The Walk from Lynmouth to Watersmeet is one of the finest woodland, river and gorge walks you can do in the country. This part of Exmoor on the northern coast of Devon is picturesque and idyllic, varied and abundant in nature and wildlife.
The Glen Lyn Gorge is one of the deepest in Britain and looks magnificent on approach from Lynton above. You can see it meandering away beyond Lynmouth, deep in trees and the turquoise sea only on the other side of the hills, Wind Hill and Countisbury to the left.
The walk to Watersmeet House, there and back, is approximately 4 miles if you stay by the riverside path and that in itself is incredible to wander.
There are also options of course to take woodland paths higher up or take circulars that involve climbing the surrounding hills too with incredible sea views.
There are pay and display car parks right at the beginning of the walk in Lynmouth. The more obvious one at the start is called Upper Lyndale and the postcode for the car park is EX35 6EP. From this car park you are literally at the start.
However, I was staying at the wonderful Bed & breakfast of Highcliffe House in Lynton and it was a gentle walk from out the door, down to Lynmouth and straight onto the path. Believe me, if you are staying in Lynton or Lynmouth, this is one of the walks you will want to be doing.
From the car park you will want to cross over to the North side of the East Lyn River that is coming to the sea here. Cross the road bridge and follow the lane toward the gorge, having the river on your right.
The 1952 Flood
The dates of 15th and 16th of August 1952 are etched strongly into the memory of Lynmouth. It had been a wet summer so the ground up above on Exmoor was already fully saturated and the rivers were already high.
A freak tropical type size storm dropped 9 inches of rain within 24 hours on top of this and created a huge disaster with the rivers bringing water, trees and boulders crashing through the town from the gorges.
To give a sense of the loss and devastation. 34 people sadly died and another over 400 made homeless with nothing to show. Over 100 building were destroyed and virtually all the bridges were lost. Nearly 40 cars were also washed out to see in the raging torrent.
It is a scene so far removed from idyllic setting today with low flowing water in the river and a pretty scenic town. A warning that nature is a powerful force if we are not careful.
There are reminders of lives and wellbeing in the past before the flood along the walk. Even within a few hundred metres of the start you can look across the river to Middleham Memorial Gardens.
This spot was a group of cottages once known as the hamlet of Middleham. It was washed away completely in the flood and the gardens are kept by volunteers as a memorial to all lost.
Walking By The East Lyn River
Once into the trees and off the lane you are guided by many National Trust signs plus you have the river to help navigate. The paths are clear and very well kept.
The water is truly clear and is a joy to walk beside. With trees rising up either side out of the gorge and the river flowing down through the woods, even on busy days you can still feel away from it all.
The river is a huge haunt for salmon heading upstream in the Autumn so with it being so accessible you can get a front row seat in the right season.
At points there are pathways on both the left and right of the river and even paths that take you higher on woodland walks. You really could enjoy a whole day exploring as well as taking the path there and back.
Bridges are situated at varying intervals allowing you to explore both sides.
I took a detour upwards and further into the woods too. Less people take this route and before you know it as you climb up the only sound you hear is your own breathing, the wind in the trees and the sound of the river down below.
As you can see, yet again the paths are very well maintained and easy to navigate. You don’y have to worry about missing out on the river as you walk higher and parallel to it and you also have the return walk to add that varience.
Lynrock Mineral Water Factory
Heading back down to the river I crossed Lynrock Bridge. It is hard to believe now but in this narrow part of the gorge, beside the river, was once a mineral water factory that utilised a spring here.
You see a sign of what it was set into the wall as a sort of memorial.
In this spot in 1911 the local Attree brothers built and opened a factory and sold mineral water (supposedly the most palatable in the world and could also cure gout). It also became a tourist spot for Edwardians galore.
It was also famous for producing ginger ale as you can see on the bottle above. Lack of demand saw the factory close in 1939 but alas that flood of 1952 washed everything away.
After Lynrock it was onwards beside the river and keeping the varied and beautiful setting within the gorge.
I find it quaint when a place is called after literally what it is. This is the point where the East Lyn River is met by Hoar Oak Water.
It is a beautiful spot. Surrounded by rivers, gorge, woodland and waterfalls, there are not many better places to have a tea room for refreshments.
The tea room is known as Watersmeet House and is run by the National Trust. The building was once an old fishing lodge on a large estate, built in 1832. In 1901 it became a tea garden and has been in the hands of the National trust since 1996.
As it is the half way point before turning back to Lynmouth it is a perfect place in a perfect setting for refreshments.
Back Along The River
Heading back toward Lynmouth I took the opportunity to not just see the views from the other way but to also pause and take in the surroundings. The more I walked here the more its beauty came through.
Birds of all variety singing in the trees. Dippers flying by the water, herons perched on the waters side. An area packed with nature.
Ok, let me get this straight. My timetable did not allow me enough time to discover this place completely as I would wish. And to be honest even a few days here would only scratch the surface of it.
All the more reason to get back here and walk these rivers, gorges and coastal hills some more and then some. I have had a taste on this walk from Lynmouth to Watersmeet and can see why it is a favourite of many that have walked it before.