North Devon

Valley of the Rocks - photo: Tony Atkin - Castle Rock and Rugged Jack

While Coleridge was living at Nether Stowey, he and the Wordsworths would frequently set off on long walks over the Quantock Hills and the North Somerset and North Devon coastline. Sometimes these tours would last for a few days, with stop overs at a convenient inn.

On more than one occasion Coleridge walked as far as Lynton, either alone or with the Wordsworths and was impressed in particular by the Valley of the Rocks just west of the town.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner began life as a scheme conceived on such a walk over Quantoxhead to Watchet and Dulverton in November of 1797. At around about the same time, a long solo walk to Lynton, interrupted by a stomach upset and consequent stop-over at a farm near Culbone Church, was the context for the creation of ‘Kubla Khan’, in many ways Coleridge’s most remarkable poem.

The spectacular cliff formation at the Valley of the Rocks is still a draw for visitors. It is just the place to imagine a youthful Coleridge walking around and among the rocks, storing the images among those he gleaned from his endless reading of travel books.