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Car-free Guide to Exmoor National Park

Posted by John Sannaee at 04:07 on Monday 29 July 2013

Enjoy the glorious views of the west Somerset/north Devon coast from an open-top bus. Photo: Exmoor NPAEnjoy the glorious views of the west Somerset/north Devon coast from an open-top bus. Photo: Exmoor NPAOur guide to travelling to and around Exmoor National Park without a car.

>> For great places to stay and eat, as well as ideas for days out, see our:
Greentraveller Guide to Exmoor National Park 

A. Getting to Exmoor without a car:

By Train:
The main rail gateway to Exmoor is Taunton, which has regular mainline services from destinations across the country, including London Paddington, Bristol, and Reading, with First Great Western; and Cross Country services from the Midlands (including Birmingham), the North (including Leeds and Newcastle) and Scotland – both operators also run services to Taunton from further down in the South West.

If you are coming from Cornwall or elsewhere in Devon, services stop first at Tiverton Parkway, which is also well located for Exmoor National Park and its public transport network. The Tarka Line also connects Barnstaple with various local stations en route to Exeter, where connections to the rest of the country can be made. The closest station to the Park itself is at Minehead, connected to Taunton and mainline services by the West Somerset Line.

By Coach or Bus:
National Express
runs services from across the country to Taunton, Tiverton, Barnstaple and Minehead, whilst Megabus supplements this with further services to Taunton.

B. Getting around without a car:

By Train:
There are no train services running across Exmoor National Park itself, though there are two heritage railway services for visitors to Exmoor.

By Bus:
Exmoor’s exemplary Explore Moor initiative groups together the different public transport options in the National Park in a cohesive way. This consists principally of several useful bus services linking the National Park’s main destinations, supplemented by the Moor Rover (below).
It is worth noting that bus services and timetables are subject to fairly regular change, so please check the Explore Moor website and the timetables it links to before planning your trip.
The following routes (destinations accurate at time of press) could be useful for visitors:

39: Minehead – Allerford – Bossington Green – Porlock – Porlock Weir (not Sundays)
107: Minehead – Alcombe – Dunster – Timberscombe – Wotton Courtenay – Luccombe – Minehad (Wednedays only)
300 Exmoor Coastal Link (open top sightseeing service):
Minehead – Allerford – Porlock – Culbone – County Gate – Countisbury – Lynmouth (April – October only)
300X: Taunton - Minehad - Lynmouth - Combe Martin - Ilfracombe (open-top service running four days a week during the Summer holidays)
300 (regular service): Ilfracombe – Combe Martin – Blackmoor Gate – Lynton – Lynmouth (7 days a week in the Summer, weekends only in the Winter)
309/310: Barnstaple – Blackmoor Gate – Parracombe – Woody Bay Station – Barbrook – Lynton – Lynmouth (no Sunday service in Winter)
398: Tiverton – Bolham Cove – Bampton – Dulverton – Bridgetown – Wheddon Cross – Timberscombe – Dunster – Minehead (not Sundays)
400 (vintage open top bus, sightseeing service): Minehad - Dunster - Wheddon Cross - Exford - Porlock - Minehead (August and September, Friday to Sunday)
564: Minehead – Alcombe – Dunster – Timberscombe – Luxborough – Roadwater – Washford – Old Cleeve – Blue Anchor (Mondays and Fridays only)
678: Dulverton – Brushford – Exebridge – Bury – Upton – Brompton Regis – Timberscombe – Minehad (Thursdays only)

>> Bus timetables within the national park, and for more information, have a look at the Explore Moor website.

Moor Rover:
If flexibility is what you are after, there's a flexible minibus service, the Moor Rover, which links destinations across the National Park. The bus will pick up and drop off anywhere on Exmoor between 8am and 8pm, seven days a week, all-year round (subject to the availability of a vehicle and driver), and can also transport bicycles, wheelchairs, dogs and luggage. You must book the service (sliding scale of prices according to distance) 24 hours or more in advance – discounts are offered for groups of six or more. There is also a similar service for access to the Coleridge Way.

Travel flexibly with Moor Rover. Photo: Exmoor NPATravel flexibly with Moor Rover. Photo: Exmoor NPA

Cycling:
For leisurely road cyclists looking for relaxing, quiet country lanes through beautiful scenery, to hardcore mountain biking enthusiasts seeking out the most rugged off-road terrain, Exmoor’s diverse landscapes, roads and bridleways offer up some of England’s finest cycling terrain.

Most mainline train services have allocated spaces for bicycles, however these are limited so you should always reserve your spot in advance, by calling up the train operator, or heading to your local railway station ticket office. Once in Exmoor, you can take your bike on the Moor Rover service (see above), however most bus services in the Park do not carry bikes.

There are also various cycle providers within Exmoor National Park, who offer bike hire plus information, maps, accessories, and more. Some offer electric bikes to take some of the strain off your legs (though there is no longer currently a National Park-wide e-bike scheme). Providers include:
Exmoor Cycle Hire
Pompy’s Cycles
Exmoor Adventures

Two long distance routes pass through Exmoor: the Tour of Britain, whose local section has been named ‘Exmoor Cycle Route’, and the well-signed West Country Way, which consists mainly of quiet country lanes: both take in some of Exmoor’s best views and finest scenery. Exmoor has become one of the country’s premier mountain biking destinations, with a huge range of off-road routes for all abilities: you can purchase a colour-coded graded mountain biking map of Exmoor from the National Park authority to help plan your trip.

For more information, maps and inspiration for cycling, check out Exmoor National Park’s cycling page, the broader 1 South West Project, linking cycle routes and facilities across the region, and Greentraveller’s guide to getting active in Exmoor. For information, routes and news for cyclists in Exmoor and across the country, check out the Sustrans website.

Open-top buses offer great views over the Exmoor landscapes. Photo: Exmoor NPAOpen-top buses offer great views over the Exmoor landscapes. Photo: Exmoor NPA

Maps and further information

Exmoor National Park provides a useful interactive map of the National Park on their website, alternatively for more maps, guides, general information and local advice head to one of their three visitor centres, located at Dulverton, Dunster, and Lynmouth. There are also independently run visitor information centres in Combe Martin, Lynton, Minehead, and Porlock.

 >> For great places to eat and stay, and ideas for days out, see our
 Greentraveller Guide to Exmoor

The quill symbol on the fingerposts leads the way. Photo: Paul BloomfieldThe quill symbol on the fingerposts leads the way. Photo: Paul Bloomfield

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