Lundy Island, Devon

Britain’s own mini Galapagos, Lundy Island’s wild coastline harbours unique species of flora and fauna

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Lying just 12 miles off the coast of Devon, Lundy Island is as wild and untamed as the fierce Atlantic that batters its west coast. With a tempestuous history and endemic species, this sea-battered wilderness has more to capture visitors than its size would suggest. 

From the Marisco Tavern head in a southeasterly direction, passing St Helena’s Church, now used to display information on the wildlife and unique flora Lundy is famed for. Walk towards the castle, built by Henry III in 1242. Benson’s Cave, beneath you, is named after Thomas Benson, a Devon politician who secured a contract in 1748 to ship convicts overseas. Instead he brought them to Lundy where they were put to work on the island and made to excavate the cave as a hideout for Benson’s contraband.

Take the lower path past the castle; there are no signposts on Lundy, but from here on the aim is to hug the southwest coastline (though not too close, as the wind can be strong). Watch out for peregrine falcons and grey seals at Seal’s Hole.

The coast here bears the full brunt of the Atlantic winds, so you won’t see any trees, but heather and maritime grasses thrive.

Continue through bracken and climb a stile to reach Benjamin’s Chair, a deep grassy step named after one of the many shipwrecks that have run ashore on Lundy. Bear left through bracken to Great Shutter Rock; a sea cave called Devil’s Limekiln comes into view shortly after.

Like Dartmoor, Lundy hosts a letterbox trail, a treasure hunt of hidden boxes containing a message pad inside. The most extreme is found at Goats’ Island, 120m down a daunting rocky incline. If you prefer to keep on solid ground, continue on the coast path towards the Old Light lighthouse, keeping an eye out for Lundy’s feral goats.

Pass through a gate at Beacon’s Hill and enter the vast wilderness of Ackland’s Moor. After 500m bear left towards the coast. Climb a stile at the Quarter Wall then continue on the path across the moor. Soon deep crevices reveal a gnarled terrain – scars left after an earthquake in 1755. Proceed cautiously to the right of the earthquake zone.

After 300m, Punchbowl Valley feeds into Jenny’s Cove and hosts the largest seabird colony in the West Country. Turn right and cut across to the east coast; a heavily quarried landscape bears the scars of Lundy’s industrial past.

Bear left to the hospital ruins, then pass the ruins of quarry cottages and through a gate. Conservationists have cut back the plants here to safeguard the Lundy cabbage. Two unique beetle species feed on it and they, like the plant itself, are found nowhere else.

The path snakes towards Millcombe House, once owned by the Heaven family, who owned the island in the 19th century. Right of the house, climb the steps to the Marisco Tavern, where you can rest before boarding the MS Oldenburg back  to the mainland.

Useful Information

Terrain

Rocky paths and grassy moors. Walking boots and windproofs are necessary.

How to get there by boat: Sail from Bideford and Ilfracombe in just under two hours.

www.lundyisland.co.uk

Adult day return £30, child £15, infant (under 4 years) £5, family ticket £70.

Refreshments

Marisco Tavern

Lundy EX39 2LY

% 01271 863636

Map

Ordnance Survey Explorer map 139. Grid ref: SS 145 437

More info

Lundy Island

www.lundyisland.co.uk

National Trust

www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Landmark Trust

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www.landmarktrust.org.uk