Since the car got written off by an arse in an uninsured BMW (which I will never stop complaining about), Michele and I have been trying to find public-transport-accessible ways of amusing ourselves of a weekend.

Being located in Devon, we're incredibly lucky to be surrounded by stunning coastline and wide expanses of countryside. Being in Devon, we are also cursed with a rather limited public transport system. If you don't believe me, try travelling from Exeter to most places in North or South Devon for a daytrip without your own set of wheels.

Nevertheless, inspired by our trip to Lynton last summer (and more recently, our trip to Cornwall which involved one beautiful walk before I spent the rest of the time in bed with food poisoning), we have decided that we want to complete as much of the incredible South West Coast Path (SWCP) as possible. It's a 630-mile footpath that spans the coastline from Poole in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset. 

A couple of weekends ago, we made some headway by completing around 15 of those 630 miles.

We started our journey in the picturesque village of Lympstone, which lies just down the Exe estuary after Topsham. Lympstone does not technically lie on the SWCP but the walk from there to the sea is a pleasant and gentle stroll along the estuary, with wide and well-maintained foot and cycle paths.

(Yes, I am that middle-aged already.)

Having cycled down a few summers ago, I fancied revisiting this stretch of Devon and so we jumped off the train before reaching Exmouth (which IS on the SWCP) and ambled on down to the sea, doing a fair spot of dream house hunting as we went.

We soon arrived in Exmouth, which is a favourite with students during the summer for reasons that have always been beyond me. But I'm not going to launch into that rant again!

Here along the wide arc of the seafront, we joined the SWCP and were officially on our way!

Our walk began nice and gently on the flat promenade of Exmouth before winding up the cliffs and striking out across green fields with suddenly impressive views of the storm clouds rolling over the sea.

The weather in Exmouth had been inhospitably cool and the wind blasted our poor ears to the point that I was almost tempted to turn back. But luckily as we soldiered on, the clouds opened up along with the views.

(I accidentally sat on a thistle whilst squatting down to take this ^^^ photo and it bloody hurt.)

The majority of the walk was pleasantly flat, with the clifftops gently undulating beneath our feet. There were a few steep climbs in the first half but nothing insurmountable and there are good long stretches of rest in between ascents.

Happily as we approached Budleigh Salterton, our halfway point and lunch stop, the weather took a decidedly positive turn.

Ambling back into civilisation, we were greeted by the sight of pensioners sitting and enjoying their fish and chips on the seafront. We followed suit and made a quick beeline for the award winning Premier fish cafe to quell our rumbling stomachs! I was supposed to be going full-vegetarian (after a decade of pescatarianism) but ever since I was forced to eat fish in France last month, I've been, uh... letting things slide a bit. And there's nothing quite as tempting as a nice bit of local fish in a nice crispy beer batter with some nice chips and mushy peas on the side after racking up a good few miles on foot! (No picture taken as I was too busy wolfing it down...)

From this pretty and virtually untouched little town, the SWCP curves inland along the estuary of the River Otter which apparently is a good spot for kingfisher-spotting (again, I know I am super middle-aged but hey. If you don't like it, I would probably unfollow this blog right now as I have basically done nothing except hike and visit National Trust properties lately so that is all I've got to show ya!)

After coasting along the side of the estuary, which is of course incredibly flat, the gradients begin to pick up again for the most challenging section of the walk. There are some steep climbs to be had (and all on a full stomach - I was even stupid enough to have a pint of beer) but the views at each turn are well worth the effort. We came across the shell of an old lookout post from the war whilst a tractor hummed contentedly in the background. Through one of the old windows, this ramshackle old hunk of concrete perfectly framed the path ahead of us.

Once we had passed Ladram Bay with its impressive columns of bright red jurassic rock, our ascent truly began. We had seen this particular rise in the land coming for quite some time - it was impossible not to observe the sudden incline in the distant cliffs with dread. And when we reached it, it was no less steep than we had imagined. I don't think these pictures quite convey how sharp the gradient was but this section burned.

Out on the other side of the woods, when the path plateaued again, the landscape took on a decidedly North American/Alpine feel (to me at least!) with pines reaching for the sky and a scattering of pretty wild flowers reminding me of holidays past.

By this point we were exhausted and Michele sat down and refused to get up again for a while. But our endpoint, the town of Sidmouth was so close we could almost grab it!

The final section involved another small ascent (much to Michele's dismay as I had told him it was all downhill from there... as if I knew?!) but it involved spring lambs running around the fields so it was worth it for our drained legs.

And then finally - finally! - we began the last descent into Sidmouth itself.

As we had half an hour before the bus back to Exeter, we squeezed in a cream tea at the Clock Tower cafe. I'd been fancying a scone all day so my order was settled before we arrived but honest to God, they also had some of the most amazing cakes I have ever seen in there. Seriously tall, layered cakes with all kinds of flavours from traditional coffee & walnut and victoria sponge, to others such as blueberry cheesecake and chocolate & ginger. If you are ever in Sidmouth, please go!

Another reason for visiting is the views across the coast - we hiked all of that!

And another reason is for the lovely gardens that circle the tearoom.

Which we had all of five minutes to admire as we hurried through on our way back down to the town to catch our bus!

(Which was naturally late - see rant about transport in Devon above).

I was sad not to have more time to enjoy Sidmouth as it's one of my favourite towns on the Devon coast. We pretty much had to dash straight to the bus stop, but here's a quick picture of the town itself which is lovely and well worth a stroll if you're ever in the area! (It's much better than Exmouth...)

After our hike from Linton to Combe Martin last year, that's approximately 30 miles down and 600 to go! Watch this space!

Practical information
Trains run from Exeter to Lympstone Village regularly.
Buses (number 9 and 9A) from Sidmouth to Exeter run approximately every half hour during the week and the journey takes 50 minutes.
The walk itself took us about 7 hours, including a lunch break and a stop for tea and cake at the end - however we often walk faster than times given in hiking guidebooks so allow more time if you want to stop and smell the roses a little more.