Outdoor Space

The Blackdown Hills AONB

Enveloped in greenery and still untouched by commercial trappings, the Blackdown Hills AONB is perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in a world of steep valleys, gushing rivers, distinctive hedgerows and sprawling fields.

 

Flowing across the borders of both Somerset and Devon, the Blackdown Hills AONB covers an area of 370 square kilometres. Home to gorgeous landscapes brushed with the rise and fall of hills and the leafy pinnacles of innumerous trees, its natural aesthetics are reason enough to visit. Yet amongst this bucolic paradise lies enough activities and attractions to keep nature-lovers, history-enthusiasts and pursuers of all things outdoors returning time after time.

A place that is internationally recognised for its beautiful scenery, a natural way to start exploring the Blackdown Hills is on foot (or bike or hoof). Starting with easy walks like the 2-mile Stockland to Umborne Brook walk and the 3-mile Hemyock to Owleycombe circular route, and progressing all the way to hardcore treks like the 20-mile Dunkeswell and Sheldon and the 22-mile Hemyock to Sheldon walks, amblers of all ages and abilities will be able to stretch their legs and blow away the cobwebs with a huge variety of walks and rides.

For a chance to visit heritage sites, the Blackdown Hills doesn’t disappoint either. To really get a sense of the area’s history, you should definitely make a trip to Dumpdon Hillfort, an impressive Iron Age earthworks. Located on one of the Otter Valley’s largest hills, it rewards walkers to striking views across the country. Likewise, Castle Neroche, another Iron Age hillfort, boasts old earthen ramparts, a majestic forest and a super viewpoint which lets the eye travel over the Vale of Taunton, towards the Quantock Hills and Exmoor National Park.

Despite being among the smallest of the UK’s protected landscapes, the Blackdown Hills is home to a really diverse range of habitats, which in turn provides a welcome retreat for wildlife. From heath and grasslands to wet woodlands and bogs to springline mires, this immense variety is all part of an intricate eco-system. If you have a good pair of binoculars, you might be able to see the park’s handsome otters and beavers, as well as many birds, reptiles and other mammals, including teeny-tiny dormice. 

Of course, no day of exploration would be complete without tasty treats to keep you going. Smattered with cute tearooms and great local pubs, you can choose from one of the many local eateries or a picnic in the great outdoors before returning to your luxury cottage, ready to relax ahead of another day’s adventures.

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