The first time I saw the jagged black and foreboding cliffs at Hartland Quay in North Devon my heart leapt at the sheer beauty, This is dramatic scenery at its very best with rock formations slammed together, jagged teeth like reefs stretching into the sea to trap unsuspecting ships, and a relentless wind howling around the coast. It was once a busy port but the sea destroyed it. Thousands of ships have found a disastrous end here, torn to shreds on the rocks. But the sheer beauty of Hartland Point bewitched me and so I returned on a sunny day to walk the coastal footpath.
The South West Coastal Footpath runs along this dramatic coast and is 630 miles long. I plan to walk each mile in stages and this particular stretch is one of the highlights. Even getting here feels as though you are coming to the ends of the earth. Narrow country roads, trees bent at 90 degrees by the force of the wind, and few houses for miles. leaving the small town of Hartland the road narrows and heads towards the Atlantic. Suddenly it steepens downhill and turns a sharp bend. Although it feels like you might be driving into the ocean itself what faces you is the jaw dropping scenery of the Hartland cliffs. Get out of the car here and the first thing you’ll here is the crashing of the waves and the wind.
On my weekend I walked from the lighthouse at Hartland Point along the cliff edge and the South West Coastal Footpath. For once it was a sunny day with less breeze and the scenery was inspirational. I found the memorial to the hospital ship, the Glenart Castle that was torpedoed off this coast in February 1918. Fields lay ploughed and I sat awhile on the cliff top just drinking in the view. The choices here are to do a circular walk around the point itself or to continue to Hartland Quay. Today it was a shorter walk around Hartland Point via rushing streams and country lanes, back to the lighthouse as I had not been that way before. I can recommend the Point at Hartland, a small cafe that is fixed down by ropes to stop it blowing away. The hot chocolate is perfect on a windy day.
When I go to North Devon, the Hartland Peninsula is always top of my list for its isolation, natural beauty and perfect getaway for a weekend. But do be prepared for the elements and particularly the wind and rain.