Exmoor National Park borders the north coast of Devon between Ilfracombe and Minehead, and stretches inland to Dulverton. From the high moors it rolls through farmland with deep river valleys running down to the Bristol Channel, edged by steep cliffs in places.
Exmoor was a royal forest in the 11th century and has seen little change apart from an unsuccessful attempt to mine its minerals in the 19th century. It has remained a farming and forestry area, now partly owned by The National Trust.
Things to Do on Exmoor
Walking or driving around this peaceful area with its gorse and heather-covered moorland and wooded valleys, visitors will encounter plenty of wildlife. It is home to red deer and friendly Exmoor ponies, the oldest and purist of native breeds. These hard working, sturdy ponies are ideal for trekking over the moors with a local guide. Half-day Exmoor Experiences from the Exmoor Pony Centre are a great way to enjoy the scenery, at one with nature.
Walkers will enjoy the Two Moors Footpath which passes through the tiny hamlet of West Anstey, close to the Somerset Border. It has an interesting church, dating back to Norman times. The South West Coast path links many old towns along this north coast edge of Exmoor
Places to Visit on Exmoor
Exmoor has some delightful small towns such as Lynton and Lynmouth, its quiet river valley once the scene of a tragic flood in 1952. Close by is the highest point on Exmoor, Kinsford Gate, offering spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
South Molton is considered the Gateway to Exmoor. This historic market town is packed with quaint antique shops, pubs and art galleries. Look for the Old Market House, an elegant red brick building which once housed an open market at ground level. The splendid Town Hall now has a small museum inside. Call in at the Quince Honey Farm as you leave the town; it is one of the area's most popular attractions.
Lorna Doone fans will want to recreate the historical romance set in places around Badgworthy Water and Lark Coombe.
Close to Barnstaple, Exmoor Zoo is well laid out with wandering footpaths through the greenery making each new animal an interesting discovery on a mystery tour. See the “Exmoor Beast” and other wild cats along with rare smaller animals. There are informative talks and handling sessions at this exceptional award-winning wildlife encounter.
Further along, the north coast of Exmoor is lined with small villages such as the enclosed harbour and weir at Porlock and the larger town of Minehead.
The village of Combe Martin straggles along the street for two miles ending at the sheltered sandy cove. The remains of the local mines were where silver was once mined and used in the making of the Crown Jewels. You can't miss the black and white Pack o'Cards public house, built in 1700 from winnings at a card game. It has 52 windows, 13 rooms and four floors, in keeping with a deck of cards!
Finish your visit to Exmoor with a Devon cream tea or a hearty meal in one of the many pubs and tearooms which are an essential part of any self catering holiday in Devon.