The world is a beautiful place. You can't escape the influx of stupidly photogenic landscapes when you're addicted to reading blogs/scrolling Instagram/losing hours to Pinterest. I think the most common comment I leave on other people's blog posts is "that's another one to add to my bucket list!" (which really is an ever-expanding list - so many places to visit and things to eat and so little time, goddammit).
But these places are usually quite far-flung. They're dramatic mountains in Canada or ambitiously vertical cities in the East. They're luxury hotels on stilts teetering above azure waters or rolling vineyards in warmer climes. I hadn't realised that there were comparable beauties so close to home.
And when I mean close to home, I mean in the same damn county as my current address. What the actual hell. Say hello to the Lynton-Combe Martin section of the South West Coast Path:
One of the main deciding factors when I booked our anniversary trip to Lynton (aside from the step-back-in-time hotel, the genuinely jaw-dropping views over the Bristol Channel and the charming seaside town) was the local walking scene. The South West Coast Path stretches for 630 miles, from Poole in Dorset, all around the Cornish peninsula, before finishing in Minehead in North Devon. It's the longest National Trail in the UK (for now, anyway - the incredibly ambitious England Coast Path is currently underway!!) I've wanted to walk the entire SWCP for quite a while now - seeing as we only had one full day in Lynton, we decided to make the most of it by tackling as much of the path as we could.
The first point of note was the dramatic Valley of the Rocks. Now. Why I had not heard of this place before is beyond me. If you have a car, it's easily in reach of Exeter for a day-trip and is quite honestly, the most incredible coastline I have ever come across in my life.
As we started off from Lynton (our hotel being conveniently on the same level as the path, saving us from having to climb up from sea level), the path ahead of us would veer sharply around corners, leaving nothing but a huge, uninterrupted blue ahead of us. Each turn would produce another noteworthy view, another image to snap up on my camera before I did the unthinkable and simply looked at it before forgetting it forever. And then we came across the Valley. Huge, craggy rocks towering above the waves, as if they owned the water. They were more like a series of prehistoric castles gilded in green velvet and sunlight and the sheer scale of them was enough to make me stop and stare and not want to move ever.
Whilst the Valley was the most impressive point of the walk, the rest of it was still undoubtedly up there with the most beautiful hikes we've ever completed together. Which is saying a lot! We meandered through gently rolling fields, along country lanes, through forests and out onto the open hills.
Admittedly, I did start thinking about turning back at Heddon's Mouth which is pretty much halfway to Combe Martin. Here, the SWCP drops down to sea level before climbing straight back up those steep cliffs again on the other side of the river. It makes for a very uncomfortable walk if your thighs are as lazy as mine are...
Luckily, we found a perfect little resting place for a spot of lunch immediately after! See Michele's face? That's how my legs felt.
From that point onwards, the terrain was much more predictable. We were mainly out in the open, meaning that the views went on for miles and miles. Having grown up in Margate, we don't have much open countryside like this and the cliffs are much closer to sea level. There's something about being so high up above the sea that absolutely blows me away.
As gorgeous and wonderful (etc. etc. etc.) as it all was, I was incredibly relieved when Combe Martin began to slip into view. I love long distance walking but there's only a certain amount of walking I can do before I begin to wonder why I didn't just spend the day on the sofa, googling pictures of pretty places instead. Like... I did 38,000 steps in that single day. 38k. That's basically my weekly average at the moment (on a good week...) And it wasn't even flat most of the time, that includes a lot of ascents and descents and manoeuvring goats etc.
As we made our final, blissful descent into Combe Martin, we passed a family with a boy on the brink of adolescence. He was complaining about the walk from the town up to a viewpoint on the cliffs overhead. I could completely sympathise with him - this is basically how I always feel at some point in a walk. Especially when it comes to the uphill bit. But if I've learnt anything over the years, it's the hardest walks that yield the greatest rewards - those endless views, that infinite silence, that limitless sense of achievement.
(Except for that one really crappy walk when the ascent was as persistent as the rain and fog but we'll gloss over that).
I can't wait to get back and complete the rest of this wonderful trail.