No, we’re not heading home just yet. Westward Ho!, our stop for the night, was named for Charles Kingsley, the 19th century author of the novel Westward Ho!. The exclamation point is always included, punctuating the seaside resort town with an expectation of excitement.
We’ve passed many harbors and rivers at low tide, so we were excited to finally see the effects of the high tide. As the tide came in, the River Torridge water levels rose, floating all the boats and creating an idyllic scene…at least until the tide raced out again, leaving boats grounded, waiting for the cycle to begin again.
Today was the last of our easy, flat days for near future. Tomorrow we will again follow the contours of the coastal cliffs. The guidebook warns of steep ups and down. Can’t wait!
Our restful two nights ended in a flurry of anxiety when I discovered an email last night buried in our junk folder. Our reservation for tonight (Saturday), one that had been confirmed last February, had been canceled! Madly searching for an alternative proved fruitless Friday night, everyplace we called was booked. Finally, this morning, after some determination and creative problem solving, we found an alternative and managed to avoid a night on the park bench.
This morning the path led us out of Braunton, upstream alongside the River Taw to Barnstaple where we stopped for tea, then crossed the river, where we turned and followed the same river back downstream to Instow. Not the most inspiring walk, but the sun was shining and we knew we’d have a roof over our heads at the end of the day.
I suggested we grab a bottle of gas station wine and some KFC from the takeout next to our room. I was tired, but while I was showering Reg made other plans. “We’ll have to walk about a mile, he said, but I found a pub that looks like it might be a little better than Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
Sue climbs a flight of the 30,000 stairs on England’s South West Coast Path. No, I did not add a zero. But I am adding as we walk. So far, 2,159 stairs in five days, 64 miles, and 13,200 feet of ascent.
The weather this morning shot the day into first place for our worst trekking weather ever! Drizzle soon turned to rain compounded by gusty winds as we continued forward to Woolacombe, our next stop. Fortunately, today’s trail led us between hedgerows rather than out along the steep cliffs, so we felt it unlikely we’d be blown away.
Soaking wet, we popped into the bar of Ilfracombe’s Royal Britannia Hotel for a cup of coffee and they couldn’t have been nicer. As we unloaded our backpacks and peeled off our rain pants, the woman behind the bar up-sold us to orders of cream tea…not that it took much convincing.
I entertained the idea of grabbing a taxi to Woolacombe, but £37 seemed as steep as the hills we were climbing. Reg decided we’d continue our trek…after fortifying ourselves with one of England’s most popular treats.
Rain arrived right on schedule this morning. As we stewed over threatening weather reports at breakfast, two English women trekkers set our minds at ease, assuring us we could walk the low route along the cliffs and be sheltered from the worst of it.
Our day encompassed 14 miles with 6,300 feet of elevation change. And yes, we got very wet! Rain finally eased off about 1:00 pm. I think we climbed and summited every mountain and hilltop between Porlock and our destination of Lynton.
We encountered lots of steps today. Steps up and steps down on sections too steep to maneuver without. As we sip wine in the bar of our Bed and Breakfast, we have one more trek for the day…just a short walk to dinner before curling up in bed. We’ve had enough fun for one day!
Day 1 dawned sunny and warm…an ideal start for our South West Coast Path trek. We had a bit of climbing ahead of us, 1,200 feet to be exact, along the shore, up a forested hillside and across green rolling cliff tops where sheep and cattle grazed.
And then we plunged back down to sea level, absolutely straight down. It was a knee-busting descent that left us both wobbly at the bottom. The path has numerous days with climbing far more challenging than today, so this was a bit of a wake up call, and a good reminder for us to pace ourselves. We have many more miles to go.
At breakfast this morning our host tipped us off to what turned out to be the perfect outing for our last day of leisure. A short two-mile walk found us in the medieval village of Dunster, nestled in the shadow of Dunster Castle.
While parts of Dunster Castle date to the 13th century, most of what we saw today was renovated between 1868-1872. Now run by the National Trust, the castle and gardens are open to the public for self-guided tours.
I promise you we really are here to walk the South West Coast Path. Tomorrow our work begins when we pack our bags, hoist them on our shoulders and take our first steps along England’s longest national trail…rain or shine.
An uneventful plane flight delivered us right on schedule to London’s Heathrow Airport this afternoon. We’ll spend one night in the city before making our way to Minehead where the South West Coast Path officially begins. But first, we had just enough energy for a little sightseeing. We discovered Kensington Gardens just one block from our hotel and decided to explore.