The Coleridge Way is a poetic long-distance walk that winds through the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural beauty and Exmoor National Park to the spellbinding North Devon coast.
The trail is named after Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived in Nether Stowey for three years from 1797. Coleridge fell in love with the landscapes the Way explores and was inspired to write his most-celebrated works, including ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and ‘Kubla Khan’.
The 51-mile (82 km) trail begins from Coleridge Cottage, in Nether Stowey, and heads west through the Quantock Hills AONB. The Way enters Exmoor, rises over the Brendon Hills, passes through some wonderfully-unspoilt villages and climbs high over Dunkery Hill to Horner. The path then crosses the county border from Somerset to Devon and makes an epic finish on the coast at Lynmouth.
You explore a rich tapestry of landscapes on the route, including moorland, woodland, farmland, heathland, wooded-valleys, and dramatic sea cliffs. Wildlife and beauty is abundant throughout the empty and serene countryside. The trail takes you through some traditional villages, too, most with historic buildings and welcoming pubs.
Highlights along the way include: Stowey Castle, a Norman motte-and-bailey castle built in the 11th century; Thorncombe Barrow, a hilltop with a Neolithic bowl barrow on its northern slope; Wheddon Cross, the highest village in Exmoor; Dunkery Beacon, the highest point in Somerset; Stoke Pero, a tiny hamlet that is home to the highest church in England; Horner Wood, the largest unenclosed ancient oak woodlands in Britain; and the wonderful seaside villages of Lynmouth and Lynton.
The majority of the walk is leisurely with some moderate sections. However, there are a couple of steep climbs to contend with and the hiking does become more challenging closer to the coast. The trail traverses some sparsely-populated landscapes so make sure you have navigational aids and enough supplies. The path is mostly waymarked.
In this Collection, I split the route into four stages, each averaging 14.9 miles (24 km). Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages.
Every stop is well-served with accommodation. However, places to stay can be limited so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling your rest days accordingly.
To get to the start of the trail, you can catch a train to Bridgwater, which has direct services from Bristol and Taunton. Currently, there is one bus per day from Bridgwater to Nether Stowey at 4.40pm, the 15 service (for the timetable, visit bustimes.org/services/15-minehead-williton-nether-stowey-bridgwater). If you time it right, walk five minutes from the station to Sainsbury’s, where you find the bus stop. Failing that, it is 8 miles (13 km) away and your best bet is to arrange a taxi/pick-up.
At the end of the trail, you can catch the 309 or 310 bus service from Castle HIll car park in Lynton to Barnstaple Bus Station. From here, it is a 10-minute walk to the railway station, which has connecting services around the UK. For the 309 timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/309-lynmouth-lynton-barnstaple. For the 310 timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/310-lynton-lynmouth-barnstaple
Stage 1 begins from the former home of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Colereidge and explores the landscapes that inspired his finest works. Coleridge, who the trail is named after, lived at the cottage in Nether Stowey for three years from 1797. When Lakeland poet William Worsdworth visited, he was equally struck by the landscape and the pair launched the Romantic literary movement, right where the hike begins.The first stage eases you into a tough overall itinerary, with 14.7 miles (23.7 km) of distance, 1,775 feet (541 m) of uphill and 1,825 feet (556 m) of downhill. To start, you climb out of the village past Stowey Castle, a Norman motte-and-bailey, and reach a high point in Bin Combe forest.Now comfortably within the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you descend into Holford before rising over Alfoxton Park. It is then classic walking at the point where moorland meets farmland into East Quantockhead village. When you reach the tiny hamlet of Weacombe a short-step later, it is worth an extension to see two hilltops with breathtaking views: Bicknoller Post and Thorncombe Barrow. If you skip the extension, it shaves-off 2.3 miles (3.7 km). The trail then makes a long descent into Bicknoller, which has a decent pub, before continuing west, crossing the railway line, and winding north through Sampford Brett to finish on the outskirts of Williton.Within this large village, you find a good range of accommodation, plenty of places for food and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
An empty patchwork of pretty Exmoor countryside is yours to enjoy on this stage, which takes you to the highest village in the national park.With 15.2 miles (24.5 km) of distance and much more uphill that down — 2,425 feet (739 m) and 1,700 feet (518 m), respectively — this hike really raises the bar.You leave Williton to the south and soon reach Monksilver village. Here, the trail takes you through the pretty churchyard of All Saints, a Grade I-listed church from the 12th century.It is then a steep climb over Bird’s Hill to Sticklepath, where you begin a long and gradual descent into Roadwater village, on the road initially before picking-up a more natural terrain. You follow Church Street out of the village and then climb through Langridge Wood. At the road, the trail descends into Pooltown and then rises over Lype Hill, Lype Common, and White Moor.The trail then drops slightly to finish in Wheddon Cross, which is the highest village in Exmoor and affords breathtaking views of the national park’s highest point, Dunkery Beacon. The village has a few places to stay, a pub that serves food, and two shops.
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This larger-than-life stage takes you to the highest point in Somerset, the highest church in England, and through one of the largest ancient oak woodlands in Britain.To make the overall itinerary work, this stage would typically be 8.6 miles (13.8 km) long. However, with some great Highlights tantalisingly-close, it is worth following the extension shown here over Dunkery Hill and Horner Wood. The detour adds 4.7 miles (7.6 km) and increases the amount of climbing significantly.From Wheddon Cross, the trail heads northwest through Little Quarme Wood and Blagdon Wood and a short time later you reach a crossroads on the edge of a woodland where the Coleridge Way intersects with the Macmillan Way West long-distance footpath. If you do not want to extend the route, continue along the Coleridge Way into the trees briefly and then head northwest along the Dunster Path.If you fancy hitting some of the biggest and best sites around, though, instead climb steeply on the Macmillan Way West to the summit of Dunkery Beacon, which is the highest point in Somerset and affords terrific views. From there, you depart from the Macmillan Way West and descend to Stoke Pero, a tiny hamlet nestled in remote moorland that is home to the highest church in England. The trail then rises and falls through the enchanting Horner Wood, one of the largest unenclosed ancient oak woodlands in Britain, and picks up the Coleridge Way at Jubilee Hut viewpoint.The final stretch is a gradual descent from Horner Hill to the bustling village of Porlock, which has a good choice of accommodation, as well as shops, galleries, pubs, restaurants, tea rooms, and more.
Breathtaking views from coastal cliffs combine with enchanting Exmoor countryside on the final stage, which takes you to the picturesque seaside village of Lynmouth.With 16.3 miles (26.2 km) of distance, 2,275 feet (693 m) of uphill and 1,725 feet (526 m) of downhill, this is a tough hike. If you skip the extension at the finish it shaves-off 1.3 miles (2.1 km). The hike starts with a leisurely climb out of Porlock, which becomes challenging as you wind through Worthy Wood. The trail maintains height for the next 3 miles (4.8 km) and merges with the South West Coast Path (SWCP) National Trail for a short while. You then veer south away from the coastline and the SWCP before skirting around the edge of North Common and descending into Oare.From here, you hike west to Brendon village and the East Lyn river. For the remainder of the hike, you follow the river though a glorious wooded valley with wild swimming spots.When you arrive in the villages of Lynmouth and Lynton it is worth taking some time to explore as there is lots to see. For an epic finish, catch the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway — the highest and steepest fully-water-powered railway in the UK — to the Lynmouth Viewpoint. If you fancy pushing it further still, hike less than a mile further to finish atop Hollerday Hill, where you get the ultimate view of the Valley of Rocks.Within the villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, you find an excellent range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.