Making for one of Devon and+the South West’s prettiest picture postcard resorts, the twin villages of Lynton & Lynmouth in North Devon are situated on the dramatic and rugged Heritage Coast of Exmoor National Park. Lynton is located at the top of a gorge connected by a funicular cliff railway to the harbour village of Lynmouth below.
Lynmouth at the confluence of the East & West Lyn rivers, is much more picturesque than Lynton in the true sense of that word, whitewashed cottages and shops backed by the dramatic hills and valleys of Exmoor meet the rugged coastline forming the highest sea cliffs in England. The quay and pier were built in the 18th century for the herring fishery and for centuries local fishermen brought big catches of herring into the harbour until suddenly in 1797 the fish deserted the coast leaving the impoverished fishermen to turn to smuggling to supplement their incomes.
At the time Lynmouth was described by the famous artist Thomas Gainsborough
as "the most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can
boast". Later it’s spectacular beauty inspired famous literary figures such
as Wordsworth, Coleridge and Blackmore. Percy Bysshe Shelley, the 19C
English Romantic Poet honeymooned in Lynmouth during the summer of 1812 at
Mrs Hooper’s Lodgings, now Shelley’s.
Lynton & Lynmouth were “discovered” in the first decade of the 19th century
when the Napoleonic Wars closed the Continent to English visitors.
Denied their usual their Grand Tour, their continental holiday through the Swiss Alps to Italy due to conflict in Europe the gentry sought destinations closer to home and found Lynton & Lynmouth and Exmoor's dramatic cliffs and coastline naming them “Little Switzerland”.
Sir George Newnes, the famous late 19th century publisher, and a major benefactor gave to the town the cliff railway which makes the steep ascent from the shore up the cliff, the Town hall and the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.
Two events however at this tiny harbour village, which has seen much activity for many centuries, will forever have a place in history. The first came in 1898 when a ship was seen drifting off the coast, high seas made it impossible to launch the Lynmouth lifeboat, so it was decided to carry it across Exmoor up Countisbury Hill and down Porlock Hill. Twelve horses and scores of helpers joined the effort, many turning back on the way as they decided it could not be done, but by 6 the next morning they completed the journey and launched the lifeboat.
The second was the great Lynmouth flood disaster of 1952, an evening August saw a cloudburst which had devastating effects. A month of heavy rain had already swollen water levels, and the sudden downfall turned streams into raging torrents, by daylight, 34 people were dead and damage to property was immense.