The Wilderness Coast

Exmoor: Minehead to Combe Martin

Ideas for a seven day trip (but can be shortened) exploring (by car or bus) exploring the coastline and moors of Exmoor National Park. Explore North Devon’s wild side on a breathtaking tour of high sea cliffs, remote moors, steep-sided gorges and isolated beaches, and enjoy outdoor activities and delicious treats.

Whether you want to spend a day or week exploring Exmoor, this is the trip for you. With the help of local experts we've pulled together ideas for days out on this wild and rugged coastline. These combine walks taking in the local highlights of the world renowned South West Coast Path National Trail and along with the high moors, wooded valleys and ancient villages - and you'll see why these beautiful wild landscape has inspired generations of artists, writers and poets.

Porlock Bay Oysters and the vast moorland of Exmoor National Park

Morning

Pack a picnic and say goodbye to the bustle of daily life as you set out from Minehead and into Exmoor National Park, a vast, protected landscape covering 267 square miles (692 square km) of moorland, forest and rocky coastal terrain. Drive (or book the Moor Rover service, or a taxi) for the 2.4-mile (3.9km) journey to Burgundy Chapel Combe car park and set out on the breathtaking 6.9-mile (11.2km) Brockholes circular walk. This adventurous trail skips along the coast with sweeping views across gorse and heather-covered slopes to Porlock in the valley below. This route reaches a high point at Selworthy Beacon - a good spot for a lunch stop - before linking back to the starting point.

Afternoon

Drop back down to sea level at Porlock Weir, a pretty seaside village surrounded by high hills (and 9.3 miles/15km westward by car or taxi). Grab a drink, then sit on the quayside and take in the scenery. Porlock and Porlock Weir have a range of accommodation options to rest your weary legs. While staying in the area, don’t miss the chance to sample Porlock Bay Oysters, which have recently been reintroduced to the bay. Considered by connoisseurs to be among the best in the world, you can sample the oysters at pubs and restaurants in and around Porlock.

Poetry, literature and bandits among England’s highest coastal hills

Morning

Eat a hearty breakfast and pack a lunch for a challenging walk - the 7.3-mile (11.7km) Robbers Bridge route (10.6 miles/17km from Minehead by car, taxi or Moor Rover). Named after real-life bandits who inspired characters in RD Blackmore’s novel, Lorna Doone, this trail climbs and descends deep wooded ‘combes’ amid England’s highest coastal hills. This area has other strong literary connections because Ash Farm, also on the trail, is where Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously conceived the lines of his epic poem, Kubla Khan. The romantic poet was a keen hill walker, who was known to tramp for miles while working on his poetry. His influence here gives name to the Coleridge Way, a long-distance footpath which cuts across Exmoor and the Quantock Hills from Nether Stowey (where the poet lived for several years) to Lynton.

Afternoon

If you have energy left after the morning’s trek, there’s a short walk up Dunkery Beacon - Exmoor’s highest hill at 519 metres (1,703 feet). Stroll 0.6 miles (1km) uphill from one of the parking spots on the road above Webbers Post. You’ll soon be on open moorland with panoramic views of hills, forest, coast and the Bristol Channel. Look out for the remnants of Bronze Age settlements which line the ridge to the top. Stop for dinner in one of the ancient village pubs, before retiring to your accommodation in Porlock for a much-needed rest.

Lynmouth’s funicular railway and the exposed ridges of Foreland Point

Morning

There are many shorter, less challenging walks in Exmoor National Park than this. But if you have the time and energy, it’s worth tackling the longer treks for diversity of terrain and rewarding vistas. One such trail is the 5.1-mile (8.2km) Foreland Point Adventurous Walk. This circular route, which starts 1.6 miles (2.6km) east of Lynmouth, passes through a landscape of steep, tree-covered hills rising from the sea in what is the longest stretch of coastal woodland in England and Wales. At Foreland Point Lighthouse you’re rewarded with unrestricted views across the Bristol Channel to Wales. This is not for the faint-hearted, as it features steep climbs and exposed ridges, although there are gentler shortcuts if required.

Afternoon

Make your way back down to Lynmouth, a picture-postcard fishing village at the mouth of the river Lyn. As you’d expect, there are fantastic fish and chips to be enjoyed here, but there is also a string of pubs, cafés and tea rooms for a hearty lunch stop. After lunch, take the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway to Lynton. This water-powered funicular railway, established in 1888, chugs up the short, but near-vertical, track to the top, revealing wider views of the coast as it climbs. As one of Exmoor’s key tourism destinations, you’ll find plenty of hotels, guest houses and places to eat in this picturesque village.

Kestrels and red deer around Simonsbath and Exford

Morning

This day out offers a chance to rest your legs and explore Exmoor National Park. Drive, if you have a car. Otherwise, arrange a few journeys to key destinations with the Moor Rover. Take the steep road (9.5 miles/15.2km) from Lynton to Simonsbath, a small village on the River Barle at the heart of Exmoor. Even from the road, the landscape here is nothing short of spectacular. Watch out for local wildlife including moorland ponies, foxes, hares and birds of prey including kestrels, buzzards and kites.

Afternoon

When it comes to wildlife, Exmoor is best known for its large population of red deer. The best way to see these animals in the wild is to join a red deer safari. You can see deer all year round, but the most dramatic time to visit is in the autumn. This is the rutting season when majestic stags with huge antlers go head-to-head in battle. After your encounter with wildlife, continue to other noteworthy villages such as Exford, Wheddon Cross and Winsford, all of which have traditional moorland pubs and hotels serving great food and beers. While here, be sure to sample the excellent Exmoor Ales.

Lynton and the Valley of Rocks

Morning

Lace up your boots and prepare for one of the highlights of coastal Exmoor. Today’s walk is the 2.7-mile (4.3 km) Lynton and the Valley of Rocks route (starting from Lynton, 12.8 miles/20.6km east of Combe Martin). Here the cliffs rise into craggy outcrops and rock towers, forming a ‘dry’ valley between the coast and the rounded hulks of the moors. Continue through this valley, passing the Ragged Jack and Castle Rock formations. Test your head for heights by climbing to the top for jaw-dropping views along the coast, before returning to Lynton on this most scenic of trails.

Afternoon

Grab a sandwich at one of the cafés or tea rooms in Lynton, then walk or catch the railway down to Lynmouth. From here take an easy 2.5-mile (4km) stroll to Watersmeet. This wooded valley walk follows the babbling East Lyn river to its confluence with Hoar Oak Water. Sip a cup of tea or coffee from the café here and take time to soak up the atmosphere of this tranquil setting. As an alternative, take a boat trip from the harbour to explore the towering cliffs from the sea; spot wildlife and learn about the history of this remote harbour.

Heddon’s Mouth and coasteering

Morning

Head to Heddon Valley (5.7 miles/9.2km east of Combe Martin) for a gentle stroll along the trails of
this deep-cut valley. Emerge from the deep green woodland beside the river on to steep, scree-covered
slopes leading to Heddon’s Mouth on this 2.1-mile (3.4km) trail. Admire the coast from the pebble beach
sandwiched between imposing cliffs. From here you can carry on a coastal walk to Woody Bay or return
upstream for lunch at the historic Hunters Inn.

Afternoon

Exmoor is an adventurer’s paradise, with all manner of activities available for outdoor types. One local activity to try while you’re here is coasteering. This thrilling activity involves scrambling over rocks, jumping off ledges and swimming through caves, while admiring the coastal scenery and marine wildlife. Popular
coasteering spots in Exmoor include Lee Bay and Lynmouth, or further afield at Hele Bay near Ilfracombe,
but activities need to be arranged in advance with local activity providers.

Combe Martin and the highest sea cliff in England and Wales

Morning

From the seaside village of Combe Martin, take the thigh-burning walk up the Coast Path towards Little Hangman on the 4.7-mile (7.5km) Hangman Hills walk. Views along the coast reveal themselves as you gain elevation towards the Great Hangman, which, at 244 metres (800 feet) is the highest sea cliff in England and Wales. Take a few minutes to catch your breath, then continue along the loop back to Combe Martin.

Afternoon

Relax with a cream tea in Combe Martin. You’ve earned it. Combe Martin is a popular holiday destination with no shortage of places to eat, drink and shop. But the beach and coastal scenery is the biggest draw. A great way to experience this is to hire a kayak or stand up paddle board at the beach or take a guided kayak tour to see the soaring sea cliffs from the water.

Accommodation is easier to find in the major villages and towns along the coast, such as Minehead, Porlock, Lynton & Lynmouth and Combe Martin, where there is a wide choice of hotels, guest houses and bed & breakfasts.

The businesses shown below are supporters of the Coast Path and welcome walkers. Additional listings can be found on the Visit Exmoor website. If you would like to have your accommodation and luggage transfer arranged, Contours Walking Holidays and Encounter Walking Holidays can create your perfect package.  

Heddon's Gate Hotel,Martinhoe

Heddon's Gate is hidden in trees on the east side of the Heddon Valley, just above the old carriage drive. Absolute seclusion,wonderful food and a warm welcome.

Martinhoe Cleave Cottages

Stay at these lovely, well-appointed cottages (2 cottages sleep 2 people and one cottage sleeps 2-4 people) and explore the dramatic South West Coast Path. Tel: 01598 753987

Longmead House, Lynton

As one of Lynton’s best kept secrets, our beautiful Victorian B&B offers plenty of comfort after a long day’s walk with our picturesque gardens, en-suite bedrooms and breakfast like no other.

The Denes Guest House, Lynton

The Denes offer locally sourced food and comfortable en-suite bedrooms, facilities to dry outdoor gear and a selection of maps.  Books, DVDs and board games for relaxation.

Gable Lodge Guest House, Lynton

Family run guest house offering family friendly bed and breakfast accommodation. Freshly prepared evening meals using local produce.

Fernleigh Guest House, Lynton

The Fernleigh Guest House, in charming Lynton, is a friendly and informal place to stay.  We are open all year and have 5 en-suite bedrooms.

Longlands Glamping

Luxury Glamping, multi-award winning lodges with hot tubs & boating lake. Mid-week offers for couples. Dogs welcome. Optional catering

Bay Valley Of The Rocks Hotel

Overlooking the pretty harbour of Lynmouth, early Victorian hotel retains many aspects of its original charm, including an impressive atrium in the lounge and rooms with stunning scenic views.

South View Guest House, Lynton

We look forward to welcoming you to our newly refurbished & upgraded Edwardian Guest House.  Ideally located for pubs, restaurants, shops and the spectacular North Devon Coast Path.

Sunny Lyn Holiday Park, Lynbridge

Sunny Lyn Camping and Holiday Park is situated just outside Lynmouth and the closest camping to the South West Coast Path.

The Crown Hotel, Lynton

A warm welcome awaits at the Crown Hotel, originally a coaching inn. Located in the heart of Lynton, a quiet base to explore N.Devon's rugged coastline. One night stays and dogs welcome.

Orchard House Hotel, Lynmouth

Orchard House offers a friendly, homely atmosphere. Full English breakfast, licensed bar, kit drying, luggage transfers, pets & children welcome.

Hillside House B&B, Lynmouth

Situated on the East Lyn River, we are ideally suited to walkers needs, 400 yards from the Coast Path. The perfect location to explore & enjoy coast, riverside & woodland.

The Old Sea Captains House

Set against the mouth of the East Lyn River, the Captain’s House offers an ideal base from which to explore the Exmoor and North Devon coastline.

Lorna Doone House, Lynmouth

Licensed guest house property offering evening meals. Ideally situated for the Coast Path.

Cranleigh House B&B, Combe Martin

We are a comfortable, dog friendly, vegetarian/vegan, Yoga B+B. Bike storage and overnight drying facilities available.

Fresh local produce is in abundance on Exmoor, including Porlock Oysters, freshly caught trout and venison. Local farm shops and delis are useful for picking up fresh produce and treats. There are many fine restaurants, gastro pubs and fish and chip shops throughout Exmoor. For beer drinkers there are some tasty local ales.

The businesses shown below are supporters of the Coast Path and welcome walkers. Additional listings can be found on the Visit Exmoor website.

Hunters Inn, Heddon Valley

The Inn sits beautifully in the Heddon Valley, yards from the Coast Path. En-suite bedrooms, excellent home cooked food and lots of real ales and cider.

It really pays to have a car here. Getting to and from walks, villages and local attractions will be difficult and time-consuming without your own transport. There are limited bus services here, however, it is possible to pre-book a lift with the Moor Rover minibus or with local taxi services. For more travel information around Exmoor visit the Exmoor National Park Enjoying Travel websiteFor Baggage transfers visit...www.lttaxis.co.uk

From Dover it is 246 miles (396km) and approx 4¾ hrs drive to Minehead.  From Harwich it is 272 miles (438km) and a 5 hour drive.