In a small area it seemed to contain everything I liked best about rural England: dramatic coastal scenery, lovely villages advertising cream teas, little churches full of ancient village art – and Exmoor ponies.
‘We came to the great River Exe … which rises in the hills on this north side of the county … The country it rises in is called Exmoor. Camden calls it a filthy barren ground, and indeed, so it is; but as soon as the Exe comes off from the moors and hilly country and descends into the lower grounds, we found the alteration; for then we saw Devonshire in its other countenance, cultivated, populous and fruitful.’
– Daniel Defoe, 1724
This is still an accurate picture of Exmoor if you change ‘filthy barren ground’ for something more complimentary, for it is the heathercovered moorland as much as the cultivated, populous and fruitful lower ground that draws visitors. This is one of England’s smallest national parks, a soft landscape of rounded hills, splashed yellow from gorse and purple in the late summer when the heather blooms, and of deep, wooded valleys. And Exmoor has the coast, adding pebble coves and sea views to its attractions, along with the many rivers that race to the sea from the high ground, slicing into the soft sandstone. With so much of Exmoor managed by the National Trust, clear signposting makes walking or cycling a real pleasure. Astonishingly, for such an utterly delightful region, it’s one of England’s least visited national parks. You may not believe this on a sunny weekend in Lynmouth or at The Hunter’s Inn when they’re buzzing with visitors, but solitude is not hard to find.
Bradt on Britain – our Slow Travel approach
Bradt’s coverage of Britain’s regions makes ‘Slow Travel’ its focus. To us, Slow Travel means ditching the tourist ticklists – deciding not to try to see ‘too much’ – and instead taking time to get properly under the skin of a special region. You don’t have to travel at a snail’s pace: you just have to allow yourself to savour the moment, appreciate the local differences that create a sense of place, and celebrate its food, people and traditions.