Exmoor National Park

Dunster Yarn Market, Exmoor National Park in Somerset, England
Dunster Yarn Market, Exmoor National Park, Somerset - © Wikipedia commons

The Exmoor National Park is located in the counties of Devon and Somerset in south west England. Exmoor was designated a national park back in 1954, the area is known for its scenic landscapes, moorlands, woodlands, valleys, coastline and charming small towns and villages. The eastern and central part of the national park is located in west Somerset accounting for approx 70% of the total with the western part located in north Devon accounting for approx 30%.

By area Exmoor is one of the more compact national parks in the UK, however it has plenty of history and character and areas have been designated both a National Character Area and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

The area is popular for day trippers, horse riding, golf, fishing, canoeing, walking and cycling with a number of routes to explore. Visitors can enjoy the scenic natural beauty of the landscape, tranquilly and peace and discover a range of activities and pursuits.

Quick Facts

Exmoor National Park:

Year of Designation: 1954

Population: 10,600

Scheduled Ancient Monuments: 208

Conservation Areas: 16

Size in square kilometres: 694

Main Settlements: Dulverton, Lynton, Lynmouth, Dunster and Porlock.
Located in: Somerset and Devon.
Highest Point: Dunkery Beacon at 519 metres.


Exmoor National Park is located in picturesque areas of Somerset and Devon in south west England. Historically Exmoor has once a royal hunting forest; the landscape has witnessed history dating back 1,000s of years with a number of ancient settlements, farmsteads, villages and estates. The location in the south west English counties of Somerset and Devon means visitors to Exmoor swell in the summer months with many visitors and holiday makers visiting the region on holiday and short breaks. Exmoor is located approx 210 miles from London, making it an accessible location for visitors from London, the south east, south west and midlands regions, the distance means visitors can enjoy a weekend or short break at the national park.

The area is famous for its large areas of open moorland, variety of landscapes including coastline, a mosaic of habitats that supporting a range of wildlife granite and local towns and villages are full of history, tradition and character. Exmoor does not include any major cities or towns within its borders, the main settlements include Dulverton, Lynton, Lynmouth, Dunster and Porlock with a number of smaller villages and hamlets. The county town of Somerset, Taunton is located within 20 miles of the national park boundary.

The special qualities relating to the areas landscape, history, wildlife and biodiversity ensure Exmoor is a special place. The qualities include its large areas of open moorland, that is rare to find in southern England, the distinctive character, way of life and traditions shown in its towns, villages and hamlets, geological features, archaeology, cultural heritage and nature conservation and variety of wildlife including wild red deer, fritillary butterflies and bats in the area, make Exmoor a special place.

Local accommodation includes a choice of hotels, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, cottages, camping facilities and pub stays; there is accommodation available in Dulverton, Minehead, Barnstaple, Tiverton and more that are all conveniently located for further exploring the Exmoor. The town of Taunton offers a choice of accommodation, facilities, amenities and transport links including national rail making it a popular choice for visitors to base themselves from when exploring Exmoor and the local area.

Visitor attractions in the area include Dunstar Castle located in Dunstar close to Minehead in Exmoor. There is 1,000 years of history here, dating back to Norman times and located on a wooded hill, the historic castle and gardens offer splendid views over the moors of Exmoor and the Quantock Hills. Inside the castle here are a number of impressive collections furniture, silver and paintings. The staircase with its oak and grand design is a standout attraction. The sub tropical gardens include a number of plants and there are a number of walks visitors can enjoy. The estate includes a number of events that are held throughout the year.

Visitor Centres are located at various locations across Exmoor. Visitor centres are located at Dulverton, Dunster and Lynmouth, each has knowledgeable staff with local knowledge on local attractions, things to see and do, local tips and advice. The centres include books, maps, gifts, stationary and more. There are other visitor centres located at Combe Martin, Lynton, Minehead and, Porlock in Exmoor. A visit to the main centres and other visitor information points provide a good first port of call for visitors and can help to better plan, organise and enjoy your trip.

Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre is located West Lynch Farm in Minehead in Somerset. The outdoor activity centre includes an impressive collection of owls, eagles and hawks. Visitors can see the flying displays with the birds, there are a number of birds of prey experiences available where visitors can learn more about the birds of prey and learn how to handle them. Other activities available include horse riding, countryside walks and pony rides for children. A visit to the centre is both a fun and educational day out for the whole family.

Exmoor Towns & Villages include Dulverton located on the south east edge of Exmoor, seen as the southern gateway to Exmoor it is the home of the Exmoor National Park Authority. The village itself is largely unspoilt; it includes a number of small shops, independent shops, tea rooms, attractions, restaurants along with a town hall and historic church. The convenient location makes Dulverton a popular place for visitors to base themselves from when exploring the national park. Dulverton hosts a number of events each year including concerts, carnival and folk festival, it is a popular place for activities such as kayaking, tennis and mountain biking. Local attractions include the 15th century Church of All Saints, Dulverton Guildhall Heritage and Arts Centre, visitors can enjoy a number of walks along the River Barle in scenic surroundings.

Dunster is a historic village located in the north eastern edge of Exmoor, it is a popular place for visitors with its historic buildings, charming tea shops, restaurants and accommodation facilities. The village includes a historic castle, yarn market, mill and packhorse bridge. There are in excess of 200 listed buildings in Dunster, with plenty of history and heritage preserved; local attractions include Dunster Castle, Gallox Bridge, Working Water Mill, The Yarn Market and there are a number of scenic walks that overlook Dunster and the surrounding areas.

Minehead is a coastal town located on the edge of Exmoor; the location is ideal for visitors that enjoy both the beach and countryside. There is a sandy beach and promenade that offers a range of traditional family seaside fun and attractions. The beach offers views across the Bristol Channel to neighbouring Wales. For walking enthusiasts, the South West Coast Path begins on the quayside in Minehead and eventually ends up along the coastline to Poole in Dorset. The town includes a number of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants along with a choice of accommodation ranging from camping and caravan sites to guest houses and cosy compact hotels. North Hill can be seen for miles around; visitors may see the famous red deer and Exmoor ponies around.

Combe Martin is a village and seaside resort located on the western edge of Exmoor. Surrounded by inspiring coastal scenery, visitors can enjoy some splendid views over north Devon. The local Hangman Hills include the Great and Little Hangman hills form an impressive sight for visitors to the area. The beach is a mix of sand and pebbles with a number of smaller bays located a short distance from the village centre. There are a number of footpaths that head off in a number of directions from the village, giving walking enthusiasts plenty of interesting walks with stunning coastal scenery with cliffs and the heathlands of Exmoor.

The village street is just over 2 miles long and thought to be one of the longest in England. Here visitors can find a choice of local shops cafes, restaurants and amenities. Local attractions include Combe Martin Museum, local beach, Combe Martin Wildlife Park and a number of walks on the South West Coast Path.

Guided Walks & Activities are available in Exmoor, with professional, knowledgeable guides visitors can benefit from local knowledge and expertise. Guided walks and activities are available from Exmoor National Park Authority; visitors can take part in a number of walks, trails and a range of activities with a number of talks and workshops where visitors can learn more about the national park, its landscape, wildlife and much more. The activities and walks cater for people of all abilities, some walks are suitable for wheelchair users and families with small children, with a range of things to see, so and experience, there is something for most tastes and interests.

Overall a visit to Exmoor has plenty to offer, it is a popular destination for day trippers, weekend and short breaks enjoying good transport links and being easily assessable from much of the country. The range of landscapes, natural beauty, charming villages and hamlets along with its fine coastline makes Exmoor a great place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.

How to Get There

Exmoor is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

Exmoor is located approx 210 miles from central London. From London, take the A4, then the M4 motorway up to junction 20. Then at junction 20 take the M5 towards Bristol then take the A361 at junction 27 then take the A396 that goes to Dulverton. The approx journey time is 4 hours to 4 hours 45 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

The train stations at Taunton and Tiverton Parkway are located within 20 miles of the eastern edge of the Exmoor. There are regular services from London Paddington to Taunton and Tiverton Parkway railway stations, the journey time is approx 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes, depending on service and time of day. From Taunton there are bus services to Minehead via the route 28 service and Dulverton via the route 25 service. From Tiverton there are services to Dulverton and Minehead via the route 398 service.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular coaches available from London Victoria Coach station to Taunton. The approx journey times are 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours 30 minutes, depending on service, traffic and time of day. Coach services are provided by National Express, from Taunton the bus service number 28 goes to Minehead.

Contact Details

Exmoor Park Authority
Exmoor House
TA22 9HL

Telephone: +44 (0)1398 323665

email: info@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

Website: Exmoor National Park Authority


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For Local Search and Directions see: Exmoor National Park Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to Exmoor ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the national park, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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