There is a part of Exmoor which will forever be known as Lorna Doone Country. At the heart of it is 'Doone Valley' also known as Badgworthy Valley. It's a magical, mystical place and it makes for a lovely walk.
From the car park at County Gate cross the road (carefully!) and pick up the track opposite, running to the east and slightly downhill
When the path forks, take the left-hand track which runs steeply down beside Coscombe, bordering the forest.
As this track flattens out, it meets the Coast Path at a T-junction. Turn right onto this, heading roughly eastwards, through a combe and onto Yenworthy Combe beyond.
The path falling away downhill to your left in Yenworthy Combe leads to Glenthorne Beach (see the Glenthorne walk).
The path heading steeply uphill to your right turns eastwards itself halfway up the combe, with a third easterly path on the way up to it. Either of these paths gives an alternative route back to the Coast Path just above the next point on the walk, with spectacular views across the Bristol Channel as you proceed; but otherwise stay with the Coast Path below the steep path in Yenworthy Combe, and follow it uphill and then down again, through the wood, until you come to the next junction of paths.
Here take the path uphill and to your right, doubling back above the way you have come before turning again to continue roughly eastwards up through Yenworthy Wood and into Wheatham Combe.
The path turns southwards here, and starts climbing up the hillside towards the open fields above.
A few hundred yards after crossing the stream, you reach a gate. Here the Coast Path heads east again, towards Porlock; but you carry on uphill, in the direction marked Oareford.
At the next fence, a couple of hundred yards further on again, the path divides, with a right-hand turn leading away westwards via Yenworthy Lodge to County gate. Ignore this path, and instead carry on uphill, southwards towards the road.
Cross the road and turn left, heading eastwards for a hundred yards or so, and pick up the path to your right which leaves the road to run along the top of the hillside here.
Take the path, about a hundred yards on, which drops sharply into Deddy Combe, and carry on down with it right the way to the bottom of the combe.
As you near the bottom of the combe, you can catch glimpses of Oare Church at the foot of the opposite hillside. Oare Church is the location of one of the most dramatic scenes in RD Blackmore's novel 'Lorna Doone' which was set around here during the late seventeenth century. There is a memorial tablet in the church to Blackmore, whose uncle was a rector here.
Ignore the path joining from the left, and carry on beside the stream to the lane beyond. Turn left onto the lane, and left again when it forks, about a hundred yards further on. This will bring you to the church.
Take the footpath just beyond the church, which leads to your right and uphill through the field to a patch of woodland a few hundred yards above.
Carry on uphill, on the footpath signed to Cloud Farm, and follow it around the edge of the wood, turning sharply right with it after a while to continue through the fields and out through the gate at the bottom, by the stables.
At Cloud Farm, turn right onto the drive and follow it northwards to the road at Malmsmead, a mile or so beyond.
The stream running alongside the drive, on the left, is Badgworthy Water. It is in Badgworthy that Lorna Doone was set. If you were to follow the stream in the opposite direction, southwards from Cloud Farm, just a few hundred yards would bring you to a memorial stone, erected in RD Blackmore's memory in 1969 by the Lorna Doone Centenary Committee.
Following the stream onwards a mile or two from the memorial (a very pretty walk), you would pass through Badgworthy Wood and Doone Valley, below the open moorland of Doone Country and Brendon Common beyond it, and into the ruins of the mediaeval settlement where Blackmore wove his yarn.
For this walk, however, turn right onto the road at Malmsmead, and walk to the bridleway on your left after a hundred yards or so.
After you have crossed the footbridge, do not take the footpath left along beside the river, but instead go straight ahead, towards the woods, to the junction of bridleways beyond.
Choose the left-hand bridlepath, and climb with it back up to the main road to return to the car park.
Pausing on this bridlepath, you can look back over the valley below and see Badgworthy Water winding its way through the woodland to the remains of the tiny village. No doubt Blackmore did the same, and pictured Lorna doing her washing among the stones in the bubbling river, while Carver and his wild outlaw brothers went about their business at a furious gallop on the expanses of empty moorland above.
The Blue Ball Inn at Countisbury, a few miles to the west along the A39 from the car park, or the Culbone Stables Inn, a few miles to the east; or try a cream tea in Malmsmead, en route.
Quantock Motor Services Route 300 travels a few times a day between Lynmouth and Minehead via Porlock, and stops at County Gate. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.