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The Valley of the Rocks runs parallel to the sea in north Devon, with a line of high dramatic rock formations separating the now dry river bed from the coast. It was formed 450,00 million years ago, in the Ice Age, when rivers that once flowed here were diverted. The valley floor is 300 ft above sea level.
Many legends have grown up about the rock formations, giving rise to their imaginative names, such as Castle Rock, Ragged Jack, Middle Gate, Chimney Rock and Devil's Cheesewring.
Looking around me, I felt that I was back in pre-historic times, and half-expected dinosaurs to appear, but the only wild animals I met were goats.
== How to Get There ==
The Valley of the Rocks can be reached on foot by following the coastal path along the cliffs, west from Lynton. I believe that this is the best way to see it if you are capable of the 4 mile return walk. If you want to come back via a different route, ask Lynton Tourist Information for advice suitable to your fitness level, or search for information other walkers have left online.
If you want to use public transport, there is a bus service from Lynton.
As I have poor health, I went by car approaching from the Lynton direction.
On reaching the Valley of the Rocks the first car park was to the left of us. This one has toilets.
A little further on to the right, on the coastal side of the valley is another car park which is where I found the path that I hoped I could cope with. If you want to print this review to take with you, the map on the notice board in this car park will help you locate the route we then took.
Pay & Display car park charges from 1st February to 30th November 2009 are:
1 hour 90p
2 hours £1.80
3 hours £2.70
4 hours £3.30
5 hours £3.80
Over 5 hours (up to 24 hours) £5.00
Weekly £16, and 4 day tickets £11, are available from Lynton Town Hall , where permission for climbing should also be sought.
== My Short Walk ==
Near the bottom of the Ragged Jack rock is a telescope. I walked up the moderately sloped path past the telescope where it then levelled off to follow the coast in the Lynton direction. We walked along this with its mild slopes up and down until we were just past the cricket ground, although we didn't realise exactly where we were until we took a steep slope up to a bench, where we rested, before going over the top of this part of the rock formation and descending the slope back to the Valley again. Then we walked past the front of the cricket ground and back to the car park.
Going at a very slow pace, which is all I am capable of when going up slopes, this circular walk took about 40 minutes. Moderately fit people could probably do it in half the time.
Although for me this was very tiring, I was glad I managed to get up on the coastal path and see the wonderful scenery of the sheer cliffs down to the sea and the bays in the distance. It also got me closer to the top of the rock formations than I could have been from the valley side of them.
On the last bit of the walk back to the car park, at about 1.00 pm, I was very surprised to see about a dozen cars turn up with people who looked in their 70s and 80s in them. Was this a gathering of exceptionally fit pensioners? As I watched them, they all made a bee-line for Mother Meldrums. More about that later!
Soon after this, we also met some wild goats. A notice board told us that wild Cheviot goats from Northumberland were introduced to the valley in 1976. Either they weren't hungry, or weren't brave enough to try to cag a free meal from picnicers. Neither were they on their way to Mother Meldrums. I've never met a goat that hasn't wanted to eat everything in sight from cameras to clothes or more conventional food before. Perhaps I have never met a truly wild one, until now.
As well as the least strenuous walk that I took, there are many others to and from this spectacular valley. If you may be fit enough to cope with more than me, I suggest that you contact the tourist office in Lynton to find out more, as I couldn't see any detailed information about them in the valley.
Refreshments are available from Mother Meldrums, near the cricket ground, but I was glad that we took our own picnic because they are expensive. If you want to splash out for morning coffee, a light lunch or afternoon tea, you can have specialities such as White Lady Ice Cream or Ragged Jack Scones, named after the local rock formations. (The name Mother Meldrum comes from a character in the novel Lorna Doone, which was set in the Dartmoor area.)
== Scenic Motoring Routes ==
There are "scenic toll roads" along this coast, which should be shown on all good road maps. My recommendation is that visitors shouldn't waste more petrol than the toll charge would cost to avoid them, but there are also plenty of scenic coastal roads, that will not be especially marked, which you can travel on to appreciate the views, not incurring extra cost.
The many toll-less scenic coastal routes are obvious on my Collins road map by the gradient signs on them. They should only be scenic for passengers though, as drivers will need to concentrate hard because of the difficult driving conditions, which are often steep and narrow. If your driver wants a rest, try catching a bus from Lynton to get good views on these roads.
== Conservation ==
This is a site of Special Scientific Interest, which needs to be kept unspoilt by modern man.
As the only use farmers have ever had for this land is for rough grazing, to help keep the flora and fauna as it has been for years, goats are now involved in the management plan.
Walkers who keep to the paths are welcome here, but those visiting on a bicycle or horseback should stick to the road running through the valley.
To try to avoid excessive erosion by modern man, licences must be bought from Lynton Town Hall before climbing here.
== Recommendation ==
The Valley of the Rocks is a great place to visit if you want dramatic scenery in an area of unspoilt natural beauty, with a surreal appearance.
If you are holidaying in Deven or even just passing through, don't miss out on the breathtaking Valley of the Rocks. It is situated near Lynton and really is quite a dramatic place with spectacular views. It is a dry valley characterised by unusual rock formations and jagged cliffs.
You can walk to the Valley of the Rocks along coastal paths from both Lynton and Lynmouth but it is also accessible by road. It has at least 2 car parks - they are quite expensive (we spent quite a lot of money on carparking on our Devon holiday!) but I think it's worth it.
There is a particular route you can follow which winds along the clifftop. In can involve some steep climbing and walking on uneven ground so wear fairly sturdy shoes. I had flip flop style shoes on because we hadn't planned on coming here. In fact I looked completely out of place - most of the other walkers had walking boots and waterproof jakets and I was wearing a pink skirt and a white strappy top! But it was ok although we didnt do a proper route. It can get quite breezy up there but luckily I had a jumper with me so at least make sure you have something warm to wear.
It feels quite dangerous at first as the path leads quite near the cliff edge. I've got a couple of pictures of my boyfriend sat on the rocks dangling his feet over the edge! Some people even climb along the cliff faces but I could never do that as the rocks below look quite unforgiving! As you walk along the paths there are some bays at the bottom of the cliffs and there is access down to some of these. If you get there before anyone else has the same idea you can get some secluded beach area to yourself.
One of my favourite things about Valley of the Rocks was the mountain goats in the area. They can be seen all along the side of the paths as well as clambering up and down the almost sheer cliff faces and perched on ledges along the cliff. They are remarkably agile creatures and didn't seem afriad of all the people walking past! I suppose they are used to it.
I think a lot of people use this as part of a route between Lynton and Lymouth. However, you can do what we did and just have a 15 minute stroll along the paths and enjoy the beautiful views which really have to be seen - you can see miles and miles of beautiful countryside and the cliffs are truly dramatic. There is some grassy areas and benches near the car park so you can also stop here for a picnic.
All in all, this is a fantastic place. It has unparalled views of Devon and provides a fun, quite challenging walk along the clifftops.