A suite of new experiences aimed at inspiring more international tourists to explore the extraordinary landscapes and culture of Exmoor National Park are being unveiled at a public event today at Dunster Castle (Wednesday 27 February). They form part of the English National Park Experience Collection – a selection of over 70 immersive visitor experiences across nine National Parks in England funded by VisitEngland’s Discover England Fund.
Research suggests that when people travel they no longer want to just ‘see’ a place; they want to live it, breathe it, touch it and become part of it. The new collection offers outstanding visitor experiences in some of the country’s finest landscapes. Each experience has been carefully selected, developed and curated to tell the stories of Exmoor National Park, and the people who care for it.
During the course of the 12-month project, Exmoor National Park Authority held a series of workshops to help local tourism providers identify the most authentic and compelling experiences, and train them in how best to engage the international travel trade.
Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Exmoor is a very special place and, through this project, we hope to inspire more people to explore its wonderful landscape, and learn about the amazing people, heritage and wildlife behind it. By targeting independent and small group travel through overseas tour operators, we hope to open up new markets, helping tourism continue to grow sustainably and contribute to the vibrancy of our local communities.
“Independent research by the University of Exeter commissioned by the National Park Authority previously highlighted the need to talk more about the experiences that visitors can enjoy in the incredible landscape. This new project has allowed us to turn that research into action, by supporting a number of micro rural businesses to take advantage of new market trends.”
The nine experiences available on Exmoor are:
- Literary Footsteps – Follow in the footsteps of great writers, see the landscapes that inspired their work and experience their countryside and its traditions through a choice of informative and entertaining guided walks, finishing with a jug of local ale or cream tea at a traditional English pub.
- Fly back to Nature with Owls and Hawks – Marvel at the beauty of a close encounter with these impressive birds as they fly to your gloved hand in the timeless surroundings of a fifteenth-century farmstead.
- Medieval Dunster – Explore the ancient castle and its grounds and the charming historic village. See how Dunster flour is made, from grain to bag, enjoying an interactive mill experience before sampling the produce used to best advantage in a traditional lunch or cream team.
- Moods of Exmoor – Unlock the secrets of Exmoor through the lens of your camera. Discover hidden views, breath-taking landscapes and colourful seasonal changes with an internationally renowned, local photographer who is delighted to share his tips and advice throughout the day.
- Exmoor Wildlife Safari – Get off the beaten track with an experienced local safari guide, learn all about the local myths and legends, wildlife and terrain on this extended 4×4 safari, with the opportunity to meet the ponies close up at the Exmoor Pony centre.
- Old English Rural Life – Step back in time and discover the history of the Holnicote Estate – the largest single land ownership gifted to the National Trust. This ranger-guided walk starts with a delicious local breakfast and finishes with a cream tea on the beach.
- Seafront Dining Adventure – Fish for your lunch with a local mackerel fisherman and see the famous Porlock Oyster beds then head for land where you’ll savour your beautifully prepared catch, and sip local wine in an idyllic waterfront restaurant.
- Victorian Exmoor – Experience life in the Victorian Era; take a guided walk through the seaside villages of Lynton and Lynmouth to ride the famous cliff railway and then relax in a Victorian heritage carriage behind a steam engine on a trip through the Exmoor countryside.
- Plus the new Exmoor National Park Ranger Experience days, piloted last year, offering a unique insight into the varied life of a National Park Ranger plus a full farmhouse lunch.
Supporting accommodation providers include the Luttrell Arms and Yarn Market Hotel in Dunster, the Hunters Inn, and the Old Rectory Hotel in north-west Exmoor and the Exmoor White Horse Hotel in Exford.
Sarah Fowler, Sustainable Tourism Lead for the nine English National Parks and Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “This brand-new collection of experiences has been designed to harness the growing demand for experiential tourism; alongside quality accommodation they will be easy to book options for the overseas travel trade. From travel agents, tour operators, wholesales or guides, there is something in the mix for most buyers’ upcoming schedules or brochures, helping to support hundreds of businesses across our National Parks.”
See the newly launched English National Park Experience Collection website for information about the full range of experiences: www.nationalparkexperiences.co.uk.
PHOTO: By Dan James