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April, 2019

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On your own

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Lynton on the north coast of Devon is built on top of the cliffs above Lynmouth and has good views across Lynmouth Bay to Countisbury Cliffs.

It is connected to Lynmouth by the Cliff Railway. Because of the remoteness of the area, and rugged geography, roads were poor. Villagers had to rely on the sea for deliveries of coal, lime, foodstuffs and other essentials, which had then to be carried by packhorses or horse drawn carts up the steep hill from Lynmouth to Lynton.

When visitors started to arrive in Lynmouth in the early C19th, ponies, donkeys and carriages were available for hire, but the steep gradients led to the animals having only short working lives.

In the late C19th there was a major proposal to extend the pier to increase excursion traffic, extend the esplanade and build a cliff railway, operated by water, to take visitors and goods up to Lynton.

An Act of Parliament was passed for the railway and another giving it perpetual rights to water from the Lyn Valley. Construction began in 1887 and took three years to build. The “Lynmouth and Lynton Cliff Railway”: is 862’ long and the top station is 500’ above the quay. The incline is 1:1.75 or 58%. It is the only cliff railway still powered entirely by water. Others have been electrified or use a closed water system which recycles water between the top and bottom cars.

The trip only takes a few minutes and saves a steep climb. The town is a short walk from the Cliff Railway.

Lynton grew up as a market centre based on sheep farming. It is the larger settlement with all the shops. It straggles over the hillside and has many steep and narrow streets.
Most of the buildings date from the C19th when tourism began to take off. It has an impressive town hall which was opened in 1900 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is an eclectic mix of mock Gothic, neo-Tudor and Art Nouveau architecture.

The “Lyn and Exmoor Museum”: is in Lynton’s oldest domestic building. As well as information about the Lynmouth flood it also has agricultural and domestic artefacts from around the area. There is also a small section on Natural history as well the now long closed Lynton to Barnstaple Railway.

“St Mary’s Church “: is in the centre of the town. There has been a church in Lynton for hundreds of years. The tower is C13th and the nave was enlarged in the C18th but most of the church was rebuilt in the C19th.

It is a large church with arcades of octagonal pillars and pointed arches separating the nave and side aisles. Steps lead up to the chancel with a simple altar set below the east window, depicting the Nativity with angels and archangels. At the top is the risen Christ.

The Lady Chapel is at the end of the north aisle and has a full size statue of the Virgin Mary. Just after it was placed in the church, an elderly parishioner entering the church at dusk was certain she had seen a vision of the Virgin and rushed to tell the Rector. For a brief moment, Lynton nearly became another Lourdes….

The altar front and stations of the Cross are made of beaten copper. The stone reredos has paintings showing the Annunciation, Nativity, Death and Resurrection. The centre panel originally had a carving of the Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. This so horrified the parishioners it had to be removed and the panel is now covered with blue velvet. On either side are the signs of the four apostles.

The real highlight of the church is the windows. Most are plain glass and are described as Benedicite windows. This was an ancient text calling on all creation to sing praises to its creator. There are lead outlines of fish, birds, animals and flowers.

The church is open daily. There is some on road parking opposite the church, but it is best to park in Lynmouth and catch the cliff railway up to Lynton.


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