Ilfracombe to Combe Martin text
Ilfracombe to Combe Martin picture

Distance : 5 miles Grading : +++ OS Sheet : 180


This walk begins in the popular resort of Ilfracombe. The path climbs out of Ilfracombe to Hillsborough, giving excellent views back to Ilfracombe. From here the path passes Hele Bay then rounds the coast to the small Harbour at Watermouth. After Watermouth the path rounds the coast into the town of Combe Martin, with the longest village street in the country. There are excellent views towards Little Hangman and Great Hangman on the Exmoor coast beyond.

Getting to the Start

Ilfracombe is easily accessed from Barnstaple, with the main A361 road running into the town. There are car parks near the harbour and pier areas, and also a small car park near the Landmark theatre and the golf course near the start of the walk.

If you're using public transport buses run frequently to Ilfracombe from Barnstaple, Braunton and Combe Martin. For more information on these services, see the North Devon Public Transport page. Trains run from the main line at Exeter to Barnstaple, from where there are buses to Ilfracombe and Combe Martin


Ilfracombe is the main resort in North Devon and so has a very large choice of accommodation, including Hotels to suit all budgets. The choice of accommodation in Combe Martin is more limited. There are tourist information centres in Ilfracombe (within the Landmark theatre) and Combe Martin, which carry a list of accommodation in the area.

The Walk

Ilfracombe is a popular town and the largest resort in North Devon - there are good facilities here. You can't really miss the coast through the town, so take whatever route you like to the harbour. The coast path is easiest to find as it rounds the back of the harbour, then climbs out of the town near the pitch and putt course. There is quite a steep climb up to Hillsborough but it is worth it for the view back to Ilfracombe. The hill is the sight of an old fort and there is an information sign here. The coast path is well signed and descends rapidly towards Hele Bay.

Hele Bay is a pleasant shingle beach, with rocks at either end. It has a Seaside Award and so the water is clean. There are toilets, a cafe and a pub a little distance in land. At Hele Bay you have to walk along the edge of the road, before the path splits away from the road again. The path here is pretty spectacular, with good views towards Little Hangman and Great Hangman (the highest point on the north of the coast path), beyond Combe Martin. The path goes out onto the headlands along this section of path, and the rocks and small beaches are quite interesting.

The path then goes into the small village of Watermouth. There are views of Watermouth Castle, now open to the public during the summer, though it is marketed more as a family attraction than historic building. There are a few facilities in Watermouth. There are two ways to cross the beach, at low tide you can do so by some steps down onto the beach, then cross the beach. At high tide you will have to go to the back of the beach and use the road. The coast path goes past a caravan site and into woods before joining a tarmac track. This track continues round behind another caravan site and then joins the main road into Combe Martin, where it a short walk to the beach at the town. The main centre is a little in land along the street.

As this walk is quite short I continued up onto Little Hangman just beyond Combe Martin, which gives good views over the town. There are plenty of places to get refreshment in the town. There is a small beach, which has a little bit of sand at low tide and plenty of rock pools. If you are returning by bus, it leaves from the Pack O Cards pub, but also comes along the main street, so you can also get on near the coast path.

Getting Back

Bus service 30 runs every 30 minutes from Combe Martin back to Ilfracombe and on to Barnstaple. Some buses also continues onto Barnstaple Rail station from where there are trains to Crediton and Exeter. The bus runs approximately hourly on Sundays. For more information on all these services, see the link below or call 0870 608 2 608.

Photo Tour

Here are some photos of the walk. Click each picture for a larger version and description.

The Gardens, Museum and Granville Hotel View over Ilfracombe
St. Nicholas Chapel, Ilfracombe Ilfracombe Beach
The harbour entrance at Ilfracombe Ilfracombe from Hillsborough
Ilfracombe from Hilsborough Hele Bay
Hillsborough from Hele Bay View North from Hele Bay
Beach near Rillage Point View from Rillage Point
Rillage Point Approaching Watermouth
Watermouth Castle Great Hangman and Little Hangman
View of Little Hangman and Great Hangman from Briery Cave Combe Martin
Little Hangman View from Little Hangman
View from Little Hangman Great Hangman
Combe Martin from Little Hangman The coast near Little Hangman
Aerial Photo of the coast near Watermouth
An aerial photo of the coast between Ilfracombe, Watermouth and Combe Martin from Andrew Vincent,


Ordnance Survey Landranger map 180 covers this area of the coast path and is available from most book shops nationwide. It is also stocked at the Ilfracombe and Combe Martin Tourist Information Centres.

MultiMapMultiMap is a web site which provides maps of the UK, including around Ilfracombe, Watermouth and Combe Martin. The links below will be of most use to the coast path from Ilfracombe to Combe Martin. These maps join to provide the complete coast path between the two points.

Comments? Email