Exmoor National Park, Somerset
Exmoor National Park stretches from the borders of Somerset right across to the North Devon coast; a vast and unique landscape of working farmland, woods and valleys, dramatic clifftops and rugged moors of gorse and heather where wild ponies roam free. There's a certain softness about it, the pace slows down and it feels like a completely different way of life out in the wilds.
And well, if you've never been to Exmoor, it ought to be on your bucket list because it's just such an incredible part of the country, and most of it is free to enjoy. How you explore it is up to you - go on foot, bicycle or horseback, or pootle about the narrow lanes by car; one thing is guaranteed - you’ll be constantly ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the astonishing sights that greet you. The National Park is rich in wildlife year round with certain hotspots for rare butterflies, birds and bats, and in the autumn you might even be lucky enough to catch the red deer rutting near Dunkery.
Dunkery Beacon is the highest point in the whole of Exmoor and it's worth the trek to the summit for the spectacular views, so put on your boots, do it. Take an amble through Horner Wood where the rocks and boulders are carpeted with moss, giving an other-worldly feel, or along the river at Watersmeet, prolific with bluebells in the springtime. Walk there from Lynmouth and have a proper job cream tea before heading back.
Sit and watch the world go by down at Porlock Weir, cross the River Barle on the anicent clapper bridge at Tarr Steps, see the quintessential chocolate-boxy world of Selworthy Green and stop for a slice of cake in Periwinkle Tea Room; stroll up the wooded cliff to Culbone Church, the smallest parish church in Engand that's still used for services. There is so much to discover, all equally beautiful - Heddon Valley, Woody Bay, The Hangman Hills, Grabbist Ridge and Hurlstone Point, all will take your breath away.
If you're having a family day out on Exmoor, well, where to start? Play on the sands at Minehead or Watchet, soak up the history and intrigue of Dunster Castle or Arlington Court, pootle through the gorgeous countryside on a steam train with the West Somerset Railway; ride the Victorian cliff railway at Lynton and Lynmouth, visit the Exmoor Pony Centre, Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre, take a picnic to the Doone Valley. Heaps to see and do, it has to be done.