As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Exmoor National Park, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of characterful places to stay, including hotels, B&Bs, self-catering and campsites in this glorious protected area in southwest England.
Character: that’s the first quality that unites and defines the wide range of Exmoor accommodation. Whether it’s a 15th-century farmhouse, a stately forester’s mansion or a former sea-captain’s abode, each of the places listed here has something about it that stands out, be it a beamed ceiling, a panelled library, or a sweeping view of moor or coast.
The other element shared by these places is a sense of environmental responsibility. Some trim food miles to food metres, proudly sourcing produce from local suppliers (or even their own gardens and farmyards). Others offer bike storage and repair facilities, boot-drying rooms and walking maps to encourage exploration on foot or cycle. And some promote conservation in direct ways, protecting and nurturing the species of plants and animals that make Exmoor so special.
Dunkery Beacon Country House
Walkers, cyclists and gourmets rejoice! This former Edwardian hunting lodge is the ideal base for active exploration, nestling beneath 518m Dunkery Beacon and offering a drying room for hikers and bikers. Walkers, cyclists and gourmets rejoice! This former Edwardian hunting lodge is the ideal base for active exploration, nestling beneath 518m Dunkery Beacon and offering a drying room for hikers and bikers. Revive yourself post-walk with a steaming drink and a slice of homemade cake on arrival, relaxing by the wood-burning stove in the lounge. The eight bedrooms, seven en-suite, vary between cosy, boutique and simply grand – the premier suite boasts a four-poster and panoramic moorland views – and the predominantly locally sourced fare is decidedly gourmet, thanks to host John’s fine-dining training and Jane’s wine-trade experience. dunkerybeaconaccommodation.co.uk
Exmoor White Horse
A warm refuge plumb in the middle of the national park at Exford, this substantial 16th-century inn is the epitome of a village hostelry – just the kind of place you long to arrive after a day out on the moor. Bedrooms – 28 of them, all en-suite – are elegantly furnished in rich fabrics and dark woods; some have four-posters. West Country game, lamb and cheeses fuel the kitchen, along with fish and seafood from Ilfracombe and Exmoor ales. And the bar – well, with crackling fires and a hundred or so malt whiskies to sample, don’t expect a visit to be brief. exmoor-whitehorse.co.uk
The Exmoor Forest Inn
A country inn in the true sense, the bar of this convivial pub in Simonsbath is a warm, snug bolthole and is decorated with reminders of sporting pursuits, with hunting photos and deer antlers adorning the walls. Food is hearty and proudly local, with fish, meat and game from nearby suppliers, served with ales from Devon breweries. The Two Moors Way walking trail passes through Simonsbath, while cycling, horse-riding and Exmoor wildlife-watching safaris are popular activities in the area. Most of the comfortable en-suite rooms overlook the Barle Valley – fly-fishing for trout and salmon is available. exmoorforestinn.com
Exmoor House Country Retreat (Porlock)
Pick a hill view, and your room chooses itself – each of the four bedrooms (two doubles, a twin – all en-suite – and a single) at this imposing Georgian-style house boasts vistas of one or more of Bossington, Porlock or Crawter Hills, inspiring walkers and cyclists to delve onto the moor or across to the coast. On raw winter days the guest lounge entices with a roaring log fire and cosy reading corner, while a boot room and bike-repair corner are welcome facilities for active types. Local fare is championed, from tea and coffee in bedrooms to breakfast bacon and eggs, while regular workshops aim to soothe mind and spirit.
Built in the mid-17th century by James Boevey, first warden of Exmoor forest, the fortunes of stately Simonsbath House have waxed and waned over the years – though the views along the Barle Valley haven’t suffered. Today, ten spacious en-suite bedrooms, some with four-posters and each with its own character (plus TV and tea and coffee facilities), offer a little more comfort than in the early 1700s when tenant John Dennicombe burned the doors and floors. Oak-wood panelling and fireplaces lend manor-house gravitas to the bar, while the elegant restaurant dishes up locally sourced dishes – salmon in tempura butter, Exmoor fillet Rossini, West Country cheeses and homemade Simonsbath House ice cream.
Hindon Organic Farm
Tucked away in a secluded valley on the National Trust Holnicote Estate, this 380-hectare stock farm is within touching distance of Minehead, Dunster, Porlock and the coast. The 18th-century farmhouse is furnished with delightful antiques and watercolours by a local artist; each of the three bedrooms (two en-suite doubles and a twin with private bathroom) has its own tree-themed name and individual style – choose ‘Oak’ for a long soak in a fabulous rolltop bath. No prizes for guessing where the breakfast bacon, sausages and eggs come from (just glance outside), while bread comes still warm from the oven. hindonfarm.co.uk
The eight en-suite bedrooms at this charming, stone-clad Lynton guesthouse ooze elegance and individuality. Each has a distinctive personality: some feature wrought-iron or brass-knobbed bedspreads, pleasingly solid oak furniture and delicate floral Laura Ashley wallpaper; several have balconies, while one even has a small private patio, and all offer free wifi, TV, tea and coffee-making facilities. Breakfast caters equally well for carnivores and special diets – fear not, vegans or ye of gluten or lactose intolerance – and there’s a commendable reliance on local and Fairtrade produce. leehouse-lynton.co.uk
Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre
Fly owls and other birds of prey at the raptor centre, saddle up for a horse ride on the moor, take a stroll to Porlock or along the nearby South West Coast Path, or relax with a cream tea in the bird-bustling gardens. Tucked away down a rural lane near the idyllic National Trust village of Allersford, this characterful place – the main part of West Lynch Farm was built in 1456, and believed to have been the original manor of Bossington – has just two simple guest rooms imbued with the charm and style you’d expect in what’s essentially still a working farmhouse. Fly owls and other birds of prey at the raptor centre, saddle up for a horse ride on the moor, take a stroll to Porlock or along the nearby South West Coast Path, or relax with a cream tea in the bird-bustling gardens. exmoorfalconry.co.uk
Gable Lodge, Devon
A pride in Lynton and the local area marks out this Grade II-listed Victorian guesthouse: food miles are minimal – meats, fish, eggs, yoghurts, jams and even tea and coffee are all sourced from suppliers in the Exmoor region. Six en-suite bedrooms – all with views of Summerhouse or Hollerday Hill – are furnished in soothing neutral tones, and equipped with TV/DVD, wifi, mini-fridge and iPod dock as well as the more usual tea and coffee facilities. Visitors are encouraged to think green, helped by stocks of maps and walking books to borrow, and plenty of advice on nearby activities. gablelodgelynton.co.uk
The Denes, Devon
The Denes is a warmly traditional B&B, most of its five rooms en-suite (one exception with private bathroom) and all with TV and wifi available. Victorian visitors rather whimsically tagged the area around Lynton ‘Little Switzerland’, and this Edwardian guesthouse, in a peaceful spot at the edge of town, is ideally situated for guests to find out why: it sits at the threshold of the Valley of Rocks, with several rooms boasting vistas across to Hollerday Hill and the Valley, all rocks and scree and gorse, wild goats browsing among them. The Denes is a warmly traditional B&B, most of its five rooms en-suite (one exception with private bathroom) and all with TV and wifi available. The substantial breakfasts garner rave reviews from guests. thedenes.com
If ‘Victorian Boutique’ were the newest B&B fad, Longmead House in Lynton would be in the vanguard: from the comfortable, light-filled lounge and rustic dining room to the individually designed bedrooms, all areas have been updated with a knowing but light touch. Egyptian cotton bedding and feather-and-down pillows soothe the beds, quality toiletries scent the bathrooms, and wifi and flatscreen TVs fulfil multimedia demands; some rooms are rustic – exposed beams, a cottagey vibe – while others are more grand. You don’t need to spy the OS maps to know that owners Caroline and Alan love walking: there’s advice and encouragement aplenty, plus boot-drying facilities. longmeadhouse.co.uk
This delightful guesthouse – built for a sea captain in 1828, and retaining period features – nestles in the heart of Lynton Old Town, a hop away from the visitor centre, coast path and cliff railway down to Lynmouth Harbour. Its six bedrooms – all en-suite, and boasting cons both mod (flatscreen TV, tea and coffee-making facilities, free wifi) and less so (enticing windowseats, ceiling beams) – combine charm and comfort. The inviting guest lounge is well stocked with walking maps, leaflets and other material to launch your exploration of the national park, while a secluded walled garden tempts on sunny afternoons. lyntonbandb.co.uk
Little Owl, Knowstone
Little Owl Cottage is a grade II listed thatched character cottage hidden away in the small village of Knowstone on the edge of Exmoor. The village boasts a Michelin Starred Pub - The Masons Arms which is 50yds from Little Owl. The Masons Arms is the 'Michelin Pub of the Year 2010'. rosecottagedevon.co.uk
Dean Steep Holiday Cottages
Beautifully secluded up on the moor, yet only a mile from Lynton and the coast at Lee Bay, these 12 stone-built bungalows provide a cosy base for exploring the national park. The grounds – seven hectares of beautiful North Devon countryside – are landscaped with lawns and a fishpond; there’s a games room and even a wendy house for smaller visitors. Each cottage comprises two simply furnished bedrooms (one double, the other with twin or single beds), an open-plan lounge-kitchen with colour TV and DVD player, full-sized cooker, microwave and fridge – and a gas barbecue is available for summer evenings. deansteep.com
Get back to basics at this unique centre that provides affordable accommodation aimed at enabling young people to explore the wilds of Exmoor. The bunkhouse sleeps 14 people in two rooms, and there’s ample space alongside for camping; facilities are tailored to groups, with a communal washroom, a simple open kitchen and living area, benches and collapsible tables, and a wood-burning stove that’s perfect for evening huddles as sausages sizzle and spuds bake inside. The bunkhouse sits in the wooded Hoaroak Valley on the edge of the high moor near Lynton – perfect for introducing kids to the truly great outdoors. Not accessible by road. exmoorcentre.co.uk
West Hollowcombe Cottages
Four stone barn conversion cottages on a hill with wonderful views across wooded valleys, pastures and moorland of Exmoor National Park. Ideally situated for walking and exploring the surrounding coastal towns and beaches. westhollowcombe.co.uk
Somerset Yurts, Somerset
A fantastic yurt retreat on a working Dairy Farm in the beautiful Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The traditional Mongolian yurts are spacious while the nearby Dutch Barn is equipped with excellent kitchen and bathroom facilities. Pack your backpack and jump on your bike and head by train to Taunton, from there cycle the few remaining miles to the Somerset Yurts. If you haven't got your bike, let them know on booking and they can come and fetch you. The low environmental impact and sustainable nature of Somerset Yurts offers a great green getaway in a beautiful part of England, easily accessible from London, the South and the Midlands. The yurts are located in a south-facing field overlooking Taunton Vale and the Blackdown Hills beyond. If you want to explore the area, there’s plenty to see and do nearby; including exploring Hestercombe Gardens and the Quantock Hills; and further afield there's attractions to suit almost any taste from tranquil pretty village pubs to guided adventure activities. All yurts (complete with double bed, futon and woodburning stove) stand on private decks near to which you’ll find your own picnic area, barbeque, and the communal fire pit. somersetyurts.co.uk
Ever wanted to fulfil that childhood dream of having your own treehouse? How about a treehouse filled with the latest luxury, from a six foot master bed with Egyptian cotton linen to a squishy leather sofa? A unique get away, the seductive Treehouse is nestled in the tree tops and made entirely of wood, with cedar shingles on the roof. Its surrounding location is stunning, with Exmoor national park and the Quantock Hill in sight. Explore the countryside then relax in the cedar hot tub or in front of the wood burning stove. Perfect for a family or as a couple's retreat. treehouseholidays.co.uk/properties/the-treehouse
It’s all about the water: this site, managed by the South West Lakes Trust, is set alongside its eponymous mere, and is the perfect spot for windsurfing, kayaking, sailing and rowing, with courses and craft for hire at the Outdoor + Active Centre. The lake also tempts anglers – it’s stocked with rainbow trout – and there are also ample opportunities for hiking and cycling in this south-eastern corner of the national park. Facilities are good – it’s garnered three AA stars – but it’s the commitment to conservation, demonstrated through long-term biodiversity projects, that really stands out. southwestlakes.co.uk/camping/wimbleball-lake
Halse Farm Caravan & Camping Site
Exmoor may be one of the country’s smallest national parks, but it hosts a mouthwatering ensemble of animals. Start your wildlife-watching on one of the varied hiking routes that spider out from this working livestock farm, perched just a mile from the chocolate-box-cute village of Winsford – grab one of the six laminated circular-trail maps provided by the site to traverse woodland, moorland and riverside, with opportunities to spot red and roe deer, wild Exmoor ponies, buzzards, red kites, hares and hedgehogs (which you’ll likely see bumbling among the tents). The site, a long-standing holder of a David Bellamy Conservation Award, is great for kids, too, who can watch lambing and shearing. halsefarm.co.uk
Channel View Caravan Park
There’s a romance to the Exmoor coast that’s hard to top: the poet Shelley felt it, bringing his bride to Lynmouth on honeymoon, and wooded valleys inland breathe life into the tragic tale of Lorna Doone, with locations in Oare and Badgworthy Valley. Channel View, a quiet family-run site, is well placed for exploring these spots and has its own charm and green appeal recognised with a David Bellamy Conservation Award. Tree-sheltered pitches nestle in the moor above Lynton, with views of the Bristol Channel below – climb nearby Summerhouse Hill for transcendental panoramas in both directions along the hogbacked coast. channel-view.co.uk
Porlock Caravan Park
This charming caravan park is nestled in the vale of Porlock, near Minehead. Enjoy the sea air with a stroll along the picturesque South West Coast Path, and follow in the steps of a literary legend along the Coleridge Way. After your walk, enjoy a well earned meal in Porlock village, which is just a stone's throw away. Ethically-minded holidaymakers will be pleased to know that the park has obtained the Bellamy Gold Award for Conservation- look out for the hedgehog and bat boxes hidden on site! Bring your own tent or caravan, or stay in a deluxe holiday home. porlockcaravanpark.co.uk
For information on local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our