If you are considering a holiday that involves your four legged family members, then you simply must take a look at what is on offer in Exmoor. The vast and varying landscapes make it a doggy paradise that will also appeal to the entire family. Exmoor has some of the UK’s best rights of way, with miles and miles of unique walking routes. You can let your dog freely explore the Ancient Tarr Steps or even give them a day on the beach during the peak summer months. Exmoor is the perfect place to combine family fun with your beloved pets. Here are some of the best dog-friendly attractions to be found in and around Exmoor.
Tarr Steps across the River Barle
Those who are seeking a tranquil and historical place in Exmoor, should take a trip to the Tarr Steps. This medieval clapper bridge is 180 foot of flat stone, thought to be crafted around 1,000BC. Spanning the 55 foot River Barle, the Tarr Steps are truly a sight to behold. This is the perfect place for dog owners as dogs can thoroughly enjoy an off-lead run across the steps and along the river.
Families will also find plenty of things to love about Tarr Steps Woodland National Nature Reserve, which is packed with a wide variety of wildlife; from otters to red deer and even the rare Barbastelle Bat. Once you’ve explored the diverse landscape and woodlands, ensure you investigate the nearby burial mounds of Bronze Age men, dating back 5,000 years.
Tarr Steps really does appeal to everyone, from historians to young children. There are well marked footpaths along the valley, a circular walk from the car park across the river, and facilities such as disabled parking, toilets and refreshments. Take your dog on one of the many well-thought out walks, they’ll certainly thank you for it!
West Somerset Railway
Even if the skies begin to cloud over in Exmoor, there’s still plenty of things to see and do. West Somerset Railway is an excellent way to revel in the beautiful landscapes, from Bishops Lydeard all the way to Minehead. Enjoy a leisurely trip through the Exmoor moorlands, choosing one of the many stops to get off and explore. As the trains are dog friendly, the whole family can come along for the ride too!
Washford is one of the closest stations to the Exmoor National Park, with plenty of attractions that will appeal to history lovers, families and couples on a romantic break. A few minutes from the station is Cleeve Abbey, an English Heritage site that is peaceful and packed full of history. Cider lovers rejoice, as the Torre Cider Farm can also be found in Washford. Learn how real Somerset cider is made, whilst maybe even trying out some of the produce.
Stop off at the quiet seaside village Blue Anchor, on the West Somerset Railway, to revel in the long sand and pebble beach that is perfect for families and dog-friendly all year round. There are plenty of other places to visit, whilst taking a trip on the railway, so check out their website for a full map and timetable. As mentioned, the West Somerset Railway is completely dog friendly and most steam trains include a well stocked buffet and bar.
There are so many reasons to visit Dunster Castle that this National Trust attraction has to be on your list when visiting Exmoor. The ancient castle itself is an impressive sight, nestled on a wooded hill and surrounded by breathtaking grounds. Thought to be from the Norman times, Dunster Castle has a rich and turbulent history that you can learn more about on the Family Trail.
Once you have nosed through the lavish rooms within the castle, make sure you take some time to explore the outside too. There is a restored 18th century watermill, Mediterranean gardens, wooded pathways, a gentle river and a whole host of wildlife to spot. Walking through the gardens provides a peaceful and relaxing way to spend a day in Exmoor.
Dunster Castle is a popular attraction for dog owners as dogs are allowed within the castle grounds (although they must be kept on a short leash), along with the stables and shop. There is also nearby Dunster beach to visit afterwards, which is dog-friendly all year round and a great place to let your dog off-lead for a good run; along with Dunster’s picturesque medieval village offering everything from gift shops to tea rooms.
A Day on the Beach
Exmoor has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches, many of which are dog-friendly all year round. We’ve already touched on Dunster Beach and Blue Anchor near Watchlet (make sure the children keep their eyes open for fossils), but there’s plenty more seaside fun you can enjoy in and around Exmoor.
Lee Bay, near Lynton, is a wonderfully secluded beach that is surrounded by stunning countryside. The village of Lee is well-known for its plethora of awe-inspiring local walks; across the bay, across the countryside and through the heavily wooded areas.
Visit Lynton and take your dog along North Walk to visit the Valley of Rocks where the wild goats graze (please keep dogs on lead around livestock). Afterwards visit the pretty harbour town of Lynmouth, via the dog-friendly Victorian Cliff Railway and check out the gorgeous rock-pooling and surfing beach. Taking the train is an amazing way to experience the breathtaking views, whist allowing you to enjoy both Lynton and Lynmouth in a day.
Explore Heddon Valley
Our final dog-friendly attraction in Exmoor is one that will quite simply take your breath away. Heddon Valley, a National Trust site, consists of heady cliffs, beautiful coves and a lush wooded valley. You can explore the area under your own steam or take your family along the Heddon’s Mouth Circular Walk; this mapped out walk includes the dog-friendly beach, a fantastic array of wildlife and even a pub for refreshments.
There’s so much to see and do at Heddon Valley, that we recommend taking a whole day to explore the area. You can enjoy woodland walks, grab one of the best ice creams in the West at the Heddon Valley Shop or have a picnic on the beach while your dog plays in the water. There are also several walking routes to enjoy, ranging from the easiest (best for young children) all the way to the more challenging Heddon Valley Butterfly Walk.
Dogs are encouraged at Heddon Valley, although the National Trust ask that they be kept on leads across any farmed land and moorland. The whole family, including your pets, will absolutely adore everything Heddon Valley has to offer.
As you can probably tell, Exmoor is a pretty dog-friendly place! Make sure your pets get an incredible holiday at the same time as you, by exploring at least a few of the attractions above. We’re willing to bet that both you and the dog will be fully rested and relaxed by the time you get back home.
If you are looking for pet-friendly accommodation, we have a great selection with many that can accommodate more than one dog.