge. About 35yd (30m) before the bridge take the path up to the left signposted Countisbury. Follow the path uphill, with a small brook to your right, until you come to a sign post. Do not go right through gate, but instead turn to left up the steep steps. Follow path as it goes uphill and then gently undulates through the woods. Stop a while at the bench where the view opens out to your left - there's a wonderful view down the East Lyn Valley and across to the grassy swathe of Wind Hill Fort.

Step 9

Stay on this path until you reach a T-junction; there's a gate to your right that is overgrown. Turn left here and follow the path through the opening in the dry stone wall. Watch out for grey squirrels running acrobatically through the trees. Follow the path through the woods until you come to a finger signpost in a clearing. Turn right here through the gate signed 'Countisbury ¬Ω mile'.

Step 10

Follow the wide grassy path through the gorse, up onto Trilly Ridge. Go into the field and walk to the waymark ahead of you. Turn around here and look at the fabulous view over to the high moorland above Brendon to the left, along the wooded slopes of the East Lyn Valley and across to Wind Hill Fort to your right.

Step 11

Turn back round and carry on walking across the field to the top right corner to a signpost showing 'Countisbury'. On a clear day there are far-reaching views cross the Bristol Channel to Wales. 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.

End point

National Trust car park at Barna Barrow, EX35 6NE, grid ref: SS744497

Trail map

Map of Countisbury to Watersmeet circular walk, Devon
The route from Countisbury to Watersmeet | © Crown copyright and database rights 2013 Ordnance Survey

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Get in touch

Watersmeet Road, Lynmouth, Devon, EX35 6NT

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