Combe Martin Bay to Hele Bay

About this route

Starting within Exmoor National Park, this beautiful stretch of coastline reveals some dramatic geology of the Devonian age. There are a number of very good exposures of sandstones and mudstones, and within these can be found a number of limestone bands, especially prominent at Rillage. These bands of limestone contain fossils, including corals, fish fragments and brachiopods (marine invertebrates) suggesting they were laid down in a shallow marine environment.

Getting Around

On foot: there is access to both beaches (Hele Bay and Combe Martin Bay) as well as access to smaller secluded beaches such as Broadsands and Watermouth. Take care when walking along this site, cliffs and tides pose danger.

By bike: there are signed on-road cycle routes between Ilfracombe, Combe Martin Bay and Hele Bay.

By bus: regular services run between Ilfracombe, Combe Martin and Hele Bay, see the Travel Devon website for the latest times.

By road: take the A399 from Ilfracombe and follow signs to Combe Martin Bay.

Car parking at both Combe Martin Bay and Hele Bay. All facilities and museum in Combe Martin.
Steep challenging walking, please take care.

Interesting information

A particularly impressive feature of the coastline is the large number of folds that can be seen in the rock. They clearly indicate the tremendous pressures that were once at play here and are the result of the tectonic plate collision. Some of the bedding dips at angles of between 35 degrees and 40 degrees but other examples are almost vertical.

Combe Martin once mined silver for the Crown, as well as lead; iron ore was also worked. Part of a mine adit can be seen in the cliffs on the north-eastern side of the beach. Lime burning was also practised, Combe Martin having more kilns than any other north Devon parish.

This area is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of Exmoor National Park.

There is no access to much of the foreshore of this coastline. Please take care when walking along this coastline, the cliffs are dangerous and check tide times in advance. The site can be best viewed from the beaches at low tide or from the South West Coast Path.

Photo of a rocky beach with cliffs at Combe Martin
Combe Martin Bay Credit: Sarah Charlesworth

You can explore more in this area

Photo of the top of a waymarking post for the Coast Path and Tarka Trail

Tarka Trail walking route

Inspired by Henry Williamson’s much loved novel ‘Tarka the Otter’ which was based on real places, this 163 miles/261kms recreation