The beauty of Exmoor...
With its dramatic moorland, rolling green hills, river valleys and rugged coastline, Exmoor National Park boasts an abundance of natural beauty with a generous sprinkling of lovely historic towns and villages to match. With so many scenic places to discover and admire, visitors to Exmoor are spoilt for choice.
So, to help out, we have pulled together a list of our favourite beauty spots which are worth adding to your itinerary if you are planning a holiday in Exmoor. Make sure you bring your walking boots as most of these gems are best explored on foot as part of wonderful walking routes.
Right on our doorstep, this one-mile stretch of coastline between Porlock Weir and Hurlstone Point is a unique combination of shingle beach, saltmarsh teeming with wildlife and jagged cliffs. The large shingle ridge protects the marshes behind it from the worst of the winter storms but was breached in 1996 transforming the previously freshwater marshes into their current saline form and leaving behind the eerie skeletons of dead trees. Climb the cliffs at Hulrstone Point for views across the bay and Bristol Channel then head inland to pretty Porlock village with its smattering of independent shops, cafes and pubs for a bite to eat or refreshing beverage.
Just inland from Porlock is the ancient oak woodland of Horner Woods where you can lose yourself among the tranquility of the centuries-old trees or enjoy listening to the babbling of Horner Water with a series of atmospheric walks. Covering 800-acres of the National Trust-owned Holnicote Estate, the woods are at their best in the spring but worth a visit all year round. Step back in time and admire 500-year-old oak trees as well as spotting deer and stag and other wildlife that have made this a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The highest point in Exmoor, standing at 519 metres above sea level, Dunkery Beacon offers incredible 360 degree views for miles across the rambling patchwork countryside of Devon and Somerset and even across the Bristol Channel to Wales. The site lies just 20 minutes’ drive away, also within the National Trust owned Holnicote Estate and is part of a chain of summits capped with Bronze Age barrows. The peak is a half mile walk from the car park. Take a picnic and spend some time soaking up the vistas.
The setting for RD Blackmore’s 1896 classic romance of Lorna Doone, the stunning countryside around Malmsmead and Badgworthy water has changed little in the intervening 123 years. It is still a rural paradise of luscious wooded valleys, streams and undulating farmland. Take a relaxed walk from Malmsmead up the banks of Badgeworthy Water for a couple of miles to reach Cloud Farm where you can enjoy a sit down and bite to eat before heading back again.
The soaring moorland coastline between Porlock and Lynton, where Somerset meets Devon, has some of the most breath-taking views on Exmoor. Walk the South West Coastal Path up to County Gate and gaze across the Bristol Channel at the Welsh hills beyond or inland at the moorland marching into the distance. You could choose to dip down to the coast for more sheltered but steeper woodland walks or remain up high on the windswept moors.
A half hour drive away is the most spectacular geological wonder in Exmoor. This dry valley hemmed in by dramatic rocky slopes runs parallel to the north coast and is an easy walk from pretty Lynmouth. Climb up to admire the majestic sea cliffs and crashing waves on one side, from where you can complete a circular walk around the top of the Valley of Rocks, with sweeping views of its deep gulley and steep craggy sides, as well as the glorious surrounding countryside. You might even make the acquaintance of some of the feral goats which skip nimbly up and down the cliffs.
From its source on the high moors, this river has carved out the stunning East Lyn Valley which runs down past Rockford to the picture-postcard coastal village of Lynmouth. There are lovely walks along the banks of the river with its pools, brooks, rapids and waterfalls through secluded woodlands, secretive valleys and dramatic gorges, passing conveniently placed historic pubs. Lynmouth itself is a charming harbour town with an impressive Rhenish Tower - a replica of the 19th-century water tower destroyed in 1952 when the swollen river devastated the town killing 34 people. It is hard to imagine such devastation today when enjoying the leafy calm of the river valley. Head to the meeting of the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Wter where you will find the river’s most beautiful waterfalls.
This historic stone bridge – first mentioned in Tudor times – is surrounded by the beautiful wooded valley of the River Barle and has been designated a National Nature Reserve for its wealth of amazing rare plant and animal life. Local legend says the five-tonne slabs were placed there by the Devil to win a bet with a local giant. A popular circular footpath route, known as the Jubilee Trail, runs upstream of the bridge and can be easily combined with a trudge up to Winsford Hill with its heathland and wild ponies.