Stage 4: Dulverton to Exford — Exe Valley Way
Kit P planned a hike.
January 13, 2021
This final stage is entirely within Exmoor National Park and enjoys both deep, wooded river valleys and excellent views from its high points. The trail feels remote but does pass through a couple of lovely Exmoor villages. With 2,205 feet (617 m) of elevation gain, this is the most strenuous section.
Starting in Dulverton, on the edge of Exmoor, the route follows the River Barle closely as it meanders through utterly gorgeous woodlands. At Castle Bridge, you’ll leave the river and ascend to Hawkridge Ridge which, although odd to say out loud, offers outstanding views of the rolling hills all around. Hawkridge village has its history cemented in Saxon and Norman times, flourishing during the Victorian era. Today, it’s a serene place with far-reaching panoramas.
Loosely following the course of the Barle, the trail loops around to the east before heading off north. Here, I’ve included a detour to see the Tarr Steps, an ancient and impressive clapper bridge, that lies a little to the east. This Grade I-listed structure is an Exmoor icon but it’s not actually on the Exe Valley Way and to see it, you’ll have to descend and then re-ascend the hill to rejoin the trail. It adds 1.3 miles (2.2 km) to the hike but involves 361 feet (110 m) of elevation gain to get back up.
Regardless, the official trail goes on a jaunt across fields and stays relatively high until it reaches the lovely village of Withypool. Out the other side, it continues up Room Hill before meandering down to Exford, the end of the Exe Valley Way.
Another wonderful little Exmoor town, you’ll find a pub here and bus services to Dunster and Taunton. There’s also accommodation here and options for further adventures. To reach the source of the Exe proper, walk west to Simonsbath. To join the South West Coast Path, head north to the coast.