A high bare plateau sliced by wooded combes and splashing rills, EXMOOR can present one of the most forbidding landscapes in England, especially when shrouded in a sea mist. When it’s clear, though, the moorland of this National Park reveals rich swathes of colour and an amazing diversity of wildlife, from buzzards to the unique Exmoor ponies, a breed closely related to prehistoric horses and now on the endangered breeds list. In the treeless heartland of the moor in particular, it’s not difficult to spot these short and stocky animals, though fewer than twelve hundred are registered, and of these only about 150 are free-living on the moor. Much more elusive are the red deer, England’s largest native wild animal, of which Exmoor supports the country’s only wild population, currently around three thousand.

Endless walking routes are possible along a network of some six hundred miles of footpaths and bridleways, and horseback riding is another option for getting the most out of Exmoor’s desolate beauty – visitor centres can supply details of guided walks and local stables. Whether walking or riding, bear in mind that over seventy percent of the National Park is privately owned and that access is theoretically restricted to public rights of way; special permission should certainly be sought before camping, canoeing, fishing or similar.

Inland, there are four obvious bases for walks, all on the Somerset side of the county border: Dulverton in the southeast, site of the main information facilities; Simonsbath in the centre; Exford, near Exmoor’s highest point of Dunkery Beacon; and the attractive village of Winsford, close to the A396 on the east of the moor. Exmoor’s coastline offers an alluring alternative to the open moorland, all of it accessible via the South West Coast Path, which embarks on its long coastal journey at Minehead, though there is more charm to be found further west at the sister villages of Lynmouth and Lynton, just over the Devon border.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

England features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The joys of winter walking in the Lake District

The joys of winter walking in the Lake District

The Lake District is Britain's newest UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the country's most popular hiking destinations – but in winter it sees far fewer w…

20 Nov 2017 • Ben Lerwill local_activity Special feature
Podcast: the extraordinary life of Aboriginal storyteller Francis Firebrace

Podcast: the extraordinary life of Aboriginal storyteller Francis Firebrace

Cowboy, pirate, Aboriginal storyteller, artist, cultural educator, filmmaker, soft-porn photographer. Francis Firebrace, now 81, has certainly led an extraordin…

14 Nov 2017 • Greg Dickinson volume_up Podcast
Podcast: adventures with the Natural Navigator

Podcast: adventures with the Natural Navigator

In a world where we rely so heavily on GPS to get from A to B, it's easy to tune out from the natural navigational clues that surround us. In this episode of…

07 Nov 2017 • Greg Dickinson volume_up Podcast
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook