Exmoor is a place of stunning natural beauty, situated in West Somerset and North Devon. What used to be an ancient royal hunting forest now plays host to a wide range of things to do and see for outdoor lovers, couples and families, and those looking for a tranquil holiday destination. The diverse landscapes are completely breathtaking; one moment you’re rambling over hilly moorlands, the next you’re deep in the woods and then you can dip your toe into one of the many rivers. If this isn’t enough to whet your appetite then maybe the fact that Exmoor was the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe will get you excited. Explore the area during an evening to discover the true beauties of an untainted night’s sky. Whether you want to grab a leisurely train ride on the West Somerset Railway (see our dog-friendly attractions in Exmoor) or sneak a peek at the plethora of wildlife on a Land Rover Safari, there is something to suit everyone in Exmoor. Here are our five favourite things to see and do, that will ensure your trip is a resounding success.
Land Rover Safari
If you want to experience Exmoor in a completely different way then make sure you book yourself a Land Rover Safari. There are a number of companies offering tours and your guide will take you along awe-inspiring off road tracks, so that you can get up close to the famous red deer and Exmoor ponies. This is the perfect day trip for children, families, animal lovers and those who are less mobile. The high seats in your luxury Land Rover will ensure you get an unrivaled view of the Exmoor countryside, along with all the beautiful wildlife that comes along with it. You can opt for a half day trip (three hours) or a full day which includes stopping off for a pub lunch. Half day trips start at 9.30am or 2.30pm, with full day trips from 9.30am. Lunch is not included in the price, but you will be given hot drinks and handmade Devonshire biscuits. Trips are suitable for everybody, including young children, but dogs are not allowed. Don’t forget to take your camera, to capture some stunning pictures of the scenery and wildlife!
Day trip to Lundy Island
Although Lundy Island may seem small (at just three miles long and half a mile wide), there’s no shortage of things to see and do while you’re there. A day trip to Lundy Island is a must-do for anybody visiting Exmoor or North Devon. Just travelling on the historic ferry and supply ship, is an experience in itself. Built in 1958, the MS Oldenburg retains many of the original fixtures and fittings, all adding to the enchantment of your trip. The ferry leaves from either Bideford or Ilfracombe at least three times a week, taking around two hours to get to Lundy Island. You can book tickets at Tourist Information Centres in and around Exmoor. If the weather is nice then make sure you get yourself on deck, where you might catch a glimpse of one of the many dolphins that adore chasing the boat. You will have approximately four hours to explore all that Lundy Island has to offer, so many people opt for a couple of trips in order to see it all. You can go birdwatching and diving, fishing and climbing, and even visit one of the many historical buildings or monuments. Make sure you plan ahead, to get the most out of your time on the island.
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
The Wildlife and Dinosaur Park at Combe Martin near Ilfracombe is a perfect day out for the whole family, especially the little ones. Spanning over 28 acres, these spectacular gardens are home to life sized dinosaurs and a whole variety of incredible animals. From African lions to baby wallabies, this wildlife park ticks every box for animal lovers. The park itself is built within a valley, which lends to a truly gorgeous setting that complements the wildlife and other attractions. However, this does mean that some of the park is fairly steep and may be difficult to access with large buggies or wheelchairs. The park hire out baby carriers if needed and can give advice on areas that are easier to access than others. Once you’ve taken in all of the exhilarating sights and attractions at the Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, make sure you explore all that Combe Martin has to offer. There are plenty of secluded bays, beaches and rock pools in the area; perfect for winding down after a fun filled trip at the wildlife park.
Traditional seaside fun at Minehead
Head to where countryside meets coast and enjoy some traditional seaside fun at Minehead. Families, couples and groups of friends alike will love the classic seaside attractions, complete with sandy beach and promenade. Grab fish and chips in one of the many restaurants along the coast or take a dip in the water if the weather is nice. Everybody loves the seaside! For something a little more energetic, explore the South West coastal path for a long and scenic walk. You can walk a whole 8.9 miles to Porlock Weir, over the ‘rugged’ coast path which is full of steep climbs and descents. Alternatively, take the less challenging inland path and make your way over the moors. Anyone who enjoys the great outdoors will love spending time in Minehead; whether catching some rays on the beach or hiking their way to Porlock Weir. The main Minehead beach has restrictions on dogs between the 1st of May and 30th of September, so bear this in mind if you’re planning on bringing your four legged friend with you.
Exmoor Pony Centre
No trip to Exmoor would be complete without visiting the Exmoor Pony Centre. This small, charity-run centre is the perfect place to meet the Exmoor ponies and find out more about this indigenous breed. Most of the ponies here were taken in when they had no place else to go, with over 500 taken in by the centre since 1998. Children and adults alike will fall in love with these beautiful creatures, so make sure you pay them a visit. Visiting the pony centre is completely free, making it great for those on a tight budget. If you want to splurge, whilst also helping the charity and their ponies, then you can book a taster session, organise a trek across the moors or even adopt a pony! A taster session is the best way to get to know this native breed, as you’ll get an hour to ride, groom and care for the ponies. Those who are advanced riders can also take their favourite pony out on an Exmoor Experience Trek; an unforgettable way to see much of what Exmoor has to offer, on the back of a pony. There are age and experience restrictions for some of the activities, so please bear this in mind before booking.
Exmoor is truly one of those places that you never want to leave, which is probably why so many people return year after year. There’s something for everyone, from couples who want a romantic getaway to families who want a fun-filled adventure. So, grab your camera to snap the wildlife, bring your dog for walks along the coast and countryside, and remember to creep out at night for that stunning starry sky.