This path is a bit like a drug. Since walking it a couple of years ago I have felt it pulling me back to try again. Its probably not as physically challenging as you might think but it can be interesting mentally, even for someone like me that loves solitude. Its definitely a great opportunity to clear my head and do some really deep thinking.

Over the last few months I've been asked a few times why I'm doing it the same way around and the answer is that the north coast, overall, is much tougher than the south coast. In particular the first 3 or 4 days are very challenging and its nice to get them over with. And so it proved !

Day 1 - Minehead to Porlock. Because of travelling, the first day was really just an afternoon, about 8 miles to a pub in Porlock. The sun was shining and everything felt good. Arrived at the pub at about 4.30, nice room but must be the worlds smallet shower, I had to crouch down to get some water on my head. 

Day 2 - Porlock to Lynton. What a contrast, this was really dificult, constant ups and downs in thick woods making it difficult to see what was ahead. By mid-afternoon I was thoroughly knackered but still with about 4 miles to go. Might not sound much but I was averaging about 1.5mph ! Arrived at the ghastly town of Lynmouth at about 5pm and and couldn't face the last half mile climb up to Lynton so took the cliff railway, best £3.50 I've ever spent ! I stayed at a very cheap hotel which happened to have 3 coach parties staying there as well. Made me feel quite young - if anyone there was under 80 I never saw them.

Day 3  - Lynton to Combe Martin. Didn't get off to the best start, thought I'd get to breakfast at exactly 8am when it started only to find out the 3 coaches were setting off at 8.30am so I took my place at about number 95 in the queue ! To make matters worse some bright spark in the hotel had placed the toaster at the front of the breakfast table containing everything else so for about 20 minutes I stood watching 94 people making toast. In the end I left the hotel at 9.45am, not ideal as I much prefer an earlier start. Once again the sun was shining and there was a light breeze, perfect conditions. This was another very tough day, about 14 miles of constant climbing and descending. By mid-afternoon I was approaching the highest point on the north coast, called The Great Hangman which wasn't too bad, a reasonbly gentle climb but after that came a shorter steeper climb which nearly killed me ! Finally a steep descent into Combe Martin leading to a nice BnB and a fabulous hot shower. 

Day 4 - Combe Martin to Woolacombe. After another cooked brekafast I left at about 9am and although there were plenty of ups and downs the woods gradually gave way to the open country I prefer and my body slowly began adjusting to the stresses and strains. I arrived in Ilfracombe at midday in need of a rest and a cold drink. I seem to remember this as a nice place from years gone by but it struck me now as a town on its knees, so many dilapidated buildings, numerous empty shops and rubbish all over the place. After failing to find anywhere to stop I went to the cafe in the theatre on the sea front and had a lovely cold coke. I accidentally put my rucksack down on a small dog but he seemed okay and his owners didnt notice so I pretended it didn't happen. The afternoon slowly became flatter and easier approaching Woolacombe where by accident I ended up in a flat to myself with a view across the beach. I popped into town for a pizza and a couple of croissants for breakfast and slept like a log.

Day 5 - Woolacombe to Barnstaple. Managed to leave at 7.30am and the sun was already warm in another solid blue sky. What a difference the sunshine makes to a walk like this ! This quickly became the most enjoyable day so far, a fabulous stretch of walking along behind Woolacombe beach and then around Croyde bay. The ground became flat around Braunton Burrows and stayed that way along the estuary going into Barnstaple. The coast path joined the Tarka Trail here and was tarmac for a long stretch. It was about 19 miles altogether and very easy walking although harder on the soles of my feet. Staying at an old fashioned hotel in Barnstaple, I had booked a single room but the lovely lady on reception seemed to take pity on me and gave me a double with a bath - just what I needed ! Rest day on Sunday so time to get some washing done and maybe try to lighten my rucksack somehow, I think I've got too much stuff with me. 


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