It’s time for some more island hopping. As I’ve been walking the North Devon coast a constant companion to my right has been Lundy Island off the coast and roughly closest to Hartland Point – it’s time to pay it is a visit.
The previous year I had walked the coast around Clovelly and Hartland and whilst in Clovelly noticed a blackboard at the harbour advertising trips to Lundy. When I had walked the coast path around Ilfracombe and Bideford, where the ferry runs from I didn’t really have the money to visit the island, as reliant on bus and trains to get me from Exeter it would also require an overnight stay, which made it a costly trip. Thankfully money is not so tight now so when I walked the coast the previous year I made a mental note to try to visit Lundy the next time I was in the area, which I now am.
So when booking a few nights in Cornwall I also try to research a trip to Lundy too. I start by calling the Tourist Information centre in Clovelly (sadly, such places seem to be a dying breed). They claim there is no boat from Clovelly and I will have to travel to Ilfracombe and Bideford. I tell them that I saw a blackboard offering trips the previous year but they again deny there have been boats to Lundy from Clovelly. Frustrated I do a bit more searching on the internet and eventually turn up a website claiming to offer boat trips to the island but suggesting you have to ring a number. I am not overly confident, but on calling I speak to a very helpful lady that tells me that they are offering trips on the week I am in the area, although only on the day I am planning to head home. Although not ideal I decide to go ahead and book this and am told I can either send a cheque or pay on the day. She goes on to tell me the times of departure, which was 8am, so it needs an early start, but the good news is that the boat takes only around an hour. I’m told to bring waterproofs and waterproof trousers and told where to park (oddly, not the visitor centre car park).
I am pleased with this as the price is around the same as from Bideford or Ilfracombe but with an earlier start and shorter crossing I will have more time on the island. The route normally advertised on the official website to get to Lundy route is on the MS Oldenburg, which sails from either Ilfracombe or Bideford regularly through the summer. There is even a helicopter service in the winter, but this is not available for day trippers. I am hoping it will not be crowded, as the small boat I will be travelling on takes up to 10, whilst MS Oldenburg takes more than 200.
So on the agreed day, I make an early start and drive round the coast to Clovelly, as I am staying near Boscastle at the time. I allow plenty of time, but it is quite a quick journey. I park at the agreed place and head down to the harbour and beach. All is deserted except a couple standing on the beach.
I head over to the beach and before I can ask them the same they ask me if I’m going to Lundy. Soon a man arrives and introduces himself as Clive our skipper. Very quickly the remaining passengers arrive and we can get going. Although the tide is in the harbour the boat we will be going on is not moored against the harbour wall, so we need to go out to the boat on a tender. I am in the first group and so we have to don lifejackets for the small trip out on the tender. We soon arrive at the boat, Jessica Hettie, which is a small boat. It is a lovely sunny morning and we sit in the boat whilst Clive heads back to the beach to get the rest of our party. They soon arrive and we settle in for the journey out to the island.
He suggests we put on waterproofs, but it is a lovely sunny and calm day so I don’t feel the need although I get my waterproof coat near the top of my bag. However I didn’t bring any water proof trousers, as this seems overkill and it’s not forecast to rain. We soon set off and get a lovely view of Clovelly from the sea. We head west keeping close to the coast and I can enjoy the wonderful views of this coast, which I had walked all of the previous year (although not all have made their way here just yet). Although there is a bit of spray there is nothing to worry me and I am enjoying the trip.
As we near Hartland Point I can see the lighthouse and Clive slows down the boat and says we will soon get very wet. He suggests we put on waterproofs now and so I put on my waterproof coat but he notices I don’t have any waterproof trousers. I explain I didn’t bring any as the weater is good and he says I will get very wet without and that he has some on the boat I can borrow if I want (along with a couple of other passengers). I accept his offer and soon very grateful that I did because as we turn away from the coast the sea becomes much more choppy and a large amount of spray is flying into the boat, making us all very wet. Lesson learnt!
Although the boat did not look unusual it has a surprising turn of speed and feels almost like a speed boat, but the downside is we are getting very wet. I have to hide my camera in my bag and hope it doesn’t get water inside it, as I’m not sure my bag is designed to keep out the amount of water is now getting covered with. The lucky few who opted to sit in the small area at the front of the boat which is partly covered are keeping dry, but the rest of us are getting very wet. It seems to be a while before Lundy is getting closer, and the spray getting in my eyes makes it hard to see. Thankfully, as we near the island the sea gets calmer again and I can dry down a bit.
Pretty soon we arrive at the jetty and are directed, after a brief safety talk to go up this ladder onto the quay. I leave the borrowed waterproof trousers on the boat, an am grateful for the loan since I would be very wet without them.
Several of the people on the boat are here to go diving, as the waters around the island are very clear and the seas around the island are a “no take” zone, meaning they are protected and fishing is not permitted. Clive is also offering a boat trip around the island later in the day, but I am here to walk and not sure I will have time, so decline, as I want to make it all the way around the island. We are told National Trust members are free, but if we are not a member (which I’m not) that we should pay a £5 fee at the shop. I stop to get my camera out of my bag and am pleased to see it is still dry inside.
I head up the concrete road cut into the cliffs leading up from the quay with the old landing place, dated 1819 on the left. The island is owned by the National Trust now, but most of the buildings on the island are leased to the Landmark Trust and let as holiday homes, and they have also sorts of properties of varying sizes, including an old Lighthouse. It would be lovely to spend a couple of nights out here, although I am not sure if it would begin to feel isolated after that.
As I gain height there are lovely view back over the quay and I can see the impressive engineering to build the road, and there is a little smaller island joined by a beach just next to it.
The road leads up to the village, where I pass the church. I stop for a look inside and it is an unsual pattern brick design inside, and far larger than I had expected to find here.
I continue to the village where there is a shop and the islands pub, the Marisco Tavern. I imagine this gets very busy when the MS Oldenurg is sailing. I head into the shop and the lady behind the counter seems rather surprised to see visitors. I explain I need to pay the landing fee which I do and am given a map in return. I believe when the MS Oldenburg is sailing landing fees are collected at the jetty but I suspect the staff wern’t aware there was a boat coming over today.
The shop is more a food shop than tourist shop, although there is a touristy section, I suspect mostly for the resident population and those staying in the buildings, which I hadn’t realised before were let out. There is a little museum in one of the buildings here which I also look around and gives some information on the history of the island.
Once done in the museum I follow the path out to the west coast of the island, past the old Lighthouse. I say old because this was the first Lighthouse built on the island after the number of ships that came to grief on the island, but it was soon found to be ineffective, being located on more or less the highest point of the island, it became obscured by sea mists and fog at times, so new lighthouses were later built on the north and south tips of the island, at lower levels. Still it must make a nice place to stay!
The west coast of the island is very rocky, with outcrops like those on Dartmoor and the cliffs are mostly covered in bracken. There are a huge number of sea birds here too and the island is famed for Puffins although there are apparantly only a few breeding pairs here now, and I don’t sea any of them, which is a shame.
There is a good coast path along the west of the island and below where the cliffs stick out I can see the ruins of a building. I head down to sea this at close quarters, and the number of sea birds I can see and hear here is amazing. It was obviously a defensive building, as it has cannons. I suppose the islands of the Bristol channel were very strategic to defend this busy shipping lane. It’s a long way back up and I then continue north to the north west part of the island. The island is very rocky and I suppose it would have to be made of solid rock to survive the onslaught of the waves. There are caves below in the rocks and I imagine divers must love exploring some of these. As I head north the number of rocky outcrops increases and soon the ground underfoot is rock too.
I am reminded of the (fictional) Craggy Island from Father Ted! The north of the island is more like moorland with heather and gorse rather than bracken, and flatter. There are also goats grazing nearby.
Soon I get to the nothern most tip of the island and get a wonderful view back over most of the West coast of the island. There is an old copper mine marked on the map here although not a lot to see. At the end of the headland is the North Light, one of two used Lighthouses, located at a lower level. I walk out to this and there is evidence of old now demolished buildings here. This is a lovely spot and sheltered from the wind, there are a few people sitting on the rocks reading here and I also sit nearby to have lunch. Sadly the Lighthouse is not open to the public, but I have a look around the outside and then begin my walk on the eastern side of the island.
The east coast starts off craggy and rocky, but soom becomes gentler, with green bracken covered cliffs, presumably this side of the island being more sheltered from the prevailing winds. I spot a couple of seals in a sheltered little bay here too.
The bay is called Three Quarters Wall Bay, because there are three dry-stone walls along the island (I think you can probably work out the rest). It is a beaitiful and sheltered bay and I spot the boat I came on doing a tour round the island.
Soon the coast becomes straighter and I can see the rest of the east coast ahead, a gentler coast than the west. The path wends it’s way around half way down the cliffs, which is good because it’s sheltered from the wind here.
I come across what loosk like an old quarry, with a small lake and come to some ruinded roofless houses nearby. Ahead I get a wonderful view back down to the quay.
I am almost round the island and cut inland back to the village and the toilets and I’m amused to note that the gents at least lacks a roof, which is lovely on a day like this, but must be rather cold in winter, I presume there is another toilet inside the pub. I now head around the south coast of the island which I have missed out previously passing a little pool, known as Rocket Pole Pond for some reason. This south west coast of the island is particulalrly spectacular, with very high cliffs.
I had taken the walk around the islands coast quite slowly thinking I had plenty of time, but somehow it has taken me longer than expected so I have to walk fairly quickly around the last bit of coast to meet up with the track I took earlier, at which point I have walked all around the island. It is a glorious day and I spot one of the Lundy post boxes, Lundy being famed for it’s stamps. I debate heading back to the shop to send a post card with the stamps, but don’t have time. Time to head back down to the quay, I expore the little “back” beach here which is also beautiful.
Initially I think there is no one here but soon spot another member of our party nearby. I am relieved because there is no sign of the boat and I’m a little concerned I’ve remembered the time of the return trip wrongly. Thankfully this is not the case and the boat soon pulls up at the quay.
It has been a wonderful day and I’m very glad I made the trip out here. I’m also pleased to do it on a day the main ferry is not running as I got to see the island without it being crowded.
This time I’ve learnt my lesson and don the waterproof trousers on the boat to save getting quite so drenched. We have a good chat to find out what everyone else has been up to and it’s clear everyone has had a wonderful day. One couple to tell me this is their second attempt to visit the island as last time they drove down from Cambridgeshire spent the night and found the trip had to be called off because of the weather the next day, and had to drive all the way back. I feel sorry for them but am glad it didn’t happen today.
Although I didn’t see any puffins on the island, we are lucky as Clive spots some on the way back and we get to see them from a distance from the boat. They and the boat are moving around too much for me to get a photograph, but I’m glad to have seen them. The weather on the way back is a little calmer, but we still get very wet on the return trip. Thankfully we are soon back to the more sheltered waters alongside the coast and I can sit back and enjoy the view for the rest of the journey rather than trying to avoid a soaking. Mindful of the wet crossing in the morning I’ve put my camera right at the bottom of my bag though so don’t get any photos on the way back. It’s around 6pm when I get back to Clovelly.
After the sitting down on the boat it is rather tiring climb back up the hill from the village, but it has been a wonderful day out. This was the last day of this visit to Devon and Cornwall so I have a long drive back home to finish the day, but at least it gives me plenty of time to dry out!
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