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A Heritage Bus Ride along the coast road

08/07/2015

Lynmouth streetIs this the most scenic bus ride in the country? The 300 service between Minehead and Lynmouth and back has to be a contender. This is a seasonal service using a Heritage Bus, so think yourself back to the 50’s and enjoy a classic slow ride taking one and a quarter hours each way. It runs from the end of May to the beginning of September, Tuesdays to Sundays, so not Mondays! This is a tourist route so concessions are not accepted. It gives you either 15 minutes or 5 hours 15 minutes to enjoy Lynton and Lynmouth.

Starting at Minehead, the bus starts from another hark back to the old days at Minehead Railway Station, home to the West Somerset railway, a steam heritage line. The bus leaves at 10.00 and 14.00hours. Having found its way out of Minehead the first stop is at Selworthy Turn, which is a short walk to the National Trust village of Selworthy. This picturesque village has thatched cottages around a village green, the road bypassing the village leaving it peaceful and untouched. From here there are walks on to Selworthy Beacon with wide views across Porlock Vale and over to Wales. You can walk the South West Coast Path back to Minehead, an easy downhill walk.

The next stop is for Allerford with its well-known pack-horse bridge and the West Somerset Rural Life Museum. Just down the road from there is the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre with birds of prey, horse riding and tea gardens. The bus then reaches the village of Porlock stopping at St Dubricius church. Porlock has a wonderful choice of small shops and the Doverhay Manor Museum. From here you can walk to Porlock Weir and to the Porlock Marsh and shingle ridge.

The old bus now diverts off the main road to avoid the infamous Porlock Hill, with its 1:4 hairpin bends. Instead it takes the Porlock Toll Road which winds its way up through woodland then opening to views across countryside to the sea. It then reaches the top of Porlock Hill by the restored AA patrol box. Back on the main road the going becomes more easy for the bus and soon wide views open up. Initially looking towards Exmoor one soon gets a glimpse of Oare church where Lorna Doone married John Ridd and was shot by the villainous Carver Doone in RD Blackmore’s story.

One now reaches County Gate where there are some stunning views into the Doone Valley and along the East Lyn River valley. Continuing on, more views open up across Exmoor. On reaching the road hard back on the left to Brendon the bus crosses a cattle grid and here there is a very good chance of seeing Exmoor ponies close up. There are also more magnificent views over the meandering wooded valley of the East Lyn called Chiselcombe. This view was used on a Royal Mail stamp a few years back. The road now starts to lose height passing through Countisbury, a good place to reach the South West Coast Path and a walk either down to Lynmouth or back towards Porlock.

Staying on the bus one now reaches Countisbury Hill and the reward of wide-open coastal views down to Lynmouth and across the Wales. The road descends into woodland and steepens as it reaches the end of the journey at Lynmouth. The bus makes the return journey leaving in 15 minutes at 11.30 or at 16.30.

There is lots to do in Lynmouth. The Cliff Railway takes you up a steep 500 foot cliff using just the power of the weight of water, using a balancing-act between the two cars, to reach Lynton. The East and West Lyn Rivers meet and go out to sea here. There is a small harbour overlooked by the Rhenish Tower used to store sea water for bathing. The Lyn and Exmoor Museum is just up from the car park. There is a delightful 2.5 mile walk alongside the East Lyn River to Watersmeet (NT) an old fishing lodge now offering a National Trust shop and tea gardens. You can walk back on the other side of the river for about the first half of the 2.5 mile walk back. In the other direction from Lynton you can walk along to the Valley of Rocks, a unique valley also with a tea rooms and feral goats. The Exmoor National Park Visitor Centre is also next to the bottom of the cliff railway with lots of interesting information on Exmoor.

You can of course do this in the other direction, leaving Lynmouth at 11.30. This gives you 1 hours 10 minutes in Minehead before the return bus goes at 14.00. As long as the weather is clear, this makes a great day out.

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