Devon

A Guide to the Valley of Rocks, Exmoor National Park

The Valley of Rocks is one of Exmoor National Park’s most stunning natural features. A huge dry-valley wedged between steep valley slopes and towering cliffs, its striking aesthetics give it an other-worldly feel more suited to a fantastical novel than a quiet stretch of Devon coast. Only a stone’s throw from Lynton village and inhabited by a herd of feral goats, it’s one of the highlights of Exmoor National Park and a must-see if you’re staying in the area.

 

The Valley of Rocks

A bird's eye view of the Valley of the Rocks in Exmoor National Park with the valley basin, cliffs and road in focus

Found on the North Devon coast on the fringes of Exmoor National Park, the Valley of the Rocks is one of the South West’s most stunning natural landscapes. A U-shaped basin seemingly scooped out of the earth, it features steep valley slopes on one side and rising cliffs with sheer faces that drop away to the sea below on the other. Peppered with rock formations (including the remains of Neolithic stone circles) and carpeted with lush grass and feathery ferns that are grazed by the valley’s resident goats, it truly makes for a remarkable setting that’s perfect for walks, picnics, photography and more.

The History of the Valley

One of the Valley of the Rocks' famous feral goats perching on the edge of the cliff

The origin of the valley is up for debate. Some people believe that it was created as a result of glacial movement at the end of the last Ice Age. That said, another popular opinion is that the now-dry valley was created by a former course of the East Lyn River. It’s thought that the river originally flowed parallel to the cliffs before it was eventually diverted, and that the cliffs themselves would have been much larger but were whittled away by coastal erosion and the relentless battering of wind and waves. Either way, the resulting landscapes are certainly thought-provoking and provide an inspiring landscape in which to explore. 

Getting to the Valley of Rocks 

A classic car driving along the road that leads from Lynton to the Valley of the Rocks

Less than a mile from Lynton, getting to the Valley of the Rocks is easy. A road weaves its way through the valley from the direction of Lynton and Lynmouth and there are metered car parks where you can leave your car in the valley itself. If you feel like stretching your legs, you can either cycle along the road from Lynton to the valley or walk along the South West Coast Path from the village instead. Beyond the Valley of the Rocks, the road leads you towards Lee Abbey Bay Beach, at which point there is a toll with a £2 charge to continue by car. 

Walking from Lynton to the Valley of the Rocks

The tarmacked coastal path that runs from Lynton station and runs all the way to the Valley of the Rocks and beyond

If you are staying in Lynton or Lynmouth, then walking from Lynton to the Valley of the Rocks is highly recommended. Though it can be broken up into smaller sections depending on where you start, the full route begins at the Lynton station of the cliff railway and follows the South West Coast Path before arriving at the valley. Making it easier for all walkers, the dog-friendly coast path from Lynton to the valley is fairly level and has also been tarmacked. Beautiful throughout the year, it’s a particularly lovely walk in spring when all the coastal flowers pop with colour and in autumn when the auburn spread of bracken is interlaced with the yellow and purple petals of heather and gorse.

The Valley’s Goats

Two of the feral goats that are famous for living in the Valley of the Rocks in Exmoor National Park in North Devon

As if the Valley of Rocks wasn’t curious enough, it also happens to be home to a resident herd of feral goats. Freely wandering the valley and – somewhat terrifyingly – the surrounding cliffs, the goats have been a fairly consistent presence in the valley for hundreds of years. They certainly go as far back as the Domesday Book, although some people believe that they could have originated from the Neolithic communities who dwelled in the valley some 6,000 years ago. The current herd was reintroduced in 1970 and today the goats keep themselves happy and nourished on the range of gorse, heather, bark, grass and flowering plants found within the valley.

Facilities in the Valley of the Rocks

Overlooking the road and roundabout in the Valley of the Rocks with cliffs and sea in the background

If you are visiting the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor and find yourself looking for refreshment, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the valley is served by Mother Meldrum's Café and there are public toilets available too. For alfresco dining, there’s a picnic area at the Lynton end of the valley and you’ll also find lots of off-piste places to sit and relax with a picnic or flask of tea along the coast path and around the valley too. For further choice, the villages of Lynton and Lynmouth are around a mile away and offer a wide range of eateries, from clifftop cafés to cosy pubs to modern bistros. 

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