"A Church, Three Pubs and Stunning Coastline" Mortehoe by johngayton

Mortehoe Travel Guide: 12 reviews and 42 photos

The Church (and a little history)

The village of Mortehoe, on the North Devon coast, tends to get subsumed in most media as part of the neighbouring resort town of Woolacombe. This does Mortehoe a serious injustice.

I am a big fan of Woolacombe but even though Mortehoe is, quite literally, just up the hill it's a steep hill and so the village has its own definite character, both that as defined by its residents and by its visitors.

The village sits on the promontory to the east of Woolacombe Bay, overlooking the ragged rocky spines of its cliffbase which jut out into the Atlantic. With the land dropping away on all sides, including to inland, it has always managed to maintain a relative isolation in what is already a remote corner of North Devon.

In its not so distant past this seclusion rendered it an ideal base for smugglers and wreckers, although ostensibly a farming community, and the Anglican Church of St Mary, dates back to Norman times.

Victorian tourism played its role in the more recent development of the village and the arrival of the Ilfracombe railway branch line brought with it the village's own station. Even though the station was originally called "Mortehoe" (with Woolacombe added to the name in 1950) the line actually ran about two miles inland, looping through the valleys between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe and so the arrival of the railway didn't actually make a major difference as Woolacombe was just as close to the station.

Although the railway line escaped the "Beeching Cuts" in the early 1960's it was closed in 1970 despite being marginally profitable and still well used by locals and tourists alike and so today the only access to the village is by private motor car and the very limited bus service, unless of course you are a walker or a very keen cyclist.

The Three Pubs

Despite its relative isolation the village manages to maintain three cracking pubs which endears it to this writer particularly. Not only are the pubs all friendly with good beer and reasonably priced food but each is a character in its own right. Rather than compete against each other the three function in a complementary manner.

The first pub on arrival (if arriving by bus from Barnstaple) is the Smuggler's Rest, across the road from the Post Office. Then in the village centre the Ship Aground, next door to the church. Last but not least is the Chichester Arms which is still central but looking downhill towards Woolacombe.

These three make for an ideal mini pub crawl which can be an incredibly healthy one if you go the long way round!

For a little more info visit my (to be written) "Things To Do".

A Pretty Much Perfect Pub Crawl

In accordance with my personal rule in that I never have allow myself a beer until I've done something either constructive, energetic or productive a day out to Mortehoe more than fulfilled these pre-requirements.

OK I bent the rules slightly by having a quick beer at The Smugglers when I got off the bus but that was purely for rehydration purposes - its was a warm day and it had taken me almost three hours of travelling to get there.

Having gotten my rehydration out of the way (a painful task though it was) I was now ready for the energetic part. The village is on the South West Coastal Path (of which more in "Things To Do) which to the South leads to the resort town of Woolacombe with its expanse of golden-sanded beach. To the North (or more strictly to the West since Morte Point sticks out into the Atlantic) is the rugged curve of silvered cliffs leading to the Bull Point lighthouse via the secluded (and only accessible by foot) Rockam Beach.

With its rugged coves this section of the SWCP although only a couple of miles, makes for an excellent aerobic workout as the path follows the undulating clifftops, never quite dropping back to sea level but nevertheless rising and falling several hundreds of metres at a time.

Although Bull Point is less than two miles from Mortehoe this is a good hour's walking and on the stunningly sunny day that I walked it I had to add another half-hour for the regular stops required for the pics (plus cigarette breaks!). From Bull Point the path continues round the headland with Minehead as its eventual destination.

By now I reckoned |'d fulfilled my qualifying criteria for a beer or two and so took the soft, but no less spectacular, option of following the single track road inland back to the village and the remaining two pubs.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Three Cracking Pubs
  • Cons:No Late Evening Buses
  • In a nutshell:Walk First THEN Go To The Pub!
  • Last visit to Mortehoe: Sep 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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