Monday, 24 August 2015

Exmoor's variety, part 1: Water

Exmoor National Park is not only incredibly beautiful, but incredibly varied. Some people hear the word ‘moor’ and think ‘bleak’ – but I want to show you that on Exmoor this is very far from the full story.

I’d intended to make this post about scenery and landscape in general, but this is such a huge subject that it needs breaking down into several episodes. So this time I’m going to concentrate on one theme – water. Who doesn’t love picnicking by a river, or relaxing by the sea?
 The river Barle at Withypool

 The moorland is criss-crossed by many small rivers, e.g. the Barle...

...and there are areas of marshland, rich in wildlife.
Porlock Marsh
Wimbleball Lake at dusk

We’ve a lake (a man-made reservoir but none the less attractive for that) at Wimbleball.

And Exmoor National Park has an amazing coastline, from Minehead
View from the Valley of Rocks, Lynton
to Porlock, from Lynmouth to Heddon’s Mouth and many places in between. Beaches, high and rugged cliffs, dramatic ravines, charming harbour towns…

Walking to Heddon's Mouth
There are plenty of water-based activities to choose from on Exmoor, including coasteering, kayaking, fishing - and of course coastal walking or cycling.

Find some ideas at Visit Exmoor

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The mysterious Culbone Stone

Last Saturday the owners of an area of wild woodland high on Exmoor opened up part of their land so that people could visit the Culbone Stone, a mysterious remnant of the moor’s ancient past. 

The Culbone Stone with its inscription

Once the Culbone Stone may have formed part of an ancient line of standing stones dating from about 3,000 years ago; some of these are still in place in the surrounding woods. 

A cross within a wheel or circle has been cut into the stone. Who carved it, and when? 
Although a ‘wheeled cross’ is a well-known Christian symbol, crosses within circles have been used as symbols since well before Jesus’ time. 
Also, one arm of the cross, which extends outside the wheel, seems to have been added after the rest of the carving (possibly as a parish boundary marker). So, who knows…?

Twisty trees in the woods surrounding the Culbone Stone
Gnarled and twisted trees, dense undergrowth and winding paths lend an atmosphere of mystery to the woods themselves. 

The land was once owned by Ada Lovelace (check her out on Wikipedia) and her husband.   

Some of the trees that they planted there as part of a grand vision for the estate did not do well in our moorland climate, but they linger on, like ghosts, adding to the slight spookiness of the place.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Exmoor walks... and cake

Porlock Marsh
There is so much great walking on Exmoor that one is spoilt for choice, and we have an ever-growing list of walks that we want to do. Over the last few months we’ve managed to tick a few off that list.

Bossington Beach and Porlock Marsh (approx 2 miles)
A short circular walk from Bossington down to the beach and along behind the shingle ridge, turning inland to
Walking towards Bossington Hill
return to Bossington. We finished by having lunch (including cake) at Kitnors in the village. The walk we did takes you through some fascinating saltmarsh scenery, but is not recommended at high tide or after heavy rain. For a longer route you could take in, for example, Bossington Hill, Selworthy Beacon, Porlock Weir…

The church at Culbone
Culbone Church (approx 5 miles)
Quite a bit of uphill and downhill on this walk, but definitely worth it for the views. Culbone Church is a little gem and I also found the churchyard very interesting. We walked
View from above Worthy Combe
up to Culbone through Yearnor Wood from Porlock Weir, then from the church via Withy Combe to the trail that passes Parsonage Farm and Ash Farm (wonderful coastal views). Then, via Worthy Combe back to Porlock Weir, and a visit to the Harbour Gallery & Café - one of several very nice places to eat - for coffee and cake.

On the way to Watersmeet
Watersmeet (approx 4 miles)
We actually did this one for the first time last Autumn, but revisited it a few weeks ago when some of the family came to stay. There are several variations on the walk, but as we were combining it with a trip to Lynton and Lynmouth to visit the craft shops – and of course ride the cliff railway – we walked the shortest version: straight along the river to Watersmeet and back, crossing the river from time to time. Naturally we had to try some of the cakes and scones at Watersmeet House before setting off back towards Lynmouth.

Do you detect a cake theme emerging here? No photos of any of the cakes, sorry - they all got eaten too fast for that.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

How about a wildlife safari on Exmoor?

A popular day (or half a day) out for our guests is to book an Exmoor safari.   

We are lucky enough to have not one but two safari companies based in our village:  BarleValley Safaris and Red Stag Safari

They are both run by local people who really know the moor and can take you to places off the beaten track, where you have the best chance of viewing animal, bird  and plant life. It is always best to book your safari as far in advance as possible, to be sure that your preferred time and date are available.

If you have booked a house party at Exmoor House, you could arrange an exclusive safari just for your group; there are various options for this.

Red deer hinds - photo by Liz Mitchell

You might be lucky enough to see herds of red deer. At this time of year the hinds may have their young with them. In autumn the stags have fully-grown antlers, ready for the rut.

Exmoor ponies wearing their winter coats

Exmoor ponies roam free on the moor and are a beautiful sight.

Deer and ponies are just a couple of well-known examples of the wildlife you could encounter on Exmoor... see our nature calendar for more.

Fancy a break in Exmoor National Park? Do get in touch. You can book with us by phone or via our website.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Exmoor House in the media...

‘Cosy, welcoming guesthouse in Exmoor’s highest village, with excellent food’ is how BBC Countryfile Magazine describes Exmoor House. The article, recently added to the Countryfile website, is about walking the very scenic Coleridge Way section between Wheddon Cross and Porlock.

Exmoor House also features as Paul’s Top Pick of places to stay in the online travel guide Somerset & Exmoor Great Escapes (you'll also find us in the 'Unique Places' and 'Walking' sections). 

Produced by greentraveller with Visit Somerset and Exmoor National Park, the guide is packed full of ideas for all sorts of things to experience in our wonderful county, with something for everyone. The accompanying booklet and video - both of which you can view from the Great Escapes web page - will give you even more ideas and inspiration.

In the new edition of Hilary Bradt’s book 'Slow Travel in North Devon & Exmoor' is a lovely review of our food. Here’s an extract: "The meals are the essence of home cooking, with a small menu carefully created with truly local ingredients, and good vegetarian options". 

Hilary says of the book: "No other guidebook to the region goes into anything like this level of detail and I think I have achieved my aim of inspiring even local people to say 'I didn’t know that!'." Find more details at Bradt Guides.

Feeling inspired to visit Exmoor? Escape to Exmoor House Wheddon Cross!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Exmoor National Park Partnership

You probably know that we’ve always tried to be as green as we can, and we are really proud of the fact that Exmoor House is in the middle of the National Park. 

When Dan James (the Exmoor Sustainable Economy Officer) asked for businesses to be part of a pilot group to help develop a scheme which would recognise those who work to help keep the area special, and who act as ambassadors for Exmoor, we jumped at the opportunity.

After several meetings, much research by Dan, and pilot group members trying out various application formats to see what would work best for all the different types of organisations that might want to join, the new scheme is now up and running. Exmoor House was among the five first businesses to gain an Exmoor National Park Partner certificate, showing that we comply with all the criteria. 

Here is a link to all the details: Park Partners

The video makes an interesting watch and, for businesses thinking about applying, sets out some of the benefits of joining.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Exmoor Walking Festival 2015

The Incline, Old Mineral Line
In 2015 the Exmoor Walking Festival will run (or should that be walk?) from Saturday 2nd to Saturday 9th May. The popular format of the past few years is continuing: the initial walks take place on the Devon side of Exmoor and the later ones on the Somerset side. There are no walks on the Thursday, so if you’re visiting the area for the festival, this could be a rest day or a chance to do a self-guided walk.

As usual there is a great range of walks. Some are themed around Exmoor wildlife: searching
The beach near Blue Anchor
for red deer, listening for birdsong, discovering rare lichens. You can also walk alongside the West Somerset steam railway (and one itinerary starts with a rail trip from Dunster to Washford). There is the opportunity to learn about the area’s history, with walks that take in, for example, part of the old Mineral Line, or places linked to the work of the Knight family. Also you could visit Lundy Island; join a literary discussion with the Walking Book Club; learn some more about orienteering…

For more information and to book places, visit the website at or call 01271 883131.

Want a lovely place to stay while you’re here for the Walking Festival? Book a dinner bed and breakfast break (with picnic lunches too if you like) at Exmoor House. We are in a great location in the heart of the National Park and we have very good facilities for walkers:

Friday, 30 January 2015

Snowdrop Valley 2015: another update

In my last blog post you will have seen the dates for this year’s park and ride buses between Wheddon Cross and Snowdrop Valley, along with some other information.

Steam train on the West Somerset Railway
There is more to tell! West Somerset Railway are again running their popular Snowdrops and Steam excursion (on various dates between 14th and 22nd February). You travel by train from Bishop’s Lydeard to Williton, where there will be a coach to take you to Wheddon Cross (with some lovely Exmoor scenery on the way).

Once you get here, you can choose whether to take the bus or walk to the valley; then after your visit the coach will collect you for the trip back to Williton to join the train once more. For further details, including the day’s timetable and how to book, visit the West Somerset Railway website.

And while you are at Wheddon Cross, do pop into our pop-up tearoom for lunch, or maybe just tea and cake…

Are you driving to our village for your Snowdrop Valley visit? Then you need to be aware that the road through Dunster is closed, so if coming from the Minehead or Bridgwater directions you will need to follow the diversion signs.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Snowdrop Valley on Exmoor in February 2015: update

This year the arrangements for Exmoor’s Snowdrop Valley are a little different. Here’s what you need to know.
Snowdrop Valley, Exmoor, Somerset

As usual the little road that leads to the valley will be closed to traffic for the snowdrops season. In 2015 the road closes from Saturday 31st January to Sunday 1st March inclusive.

The park and ride buses from Wheddon Cross to Snowdrop Valley will be running from 7th – 22nd February. The buses are accessible for people with limited mobility (and if you have a mobility issue and are unable to visit while the buses are running, please see the Wheddon Cross village website - link below - where you'll find details of what to do).

From 31st January to 6th February and from 23rd February until 1st March, walkers will be able to get to the valley but there is no access by car and no buses will be running.

You can walk down and back up again the same way, using the footpath that starts near the Exmoor Farmers Market at Wheddon Cross (where there is also a car park); alternatively you could make it a longer circular walk by taking other local paths. Whichever way you go, it is very steep in places (Exmoor’s hills are part of its charm) and it is likely to be muddy, so do remember your walking boots or wellies.

The Snowdrop Information Point, in the village car park next to the pub, will be staffed during each day while the park and ride is running and also on the weekends of 31st January and 28th February. As well as getting help and advice there, you can also buy various souvenirs.

For regular updates and maps of some suggested walk routes, as well as details about places to eat and stay near Snowdrop Valley (including our place) visit the Wheddon Cross website:

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Exmoor House cereal bars recipe

We often get asked for the recipe for our cereal / granola bars, which are very popular (particularly as part of a picnic lunch as they are excellent for an energy boost if you are out walking or cycling on Exmoor). They were originally inspired by one of Ina Garten’s recipes, but the mix has kept on evolving: this is the latest version.   

Put these ingredients into a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted:
Butter 250g
Honey 150g
Malt extract or soft brown sugar 50g
Orange or apple juice 200ml
Dried apricots finely chopped (or any other dried fruit) 350g

Then mix with the following ingredients:
Self-raising flour 150g
Rolled oats or porridge oats 300g
Wheatgerm 100g
Ground almonds 75g
Dried coconut 100g

Put the mixture into a deep baking tray / traybake tray, greased and lined with baking parchment, size 12 x 9 inches, and bake at 180°c for 25 minutes approx, until lightly browned on top. Cut into bars or squares when cold.


If you’d like to try them but would rather Frank made them for you, then you’ll just have to come and stay with us at Exmoor House, or visit our Snowdrop Valley tearoom in February.