We’ve prepared a fun-packed itinerary for three or four nights in Exmoor
Guests coming to Exmoor for a short stay often ask for highlights so they can fill their visit with the area’s ‘must-sees’. I’m a great one for packing a lot in during the day and then chilling by night in front of one of our wood burners or in a hot tub gazing up at the galaxy. So, here are my suggestions for things to do when staying with us for a three or four-night break in our luxury Exmoor holiday cottages. Just be mindful – now is an excellent time to book your visit given we’ve released our great value Autumn/Winter 22/23 short stay rates.
Exmoor activity – what’s on my list of things to do
Let’s whet the appetite with a snapshot of what I am about to recommend. If you follow my suggestions during your short stay in Exmoor, you will have experienced the following:
- Sampled local produce – oysters, cream tea, fish, cider and ale
- Soaked up history – vintage steam trains, a castle, Dunster’s Yarn Market and other sites
- Gazed at some amazing coastal and moorland views, and stargazed from a hot tub or deck
- Traversed the ancient clapper bridge at Tarr Steps
- Spotted some local wildlife, from birds of prey to ponies, red deer to gulls
- Tried an award-winning restaurant serving local produce
- Hopped on the steam train to East Quay, our local Arts Centre
- Chilled out in a hot tub, or in front of a wood burning stove, or both (depends on which of our four luxury holiday cottages you choose).
Ready to look into these in more detail? Let’s go…!
Arrival Day: Sunsets and Star Gazing
When you check in to your Exmoor Character Cottage, you’ll find a warm, spotlessly clean welcome with cosy lighting, classical music serenading you, and a delicious cake on the welcome tray. Once you’ve unpacked, keep things simple on your first night by enjoying fish and chips on Minehead or Dunster Beach to get you in the traditional seaside mood. Sunset seekers staying in our Minehead cottages might want to head up Moor Road for the most amazing coastline views out towards Bossington. Then drive home and enjoy a dip in one of our hot tubs (Minehead cottages only) with a little glass of fizz. Or if you’ve chosen The Oval in Dunster, walk up to the deck if it’s a clear night and gaze upwards to the heavens. Whichever cottage you’re in, settle down for a great night’s sleep on our Hypnos mattresses and luxuriate in gorgeous bedding.
Day One: The Valley of Rocks, A Funicular Railway, Lorna Doone and Porlock Weir
If you’ve chosen to pre-order the ‘Breakfast and Brunch’ delivery from Stuart Lowen (who runs our local farm shop), you’ll enjoy a delicious breakfast that will keep you going ‘til at least elevenses. My suggestion is to jump in the car and head out on the A39 toward Lynton and Lynmouth, which is on the border with North Devon. This is a stunning drive with views of the moors to one side and the coastline to the other. Be prepared for a pit stop to soak up the vistas en route.
Pop into Porlock
You might want to make a stop at Porlock Weir for an amble around this pretty spot – or perhaps do that on the way back. If you are an oyster fan and they are in season, make sure you try the Porlock Bay Oysters. On the A39 you may spot herds of Exmoor ponies and the occasional errant sheep on the road. Halfway on this route, you’ll pass the popular Blue Ball Inn at Countisbury. It’s a good place for a drink or a meal.
Visiting Lynmouth and Lynton
Once parked in Lynmouth, take the funicular Cliff Railway up to Lynton and wander around its lovely art galleries, tea rooms and interesting higgledy-piggledy buildings. If you are ready for a caffeine boost or something to eat, I recommend the excellent Charlie Fridays Coffee Shop, which is dog-friendly, too.
The Valley of Rocks
When you’ve had your fill of Lynton either walk down or take the funicular again to collect your car. Now you can drive up into Lynton and out to the stunning landscapes – and plucky goats – at the Valley of Rocks. I’ve written about this in The Little Book of Walks, and you can download the relevant page if you forget to bring your copy with you (there’s one for you in your cottage). There’s an option for a yummy cream tea here, too, at Mother Meldrum’s café (seasonal opening). If you fancy doing some gift shopping, take a pit stop at Lyn Candles if it’s open. You can’t miss it as you’ll drive past it on the way to the valley (and there’s parking, too).
Choose the Doone Valley or the Toll Road
You have a couple of options now as you head back to your cottages in Minehead or Dunster. You might follow the signs for the very beautiful Doone Valley, meant to be the most romantic place on Exmoor.
Malmsmead boasts a famous ford river crossing and a National Trust Café. If you’re with a dog, it’s great for walking with a gorgeous gurgling stream, but you will need to keep your pooch on a lead because of the sheep and livestock. Following this route home by car is a long and winding road that takes you over the famous Robber’s Bridge. This tiny crossing (be warned – do not attempt this in a wide vehicle) takes its name from the dangerous bandits who once roamed this land and who were the inspiration for RD Blackmore’s novel Lorna Doone.
The other option is to head back to the original AA box on the A39 near Porlock and take the left-hand turn to the toll road. Although you will need to pay (£3.50 last time I looked, but can be sporadic), this route offers the best chance to spot Exmoor ponies who seem to know that not many motorists come this way. Admire them from the car. It also provides incredible views down to the drowned marsh at Porlock, with bleached driftwood and haunting silhouettes of dead trees.
Saturday night’s alright – for dining out
For dinner tonight, I recommend hitting the town (or village) to sample some of our best local chefs. Pre-book one of the award-winning restaurants in Dunster – Reeves, Hathaways or The Luttrell Arms. If you’re in our Minehead cottages, try The Wheelhouse, Fausto’s Italian or Vladi’s Pizza. All get great reviews from guests (as of September 2022). You may want to sample some of our excellent cider and ale, too. The best pub is The Old Ship Aground in Minehead (but it does get varying reviews so do check recent TripAdvisor feedback before you book a meal).
Day Two: Discover Dunster for history, cream teas, a vintage railway and walking
I think you will still be working your way through the farm shop fare for a relaxed breakfast or lazy brunch. If you didn’t choose the delivery, the Blue Anchor Café does a good-cooked breakfast. Wherever you’re staying, Dunster is my top pick for Sunday or day two.
A castle, a working water mill and a picturesque bridge
You won’t want to miss the National Trust Castle and its gardens and working water mill where you can buy freshly milled flour (another great gift). If you finish at the water mill, you can stroll over the famous chocolate box Gallox bridge, a packhorse crossing that snakes over the River Avill. Walk up West Street (our oldest cottage, The Oval is number 17) and you’ll find St George’s Church, which has some interesting features including Europe’s largest rood screen and a charming carillon of bells.
Sunday lunch in style in Dunster or indulge in a delicious cream tea
Lunch at the Luttrell Arms or Reeves if you’ve not been yet or better still, indulge in a cream tea – after all you’re in Exmoor! We recommend the much-loved Tessa’s Teashop and Locks Victorian Tea rooms and Gardens. Now all you have left to explore is the village’s iconic Yarn Market, the Museum and Doll Collection (seasonal opening) and the Dovecote.
The historic Tithe Barn hosts a calendar of Sunday events and fairs throughout the year. From local producers to antiques, check to see if there’s something on when you are visiting.
Those of you who want to stretch your legs might want to walk to Conygar Tower, Bats Castle or try the Tall Trees Trail. Another idea – head to Dunster Beach, admire the pastel-coloured chalets facing the Bristol Channel and then return to explore the nostalgic vintage railway station. I’d do this by car, but those of you who want a longer walk can certainly get your steps in here.
Travel back in time on the steam railway
If you prefer to let the steam train take some strain, buy a return ticket at Dunster Station to Watchet and back. This harbour town has a vibrant community and the recently built Arts Centre, East Quay. There’s usually something going on (or an art installation to make you think), as well as shops, cafes, some great antique shops, and a harbour. Just check the timetable before jumping back on the West Somerset Railway to head back to the comfort of your holiday home.
With breakfast, lunch, cream teas and an ice cream or two, you might want a light meal this evening. If you don’t, Alcombe on the outskirts of Minehead has three good takeaways: a fish and chip shop, award-winning Tandoori and a Chinese. Call ahead to pre-order and collect.
A four night-stay – Tarr Steps, the Exmoor Pony Centre and Dulverton
I recommend the Tarr Steps and Exmoor Pony Centre, both near Dulverton, for a great day trip from our cottages. Kids will love the novelty of the stone clapper bridge and the ‘money tree’ stuffed with ancient coins. No one knows where this tradition originated, but it’s fun to try and squeeze a copper into the logs. Horse-mad kids won’t want to miss the adorable Exmoor ponies. Get them in the mood with a listen to our podcast (‘ponycast’) recorded back in summer 2021. In hot weather, the dappled shade provided by the forest makes this walk bearable even in the brightest sunlight. Moreover, you have the added pleasure of watching dipping birds skim across the water to catch insects.
Let’s Do Dulverton
For lunch, book at Tarr Farm Inn, which gets consistently good reviews from our guests. Or head into Dulverton town and dine at The Bridge Inn, which does a mean burger. Dulverton has at least two other reasons to visit: a marvellous Deli called The Tantivy (I love the Welsh Rarebit and cappuccino), and a fabulous antiquarian and second-hand book shop, Rothwell and Dunworth. Plan your trip – everything you need to know about this friendly town is in our blog.
If we’ve whetted your appetite with our must-visit list of things to do during a short stay in Exmoor, then visit and book now! We’ve made direct bookings super simple – find your ideal dates, enter your details and book with a credit or debit card: job done! Check out our live availability and pricing.