Straddling West Somerset and North Devon, Exmoor is a special corner of England with stunning coast and country scenery – it offers walkers the wide open spaces, unspoilt vistas and tranquility that are often difficult to find in today’s modern world. The region is dominated by the National Park which stretches along the coast from near Minehead in the east to Combe Martin in the west and inland to Dulverton. It’s also surrounded by beautiful scenery including the Quantock and Brendon Hills, North Devon’s gentle rolling countryside, the fictional home of Tarka the Otter, and West Somerset’s mellow farmland and tranquil villages.
The much-loved story of Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson, first published more than 80 years ago, was also set on Exmoor and became the inspiration behind the 180-mile Tarka Trail. The well-known walking/cycling route stretches from the western side of Exmoor down to the northern slopes of Dartmoor.
And romantic poet and passionate walker, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is said to have composed much of his work while hiking across the region’s glorious countryside. The 36-mile Coleridge Way walking trail, which links Exmoor National Park and the Quantock Hills, bears testimony to this. It features the isolated farmhouse where Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan, as well as the Bell Inn at Watchet where he is reputed to have begun composing the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner - www.coleridgeway.co.uk.
One of the smallest National Parks covering just 267 square miles, Exmoor has many claims to fame. It's home to the tallest tree in England, a Douglas Fir at Nutcombe Bottom measuring in excess of 60 metres, as well as the country’s highest cliffs, namely the sheer 800ft cliff by Great Hangman, which are also the highest point (318 metres) on the longest National Trail, the South West Coast Path. The park’s protected status guarantees pristine, natural beauty for everyone to enjoy for generations to come. Known for its ponies, now classified as critically endangered, and the largest number of red deer in England, the National Park is a haven for flora and fauna and home to 243 species of birds and more than 1,000 flowering plants and grasses. From the top of Exmoor’s highest point at Dunkery Beacon (519 metres), visitors can view the breathtaking expanse of rolling moorland, a landscape tinged with purple when the heather is in bloom. Narrow wooded valleys or combes break up the scene, with fast-flowing rivers, including the River Exe from which Exmoor takes its name, providing excellent fishing for the likes of wild brown trout, grayling and salmon.
Featuring more than 985 kilometres of rights of way, including 400 kilometres of bridleways, walking and horse riding remain the two most popular activities on Exmoor. The South West Coast Path and Two Moors Way provide the ideal option for long distance walkers. Two Moors Way links Exmoor and Dartmoor and takes in the Tarr Steps, one of the most mysterious stone bridges in Britain built over the River Barle.
A number of shorter walks are also available and now there’s the added benefit of the Moor Rover Bus, which will drop off walkers – as well as cyclists, ornithologists, anglers, artists and photographers - anywhere they wish on Exmoor, making it easier to undertake linear walks. Check out the interactive map at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/visitor-map for some more routes.
Further information, including details about accommodation, attractions, activities, events and places of interest, can be found in the visitor guide to Exmoor and West Somerset can be found here... www.exmoor.com