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Henry James

Came in 1872 and stayed at the Castle Hotel.

A spot consecrated to supreme repose.  Perched on the side of one of the great mountain cliffs with which this coast is adorned, and on the edge of a lovely gorge through which a broad hill-torrent foams and tumbles. A capital centre for excursions.  Of his strolls in the Valley of Rocks he wrote: None is more beautiful than a simple walk along the running face of the cliffs to a singular rocky eminence whose curious abutments and pinnacles of stone have caused it be named the Castle

C.S. Lewis

Visited Lynton in 1925 walking from Brendon.  He purchased a copy of Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor for his companion and they lunched at the Cottage Hotel.  The view from the balcony was beyond everything I have seen --- Straight ahead and across the gorge, the hillside rose hundreds of feet above us into a cap of well shaped rock.  Behind that the Lyn valley opened out in long perspective of winding water and many coloured woods, heather and grass.  To the left was the bay, not deeply blue but of a strangely pure clear colour and beyond it a line of surf between the water and the cliffs which fell away East and North ...

Bertrand Russell, Cyril Joad, John Strachey and Miles Malleson.

Came in Christmas 1926 (Russell had visited earlier with his second wife Dora in 1924.) They stayed in Lynton but whether they stayed at the Valley of Rocks or the then Lee Abbey Hotel is unclear.  Dora, fifty years later, recorded the name of the hotel as The Valley of Rocks but this does not have the octagonal room she also describes which is at Lee Abbey.

J M Barrie

Please see page about Peter Pan

Thomas Gainsborough

English painter.1727-1788

Lynmouth was described by Thomas Gainsborough, who honeymooned there with his bride Margaret Burr, as "the most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can boast".

Percy Bysshe Shelley

English poet.  1792-1822

Shelley moved in 1812, with his friends, to Lynmouth. He worked on his poem Queen Mab, and continued to work on radical leaflets. He rowed out into Lynmouth bay and sent messages in bottles and on boats made by the group. These messages were also despatched suspended from fire balloons from the hill top as night fell.  Shelley was inspired to write these lines:

Bright ball of flame that through the gloom of even
Silently takest thine ætherial way,
And with surpassing glory dimm'st each ray
Twinkling amid the blue depths of Heaven

A servant named Dan was sent to distribute pamphlets Barnstable.  He was arrested and received a six month prison sentence.  Shelley, having failed to obtain Dan's release, paid fifteen shillings a week to make his prison stay more comfortable.  Shelley got into more trouble but was bailed out by his landlady who organised a whip round amongst neighbours.  Mrs Hooper's Lodgings where the group stayed still exists, and is now known as Shelley's Hotel.

Robert Southey

English romantic poet.  1774-1843

An extract from Southey's journal of his Exmoor holiday dated friday Aug 9 1799

Two travellers arrived dripping wet the preceding night from Ilfracombe with a guide here (Porlock). There was a guide for me and a horse. The man was stupid. He conducted me over the hill instead of taking the road nearer the Channel, where there are many noble scenes; and what there was remarkable in the barren, objectless track we went he did not point out. I thus lost the Danish encampment where Hubba besieged Oddune. We passed the spot where Kenwith Castle stood; but for which fortress and its gallant defender, the efforts of Alfred might perhaps have been in vain, and the tide of our history flowed in a different channel. From this place the descent to Lynmouth begins. It runs along the edge of a tremendous precipice and the sea at the base! A bank of from two to three feet is the only barrier. At the bottom, in a glen, lies Lynmouth. We passed through and ascended half a mile up the steepest of possible hills to Linton, where the public house is better than in the larger village below.

Two rivers, each coming down a different combe, and each descending so rapidly among huge stones as to foam like a long waterfall, join at Lynmouth, and enter the sea immediately at their junction; and the roar of the sea forms with them but one sound. Of these combes one is richly wooded, the other runs up between bare and stony hills; a fine eminence, Line Cliff, rises between them. Even without the sea this would be one of the finest scenes I ever beheld; it is one of those delightful and impressive places from which the eye turns to rest upon the minutest home object - a flower, a bank of moss, a stone covered with lichens.

From Linton an easy and little descent led me to the Valley of Stones. The range of hills here next the sea are completely stripped of their soil, the bones only of the earth remain: in the vale, stone upon stone is scattered, and the fern grows among them. Its origin I could not conjecture. Water to have overwhelmed such a height must have inundated all the lower country, a thing evidently impossible: and the hills on the other side of the valley, not an arrow's flight distant, are clothed with herbage. A water spout perhaps; but I am , to my shame, no naturalist.

On the summit of the highest point of the hill, two large stones inclining against each other form a portal; here I laid myself at length - a level platform of turf spread before me about two yards long, and then the eye fell immediately on the sea - a giddy depth. After closing my eyes a minute, it was deeply impressive to open them on the magnificent dreariness, and the precipice, and the sea. A Mr Williams led me here in the morning; in the evening I came alone, and resigned myself to the solitude.

The alehouse at Linton is bad. Mr Lean was there and claimed acquaintance with me, because his son had met me at Bristol. He is a pleasant, intelligent man, and showed me where to walk. I learnt afterwards that he travels twice or thrice a year with a cartful of goods around Exmoor; and when he arrives at a village, it is proclaimed at the church door that Mr Lean is come.

He wrote to John May an account of the same visit in which he compared Lynton and Lynmouth with Cintra and Arrabida in Portugal:

My walk to Ilfracombe led me through Lynmouth, the finest spot, except Cintra and Arrabida, which I have ever seen. Two rivers join at Lynmouth; each of these flows down a combe, rolling over huge stones like a long waterfall. Immediately at their junction they enter the sea, and the rivers and the sea make but one uproar. Of these combes, the one is richly wooded, the other runs between two high, bare stony hills, wooded at the base. From the Summerhouse Hill between the two is a prospect most magnificent - on either hand, combes and river; before, the beautiful little village, which, I am assured by one who is familiar with Switzerland, resembles a Swiss village. This alone would constitute a view beautiful enough to repay the fatigue of a long journey, but to complete it there is the blue sea, for the faint and feeble line of the Welsh coast is only to be seen on the right hand if the day be clear.

Ascending from Lynmouth up a road of serpentining perpendicularity, you reach a lane which by slight descent leads to the Valley of Stones, a spot which, as one of the greatest wonders in the West of England, would attract many visitors if the roads were passable by carriages. Imagine a narrow vale between two ridges of hills, somewhat steep; the southern hill turfed; the vale , which runs from east to west, covered with huge stones and fragments of stone among the fern that fills it; the northern ridge completely bare, excoriated of all turf and all soil, the very bones and skeletons of the earth; rock reeling upon rock, stone piled upon stone, a huge and terrific mass. A palace of Preadamite kings, a city of the Anakim, must have appeared so shapeless, and yet so like the ruins of what had been shaped after the waters of the flood subsided. I ascended, with some toil, the highest point; two large stones inclining on each other formed a rude portal on the summit.

Southey's praise of Lynton and Lynmouth at the expense of some other places in the area was used widely as publicity for the developing tourism industry. His likening of the area to Switzerland earned it the title 'The English Switzerland' and sparked off a fashion for building in a Swiss style.

On 7th December Southey wrote from Lynton:

Here we are in certainly the most beautiful spot in the West of England. I was here in 1799 alone and on foot. At that time the country between Porlock and Ilfracombe was not practicable for wheel carriages, and the inn at Lynton received all travellers in the kitchen. Instead of that single public house, there are now several hotels, and in its accommodation, and in the number of good houses which have been erected by settlers, Linton vies with any watering place in Devonshire.