Britain’s Most Scenic Walks: Exmoor National Park, Somerset
In this blog, we will discover Exmoor National Park, Somerset and the history behind it.
Exmoor National Park is part located in Somerset and part in Devon, featuring some 1,800 acres of moorland, forest, rivers and the must-visit Wimbleball Lake.
A former royal hunting forest, the park officially became a royal point of interest in late 13th century when King Henry II of England made William of Wrotham ‘steward of Exmoor’, putting the park under his protection. And we can understand why! The park is home to some of the rarest of British wildlife including wild red deer, Exmoor ponies and the mysterious phantom cat who currently roams its grounds. It has the longest wooded coastline in Britain, is home to England’s tallest (and possibly oldest) tree, and it features some of the darkest skies in the UK (making the park an ideal location for avid stargazers).
Not only all that, but the space has a lot of history; the park is thought to have been occupied by people since the Mesolithic/Stone Age (approximately 9000 – 5500 BC) who would use the grounds to rear animals, grow crops and extract minerals from the earth for tools and weapons. Proof of their settlement there can be seen in the Earthen ring (a circular stone monument – think Stonehenge) which is believed to date back to 5000 – 4000 BC, as well the the Tarr Steps bridge across River Barle which is believed to have been built around 1000 BC. The sedimentary rock which makes up much of the coastline in the park has more or less remained as it was back at that time as the area has not been subject to shifts or glaciation, so when you see the landscape, you are probably seeing it as the people who settled there all those years ago would have seen it!
You could horse ride across the moorland, stopping off for a cream tea at one of the local villages which are full of character (psst there are plenty of horse riding schools in the area, if you are a horse riding novice).
Or you could mountain bike across the terrain.
Walking, however, is the most popular activity in the park, and – we think – the best way to see the park and its beautiful and colourful flora and fauna. With plenty of routes that you can take, across the moorland, through the forest or along the coastline, you can take your pick!
We would definitely recommend that you take a walk around the Wimbleball Lake. It takes three hours to walk the whole wall around, and there are also lots of water sports you can take part in whilst there such as windsurfing, rowing and canoeing. For more on that, check out the Active Exmoor website.
The National Park Authority have come up with some handy guided walks (and mountain biking routes also) which will tell you some more about the history of the park and explain the different plant life that you will see on your walk. Guides can be bought via the Exmoor National Park website here or you can check out routes via the Active Exmoor website.
A great park like this requires time for a person to savour over it so we would recommend staying at the Farthings Country House Hotel & Restaurant which is only an hour away from the park by car. This luxury, country-style hotel with its antique furniture and modern amenities will make you feel totally at home and will be a great respite after a long day of walking in the park. The restaurant – led by Chef, Shaun Barnes – ensures that the food served at the hotel is fresh and locally sourced, taking fruits from the hotel’s own orchard and providing meat that have been reared by the hotel, as well as sourcing meat from local farms. For more on the restaurant’s philosophy, and to check out their menu, click here.
Enjoy your walk!