Thank you to reader Gerry Shattock from Exeter for writing this account of his trip to Exmoor last month, during which he relied solely on public transport and stayed at The Lorne Doone Hotel, Orchard House Hotel in Lynmouth, the Simonsbath House Hotel, Tarr Farm and the Mitre Inn in Witheridge. We thought that readers might be interested to see how he got on…
Exploring Exmoor on Foot
I spent four full days and two half-days walking across Exmoor in April 2019, using public transport from and to Exeter. The total distance is estimated to be 66 miles and, whilst the mileage covered on the four full days varied, the distances were quite manageable and planned based on my limited experience of undertaking this kind of walking.
Train-and-bus-link Exeter to Minehead; walk 9 miles Minehead to Porlock on the SW Coast Path which was well signed. Steady climb out of Minehead with steep drops to the sea after the peak of North Hill, which induced mild feelings of vertigo in the author in the buffeting wind! (An alternative SW Coast Path route is possible.) Saw a lizard basking in the sun; stayed at the Lorna Doone Hotel in Porlock.
Walk 12 miles Porlock to Lynmouth on the SW Coast Path. Steady climb from Porlock Weir and then generally level walking in woodland for a good half of the distance. Culbone Church, Sisters’ Fountain and the entrance to the Glenthorne Estate gave the walk a distinctly gothic feel in the light drizzle. First views of Lynmouth from Butter Hill, from which the drop down to the sea induced strong feelings of vertigo in the author! No alternative SW Coast Path is shown on the map, but a different route could be planned and the author took the road down to Lynmouth from Countisbury. Bought provisions in Lynton; overnight in the Orchard House Hotel in Lynmouth.
Walk 9.5 miles Lynmouth to Simonsbath on the Two Moors Way. Lynmouth is the beginning/end of the Two Moors Way and most people choose to walk south-to-north, allegedly to avoid the climb up out of Lynmouth but the climb above the East Lyn River and finally up over Cheriton Ridge, and Exmoor proper, was fantastic. After some impromptu navigation past a small stone circle, the route followed established tracks and paths – plus my first deer sightings on Hoaroak Hill and later above the River Exe – before being signposted down into the hamlet, with accommodation at the Simonsbath House Hotel.
Walk 11 miles Simonsbath to Tarr Steps on the Two Moors Way. Down the majestic Barle Valley with sightings of two sizeable deer herds on the southern slopes and a pair of heron flying ahead of me. The valley is full of history and Matthew Arnold’s guide encourages a quick ascent of the Cow Castle Settlement adjacent to the river, which the author can fully endorse. The route leaves the Barle for a while to follow a drover’s track, then lane, down into Withypool: bought provisions from the Village Shop which is responsible for cleaning the public toilets in the village: thank you! The path then follows the Barle across meadows, around tree roots and over huge stone slabs until the iconic Tarr Steps clapper bridge can be seen: stayed at the Tarr Farm Inn.
Walk 14.5 miles Tarr Steps to Witheridge on the Two Moors Way. Made an early start and walked to Hawkridge on the road before re-joining the Two Moors Way then, leaving Somerset, climbing and crossing West Anstey Common before dropping down into mid-Devon. This last stretch of Exmoor on the Two Moors Way is celebrated by Peter Randall-Page’s impressive sculpture facing its mirror image on Dartmoor, and after that the countryside changed markedly. Farming was still predominantly of sheep, but the Way more often picked up local footpaths and lanes before finally threading alongside a stream and some pine trees and up into Witheridge, where snacks were purchased at the store and accommodation was at The Mitre Inn.
Walk 10 miles Witheridge to Morchard Road on the Two Moors Way; train Morchard Road to Exeter. The Way was largely through beef and dairy agricultural land, and whilst it was well marked it was necessary to concentrate on finding the route. There were two detours which were well-signed but the author found the design of some of the kissing gates (or his technique for progressing through them?!) inappropriate for someone carrying a 40l rucksack. From Morchard Bishop the Two Moors Way snakes across farmland before crossing the A377 Barnstaple to Exeter road, but the author chose to walk along the (busy) roads to Morchard Station, to avoid walking along the A377.
Total transport costs for the trip were £24 and accommodation in pubs and hotels was £70-90 per night (booked at short notice) for bed, breakfast and evening meal, usually with en-suite facilities and always with Wi-Fi. Some food supplies were carried from home and an additional £15 was spent on provisions during the walk.
PHOTO: Withypool courtesy of ENPA.