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24 September 2014

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You are in: Devon > Places > Walks > The lure of Lundy

Simon Dell on Lundy

Simon Dell takes in the fanstastic view

The lure of Lundy

As part of BBC Radio Devon's 25th anniversary celebrations, listener Simon Dell takes us on his favourite walk around Lundy Island, off the North Devon coast.

Lundy seems to cast a spell on visitors that leads them to return again and again.

Indeed, Simon Dell has been visiting since the 1970s and spends at least two holidays a year there.

He's keen to share his love of the island with others and leads several walks throughout the visitor season.

We met up on a perfect April morning – sailing on the MS Oldenburg from Bideford Quay. The crossing is about two hours. If like me you're not a great sailor, it's worth it when you get there.

The Lundy coast

The lundy coastline

The island is a granite outcrop, rising 400ft up. A stiff but reasonably short climb from the jetty takes you to the village with its welcoming Marisco Tavern, Post Office and shop and information point.

Despite being only three miles long and half a mile wide there are several routes you can take from here.

It's possible to see all of the island on a day trip, but to really explore and have time to linger, it's better to decide beforehand which aspects of the landscape, flora or fauna you really want to take in and plan accordingly.

We headed first to the pub where we set ourselves up for the walk with a hearty meal and a refreshing cup of tea.

Then it was over to Simon and his encyclopaedic knowledge to act as tour guide.

First stop was the church of St Helena, built in 1896 by the Reverend Grossett Hudson Heaven. "After he built the church the island was then known as the Kingdom of Heaven, which I think is rather nice really," said Simon.

Sheep in a field

Lambs gazing in a Lundy field

Continuing southwards, we passed Marisco Castle, originally built in 1242, and significantly renovated in recent years by the Landmark Trust for accommodation. It's one of several quirky places you can stay on Lundy.

Below the castle is Benson's Cave – a bit of a scramble down a narrow path on the cliff edge – so not for the faint-hearted. In the 1800s, prisoners were kept here before being shipped to America as slave labour.

You can still see where they've scratched their initials on the stone and if you find a ledge where they rested their candles you can rub 200 year-old soot off the wall.

Following the spectacular cliff-top path towards the western side we reached Rocket Pole. This was erected in the 1870s in order that life-saving equipment could be tested over the cliff edge for rescuing ship-wrecked sailors.

Near to the pole is Rocket Pole pond, effectively a man-made quarry, now popular with the local ducks. From here you can look down over the Devil's Lime Kiln – a great hole in the cliff, that was once a sea cave.

"The roof collapsed in," said Simon, "and so therefore it's a massive hole and slanting slope going all the way down to sea level. If you get to the very edge and look over, it really does make your tummy churn.

"To the right is Shutter Rock. Legend says that if you pick it up and turn it upside down you can fit it perfectly as a stopper into the hole of the Devil's Lime Kiln."

Looking north from the lighthouse

Looking north from the top of the old lighthouse

From here, we headed up to the old lighthouse with its 144 steps to the top. You can see right to the north end, almost two miles away. On a clear day, you can see across to the Welsh coast, and back towards the north Devon coast.

"It's 360 degrees of beauty," said Simon. There are also two deckchairs at the top from which to sit and enjoy the panorama.

From the lighthouse, we headed eastwards through fields grazed by sheep – the popular Lundy Lamb - and dropped down to a lower path below the quarry ponds.

We were out of the wind here, and the vegetation was much more lush – a complete contrast to the more exposed west side. We spotted deer tracks and you can sometimes see seals here.

It was a bit of a pull back up to the tavern, but the spectacular views along the coastline made the climb worthwhile, as did the refreshing cup of tea when we got there.

All too soon it was time to head back down the hill to the jetty and the waiting MS Oldenburg.

Lundy may be small but there's so much to explore and enjoy. Indeed, it's easy to see why people are lured back time and again. Yes, that famous Lundy magic worked its charm on me.

last updated: 15/05/2008 at 12:08
created: 14/05/2008

You are in: Devon > Places > Walks > The lure of Lundy

Simon's Lundy walk

Start/finish grid reference: SS 145 437

How to get to the start: Via the MS Oldenburg, which sails from Bideford or Ilfracombe.

Distance: 3 miles, or more to also explore the north of the island.

Duration: For this walk, allow two hours. Time on the island is governed by sailing times.

Terrain: Initially road, then grassy tracks and cliff top paths.

Additional information: There are toilets, a public house, information centre and a shop/post-office in the village.

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