Lynton and Lynmouth Funicular Cliff Railway - History and Facts | History Hit

Lynton and Lynmouth Funicular Cliff Railway

Lynton and Lynmouth, Devon, England, United Kingdom

Harry Atkins

29 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Lynton and Lynmouth Funicular Cliff Railway

This charming funicular cliff railway has cut a vertiginous swathe through an impractically sheer crag on the North Devon coast since the late 19th century.

Having provided a genuinely useful local service since 1890, this beautifully maintained marvel of Victorian engineering still offers stunning coastal views, and a nifty passage between sea-level Lynmouth it’s clifftop neighbour, Lynton, to every passenger.

Lynton and Lynmouth Funicular Cliff Railway History

One of just three water-powered lifts in the world, this cliff straddling railway started life as practical solution to the economic restrictions imposed by the sheer cliff face that separates Lynton and Lynmouth on the North Devon coast. Prior to the railway’s completion in 1890, the passage of goods between Lynmouth, a pretty village and harbour, and Lynton, which emerged above the sheer cliff face that contained the growth of its coastal twin, was laborious.

Packhorses and donkeys strained to ascend a punishingly steep gradient, slowing the progress of goods and harming Lynmouth’s burgeoning tourist trade. The funicular railway, designed by the civil engineer George Croydon Marks and financed by his business partner, Sir George Newnes, provided an innovative solution. Cutting a vertical path through the sheer limestone cliff face that separates Lynmouth and Lynton, the resulting lift employs an ingenious water powered pully system to transport passengers up and down the cliff.

Lynton and Lynmouth Funicular Cliff Railway today

It’s fair to say that this unique and innovative railway has stood the test of time. Opened on 7 April, 1890, the lift has been in continuous use ever since and remains a unique and laudable example of eco-friendly engineering. Sure, there are other ways to make one’s way between Lynton and Lynmouth these days, but none can match the magic and excitement of this world-famous cliff railway.

Spanning 862 feet of steep track and an elevation of 500 feet, the railway has lost none of its drama. Indeed, this charmingly clunky example of ingenious Victorian engineering remains the world’s highest and steepest fully water powered railway. An undeniably impressive accolade, even when you find out that it’s one of just three water powered railways left on the planet.

Getting to Lynton and Lynmouth Funicular Cliff Railway

If you’re visiting for the day, it’s far easier to find a place to park in Lynton than its coastal neighbour. Parking can be hard to come by in Lynmouth, especially in peak tourist season, so it makes sense to find a space in Lynton – car parks are at Bottom Meadow, Cross Street and the Valley of the Rocks – then take the funicular railway down to Lynmouth.

The cliff railway operates continuously throughout the day and tickets are purchased immediately prior to each trip. At the time of writing, tickets are marginally more expensive than a rural bus ride, which is very reasonable when you factor in the stunning views. All day tickets (which allow you to zip up and down the hill to your heart’s content) are available at a very reasonable price.