Exmoor is situated in South West Britain, specifically across West Somerset and North Devon. Once a royal forest, the National Park covers 267 square miles of amazing landscapes, including moorland, woodland, valleys and farmland which has been shaped by nature and people over thousands of years.
Often referred to as England's best kept secret, Exmoor is a wonderful holiday destination for anyone looking for a holiday in the great outdoors! There's so much to see and do, from short walks to long expeditions across the moors or horse riding, taking in a safari or sight-seeing at your own pace around the 'picture postcard' villages and hamlets.
Porlock Weir has a quaint little harbour and its own unique charm; the port has a long and colourful history. Today Porlock Weir is a quiet harbour and a thriving community that welcomes tourists every year, many of whom come to enjoy the pretty scenery, shops, tea rooms, pubs and local cuisine.
On a fine day, the South West Coast Path offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the fabulous views across Porlock Weir and the bay. The coastal footpath links up with many other walking trails including Culbone, home to the smallest church in England.
One of the more unusual attractions at Porlock Weir is the submerged forest. At low tide, the remains of ancient tree trunks arise from the grey clay soil. These desiccated stumps are the last remaining evidence of a forest that, once upon a time, lay five miles inland.
Often described as 'the jewel in Exmoor's crown', Porlock has a long history of settlements existing on or near the site of the existing village, with stone-age remains only a short distance away. There few more delightful surroundings than Porlock Vale, nestled at the foot of Porlock Hill, bounded to the north by its shingle ridge and breath taking views towards the Bristol Channel, and to the south by the rolling hills of the Exmoor National Park.
The Exmoor coastline is formed mainly of cliffs but at Porlock the land flattens out and a unique mile long shingle ridge and an inland salt marsh have formed. There are many interesting sites on and around the ridge including an old lime kiln, Pillboxes built during the second world war, a memorial stone to commemorate the American airman killed when a B24D liberator bomber crashed here on 29th October 1942 during the second world war. For the bird watcher this is a very interesting site as a great variety of waders and wildfowl can be seen here in the winter as well as the occasional unusual bird passing through.
It is generally recognised that Dunster is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval villages in England, with origins dating back to the times of Bronze and Iron Age Britain - it is a must for visitors to Exmoor! Situated in a sheltered valley the north-east boundary of Exmoor National Park, the Yarn Market stands proud in the High Street as a reminder that Dunster was once an important centre for cloth manufacture. There are many attractive and historic features, fine thatched cottages, a 17th century watermill (which still grinds flour), a pack horse bridge spans the little river Avill and of course Dunster Castle.
Today the village has a fabulous selection of restaurants, pubs and tearooms plus a wide range of independent galleries and shops which offer a first-class shopping experience - more than enough to keep you occupied for at least a whole day!
Watchet has bags of charm and is great little town for exploring Exmoor, the Brendons or the Quantocks, which are all a short distance away.
Situated on the coast, Watchet certainly packs a lot in - there's an active Marina, an Old Port, many quaint houses and narrow street, museums, shops, restaurants, pubs and takeaways! It's an ideal place to stay for a few days or even longer, with many walks in beautiful countryside, along the interesting coastline or just enjoy the Esplanade and the Marina and soak up the charm of the town.
Watchet has so much history, you will have plenty to explore. In the Iron ages, Dawes Fort was built above Watchet to protect the port and area. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was written whilst travelling through Watchet and the surrounding area. With its harbour and rail connections Watchet was an important trading town. Today, the West Somerset Steam train stops at Watchet on route between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard.
Luccombe is the perfect destination 'off the beaten path', sat at the foot of Exmoor's highest hill, the 1,750 feet Dunkery Beacon, and approximately one mile south of the road between Porlock and Minehead. Luccombe has an impressive church which is a focal point of the village and many thatched cottages making it very picturesque. This area features everything that a keen walker might be looking for, visitors could comfortably spend an enjoyable weeks holiday here without ever resorting to using a car or public transport!
The parish of Luccombe includes the hamlets of Stoke Pero, Horner and West Luccombe. Horner sits on the eastern bank of Horner Water, there is a restored (but non-working) water mill and a packhorse bridge - it is also a great place to have a traditional cream tea! The Coleridge Way passes through Horner and Horner Wood is a nature reserve of national importance - a good place to see the wild red deer. Just a few hundred yards down the road you will find West Lucccombe, with Porlock only a mile further on.
Wootton Courtenay is a delightful village sitting in a pretty vale at the foot of Dunkery and Grabbist hills. Protected from the elements by these two impressive hills, Wootton Courtenay enjoys a warm micro-climate making it a very desirable location on Exmoor. This village is a fantastic spot for walking with numerous trails and marked paths running in all directions, including the Macmillian Way which passed right though the village
In the Domesday Book, Wootton Courtenay was simply recorded as Otone, meaning settlement by the wood. Courtenay was added to the village name in the 13th century when the Courtenay family became owners of the manor there. The parish church at Wootton Courtney, dedicated to All Saints, was built between the 13th and 15th centuries and has since been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. The church features an unusual gabled bell tower.
The village boasts a well-appointed village shop which stocks you day-today needs and high quality local produce.
Monksilver is an attractive village in West Somerset that sits on the edge of Exmoor National Park and the Brendon Hills. Monksilver is an excellent spot for walking; the famous Coleridge Way footpath runs through the village so you can walk in the footsteps of romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge lived in nearby Nether Stowey with his family for three years in the late 1790s. It is said that Coleridge walked for miles nearly every day, drawing inspiration for some of his best known works from the beautiful landscape around him. Some of his famous pieces from his time in Somerset include The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Frost at Midnight, This Lime Tree Bower my Prison and the opium inspired Khubla Khan.
The Church of All Saints in Monksilver dates from the 12th century and is a Grade 1 listed building. In 1583 the church was the venue for the marriage of Sir Francis Drake and his second wife Elizabeth Sydenham of nearby Combe Sydenham.
Williton is a small town not far from Monksilver that will provide all the amenties you require, and a little further on is the harbour town of Watchet, certainly worth a visit if you would like to see the marina and harbour.
Set in the foothills of the Brendon Hills on the southern slope of Croydon Hill, Luxborough enjoys a peaceful and beautiful setting. Luxborough is a small village that is divided into the hamlets of Churchtown, Kingsbridge and Pooltown, which all lie within a mile of each other.
In years gone by people came to the Luxborough area to mine iron ore and it was sent via the West Somerset Mineral Railway to Watchet on the coastline. In the 19th century the school was reported to have 200 pupils from the village and the iron mines in the Brendon Hills.
The ancient Church of St Mary in Churchtown is believed to date from Norman times, or some believe it may be Saxon times due to a Cross in the Churchyard. Today, St Mary's is a Grade II listed building.
Roadwater is situated 4 miles to the east and the popular village of Dunster is 4.5 miles to the north. Roadwater has a local shop, post office, village hall and an Inn and is situated approximately 4 miles from Williton, which has a larger range of shops providing for day to day needs.
Bridleways and footpaths crisscross near and through Luxborough, including the famous Coleridge Way which passed through the village.
Malmsmead sits on the Somerset-Devon border deep in the valley below County Gate. The 17th century packhorse bridge spans Badgworthy Water and is the focal point of the hamlet. R.D. Blackmore's 'Lorna Doone' novel, published in 1869, is a romance based on a group of historical characters, he used the landscape of this area as a basis for the novel.
Malmsmead falls within the parish of Oare, known as 'Are' in the Domesday Book of 1086, the parish includes the hamlet of Oareford and Culbone which has its own tiny church - said to be the smallest church in England. This area is excellent for walking; you can chose to stay within the shelter of the wooded valleys and explore the remains of medieval villages or enjoy delicious pub food and cream teas. Or you may wish to venture onto the open moors to experience the wilds of Exmoor at its best.
The nearby towns of Lynmouth and Lynton worth a visit to see their famous water-powered funicular railway that joins the two towns on the rugged North Devon coast.
'Cleeve' means cliff or hill; the village was once simply called Cleeve but became known as Old Cleeve to differentiate between nearby site of Cleeve Abbey in Washford, which was a monastery founded in the late 12th century as a house for monks. Today Cleeve Abbey is looked after by English Heritage and is open to the public; it is one of the best-preserved medieval Cistercian monastic sites in Britain.
The parish church sited in the village of Old Cleeve also dates from the 12th century and has been awarded Grade I listed status.
The West Somerset Railway is a steam operated heritage railway and runs very near to Old Cleeve, passing over Black Monkey Bridge, which was built around 1860. Old Cleeve was also near the route of the West Somerset Mineral Railway which ran from the ironstone mines in the Brendon Hills to the port of Watchet on the Bristol Channel.
Between Old Cleeve and Watchet is Cleeve Hill a site of Special Scientific Interest as it contains two species of plant which are nationally rare in Great Britain, Nit-grass (Gastridium ventricosum) and Rough Marsh-mallow (Althaea hirsuta).
Dulverton is known as the southern gateway to Exmoor and is also home to the head quarters of the Exmoor National Park. There are several streets of shops in Dulverton including a butcher, bank, Post Office, fish & chip shop, greengrocer, late-opening supermarket, art gallery, hairdressers, guns and fishing tackle shop. There are also a number of quality boutiques, interesting gift shops plus a handful of lovely restaurants, tea rooms and pub.
Brushford is approx 2 miles from Dulverton, a short drive or a lovely walk along the bank of the River Barle. Brushford is situated on the southern edge of Exmoor National Park and is an ancient Somerset Parish. Named as Brigeford in the Domesday Book survey of 1086, the village boasts a 13th Century Church which is said to have been visited by Elizabeth I. The old oak tree in the churchyard is one of the oldest oaks on Exmoor and was apparently referred to as "the old oak" in Elizabethan times!
Winsford is a small village situated within the boundaries of Exmoor National Park. It's an ancient moorland village believed to be named after the ford crossing the Winn Brook, where it meets the River Exe. There are eight bridges, providing crossing points over the many small streams that run through the village; one is a packhorse bridge, which is thought to be several hundred years old.
Winsford is home to the famous 12th century thatched Royal Oak Inn, which dates back to the 16th century, there is also a tea room and village green. Winsford Hill is the location of the Wambarrows, bronze age burial sites, and the standing 'Caractacus' stone believed to have been erected by pagan inhabitants of the village as a memorial. The huge Punchbowl is the southernmost geological formation from the last ice age and the ancient clapper bridge at Tarr Steps, on the Barle river, is another rarity.
The twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth are situated on the North Devon coast and have often been referred to as the Little Switzerland of England, surrounded by deep sided wooded river valleys. Lynton is perched at the top of the hill and Lynmouth sit below, straddling the confluence of the West Lyn and East Lyn rivers that flow into the Bristol Channel. The two villages are joined by the unusual funicular railway, this is a cliff-railway which has two tram-like cars running up and down the dill. (The villages are also joined by road and footpath for those that don't fancy the railway!)
Lynmouth itself boasts a small harbour, as well as a good range of select shops, inns and restaurants. The Exmoor coastline in this area is stunning and very dramatic - the moor quite literally meets the sea. This area is a haven for visitors throughout the year, being particularly popular with those wanting to hike within Exmoor National Park and those wishing to take in the dramatic scenery from the coastal footpath.
Withypool is a small village in a truly beautiful setting within Exmoor National Park. The village is in the Barle Valley with the River Barle running through, the Two Moors Way also passed through the village, a well-marked walking route linking the south Devon and North Devon coasts. It is believed that the area around Withypool has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, a stone circle can still be seen on top of Withypool Hill.
The village pub is called the Royal Oak Inn and has seen its share of history since its construction in the late 17th century.
Just two miles upstream from Withypool is the delightful Landacre Bridge, a late medieval five-arch stone bridge, a great place for paddling and picnicing in good weather.
Wheddon Cross is a village on Exmoor based around the crossroads; the roads run from north to south between Minehead and Dulverton, and east to west between Taunton and North Devon. The village is argued to be the highest on Exmoor and the highest point on Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon, which is 1704 feet above sea level, is the focal point of the village.
In recent years the village has become famous for the abundance of snowdrops in the nearby valley which has become known as 'Snowdrop Valley'. The snowdrops bloom around February and a park and ride system operates from the village to enable visitors easy access to the "carpet of snowdrops".
Wheddon Cross is surrounded by beautiful countryside; open moorland, wooded valleys and farmland. An abundance of wildlife can often be seen, including Exmoor ponies and red deer. There are a number of great walks along marked footpaths and bridleways, including the famous Coleridge Way which passes by.
Minehead bay has a long flat beach, with the harbour tucked away at one end and spectacular views to North behind. The promenade has many cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. Just a short walk from the seafront is Blenheim Gardens, which was first opened in 1925. The gardens are open all year round and the bandstand offers a wide variety of free entertainment during the summer months. Minehead is ideally situated to explore the stunning scenery of Exmoor, the Quantock Hills, and the dramatic West Somerset and North Devon Coastline. Minehead is the starting point of the South West Coast Path National Trail, the nation's longest long-distance countryside walking trail The West Somerset Steam Railway station is situated near to the seafront, it was originally opened as The Minehead Railway in 1874 and is well worth a visit. From here you can take a day trip on the beautifully restored railway engines and carriages, visiting picturesque stations as you wind your way through the Somerset countryside, all the way to Bishops Lydeard near Taunton.