For a staycation like no other, Exmoor is truly captivating
The UK is blessed with some truly spectacular National Parks, ideal for exploring on foot, bike or even canoe and kayak.
The likes of the Lake District, Peak District and Snowdonia attract thousands upon thousands of visitors every year and it’s easy to see why, with their rolling hills, dramatic mountain peaks and tranquil stretches of water – not to mention fantastic pubs and restaurants.
But while these may be among the most popular and well-known National Parks, there are plenty of lesser-known hidden gems to explore too – not least Exmoor, nestled in beautiful south-west England, and occupying a large swathe of western Somerset alongside spilling over into North Devon.
Discover spectacular remoteness
Not only does Exmoor boast impressive sites such as the highest sea cliffs in the whole of England, ancient woodlands, and historical relics of a bygone age to explore, its spectacular remoteness has provided a source of inspiration for some of the country’s most loved artists, authors and poets.
And with a plethora of hiking trails, breathtaking wildlife and no shortage of sumptuous local produce to tuck into, Exmoor is truly captivating.
Explore the seaside gateway of Minehead
With Bronze Age settlements on the doorstep, Minehead was historically used as a base to launch sea-going craft, while the town was also mentioned in the Doomsday Book.
Today, it’s popular as a traditional seaside resort, but has plenty more to offer too. With the Maritime Mile Heritage Trail, water-based activities and no shortage of shops, restaurants and bars, Minehead has something for all tastes.
The West Somerset Railway, which sets off from the town, is the longest heritage railway in England, running all the way to Bishop’s Lydeard.
Hunt for history in Dunster
Those keen on local history should also pay a visit to Dunster, just south of Minehead.
Get active in and around Dulverton
The traditional market town of Dulverton is another place deserving of a spot on any Exmoor hit-list. Nestled on the banks of the River Barle, Dulverton is regarded as Exmoor’s southern gateway and is home to one of Exmoor’s National Park Centres. The famous Tarr Steps are close by too.
There’s always plenty going on throughout the year, such as Dulverton Cricket Club Duck Derby on August Bank Holiday Monday, followed by the Dulverton Vintage Fair in September. In December, there’s also the Dulverton by Starlight festival which is not to be missed.
The River Barle is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts to see Dulverton and beyond from a different perspective with canoeing and kayaking available, while Wimbleball Lake is ideal for a range of watersports and there are numerous spectacular woodland spots for mountain biking.
Be wowed by lofty viewpoints
No visit to Exmoor is complete without a trip to Dunkery Beacon – the National Park’s highest point.
From here, you’ll not only be treated to truly breath-taking views from the top, but can also the explore the remains of Bronze Age burial mounds.
Of course, with 55 kilometres of coastline, Exmoor beaches should be high on any holiday agenda. Combe Martin Beaches, Hele Beach and Rapparee Cove are located towards the west of the national park, nestled on the North Devon coast.
Also along the coast, the Valley of Rocks is worth a visit too. This dramatic slice of coastline offers spectacular views out to sea and you can take in the five-mile circular walk from Lynton Cliff Railway Station.
But as well as quaint, historic market towns and stunning natural landscapes, Exmoor is home to a wealth of fantastic wildlife. Throughout the National Park, keep your eyes peeled for beauties including red deer, otters, kingfishers, birds of prey and of course, the resident Exmoor ponies.
For more ideas on what to see and do during your Exmoor trip, head over to the official Visit Exmoor website.