WESTWARD HO! Kingsley and Kipling

About this route

Westward Ho! is on the western edge of the town of Northam, itself a couple of miles north of Bideford. It sits between the vast open area of Northam Burrows, situated where the Taw and Torridge rivers meet the sea, and the cliffs which rise to the west and lead to Devon’s north western extremity, Hartland Point. Until the mid 19th century this was a remote area. Then in 1855 Charles Kingsley set his novel Westward Ho! here and a small resort was developed on the coast and named after the book. It is now the only town in Britain with an exclamation mark as part of its spelling. This walk starts by circling inland behind the town before heading to the cliffs to the west, it then returns along the South West Coast Path.

Getting Around

Westward Ho! is served by buses to and from Northam, Bideford, Instow and Barnstaple. Buses run approximately hourly Mondays to Saturdays, slightly less frequently on Sundays.

Westward Ho! all facilities. Abbotsham: pub, shop, buses
The whole walk 9.5km/6 miles; one short steep climb of 60m/230ft.
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OS Maps

Landranger (1:50,000 scale) no. 180 Barnstaple and Ilfracombe
Explorer: (1:25,000 scale) no. 139 Bideford, Ilfracombe and Barnstaple

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Interesting information

The church was built for the town in 1867 as it was being developed as a resort. It was largely constructed of local stone.

Kipling Tors name derives from Rudyard Kipling, who attended the United Services College in Westward Ho!, a public school for the sons of servicemen which was founded in 1874.

Superb views are obtained over the coast of the bay towards Clovelly and Hartland Point.

At Lake Farm as the lane descends, is the base for Lomas Helicopters. Here flying lessons can be arranged and also private helicopter flights to Lundy.

Abbotsham also has a bus service to Bideford and so could be used as a starting point for those wishing to concentrate on the coastal part of the walk. The attractive church has a number of items of interest, including medieval wagon roofs, Norman font and unusual covered bench ends.

If the day is at all clear Lundy will be visible on the horizon ahead. To the left the coast of Bideford Bay sweeps round to Hartland Point. Nearer can be seen the buildings at Clovelly in their cleft on the cliff face.

There were a number of lime kilns along this coast. Limestone was shipped across the Bristol Channel from South Wales and after being burnt in the kilns was spread over the fields to fertilise the soil. In the early 19th century a small seam of anthracite was found nearby and used to fire the kilns.

Lundy continues to dominate the view to seaward while ahead the outline of Baggy Point, Saunton and the mouth of the estuary take up the skyline.

The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway line operated for a relatively short time, between 1901 and 1917. From Bideford it headed due west to meet the coast here then continued along the cliffs into Westward Ho! and on to its terminus at Appledore. In Bideford it ran on rails in the road along the Quay, and the locomotives were fitted with “cow catcher” arrangements to prevent pedestrians being run over. This cliff section must have been a spectacular ride.

At the end of the huts are abutments for a bridge. This embankment carried the railway into Westward Ho!, but the remainder of the line through the town has now been built on.

Photo of benches in a green field above the beach at Westward Ho!
Westward Ho! Copyright Jonathan Billinger

You can explore more in this area

Photo of the shoreline on a pebble beach

Westward Ho! Cliffs and Northam Burrows

The Westward Ho! cliffs provide a good section of a raised beach platform well above the level of the present
Photo of the shoreline on a pebble beach

Westward Ho! Cliffs and Northam Burrows

The Westward Ho! cliffs provide a good section of a raised beach platform well above the level of the present
Photo of the shoreline on a pebble beach

Northam Burrows Country Park

The Northern Burrows is a scientifically important area which juts out into the mouth of the estuary. It is a