Go Here… Exmoor National Park
Wide open moorland, rugged and rocky coastal outcrops, and deep mystical wooded valleys – Exmoor National Park has it all. This diverse landscape surrounds a number of picturesque hamlets and local settlements, each with their own story to tell and unique history.
Dulverton – a charming market town with the oldest medieval bridge on Exmoor – is a popular first port of call being so accessible from the south. The town acts as a gateway to the park with both a National Park Centre and Heritage Centre to provide a comprehensive introduction.
From here, the prehistoric Clapper Bridge at Tarr Steps is just 15 minutes away and is a must-see for any first visit. Entirely constructed from large stone slabs, it is thought to be the longest of its kind in Britain, dating back to Tudor times but likely earlier. Folklore says the bridge construction was the work of the Devil, who after begrudgingly allowing people to cross, set the stipulation that they could only do so if he didn’t choose to sunbathe there that day.
Long walk lovers and those who just want a short stroll can both enjoy over 1000km of footpaths and bridleways that criss-cross throughout Exmoor. There are many circular walks mapped and signposted at points of interest throughout the park, including Tarr Steps as mentioned previously, while longer distance routes are waymarked too – including the 51-mile trail Coleridge Way which takes you in the footsteps of the Romantic Poets. A fantastic map of all public rights of way and footpaths on Exmoor exists here: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/walking
Whether you’re on a long-distance trek or stopping off at viewpoints, Exmoor’s wildlife is available to encounter in abundance. Look out for the thousands of red deer that live here – previously protected when Exmoor was a Royal Forest providing venison for the King.
And although not truly wild (in the sense that they are owned), the beautiful Exmoor Ponies are iconic to the landscape, roaming freely while playing an important role in managing the moorland. Learn more about them and enjoy getting up close at Exmoor’s Pony Centre, just north of Dulverton.
Away from the valleys and moorland, head to the north to revel in 37 miles of craggy coastline – the highest in England and Wales. The sheltered nature of its coastline allows the unusual creation of coastal woodland habitats, with great examples between Porlock and The Foreland.
The Valley of the Rocks is one of Exmoor’s most famous coastal hotspots, and is always worth visiting, but head further east to Heddon’s Mouth to explore this quieter yet equally dramatic rocky cove.
With such wild and varied landscapes to admire, why not learn how to capture them with a photography adventure? A number of classes and trips are available, even for those who just want to improve their photos with their smartphone. See www.exmoorphotowalks.com
For more ideas and information on what to see and do at Exmoor, visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk
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This manageable there and back route offers easy walking and wheeling along the eastern side of the reservoir and to the dams, plus additional access to the wildlife trail in the Burrator Arboretum