A guide to Exmoor National Park

Days out, The Great British Outdoors, Destinations

Posted by Ruth on 4th August 2021

Exmoor

A wild and rugged landscape of open moorland, ancient woodland and giant sea cliffs, Exmoor National Park offers inspiration and tranquillity in equal measure in a unique and spectacular natural environment.

The most northerly of the two national parks you can discover in Devon, and stretching over some of Somerset's most beautiful landscapes too, Exmoor offers breathtakingly scenic walks, plenty of action-packed days out and lots of cosy pubs serving up hearty local food and ale.

If you’re inspired to see it all for yourself, read on for everything you need to know about holidays in Exmoor National Park. Or, click the button below to browse our full collection of Exmoor cottages.

Exmoor cottages


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The best walks in Exmoor National Park

Tarr Steps

Tarr Steps

One of the most picturesque locations in Exmoor, Tarr Steps is an ancient stone bridge – the longest of its kind in Britain – across the River Barle. Walk over this historic bridge and through the ancient woodland surrounding it on this easy walk. Designated a National Nature Reserve, keep your eyes peeled for deer, dormice and bats here. 

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Good to know: The bridge dates back potentially thousands of years, with each stone weighing between 1 and 2 tons!  

Dunkery Beacon

Dunkery Beacon

Climb to the top of Exmoor and stand amongst the heavens with this unforgettable walk. Dunkery Beacon stands 519 metres above sea level, and you can see towards Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons on a clear day. For one of the most scenic Somerset walks, visit in summer to wander among moorland carpeted with purple heather.

  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Good to know: Parking is limited so visit early if you have your heart set on this walk. 

Heddon's Mouth

Heddon’s Mouth

This gentle, family-friendly walk is one of the few mostly flat routes in Exmoor. Follow the River Heddon through ancient woodland and out to the sea at Heddon’s Mouth. Listen to the babbling water, the sound of your own footsteps as you trip-trap over the bridge, and finally the crashing of waves onto pebbles as you reach the shore.

  • Distance: 2.25 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Good to know: Refuel at the Hunter’s Inn after – a traditional inn with a roaring fire and a hearty menu. 

More Devon walks


The best things to do on Exmoor National Park

Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle and Watermill

Owned by the National Trust, this Exmoor attraction is a must-visit for those who love history, architecture and beautiful gardens. Explore the Norman castle, wander the Mediterranean gardens and soak up the views over the Bristol Channel. There’s a play area too which kids will adore.

  • Cost: Adults - £13, Children - £6.50, Family - £32.50, 1 adult and 3 children - £19.50, free for National Trust members. 
  • Best for: An impressive and unique day out
  • Stay nearby: Mulberry Cottage – Somerset, Dunster | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Exmoor Zoo

Exmoor Zoo

Come face to face with the Exmoor beast at this popular attraction – one of the best places to visit in Exmoor. As well as meeting the only black leopard in the UK, you can also see rare creatures such as the bat-eared fox, the capybara and the singing dog. Or, try your hand at being a keeper for the day with the zoo’s fun experience days.


Lynton and Lynmouth Railway

Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

Linking the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth, allowing you to explore both while saving your legs on the epic hill climb, the Cliff Railway opened in 1890 and hasn’t really changed since. It’s the highest water-powered railway in the world – climb aboard to gently ascend or descend the steep cliff while soaking up the breathtaking coastal views as you go.

  • Cost: Adults - £3, Children (4 – 13 years) - £2, Dogs - £1 
  • Best for: A front-row seat for the Exmoor views
  • Stay nearby: Witham Cottage, Parracombe | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

More Devon days out


The best beaches in Exmoor National Park

Watermouth Castle

Watermouth Cove

Nestled between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin, Watermouth Cove is a picturesque bay popular with water sports fanatics due to the sheltered, gentle conditions. As well as offering coasteering, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, the cove is also home to Watermouth Castle, a family-friendly theme park.

  • Lifeguards: No
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, dogs are welcome all year round. 
  • Other information: Wander the South West Coast Path above the cove to see if you can spot seals, porpoises and dolphins. 

Bossington Beach

Bossington Beach

Wander through the quintessential hamlet of Bossington, past the thatched cottages and rolling fields, to reach Bossington Beach – a picturesque shingle beach where Exmoor meets the sea. Overlooking Porlock Bay, this beautiful Somerset beach is a peaceful place and is home to a wide variety of wildlife protected by the shingle shelf. 

  • Lifeguards: No
  • Dog-friendly: Dogs are welcome all year round. 
  • Other information: Make a beeline for Kitnors Kitchen, near the car park, after a long beach walk – the cream tea is perfection.

Combe Martin Beach

Combe Martin Beach

If you’re planning a family day out by the coast, head to Combe Martin Beach. Sheltered by high cliffs, it’s a fantastic location for creating memories together. There is a stretch of sand at low tide, perfect for building sandcastles and, as the tide recedes, it reveals intriguing rock pools so make sure you pack a net and bucket too. 

  • Lifeguards: No
  • Dog-friendly: There’s a seasonal dog ban in place between 1st May and 30th September, but dogs are welcome outside of this time. 
  • Other information: There’s easy parking, public toilets and plenty of facilities here so it’s perfect for spending a whole day by the coast. 

The best Devon beaches


The best pubs in Exmoor National Park

The Ancient Mariner

The Ancient Mariner, Lynmouth

Close to the babbling River Lyn as it makes its way to the sea, The Ancient Mariner is a chic yet quirky bar and restaurant. Tuck into an eclectic menu that showcases many local ingredients, while admiring the unusual curios including a full-size torpedo. This is a great place for pleasing a group, with many dietary requirements catered for. 

  • Menu pick: Visit for the Sunday roast, with locally sourced meat from just up the road near the Valley of Rocks. 
  • Are dogs allowed?: Yes, dogs are welcome in the bar
  • Good to know: The pub is extremely committed to reducing its impact on the world, having ditched single-use plastics and encouraging patrons to take part in a beach clean in exchange for ice cream! 

Wine bar

Woods Bar and Restaurant, Dulverton

Boasting “good quality wine and good quality food”, Woods is the place to go for a special Exmoor meal and has won many awards for its delectable fare. Cosy up in the wooden interior amongst roaring fires and tuck into local produce sourced from its very own Dulverton farm at this fantastic Somerset bar

  • Menu pick: Try any pork or lamb on the menu – sourced from the restaurant’s farm, it’s the ultimate taste of Exmoor.
  • Are dogs allowed?: Well-behaved dogs are welcome in the pub.
  • Good to know: The beautiful bar was hand-built by Woods’ owner. 

The Poltimore Arms, Yarde Down

This quirky, 13th-century pub is almost a destination in itself. Run by an eccentric manager and a cat called Frederick Albert Hitler, who has his own Facebook page, the pub has no electricity, water or gas. Despite its unconventional ways, people visit for the unique atmosphere and its spectacular, unspoilt setting.

  • Menu pick: There’s no food menu but occasionally a special menu is available – check the Facebook page for availability. 
  • Are dogs allowed?: Yes, dogs are welcome.
  • Good to know: Keep your eyes peeled for the peculiar taxidermy in the pub.

More Devon places to eat


Map of Exmoor National Park

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Stay with us in Exmoor National Park

If you’ve been inspired to visit Exmoor, take a look at our range of cottages in the national park. From cosy coastal cottages to historic homes surrounded by heather-carpeted moorland, find your perfect base for exploring this incredible part of Devon.

Exmoor cottages


 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.