This 8.6 mile (13.9 km) hike is a delightful walk sampling everything that Porlock Bay has to offer from woodland, salt marsh, hills, and picturesque villages, with scenery, wildlife, geology, history, culture, and a plethora of places to eat and drink.

1. Leaving the fire station car park, make your way back up to the road and turn left. Carry on past the library, and turn right at the end of this road, uphill, and then right once more onto the toll road.

2. Take the footpath off to the right about 200 yards on and follow it through the woods and down to West Porlock. As you head through the woodland here, open areas along the way give great glimpses across the salt marshes and the shingle ridge which protects them from the sea over to the dramatic slopes of Bossington Hill and its rocky headland at Hurlstone Point.

3. Don't turn right into the village at West Porlock, but carry on along the footpath through the woods, until you come to the footbridge which leads you onto the road towards Porlock Weir. Take the footpath beyond, which will drop you onto the main road.

Great British Life: Porlock Weir. Photo: Chris BullPorlock Weir. Photo: Chris Bull

4. Turn left and travel a few hundred yards down the main road, to the footpath to your right, leading onto the beach.

5. A few hundred metres along the road from here is the village of Porlock Weir, with a mediaeval harbour, several galleries and tearooms, and the 13th century Ship Inn. A short distance beyond the harbour is the lonely shingle beach at Gore Point, the scene of several wrecks and rescues over the centuries.

6. Follow the footpath across the shingle as it turns inland. The Coast Path used to travel along the shoreline here, but changing sea levels have made that unsafe and it has been moved inland.

7. After the sea breached the shingle ridge during severe storms in 1996, the decision was made to let nature run its course here, and the resultant saltmarsh is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest in view of the rapid evolution of a whole new habitat for several rare species.

Great British Life: Porlock Marsh. Photo: Nigel BakerPorlock Marsh. Photo: Nigel Baker

8. The saltwater which washes through into the marshes mixes with the freshwater flowing through Porlock from the hills above, creating a salt marsh. It is an ideal opportunity to see how the coastline is changing rapidly, something that will become more commonplace as sea levels rise. One of the many plants to have taken advantage of the change from fields to salt marsh is the yellow horned poppy, nationally rare but abundant in shingle areas like this. The leaves are covered in fine hairs to protect them from the salt. The clumps of flowers resembling Michaelmas daisies on the shoreline, too, are the daisy's coastal cousins, sea asters, which in turn attract butterflies like red admirals and painted ladies. Bird visitors include the grey heron, egret and shelduck, with small winter flocks of lapwing, curlew and teal, as well as many different species of migratory birds.

9. Do not take the footpath to the right, but carry on with the Coast Path as it runs on the seaward side of the fields, past the memorial, to Butcher's Plantation. The memorial - built by members of the Porlock Branch of the British Legion, with what materials were available at the time – was originally some distance away, also on the shoreline, where Ordnance Survey maps still show it to be; but it has since been moved to its present location. It was erected to the memory of eight American airmen, the crew of a Liberator bomber which ploughed into Bossington Hill in thick fog, in October 1942. It wasn't the only plane to come down here during World War II. A German Junkers 88 was intercepted over the Bristol Channel by three Spitfires; but astonishingly, the pilot managed to crash-land his plane on the beach, although his gunner was killed in the incident.

10. Again do not take the footpath to the right, into Porlock, but carry straight on. The striking copse of primaeval-looking trees along here is due to poisoning when saltwater flooded the beach after the pebble ridge was breached. A couple of hundred yards further on, stay with the Coast Path still, following it around the corner before it straightens up and heads for Bossington. The path running along the pebble ridge to your left passes the remains of several World War II pillboxes and some rather older lime kilns, once used to make lime for agricultural purposes.

Great British Life: Bossington Hill. Photo: Philip Richard EvansBossington Hill. Photo: Philip Richard Evans

11. As it reaches the track at the end of the marshes, the Coast Path turns to the right, and you will too, into Bossington. Reaching the edges of the picturesque village of Bossington, you turn your back on the thatched cottages and other such chocolate-box delights and instead head towards Hurlstone Point, where winds howl around the edges of Bossington Hill and breakers roll in from the Bristol Channel onto Selworthy Sand, in the shadow of the rugged, scree-clad cliffs which rear up behind the headland. Go through Bossington car park and cross the stream via the footbridge, turning left onto the path alongside it.

12. After about three-quarters of a mile you come to Hurlstone Combe. If you have time and energy, it is well worth the short detour to the left here, to the old coastguard lookout station at Hurlstone Point, for the glimpse it affords of Selworthy Sand and its imposing cliffs. Turn right into Hurlstone Combe and follow the path to the top of the combe. It's a bit of a haul to reach the giddy heights of Bossington Hill, but you are amply rewarded for your pains by panoramic views in all directions.

13. Turn right onto the main path running along the top of the hill, going straight ahead at the junction shortly afterwards and carrying on as another path joins from the left.

14. After about half a mile a track joins from the right. Turn sharply right, onto it, and carry on down the side of Bossington Hill, dog-legging into Lynch Combe and ignoring the path leading steeply up the combe in the crook of the second sharp bend. Bossington Hill is part of the Holnicote Estate, now a National Trust property but formerly belong to the Acland family. The Allerford Plantation on the hillside here was planted by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, in the nineteenth century, to celebrate the births of his children.

15. As the path enters the woods in Lynch Combe, another path leads to the left. Ignore it and carry on down the combe until you leave the woods at the foot of the hill, above West Lynch. Take the footpath to the left here and follow it down to the road by the medieval packhorse bridge.

16. Branch right towards Porlock a short while later, and follow the road into Porlock, being very careful on the short stretch of busy road at the end, where there is no pavement. Turn right onto the High Street and follow it round through the village and back to the car park at the end.

Great British Life: Porlock Bay. Photo: Jonathan SimmsPorlock Bay. Photo: Jonathan Simms

START POINT: Porlock Fire Station Car Park - TA24 8ND

This route is graded as challenging and includes tracks, footpaths, woodland paths, quiet lanes and some steep ascents. With dramatic landscapes and heritage to explore, this walk is the perfect way to discover the coastal fringe of Exmoor.