Discover the towering stone giants on the rugged North Devon coast that form some of the highest cliffs in Britain.

Formed thousands of years ago, the Valley of Rocks carries an enigmatic atmosphere that stems right from its origins. Its geological explanation is still not agreed upon and legend has it that it was once home to the Devil’s Castle and that the stone turrets are actually his wives who he had turned into stone after they were involved in some intoxicated behaviour. Today, this dry valley formation offers incredible coastal views from atop the large stone stacks where you’ll feel like the king of the coast.

The area, also known as ‘Little Switzerland’, makes for an encapsulating experience no matter the weather. Whilst a bright sunny day lights up the tall stone structures and adds vibrancy to the surrounding grass and glistening sea, an overcast day with low clouds and a lingering mist will create a dramatic atmosphere for exploration. It makes for a particularly spectacular visit in the autumn as the heathland turns crisp and golden and the purple heather comes into bloom.

Although roughly an hour and 20 minutes by car from Exeter, the journey will feel shorter as you enjoy the views whilst winding your way through the trees and valleys on the scenic A399 once off the North Devon link road.

There is parking and toilets very close by for those not looking to walk far to see these stone giants, otherwise I’d recommend parking at Lynmouth where there is ample parking along the esplanade. Here you have the choice of trekking up the steep winding path up the cliff side or you can take the easier option of travelling up Lynton’s famous 19th century funicular cliff railway – the steepest, entirely water-powered railway in the world – which cuts into the cliff and takes you all the way up to Lynton. An adult single costs just £2.80 or £3.80 for a return and the carriage is pushchair/wheelchair friendly. Both routes start just a two minute walk from the car park and give you the same stunning views of North Devon’s rugged coastline. There’s no denying that a ride on the railway is an exciting way to travel and, as you’ll have to come back down to the car, why not take the railway up and walk back down?

Whether you’ve decided to take the railway or have conquered the steep path to the top, you’ll now be able to enjoy a gentle walk along a level tarmac path on a fairly level section of the cliff edge as you make your way towards the Valley of Rocks. Look out for the goats of Lynton who have lived in this area for around 6000 years – you’ll be surprised at the gradients these goats can cling onto!

Whilst the main paths stay just below the peaks of this rock formation, you can climb your way to the top of some of the turrets to get a real sense of size as well as those uninterrupted views. Do take care if trying to get to the top and avoid doing so if it’s a windy day to avoid any unnecessary risk.

Explore the many independent shops in the quirky lanes of Lynton before making your way back down to Lynmouth to round off your day with a portion of fish and chips from The Esplanade Fish Bar near to the railway entrance where you started. Voted North Devon’s favourite fish and chip shop in 2010 and family-run for 25 years, a bag of these chips, whilst sat on the rocks across the road looking out to sea, will serve as a very welcome end to your day before heading back home.

Words & images: Jake Tucker

Image 1 credit: xlibber on Flickr

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