Lynton & Lynmouth
Lynmouth is a pretty harbour of bobbing boats, nestling beneath the cliffs with quaint fishing cottages and shops lining the narrow street down to the quay and the distinctive Rhenish Tower, built in the late 1850s by General Rawdon to store salt water to supply his house with sea baths.The East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water come together at Watersmeet and flow through the village to the sea. In 1952 they both flooded and a torrent of water destroyed nearly 100 homes with the loss of 34 lives.
Lynton is a Victorian village perched high above the shore. The steep gradient between the two had always been a deterrent to visitors and a hard climb for the locals. In 1887 a 300-metre twin track was laid up the steep gradient. The water-operated cliff railway opened in 1890. Apart from needing new tracks in 1908, it operates now as it always has.
Porlock, the village 2 km from the coast, means ‘place of the port’ and Porlock Weir is its harbour. It was the working arm of Porlock Manor Estate where fishermen and builders had their homes. Weir refers to salmon stakes and traps that were situated along the shore. The quaint stone buildings and thatched cottages cluster around the harbour with the 15th century Ship Inn, restaurants, shops and places to stay.
Originally this was a rather ordinary town with drift net fishing as its main source of income. This was concentrated around the fishing quarter and the historic harbour. Tourism was late to arrive here as it is a bit out of the way. It did not really become popular until the railways bought tourism to this part of the coast.
In Victorian times wealthy industrialists built large houses on North Hill and hotels were developed so that tourism became an important industry. There are still signs of Victorian and Georgian splendour but it was not until the 1950s that the place really took off. That was when Billy Butlin opened his holiday camp, meeting the need for cheap, multi- activity holidays for working families. Many of the visitors use the facilities of the beach and town before returning to camp for their all-inclusive meals and entertainment.
The medieval village of Dunster and the castle and grounds are well worth a visit. A lane leads down from the main road to the beach. A small refreshment hut stands on a wide, open expanse of land running along the beach. This seems safe with groynes stabilising the shore. It is also a car park and you do have to pay if you want to stay. The track ends at a barrier- ‘Private Holiday Complex’. On the other side, the white-washed fences of private beach huts are proof that ’An Englishman’s home is his castle’.
A few detached houses pin the village to its beach of rocks and pebbles and stones. The raised coast road runs above the shore with white-painted railings preventing pedestrians from toppling onto the rocks below. A camp site and a large caravan park line the other side. At the west end, it turns away from the shore at a level crossing over the West Somerset Railway. 20 miles of track make this the longest, independent, heritage railway in Britain. The line meanders through the Quantock Hills with 10 stations along the way.
Watchet has history going back to the Dark Ages. Its then natural harbour made it an early trading centre, moving commodities up and down the coast, including iron ore, bought down by the railway. It has remained an active port ever since. Old cottages and shops lead down to the modern harbour. Cafes & benches are positioned on the quayside overlooking the moorings and the pontoons.