Boasting majestic moorland, spellbinding sea views from the highest coastal cliffs in England, ancient woodlands, hidden valleys and breathtaking starlit skies, Exmoor National Park is a wild and wonderful part of the UK that begs to be explored.
The history of Exmoor is an enchanting tale of how people from Mesolithic times to the present day have attempted to cultivate the landscape for their needs. With a plethora of undisturbed archaeological sites and monuments, with many more yet to be discovered, the landscape provides a fascinating insight into the past.
There are many delightful villages nestled into the creases of the Exmoor landscape, too. Home to friendly people, cosy tearooms and traditional pubs, this side of the park is all part of the Exmoor experience.
This Collection hand picks the top attractions in the national park, allowing you to roam as freely as the wild ponies Exmoor is famous for. In these routes you will be taken to the most iconic natural phenomenon in the area, Valley of Rocks; a dramatic dry valley with towering cliffs that are home to a herd of feral goats. You will climb Holdstone Hill, which, along with spectacular views is famous for cults and paranormal activity.
You will also hike to Heddon's Mouth, a rocky coastal cove that was once a popular smuggling destination; swim in the sea at Woody’s Bay; head to the highest point in the national park, Dunkery Beacon; skip across Tarr Steps, the longest clapper bridge in the UK; admire the view from Great Hangman, the highest point on the Devon coastline; visit the highest church in the UK; and explore ancient woodland valleys.
There is something for everybody in this Collection. From hefty all-day challenges to highlight-filled hikes in under two hours; from leisurely town walks, to full moorland and cliff-top assaults—whatever you want from a visit to Exmoor you will find it right here.
Minehead is a great destination to stay. Considered the northern gateway to Exmoor, and the starting point for the South West Coast Path, the largest town in the area is ideally situated for your explorations.
With a long, sandy beach, Minehead is a delightful coastal town with a wide variety of places to stay. The nearest train station is in Taunton. From there, you catch 28 bus service.
Exmoor does not have the best public transport links, unfortunately. However, there are regular bus services around the national park and a heritage railway.
For more information about Exmoor National Park, visit: exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.
For local bus timetables and travel information, visit: exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/travel/getting-around.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
For information about Minehead, visit: mineheadbay.co.uk.
If you are after a classic coastal walk, packed with interest, this hike is the perfect challenge.
While this route tackles some serious distance and crosses an undulating terrain, it is a cracking day’s hike that makes for a good challenge—and rewards your efforts richly.
This walk would be perfect for summer. If you dedicate a full day, you can afford to explore the many highlights covered. However, even in winter, it is easily done (with a more pragmatic approach) and is just as dramatic.
This journey begins in the coastal village of Combe Martin. If you are driving, the council owned car parks allow you to park for 24 hours for around £5.
From there, you quite simply follow the iconic South West Coast Path—the longest National Trail in Britain at 630 miles (1,014 kilometers) in total—all the way to Lynton.
Along the way, you are treated to the delights of Great Hangman, one of the highest points on the Devon coastline; Holdstone Hill, with great views and some paranormal activities; Heddon's Mouth, a quirky rocky bay once used by smugglers; and the most beloved natural landmark in the national park, the dramatic Valley of Rocks.
Public transport options in Exmoor are not the best, unfortunately. So, if you want to take on this route, taxi back is your best option. Pre-booked, it should be around £30 back to Combe Martin, which is not bad if there are a few of you hiking.
If you do want to rely on public transport, you will to use Barnstaple as a midpoint, using the 301 and 309 buses.
To see timetables, visit bustimes.org/services/301-combe-martin-ilfracombe-barnstaple and bustimes.org/services/309-lynmouth-lynton-barnstaple.
Dunkery Beacon is one of those places where you feel like you are on top of the world.
With extensive views stretching over to Wales, Exmoor and even to Dartmoor, the highest point in the national park really is worth climbing.
It is not just the views, though. In summer, the hillsides erupt into a sea of purple as the heather flowers; Exmoor ponies roam freely and wildlife flourishes.
This route is fairly easy and gets to Dunkery Beacon right off the bat. As most of the altitude has been conquered before you even start, the ascent is not too challenging.
From the summit, you head to Nutscale Reservoir; a serene and quiet place that many ramblers miss due to it being sunken in the valley. Then, you head to the creepy little church of Stoke Pero, the highest church in England.
After an easy climb to the summit of Dunkery Beacon to begin, followed by a leisurely descent for the rest of the journey, now is the time for some pumping. It is a concerted push to the highest point in Exmoor once again and, this time, you will feel it.
If you want to make this route shorter, you can simply turn right on the lane after Dunkery Beacon, take the first footpath right and climb the summit again.
Either way, there is lots of nature to look out for on this route including red deer, Exmoor ponies, skylarks, buzzards and more.
There are also some Bronze Age cairns on the other side of the road from where this route begins, should you feel like a little extension.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
No visit to Exmoor is complete without crossing over the ancient bridge, Tarr Steps.
Reputedly the longest longest ‘clapper bridge’ in Britain (a bridge made of unmortared stone), Tarr Steps is a Grade I-listed monument due to its significance. It certainly is a beautiful spot, too.
After skipping over the steps, this route explores the woodland around Tarr Steps. Designated as a National Nature Reserve in 2004, the area is rich with extremely rare mosses, liverworts and lichens, including a type of moss that appears to glow in the dark.
The woods have a spectacular display of bluebells in springtime and make an idyllic habitat for salmon, otters and the elusive dormouse. So, plenty to see.
After enjoying the beauty of the woodland you arrive at Withypool, a quiet little village with plenty of upland charm. There is another nice bridge at Withypool and a tearoom on the banks—perfect to fortify you for the return leg of the journey.
Heading back, you follow a road that seems to be the dividing point between farmland and moorland before descending into the glorious woodland, once again, to finish where you started.
This little route takes you to the heart of Dunster; the largest and best preserved medieval village in England.
Surrounded by glorious countryside and coast, the village boasts a castle, yarn market, tithe barn and is home to more than 200 listed buildings.
The first attraction this route takes you to is Dunster Castle. Dramatically sited on a wooded hill, a castle has existed at the location since at least Norman times. The ancient castle—a comfortable country home for Luttrell family, who lived here for 600 years—boasts dramatic views and has subtropical gardens.
Before long, you will arrive at Dunster Mill. This restored 18th-century watermill, built on the site of a mill mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086, still produces and sells stoneground wholemeal flour.
A stone’s throw later you cross Gallox Bridge; a fine example of a medieval packhorse bridge.
From there, we ascend Gallox Hill to view the remains of two Iron Age settlements, the ditches of which can still be seen today.
From there, it is a leisurely stroll back to Dunster, a place worth exploring, too. For more information, visit: discoverdunster.info.
This might be a long hike, but your efforts are richly rewarded with interest and beauty every step of the way.
Right from the off, you are treated to fabulous views over the Exmoor countryside; whetting the appetite for explorations to follow. A hop, skip and jump later, you find yourself at the ruins of a Roman fort and before long onto the spellbinding cliffs, where you follow part of the South West Coast Path.
The sublime section of the path weaves in and out of woodland, treating you to tantalizing surprise views of the coastline every now and then.
After heading inland, you pass close to the picturesque harbor village of Lynton, before taking a path alongside the East Lyn river. Along here you will pass the ruins of a 19th century mineral water factory and a visit lovely swimming spot. If you need refreshments and facilities, there is a National Trust tearoom that is worth a visit, too.
After leaving the woodland, follow the moorland path to the site of a medieval village. With ruins clearly still visible, the village is positioned in a stunning part of the moor.
To finish, enjoy a wonderful wander through Badgworthy Water Valley, noted for open woodlands and great pools.
When it comes to bizarre claims-to-fame, you will struggle to beat a hill on this route.
According to the Aertherius Society, Holdstone Down is where Jesus appeared to their founder Dr George King in 1958—in a spaceship! The spot is still regarded by some as a special site to contact extraterrestrial life. Food for thought, indeed.
Aside from the potential for UFOs, this hike has lots to offer; coastal views that will take your breath away and, a reinvigorating sea breeze that feels like a double espresso and plenty of wildlife. Bliss.
You begin by heading deep into the towering cliffs and ancient woodland of Heddon Valley. The path eventually takes you to Heddon Cove; a dramatic, rocky bay that was once popular among smugglers. After following back along the other side of the valley, you stride onto the coastal cliffs-tops.
A little push up Holdstone Hill rewards you with spectacular views over Lundy Island, Wales and up the Bristol channel. (And, maybe a a spaceship!)
After a strolling back through the ancient woodland, you arrive at Hunter’s Inn. Packed with character, the pub and restaurant is set in an amazing location and is a great place to finish.
This easy-going hike packs a lot of punch for its size; with plenty of interest and attractions.
Starting from the picturesque twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, you make your way along the South West Coast Path; affording views that stretch over the coast and across to Wales.
Less than two miles in, you arrive in the Valley of Rocks; arguably the most spectacular scenic location in the national park. Well known for its unusual rock formations and caves, the dramatic dry valley is home to a herd of feral goats. Often spotted teetering on the jagged cliff edges, the goats are popular residents among visitors and locals.
As soon as you experience the spectacular, dramatic beauty of Valley of Rocks, you will see why it is loved by painters and photographers—the valley really is a special and unique place.
While the intriguing u-shape of the valley looks at first glance like glaciation, science offers a different story. It is thought that during the Ice Age the ice sheet prevented the East Lyn River from reaching the sea on its normal route and was diverted westwards. When the ice sheet retreated the river was able to resume its original path, leaving this valley without a river.
From there, it is a gentle stroll over Hollerday Hill until you arrive in Lynton and Lynmouth once again. The twin villages are both very picturesque and worth exploring.