Exmoor National Park Cottages
Exmoor is for adventurers! A wild landscape that encompasses moorland, woodland, farmland and valleys, where cliffs drop dramatically into the Bristol Channel. It’s a place for people who love to be active. Whether it’s walking, riding, fishing or cycling, Exmoor offers those who enjoy the great outdoors the most stunning of playgrounds.
And when it’s time to put your feet up, Exmoor is also home to some lovely tucked-away pubs, the perfect spots to enjoy delicious food and locally sourced ales.
Where are the best places to walk on Exmoor?
Exmoor is blessed with over 600 miles of rights-of-way, which means walkers and their four-legged friends could spend months – years even – getting to know this wild and unspoilt corner of Britain. Whether it’s a bracing jaunt across windy moorland or a gentle stroll along a brook in the shade of ancient woodland, Exmoor delivers every time.
For those who like to follow well-known long-distance routes, there are three that cross Exmoor – the South West Coast Path, the Tarka Trail and the Two Moors Way. Another option is the Coleridge Way, which starts in the Quantocks in Somerset but, for its latter portion, crosses the north end of Exmoor. It’s a route that takes you through the landscape that inspired the poet, ensuring plenty of pit stops in villages with tea rooms and pubs. There’s also a delightful short route near Liscombe, a circular jaunt along the riverside that involves crossing Tarr Steps, the longest clapper bridge in the country!
If you prefer to discover a path of your own, Exmoor offers an abundance of routes. Rest assured, whichever you choose, you’ll find the park a place of unique peace, where you can often have the landscape to yourself (even in summer) and cars are a distant memory!
What about cycling?
Exmoor is made for cycling and equally suited to road and mountain bikers. For open panoramic views, the upper roads are perfect, while those who prefer their scenery to encompass woodland, rivers and streams, the valleys are the place to head.
Exmoor is not just full of hills to get road-bikers’ hearts racing. It also presents some seriously challenging terrain to mountain bikers. If you’re in the latter camp, it’s worth getting some advice about the best routes. Exmoor National Park has produced a colour coded off-road cycle map. It uses the Cycle Touring Club’s nationally recognised grading system, with routes ranging from green (easy – and ideal for families with younger children) to black (very challenging).
Needless to say, you don’t need to tackle those extremes to enjoy biking here. A short drive to the upland stretches will remove the need for a punishing uphill slog and give you instant access to magnificent terrain. The route between Minehead and Selworthy Beacon (taking in North Hill) is one suggestion, offering magnificent scenery and lungfuls of fresh air straight off the Bristol Channel.
And for mountain bikers who prefer a well-trodden designated path, there are some specific routes which are well worth trying, including a green route around the Crown Estate’s wood to the south of Dunster. The National Trust’s Honicote Estate between Porlock and Exford is also worth a visit, as is Wimbleball Lake, which has a lovely route around the water that takes riders in and out of woodland and grassland.
Can you fish on Exmoor?
Providing you have an Environment Agency rod license, Exmoor is a fisherman’s paradise. For anglers, not much beats the experience of casting into the clear river or stream waters of Exmoor, surrounded by stunning scenery.
Permit fishing is available on the Exe, East Lyn and the Barle, as well as some pools and reservoirs. Wimbleball Lake boasts a well-stocked trout fishery, tuition days for beginners and improvers, and access for disabled anglers.
If you prefer sea fishing, the Exmoor coastline offers a breathtaking spot to set up for the day and, if you’re lucky, catch cod, whiting, skate and bass. If you prefer a trip out, there are boats that leave Minehead, Combe Martin, Porlock Weir, Watchet andIlfracombe. Who knows, you might bring mackerel home for dinner!
Where can you ride on Exmoor?
The answer is, pretty much anywhere! Exmoor Forest is a former royal hunting ground, so horses and riding have been an integral part of the landscape for centuries.
There are stables throughout Exmoor that offer riding for enthusiasts, whether it’s your first time or you’re experienced in the saddle. Either way, you’ll be put on a pony or horse that suits your level of experience, and always accompanied by a guide. That way, you can make the very most of the experience – as well as the breathtaking landscape unfolding around you. Whether it’s a bracing canter across moorland covered with heather or a gentle hack along a river under the canopy of trees, riding on Exmoor is an unbeatable experience.
A good place to start is Burrowhayes Farm in West Luccombe, which organises mixed-ability rides in the lovely Horner Valley or up on the magnificent moorland of Dunkery. There are also small children’s ponies that parents can walk and lead.
What about bird-watching?
A comparatively untamed natural wilderness, Exmoor is incredibly rich in bird and other animal life.
Its varied landscape supports an extraordinary range of birds, including common buzzards, sparrowhawks, kestrels, peregrines and red kites on the moorland, and kingfishers, dippers, stonechat and winchats in the wooded valleys.
Exmoor is also home to the country’s largest herds of red deer, majestic animals that roam freely. If you’re a nature enthusiast, spotting these majestic animals is a real treat.
Where are the best places to eat and drink on Exmoor?
Eating and drinking on Exmoor is all about location. The park has some of the loveliest pubs in Devon, many seriously tucked away in pretty village locations or in the depths of the countryside.
‘Tucked away’ pretty much sums up the location of the Poltimore Arms in Brayford; it’s so remote that it relies on a generator for its power! Don’t let that put you off though, for the pub serves up excellent food and delicious pints of West Country ale.
With its Swiss chalet good looks and stunning position in the Heddon Valley, the Hunters Inn has long been a popular destination. It’s a mix of pub, restaurant and hotel and offers visitors a warm welcome, at least five real ales at any time, great food (the pork belly is highly recommended) and the added attraction of a spectacular walk down to the sea at Heddon Mouth.
For a pub that reflects Exmoor and its pursuits to a tee, The Staghunters Inn is the place to go. Situated in Brendon in the lovely Doone Valley (which inspired R.D. Blackmore to write Lorna Doone), the pub serves up good food and local Exmoor Ales, and guests are free to roam its five paddocks or relax in the delightful beer garden.