31st May 2020
5 places to visit in Exmoor
Whatever the season, Exmoor National Park is a wonderful place to escape too. And we really do mean escape. Visit these 5 places to visit in Exmoor and you really will find yourself off the beaten track, away from main roads, big towns and large crowds. A visit to Exmoor is just you, nature and the wild ponies.
It’s here that you’ll find some of England’s most untouched woodlands, forgotten lanes and cute villages. You’ll find everything on Exmoor; exciting activities, low-lying river-valleys, high cliff tops, wildlife and unforgettable views.
But if we could pick a handful of destinations to share with you, these 5 would be at the top of our list...
1. Lynton, Lynmouth and Watersmeet
Technically three different places, but they are located within a short drive of each other in a little pocket of Exmoor on the North Devon coast.
We’ll start with Watersmeet, a focal point on the East Lyn River that runs for many miles through Exmoor to the sea. Park on the narrow and curvy road that makes its way down and along the deep valley and then drop down on foot to the bridge that crosses the water. Make sure you take a moment to photograph rapids and waterfalls.
There’s an iconic cream team house for refreshments before setting off on a trek. Walks around Watersmeet are simply breathtaking, from gentle strolls along the water's edge to day-long hikes through the rugged Exmoor countryside.
Perhaps you’ll spot some wildlife on your way? The river is home to otters and salmon, and on land there are red deer, herons, wood warblers and jays.
Lynton and Lynmouth
Follow the river or the road through the valley to reach Lynton and Lynmouth. Lynton is a town up the side of the valley. In the high street you’ll find quaint shops and cafes, but it’s the attractions around the town that bring people here.
To one side of town is the Valley of Rocks, a dry valley 500 feet above the sea with high cliffs dropping down into the Bristol channel. Stretch your legs around the towering rock formations and follow the narrow paths around the back of the cliff tops, with stunning views as the group drops away. Taking lots of photographs is a must, and keep an eye out for the goats who call it their home.
To the other side of town is Lynmouth, a village below Lynton that’s sat by the water's edge. To reach Lynmouth from Lynton (and back) you can drive down the roads, walk the zig-zag path down the cliff or take the famous and historical Cliff Railway!
This Cliff Railway opened in 1890 and is the highest and the steepest fully water powered railway in the world! The views during the up and down 500ft journey are breathtaking.
Lynmouth itself has a harbour, a beach and comes with all the stereotypical British icons you can think of - fish n chips, ice creams, souvenir shops and classic pubs.
Combine Watersmeet, Lynton and Lynmouth for a wonderful day out!
2. Tarr Steps
Similar to Watersmeet, Tarr Steps is a focal point on a river, with walks and scenery in every direction. But what makes Tarr Steps standout is the ancient stone bridge that crosses the water.
Families, strolling couples and experienced hikers can all enjoy Tarr Steps. Head straight there by car, making use of the car park before a down the hill to the ancient clapper bridge.
The bridge itself is the longest of its kind in Britain. In times of great flood the river can come over the stones and at many points has damaged it. But during the dry seasons it’s a place to sit, splash and admire.
The beautiful wooded valley of the River Barle is worth exploring for its wildlife. From the bridge, follow the orange route either side of the river in a circular route - a relaxed walk for the whole family. Alternative routes are available for more dedicated hikers.
3. Dunkery Beacon
Dunkery Beacon is the highest point on Exmoor at 1,704ft. From the top on clear days you can see the Bristol and English Channels, the Brecon Beacons in Wales, Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Cleeve Hill - nearly 90 miles away in Gloucestershire.
The surrounding National Park Reserve is a key part of Exmoor, containing many aspects that make the area so popular. As the beacon is found in the wild heart of Exmoor the scenery is barren but beautiful, remote but refreshing. There’s wildlife aplenty and it’s the perfect place to hike.
To simply walk to the top is straightforward, simply park at Dunkery Gate car park then follow the footpath for 0.6 miles to the top. The perfect place for a picnic!
We’re taking you back to the coast now, where Porlock in Somerset sits on the hillside down to the sea. Getting there is a potentially challenging drive from the North Devon direction but the scenery makes it worth it. Narrow and winding country roads dropping over the brow of the hill are a part of Exmoor and getting to Porlock is no exception.
Once at Porlock you’ll be glad you made the journey. The little town feels like it’s been left in the past, to carry on being quaint and quiet. Porlock itself is inland slightly looking down towards the sea. Look out for Culbone Church, the smallest church in England, inviting shops and The Ship, a 16th-century coaching inn.
Lower down and by the sea is Porlock Weir (pictured), a settlement and historical harbour. A pub and ice cream shop are based here but many come to sit on the beach and enjoy the quiet sea air.
5. Wistlandpound Reservoir
This one is for those who simply want to wander away the day. Wistlandpound Reservoir is not far from Barnstaple, near Blackmoor Gate. The reservoir is surrounded by accessible paths that follow the edge of the lake, weaving through the trees.
Along the way catch sights of the local horses and the wildlife as many birds call Wistlandpound their home, including waterfowl, coot and mallards. Look upwards to spot buzzards soaring overhead. Multiple educational boards and activity stations are dotted along the trails.
The walks through the deep alpine green Spruce plantations are refreshing and help clear the mind. We recommend taking a picnic and having lunch by the water's edge!