By Lucy Handley
Curating five of the best Exmoor walks has been no easy task. Indeed, this beautiful slice of Somerset showcases some of England’s best landscapes. From dramatic clifftops to shady woodlands, rambling is indeed one of the best ways to discover the countryside. Similarly, if these inspire you, do look into The Little Book of Walks (link to Trun 14), a compilation of some more delightful meanders in this area.
1. Lynton to the Valley of Rocks
The small town of Lynton perches high up on the cliffs above pretty Lynmouth village. The short path to the Valley of Rocks is in fact surely one of England’s finest.
Where to eat
Prepare for your meander with a coffee or takeaway lunch from the friendly and delicious Charlie Friday’s café. You can find it close to North Walk Hill where the coastal path begins. It’s about a mile along the South West coast path to the Valley of Rocks, which is a stunning clifftop location with jaw-dropping views.
There’s a beach to cool down on at Wringcliff Bay, which is worth the steep descent into the valley. Alternatively, relax with a tea at the café near the cricket pitch a short stroll inland.
To extend the journey, continue along the South West coast path. Head steeply inland towards Lynton Camping and Caravanning Club site. Continue for around two miles, and back down to Lynton a further two miles or so. You’ll need an Ordnance Survey map.
2. Dunster Castle and around
The National Trust’s Dunster Castle (you pay to park and to visit) has great views across the Bristol Channel to Wales on a clear day. Moreover, it is worth visiting for its tropical summer garden and fascinating kitchen tour.
There is a footpath along the River Avill below the castle. Alternatively, you can wander down to the water mill, also run by the National Trust (the entry price includes maps). For something longer, follow this 4.3 mile circular walk, published by the Exmoor National Park Authority.
Afterwards, Dunster village has various pubs and tearooms for refreshments.
3. Luxborough village and around
Luxborough is a string of three fairly remote hamlets set in the glorious Somerset countryside, Churchtown, Pooltown and Kingsbridge (which also has a great pub with food, the Royal Oak). There’s a car park at the village hall close to the pub. This is a good place to start a ramble on the Coleridge Way. Turn right out of the car park and head a little way until you reach a right turn to make your way along by the river and up into the woods.
An Ordnance Survey map will show you the footpath through Roadway Wood and Church Wood. Head along the road to Churchtown and then up towards Croydon Hill. Then, make your way down the side of the woodland at Monkham Hill and back down to the car park.
4. Porlock Weir to the church at Culbone
Pretty Porlock Weir is the starting point for this woodland wandering to the tiny St Beuno’s church. It is only accessible on foot. However, pay-and-display parking is available. This journey starts between the Bottom Ship pub and Anchor pub (closed at the time of writing), on the South West Coast Path.
The path heads uphill through woodland along the coastline until it reaches the church (1.5 miles). They say this is the smallest church in England that is still in use. You can take the same path back to Porlock Weir, where you can enjoy refreshments at The Harbour Gallery and Café (open all week, April-October). Alternatively, continue uphill towards Ash Farm and back along the Worthy Toll Road, about five miles in total, with hilly sections.
5. Views from Bossington
The South West Coastal Path starts in Minehead and begins with a steep incline up to Exmoor, continuing along towards the village of Bossington. The views across the heather and gorse-clad moors are beautiful and worth the hike. It’s easy therefore to see why we think this is one of the best Exmoor walks. Alternatively, drive out of Minehead up Moor Road and on to Hill Road where there are several places to park, and start from there. Regular hikers can continue to Porlock Weir, an 8.9 mile stretch in total, and can take the West Somerset Railway back to Minehead.
Where to stay in Somerset
The best of the area’s wanderings call for the best of the area’s accommodation, naturally!
All these outings are accessible by car from Stone Barn. This is one of three self-catering cottages in Minehead owned by Exmoor Character Cottages, where the author was a guest. It’s a beautifully-converted barn that sleeps up to six, welcomes children and dogs, and has a hot tub.
For further details of ambles around Exmoor: Leisure Walks for All Ages (Crimson Short Walks), or Pathfinder Exmoor & the Quantocks (Pathfinder Guides).