Sitting on the edge of Exmoor, Lynton and its neighbour Lynmouth give visitors the very best of North Devon – pretty Victorian villages, wooded valleys, wild moorland, access to the South West Coast path and close proximity to some lovely secluded beaches.
And did we mention a water-powered lift that clings to the cliff edge?
What’s there to do in Lynton?
The Victorians called Lynton and Lynmouth ‘Little Switzerland’ and, with hills clad in woodland dropping dramatically to a pretty valley below, it’s easy to see why. Natural beauty is what this area does best.
To fully appreciate the splendour of the countryside, coastline and seascapes, most visitors head first to the Victorian water-powered lift that links Lynton with Lynmouth below. It’s a journey of just 300m which offers utterly breathtaking views – on a clear day you’ll see across the Bristol Channel to Wales.
Walkers are just as spoilt. There are some gorgeous walks from Lynmouth, notably up the river gorge to Watersmeet, where the National Trust have a shop and tea rooms. For a more heart-pounding experience, head west along the coast path to the Valley of Rocks. The coastal cliffs here are among the highest in Britain and a good head for heights comes in handy, as does a reasonable level of fitness. If you’re lucky, you might spot the resident flock of wild goats.
Fitness of a different sort is required for a kayak on the Upper and Gorge sections of the East Lyn river. This is some of the best whitewater rafting available in the UK, which takes paddlers through stunning valleys of ancient woodland. Bear in mind the river is graded 5 in parts, so this kayak is not for beginners or intermediaries.
For gentler pleasures, the local beaches are a real treat. You have the shingle and rock of Lynmouth on your doorstep and, just to the west, Lee Bay, which is popular with swimmers. Sillery Sands, at the eastern end of Lynmouth Bay, rewards those who brave the steep path down from the road with a very secluded cove and delightful views.
If you’re keen to explore a little further into the Bristol Channel, then a boat trip from Lynmouth offers unique glimpses of the highest sea cliffs in England, deep wooded river gorges, isolated bays and the seabirds that cling to the cliff walls of this extraordinary stretch of coast. The Oxenham family, who have been Lynmouth boatmen for generations, will take you out and can also organise lobster and mackerel fishing trips.
Finally, a trip to Lynton wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the cinema. Based in a grade II listed former Methodist Chapel, this cosy cinema has seating for just 68 people. While there may be a retro feel to the place, you can still expect the latest releases (but much cheaper tickets), lots of legroom, Dolby SR sound, full air conditioning in the summer months and central heating in the winter. A real treat!
Where can you eat and drink in Lynton?
Staying in Lynton and Lynmouth means you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating and drinking. The villages boasts a huge choice of cafés, pubs, tea shops and restaurants. But if you’re expecting a typically British offering, you’ll be in for a surprise.
After a day spent crabbing and rock pooling on Lynmouth's pretty shingle cove, it makes sense to head for fish & chips at the Esplanade Fish Bar, which sits at the base of the cliff railway. Expect a queue in the summer but the wait is worth it. You’ll come away with crispy chips, white flaky fish clad in crunchy batter, mushy peas and a wedge of lemon. On wet or cooler days, sit inside and enjoy the moody black and white photos of the local landscape and coast hanging on the walls.
If you’re in the West Country, the chances are that, sooner or later, you’ll have a pasty. What you might not be expecting is the fillings that The Bake House in Lynmouth cram theirs with. Along with the classics like steak or ‘Cornish’, you can also buy beef and stilton, and beef madras. The perfect way to spice up your beach picnic!
While we’re in more exotic territory, it’s worth mentioning Nartnapa in Lynton, which has carved out an excellent reputation for its delicious Thai cuisine. It’s a small, simple restaurant with funky décor and furnishings that sources its meat and veg from shops in Lynton and Lynmouth. Nartnapa doesn’t serve alcohol but the owner is happy for you to bring your own beer or wine. Take-aways are available too.
What Nartnapa is to Thailand, The Oak Room (also in Lynton) is to Spain – a little slice of Iberia on the North Devon coast. Distinctive, delicately flavoured tapas and a great selection of Spanish wines. Again, it’s a small restaurant so it’s worth booking ahead.
In Lynmouth, Le Bistro celebrates the French tradition of simple dishes cooked to perfection – with locally landed seafood a particular speciality. Expect a starter of bouillabaisse followed by mains of pan-roasted hake fillet. A lovely place for a romantic dinner, particularly seated in the more private booths.
With its exterior festooned with hanging baskets of bright flowers, The Village Inn advertises itself in advance as a cheery and welcoming place. It’s a good indication of what to expect inside. The pub is the kind of place where locals rub shoulders happily with visitors and an unpretentious menu serves up British classics like lamb shank, bubble & squeak or, for a real treat, a plate of Lynmouth lobster. There’s a good selection of local ales, a top shelf crammed with malt whiskies, and renowned local cider, Thatcher’s Cheddar Valley, on tap. Children and dogs are very welcome.