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North Devon & Exmoor - When and where to visit
The places listed below make ideal bases for exploring North Devon & Exmoor.
© Hilary Bradt
The most popular area in Exmoor – and it deserves the accolade. Superb walking and plenty of other happenings.
Where Exmoor meets the sea: the best moorland scenery, lovely cliff and inland walks, and a great little town for relaxation.
A perfect centre for a short break. There’s lots to see in this medieval town, and the West Somerset (steam) Railway is nearby.
A delightful small town, with good restaurants and a laid-back atmosphere. Ideal for exploring southern Exmoor.
A lively, friendly town with plenty going on. Great for an off-season stay or to get away from crowds in the summer.
Wonderful cliff walks, Hartland Abbey and some good gardens within a small area.
Braunton & Woolacombe
Braunton for grown-ups and Woolacombe for families. Anywhere near the sandy beaches will be busy in the summer.
You don’t base yourself in Lundy, you stay there for a memorable few nights.
The Slow traveller prefers to get around under his or her own leg power or by bus, but that can be quite a challenge in this region of poor public transport. If you are relying on public transport for any part of your visit in Devon you should check the excellent website www.journeydevon.info. Its interactive bus map and timetables are kept up to date. For planning a journey, Traveline is invaluable and you can phone from a bus stop and ask what’s happened to your bus. In Somerset the best website for bus information is www.exploremoor.co.uk.
© cpphotoimages, Shutterstock
Exmoor, the home of one of Britain’s most distinctive native ponies, is perfect for riding. There are several accommodation providers who will provide a field or stabling for your own horse, so a riding holiday using the information in this book plus a bit of additional research is entirely realistic.
Mike Harrison, compiler of Croydecycle maps, writes: ‘Cycling in North Devon is a pleasure, being far from cities so most of the rural lanes are quiet. The Tarka Trail (NCN3 and 27) on the old railway lines around the Taw and Torridge estuaries is ideal for families and there are other quiet and level lanes around Braunton. Coastal roads can be busy at peak times and often a bike is the quickest way round the narrow lanes but be wary of cars.’
The Tarka Trail is one of the country’s best-known cycle routes, running 180 miles from Braunton to Meeth, but there are plenty of other routes and circuits. The free booklet Cycling Trails in Devon (www.visitdevon.co.uk; click on ‘brochure request’) is useful, but for more specific information buy Bryan Cath’s 7 Cycle Rides around North Devon and Exmoor Challenge and 7 Cycle Rides around North and Mid Devon. They’re available in the region and from www.westcountrywalks.co.uk. Croydecycle’s map Braunton & Ilfracombe at 1:30,000 is perfect for cyclists who want to explore this area.
The South West Coast Path is the long-distance national trail in this region. It begins in Minehead and follows the coast, with occasional forays inland, for 124 miles to the Cornish border before completing its 630-mile journey round the Cornwall peninsula to Poole Harbour in Dorset. This section is considered by many to be the most beautiful as well as the most challenging of the entire route. All keen walkers who visit Devon and Exmoor will do parts of the coast path, most utilising the inland footpaths to make a circular trip or doing one of the ‘Bus-assisted walks’ suggested in this book. However, there are several inland long-distance footpaths on Exmoor, including the Two Moors Way, which runs from Lynmouth to Ivybridge on the far edge of Dartmoor; the Macmillan Way West from southeast Exmoor to Barnstaple; the Samaritans Way South West from Bristol to Lynton; and the Coleridge Way from the Quantocks to Lynmouth. These are just the named trails; a network of minor footpaths and excellent maps allow you to devise your own walk.