Some struggles in the West Country and the most relaxing lighthouse visit to date

It’s been a while since I’ve done any light-seeking as Bob was away on the Big Hill (with the exception of a great birthday weekend away with my flatmate), but as soon as he returned back at Heathrow we hired a car and headed to the coast. Our first destination was Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast on 31st May. Staying the night in Ilfracombe positioned us well for a boat trip over to Lundy Island the following day. We enjoyed a lovely Italian meal after our arrival and spent a while looking at the beautiful coastal scenery before heading back to our B&B for the night.

We set off for Lundy on the MS Oldenburg and while we were waiting to board I spotted the old chapel on top of a nearby hill with the old lighthouse lantern sitting on top. We explored this further once we had returned to Ilfracombe that evening – realising that the best view is actually from a distance! On the journey to Lundy, as I expected we spotted Bull Point lighthouse, which I will come back to shortly. It was good to be back to lighthouse-spotting again.

Bob enjoying the Lundy old lighthouse desk chairs
Bob enjoying the Lundy old lighthouse deck chairs

As we approached Lundy we could see both the South lighthouse which sits above the harbour area as well as the old lighthouse, which isn’t far from the highest point on the island. Lundy Island is 3 miles (5km) from north to south and as we only had four hours to explore we headed straight for the lighthouse at the most northern point. When I say ‘straight’ it wasn’t quite as straight as expected. It turned out we took the long way around on the way to the lighthouse, but fortunately this took us past the old lighthouse. While I was busy taking photos of the lighthouse Bob was exploring and discovered that it was actually possible (and legal) to climb to the top of the lighthouse. So, up we went! There were some fairly narrow steps in places, but we reached the top without incident and were delighted to see that the old light had been removed and replaced by two deck chairs sitting on the platform in the middle of the lantern. We thoroughly enjoyed sitting down at the top of the lighthouse, taking in the views and generally relaxing. Definitely the most relaxing lighthouse visit so far!

The view from part way down the steps to Lundy north lighthouse
The view from part way down the steps to Lundy north lighthouse

We then found the island high point and both successfully ‘scaled’ it, returning back down the small hill safely! The majority of the climb had been immediately after we arrived on the island, the high point had very little prominence in comparison to the surrounding area. We then following the west coast northwards, checking out the old earthquake remnants in the land and the wildlife as we went. There are some fantastic views from the west coast.

When we reached the north of the island we looked down at the lighthouse – yes, down! There were a number of steps leading down to it and I dreaded the climb back up. Fortunately we were well-equipped with Cadbury Buttons, which kept me going on the way back up to the main path. We had a wander around the lighthouse and enjoyed the views. There is something incredibly beautiful about lighthouses that you have to go to some effort to get to (or should I say ‘back from’), such as Mull of Kintyre and the struggle that was to come later that weekend!

Lundy south lighthouse
Lundy south lighthouse

We managed to find the right road/path back easily (the one that runs across the middle of the island) and made our way back towards the boat and, more importantly, the south lighthouse. Once we got there, rather than using the standard semi-path route, Bob thought it was best to force me up a steep slope covered in foliage. Anyway, we made it up to the lighthouse (yes, up to this one – you can also climb up a further level to be in line with the lantern) and relaxed for a while overlooking the stunning rocks around the area. We had a wander around these rocks before leaving as the tide was out.

We spent another evening in Ilfracombe and visited a Chinese/Indian/Nepalese restaurant so I could sample some of the British version of the Nepalese food that Bob had been eating while he was on the Big Hill. Unfortunately there wasn’t a great deal of Nepalese food on offer, but it was nice enough nonetheless.

Bull Point lighthouse
Bull Point lighthouse

The following day we set off for Bull Point. It was a nice stroll to the lighthouse along some quiet and picturesque pathways. Bull Point lighthouse is really quite interesting and completely unlike many other Trinity House lighthouses. It’s foghorn is built into the tower itself underneath the lantern. It’s a beautiful structure.

We then headed east through Lynmouth where we stopped for an ice cream before continuing on to reach “the struggle” as I will now name it. Foreland Point lighthouse has a lovely single-track road leading down to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, it also has a sign at the car park at the top saying there is no vehicular access after the car park. It was  nice day so we decided to stroll on down. I didn’t realise that it was actually going to rival Mull of Kintyre in its windy, steep road leading down to the lighthouse! There were some lovely views, mainly though of the road as a wove down the hill! As usual though the lighthouse was beautiful and had the tranquil feel about it. We had a look about and enjoyed the views back across to the east of the rugged coastline before heading back up the hill. I whinged less on the way up the hill as I had on the way down and we made it to the top in fairly good time. This effort was shortly rewarded with a very easy summit of Selworthy Beacon, a Marilyn that you could drive almost to the summit of – with a bit of off-roading thrown in! We then followed this up with another summit – involving a little bit more walking – of Dunkery Beacon from the top of which we had some wonderful views across Exmoor National Park. That evening we made our way to Bideford for the night and enjoyed some good old fish and chips for dinner.

Hartland Point lighthouse
Hartland Point lighthouse

On the Monday we drove westwards towards Hartland Point with its lighthouse. Unfortunately we weren’t able to reach the lighthouse as it sits on the end of a rock with access via a private gated road. Bob obviously managed to find a way over the gate, but I very sensibly informed him that I didn’t feel comfortable about trespassing there. We were able to spot the lighthouse for the other side of the rock and we had some lovely views out to sea. Visiting Hartland Point meant that we took a brief break from Devon and spent a few hours in Cornwall. We then stopped in Newquay for lunch and promptly left Cornwall with its winding roads!

The rest of the day was planned out in my mind and I just needed to make sure Bob went along with my plans, which were to be kept secret from him. I had arranged with the team at the Society for Radiological Protection (SRP) that we would visit their offices that afternoon an Bob would be officially presented with the Founders Award that he had not been able to recieve at their conference due to his Big Hill expedition. He knew that we might visit them at some point, it was just a matter of making sure we got there then. They had made some lovely arrangements for the presentation and it was great to meet the team that I had been in contact with while Bob had been away. That evening Bob was invited to speak at a local primary school assembly the following morning about the Big Hill, which he was happy to accept. We were then provided with dinner and the most amazing hotel room thanks to SRP and I had a lot of fun having my picture taken in every room and enjoying the surrounding area of Dartington Hall and it’s lovely gardens.

Bob next to the Burnham-on-Sea beacon - much more interesting than the lighthouse!
Bob next to the Burnham-on-Sea beacon – much more interesting than the lighthouse!

On Tuesday morning we attended the assembly and Bob had plenty of questions thrown at him by the children. Apparently he’s not quite as famous as Rodney the local butcher – who had been in to show them how sausages were made – just yet! After we left the school we headed on to Torquay for the very important task of buying our wedding rings. I am pleased to report that they have now been found and are on order. Yay!

On the way back up towards London that afternoon we stopped off in Burham-on-Sea to see the lighthouse there. The high lighthouse, although very visible as you enter the east side of the town, isn’t particularly easy to get pictures of. From the land side it looks like a tall white tower with no light, but it does indeed have a lantern and a big red vertical stripe down the front. It was a little odd. We much preferred the beacon on the beach, a nine-legged structure that stands in the middle of the beach! A few hours later we arrived back in London after a very packed but enjoyable weekend.

Since this trip I have been back up to the north coast of Scotland again and seen both Tarbet Ness and Strathy Point lighthouse from a distance, as well as Dunnet Head flashing at night. Lighthouse bliss! We have another weekend of lighthouse-bagging lined up for the south east of Scotland shortly so look out for the report on that! 🙂

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