Friday, 29 June 2012

Days out on Exmoor

Running a guesthouse / bed and breakfast as we do (which we thoroughly enjoy) it’s not often that we get out to explore this beautiful area we live in. So it’s even more of a treat when we do! We both love walking, and you can find details in earlier posts about some of our favourite Exmoor walks. This time, I’m concentrating on trips that don’t necessarily involve much walking – though they still can if you like. Here are two suggestions. In keeping with our green ethos, I’ve included some public transport options to get you there and back, so that you can be car free. Of course, another way to be car free is to go by bicycle. Exmoor is fantastic for cycling, with routes as challenging as you like, on and off road. Both conventional and electric bikes can be hired locally.

Malmsmead and Oare

Lorna Doone country! You can do a shortish circular walk that takes in both places, a longer walk to explore the valley, or just take the shortest route between the two hamlets and have a mooch round each. Oare Church is where, in the book, Lorna was shot on her wedding day. Malmsmead has a pretty bridge and you can wander along the river as far as you like towards the Doone Valley. For lunch or other refreshments, two good options are the Café Deli Malmsmead and (on the road towards Minehead) the Culbone Inn.

Public transport: Bus 300 (Minehead-Lynmouth, runs April-October only) travels along the main road; you’d need to walk to Oare/Malmsmead from the nearest bus stop. You could, though, book the Moor Rover bus to take you to either of the villages, and pick you up later.

Blue Anchor, Watchet and Williton

If you do like to be beside the seaside, Blue Anchor is a good place to stroll along the prom, prom, prom (it’s much more scenic looking towards the coast than towards the caravans – sorry, site owners!). The Driftwood Café is something of an institution locally, serving fish and chips (and more) accompanied by sea views. For a longer walk, head inland for a while, or continue on to Watchet.

Watchet is very interesting to wander round, with two small museums full of local history, some good non-chain shops and a pleasant esplanade. There are several pubs and teashops; we’ve eaten at Chives Deli and the Star Inn, both of which we’d recommend. If you want to continue on foot to Williton, it’s a little over two miles via Doniford.

In Williton you’ll find an antiques centre and shops including a proper old-fashioned hardware store (which I always enjoy looking round). There are a couple of pubs and places for snacks and, a little way outside the village, the Bakelite Museum. This quirky paeon to all things plastic is almost guaranteed to cause cries of ‘oh, my mum used to have one of those!’. Also to be seen are some far less usual objects, such as a rather bizarre doll (you’ll see what I mean) and a Bakelite coffin. There’s a small café at the museum (check for opening times/days as they may vary). The museum has been threatened with closure because, being in an old mill, it’s difficult for them to comply with modern fire regulations. They’ve made some adjustments though, so we hope it will be open for the foreseeable future.

Public transport: there are West Somerset Railway stations at all three places, so if you book a Day Rover ticket (available at a discount from Exmoor House if you’re staying with us), and plan the day carefully, you should be able to fit in visits to them all. Bus 18 (between Minehead and Taunton) stops at Watchet and Williton; bus 106 (Minehead – Doniford) stops at Blue Anchor and Watchet.

Useful links our facebook page, with photos of the area (more being added!) includes timetables and special events a taste of what there is to see bus timetables bike hire electric bike hire

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Six things you might not know about Exmoor

1. It’s not exactly where you may think it is

Most of the National Park (two thirds of it in fact) is in Somerset - although many people seem to think of it as being in neighbouring county Devon, home to the remaining third.

2. It has prehistoric animals

(No, not the Exmoor Beast! Or perhaps, who knows?) Exmoor ponies are one of our oldest breeds of animal, and their ancestry can be traced way back  

3. It’s a great place to see the stars

Exmoor is Europe’s first Dark Sky Reserve, making it a wonderful place for astronomers and anybody interested in stargazing:

4. It contains many natural wonders: animal, vegetable and mineral

Several thousand red deer live here – the largest concentration in Britain – as well as a huge variety of other wildlife

Ancient woods at Horner have rare species of lichen

Exmoor has the highest coastline in the country, and the highest sea cliff (at Great Hangman).

5. It has record-breaking and unique trees

Woodlands on Exmoor contain some species unique to the area (such as varieties of whitebeam).

The longest stretch of coastal woodland in the country can be found between The Foreland and Porlock.

Nutcombe Bottom, near Dunster, has England’s tallest tree (a Douglas fir) and also England’s tallest magnolia 

6. It is absolutely beautiful!

Incredibly varied, too. But don't just take my word for it... pay a visit and see for yourself.

This post was inspired by a survey conducted on behalf of Exmoor National Park, about what people who have not visited the area think of Exmoor. You can find the survey results at