Two villages on the coast, one above the other, Lynton and Lynmouth where known by the
Victorians as Little Switzerland. Lynton is an attractive village with a
museum and good range of restaurants, cafes, tea shops and 'art/craft'
shops. There are many hotels and guest houses in Lynton and Lynmouth. The town hall
grand and is home to the Visitor Centre as well as films, drama and exhibitions.
600 feet below Lynton is the small harbour
of Lynmouth. The two villages are linked by a
famous and ingenius cliff railway
which is well worth a ride.
Two rivers - the East Lyn and the Hoaroak - combine just inland from the harbour at
Watersmeet and sweep down a spectacular gorge and through the village to the
sea. Reminders of the disaster
in 1952, when the rivers flooded and a
torrent of water washed many cottages into the sea with great loss of life, can
be seen in the Memorial Hall.
There are some lovely walks
from Lynmouth, notably up the river gorge to Watersmeet where
the National Trust have a shop and tea rooms, West along the coast path to the
Valley of Rocks with its wonderful scenery and flock of wild goats or round
Hollerday Hill overlooking Lynton (see 'History' below).
Lynton Farmers Market: First Saturday each month. 10.00am Town Hall.
There is a village cinema
in Lynton with an interesting program - see website
Lynton and Lynmouth owe a great deal to one very generous benefactor - Sir George Newnes,
the publisher who loved the place and lived at a great mansion called Hollerday
House. The place unfortunately burned to the ground in 1913 in mysterious
circumstances. The house was built on Hollerday Hill above Lynton.
The hill is now mainly wooded and there is a nice walk up from behind the Town
Hall. The site of the house can be seen along with the remains of an Iron
Age settlement on the hill top. There are some great views east to
Foreland Point and west along the Valley of Rocks.
The steep gradient between the two villages had always been a
deterrent to visitors and hard work for the locals. In 1887 Newnes and
Thomas Hewitt (later Sir Thomas Hewitt K.C.) began a project, using the recently
patented invention by local engineer Bob Jones, to lay a 900 foot twin
track up the 1 in 1.75 gradient. The railway was opened in 1890 and apart
from new track in 1908 operates now as it always has. The total cost of
the project was £8,000 and there has never been an accident.
In the early
days of motoring when the road hill was too steep for cars between the two
villages the railway transported cars up the gradient for between 7s. 6d. and
10s. 6d. depending on the size of the car!
A few years later in 1895 Newnes got involved in a project to build a light railway
linking Lynton to Barnstaple. Newnes became chairman of the development
company. The project was plagued with difficulties, not least a
cost-overrun of 100% ! However they persevered and the first train ran on
11 May 1898. They ran four locomotives and sixteen coaches initially and the
average speed was about 12 mph. The
route was extremely beautiful and included crossing Chelfham Viaduct - the
largest narrow gauge railway viaduct ever built in Britain. Just a couple
of miles to the west of the National Park, this structure was refurbished during
2000 at a total cost in the region of one million pounds. It is now in
running order (but there is no public access to the top). The line
struggled financially and it was not until 1913 that the company managed to pay
a 0.5% dividend!
In 1923 The Southern Railway bought the
line and lost £60,000 in the next twelve years. The railway was finally
closed on 29 September 1935. A major project is under way to fully
restore the line - see the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway web site