Walking

A guide to Exmoor National Park

Find out more

Landscape and wildlife

Walks

Things to do

Eating out

Eating in

From coastal scenes that reach out over a hazy blue horizon to rolling moorland that’s home to a cornucopia of wild and grazing animals, Exmoor National Park really does have something for everyone. 

In this guide we’ll introduce you to the wilds of Exmoor including the untamed landscape, a range of stunning walks, fun activities you can throw yourself into and some top tips on making the most of the local cuisine.

 

Landscape and wildlife

A red deer

Spanning 267 miles of rugged landscapes and covering two counties (71% is in Somerset and 29% in Devon if you want to be exact), Exmoor National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Although not actually “wild”, Exmoor ponies can be seen across the stretches of moorland, nibbling their way from copse to coast. Visiting Exmoor during the spring and summer months means you’re more than likely to spot some foals running with their mothers, which usually brings a few excited “oohs” and “aahs” from visitors.

Roaming Exmoor since pre-historic times, red deer are another iconic resident of the moors. Although there are around 3,000 deer on Exmoor, their beige and russet coats make them rather hard to spot against the dusty foliage (cue deerstalker hats, binoculars, a flask of hot tea, and nowhere else to be). If you want to find red deer on Exmoor, head to the hills and valleys of Culbone, Horner, Molland, and Simonsbath during October where you might get to hear “Belling” stags attempt to sound bigger and more impressive than their neighbour.

With wide open spaces and what we can only assume is an abundance of new and interesting smells, Exmoor has to be near the top of the wanderlist for dog-friendly holiday destinations.

Excited to discover all that Exmoor National Park has to offer? Book your stay in Exmoor here.

 

Walks

You’ve got your home away from home booked, what’s the next thing you do? Search Google for Exmoor walks because at the end of the day if you visit this rambler’s haven without going on at least one walk, you’re not living your best life. Here are a few of our favourites.

 

Dark Skies discovery trail

Dark Skies over Exmoor National Park

Let’s kick things off with a walk with a difference! Making the most of Exmoor’s International Dark Skies Status, this star-speckled trail is perfect for those who want a walk with a little romance. It’s nice and short at only 2 miles and covers mostly level terrain, allowing you to enjoy Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve safely. Setting off at the lay-by near Larkbarrow Corner, follow the glow-in-the-dark signs to the midpoint at the ruins of Larkbarrow Farm and let the unique view wash over you before heading back for a warming hot chocolate.

 

Tarr Steps

A photo of a rough stone bridge over a river known as the Tarr Steps in Exmoor

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or you just fancy a short stroll to shake off the city, Tarr Steps is a great place to get back to nature and enjoy the beauty that Exmoor has to offer. From the carpark at Tarr Steps, you can easily visit the ancient clapper bridge, the beautiful, wooded valley of the River Barle and the stretching heathland of Winsford Hill, giving you three completely different yet equally captivating choices in this 2 mile walk.

 

Wheddon Cross to Dunkery Beacon

The view over the countryside from Dunkery Beacon in Exmoor National Park

With wide open spaces and what we can only assume is an abundance of new and interesting smells, Exmoor has to be near the top of the wanderlist for dog-friendly holiday destinations and Wheddon Cross to Dunkery Beacon is a walk everyone can enjoy.

This circular walk will take you through a variety of different landscapes, ending up on top of the highest point in southern England, outside of Dartmoor, Dunkery Beacon. Find yourself standing in a scene straight off the pages from a Brontë novel with wide open moorlands unfurling in front of you. This walk is 8 miles in length with moderate difficulty so make sure to check the weather before heading out to avoid getting caught in a less-than-ideal downpour.

 

South West Coast Path

Goats on the cliffs at Valley of Rocks in Exmoor

Don’t let the term “moor” fool you, Exmoor National Park is home to some spectacular sections of the South West Coast Path, including Britain’s highest cliff face at Great Hangman, which looms over the white-crested waves at an impressive 800 feet.

If you’re looking for a truly breath-taking spot to head to during your coastal ramble, Valley of the Rocks is the place for you. This dramatic stretch of coastline on the northernmost part of Exmoor is home to the south west’s trademark steep and scraggly cliffs, which add a sense of drama to the view. Keep an eye out during your visit as it’s not just gorse that peppers the landscape. Goats can be found putting rock climbers to shame on the rocky outcrops throughout this exciting stretch of heritage.

 

Things to do

Forget what you think you know about Exmoor as it’s not just for those who enjoy a good hike. With lakes offering a smattering of watersport activities for the brave at heart and the rich landscape providing heaven on earth for wildlife enthusiasts, there are lots of things to do in Exmoor National Park.

 

Wimbleball Lake

Image credit Mark Robinson, Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor National Park

Does the water beckon you? Or perhaps you enjoy watching others frolicking in the chilly water from the comfort of The Duck Café? Whatever your preferred way to pass the time, Wimbleball Lake has got a fantastic range of things to do from watersports and fishing to archery and climbing. You can even use this as a base for a revitalising cycle ride. Great for the little ones and the furry ones, this man-made reservoir is a great one to visit.

 

Birdwatching

Young child holding up binoculars while birdwatching on Exmoor

Whether you’re a seasoned twitcher or new to the world of birdwatching, Exmoor National Park is home to some rare species of birds and spectacular spots from which to view them. One of the most notable birds for the twitch list is the nationally rare Heath Fritillary, which thrives in a large population in the northern parts of Exmoor. Particularly good trails for birdwatching include Lynton, Tarr Steps, the River Barle, and Porlock, all of which benefit from a variety of habitats and their consequent species. During your ornithological travels around Exmoor, keep an eye out for England’s tallest tree, a magnificent Douglas fir that you can find in Nutcombe Bottom.

 

The National Park Ranger Experience

 A National Park Ranger getting out of a Land Rover during an Exmoor National Park Experience, photo by Exmoor National Park

Fancy learning about Exmoor National Park from the people that patrol it every day? With The National Park Ranger Experience you can tour the captivating landscape from the warmth of a Land Rover while hearing extraordinary stories about life on the moor. A delicious farmhouse lunch is provided on the day so you can taste the wilds of Exmoor as well as seeing them!

 

Eating out

An indoor view of Coleridge Restaurant at Dunkery Beacon Country House

One of the best things about heading out for a blustery walk across the dramatic moors is ending up in a cosy Exmoor pub with a plate of hearty pub grub. The Tarr Farm Inn is situated slap bang in the middle of Exmoor National Park right next to Tarr Steps making it an ideal spot to shake off the day and relax into an atmosphere of good food and flowing drinks. The best part? Dogs are welcome!

Looking for the contrasting experience of fine dining with a view of a wild and rugged moor? The Coleridge Restaurant at Dunkery Beacon Country House combines fresh, local produce with international influence, so you can enjoy a seasonal spread with a difference.

 

Eating in

 A selection of tomatoes from The Tomato Stall, which are sold at Stuart Lowen in Minehead | Photo by Stuart Lowen

Looking forward to drawing the curtains, pouring a glass of Dunkery Vineyard’s finest and spending an evening of cosy bliss in one of our luxury properties? Exmoor has a wonderful selection of locally-stocked farm shops and mouth-watering delis. If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for all your foodie needs, Stuart Lowen in Minehead is the place for you. With everything you could possibly need from fresh milk and meat to peanut butter that’s ground in front of your eyes, this is no ordinary butcher.

Love cheese? Silly question, we all love a bit of west country cheddar on a perfectly crisp cracker! The Big Cheese in Porlock carries an enormous amount of cheese as the name suggests, plus everything you need for that treaty picnic hamper to enjoy out on the moors. The only problem will be choosing which cheeses to add to your basket!

Feeling inspired? Explore more of our luxury cottages in Somerset or Devon.

Or if you’re feeling the love for rugged moorland, check out our experience of visiting Dartmoor here.

 

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