Middle Earth, or Exmoor?

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Exmoor, Watersmeet    Exmoor, Knightshayes

‘This is just like being in Rivendell!’ I exclaimed excitedly as my brother and I strolled along by the East Lyn River from Lynmouth to Watersmeet. The only sounds were that of the water flowing rapidly over large rocks, and birds singing in the wall of trees which climbed up high on either side of us. It took us about 45 minutes to walk along the path, stopping to marvel and attempt to capture all that we could see along the way. There were a fair amount of other walkers too, and it gets very busy in summer, so if you’re visiting then, you might want to start early. Lynmouth is at the bottom of a valley and is one of the main attractions for visitors to Exmoor National Park.

The walk to Watersmeet was one of the highlights of a week spent in Exmoor, staying in a lovely B&B near to the village of Dulverton, which has several excellent places to eat, such as The Exmoor Beastro, The Bridge Inn and Woods Bar and Restaurant, and is ideally located for further exploration of the Park. Driving along the country roads, with a canopy of green above, really did at times feel like you were in the Shire; at least that’s what a Tolkien fan like me wanted to believe anyway. The sheer scale of the natural world all around us was simply stunning, and so was the peace. I often take cities breaks during vacation time because I enjoy walking around galleries and museums, but I’m also a nature lover, and felt that I wanted to be away from it all, and Exmoor provided that.

On the first evening of our four-night stay at our accommodation, my brother and I walked up to the top of the garden and fell into the calm that was all around us; water running through the trees nearby, Housemartins snatching their evening meal as they swooped above our heads, and green, so many shades of green, for 360 degrees.

The other highlight was a National Trust property called Knightshayes, which is a Gothic Revival House, with acres of gardens and parkland. There is also a large, walled kitchen garden, which is organic and supplies local shops and restaurants as well as the onsite cafes, which served a good range of tasty hot and cold food. I highly recommend lunch there. I was disappointed not to have room after my lunch for the fruit crumble, which looked delicious! The surrounding woodland can be walked easily and provides an opportunity to work off any cake you’ve had for your afternoon tea. Be warned though, it gets busy fast; we got there at about 9.30am, as the park is open from dawn to dusk. The café and shop are open from 10am, and then the main house and kitchen garden from 11am. I’d recommend doing the latter of those two first, especially if you want to take photographs.

The house itself was beautiful, and unlike any other I’ve visited, with such a variety of decoration, much of which was quite controversial at the time of its creation by the architect and designer William Burges because of the lack of uniformity throughout the rooms. If you go, be sure to use the mirrors in each room to look up and admire the richly decorated ceilings.

We also visited Dunster Castle, which was equally fascinating, with beautiful gardens and far-reaching views across the Bristol Channel on a clear day. The village of Dunster itself is also good to amble around, and has one of the three main National Park centres; the other two being in Dulverton and Lynmouth, where you can get information and walking guides.

A few extra tips; you’ll probably need to book the restaurants I’ve mentioned as they get very busy, especially closer to the weekend. The Exmoor Beastro is particularly popular and serves food which is out of this world! The mobile phone signal comes and goes, but our accommodation had free wifi, so we could still message friends and family to gloat about what an amazing time we were having while they were at work. There is also no cashpoint in Dulverton at the moment, so you’ll need to take out money when visiting other places like Dunster and Lynmouth. Not everywhere takes cards, so it’s a good idea to have some cash on you.

It was quite a shock to come back to the hustle and bustle of Bournemouth, impatient people in shops, constant traffic noise etc. However, the convenience of having everything close by isn’t lost on me, and I’m grateful for that. Luckily, Bournemouth is quite a green town, so I haven’t missed the trees so much, but I know I’ll long for the peace and quiet again in the near future, and when I do, I’ll know exactly where to go and stay.

©VCUzzell2015

I stayed at Stags Head Farm B&B and visited all the places mentioned in this post at my own expense. These are purely my own views, and I suggest you investigate further should you wish to visit any of the places I have recommended. Follow the links below:

http://www.stagsheadfarmexmoor.co.uk/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/watersmeet/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/knightshayes/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunster-castle/

http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/

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4 thoughts on “Middle Earth, or Exmoor?

    • I think this time of year is quite good because you can still have some good weather but the summer crowds have gone. Although, I remember our hosts said there a few festivals in September, which means they get very busy, so you might want to check the dates you’re thinking of going on the Exmoor website. I imagine Winter would be lovely, especially in the snow, but I wouldn’t want to drive on the roads at that time, and I’m not sure if some of the attractions are more seasonal. Spring of course, would also be lovely for all the greenery, but it was still very green last week. I’d quite like to go back in October time, when Autumn is in full swing, to see the colours, and you can also arrange for a local expert to give you a guide to the night sky because Exmoor is a designated dark skies area. Hope that helps. 🙂

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