Day out: Wimbleball Lake, Somerset

From boating and biking to walking, birding and camping out beneath the starry night sky, this Exmoor lake has something for everyone

Wimbleball Lake, Somerset

Situated in the south-east corner of Exmoor National Park, surrounded by rolling hills and stunning countryside, is the shimmering jewel that is Wimbleball Lake.

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Created in 1979 by the damming of the River Haddeo and with a capacity of 21,320 mega litres, the lake supplies water to nearby Exeter, Barnstaple and Axminster, as well as much joy to its many visitors. 

Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor
Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor ©Getty

Boats and birds

What elevates Wimbleball is its sheer scale of options. The activity centre near the main car park is a hub for anyone wanting to experience life out on the water itself. Open daily until the beginning of September, kayaks, sailing boats, paddleboards and canoes are all available for hire (along with safety gear). If you prefer your adventures on land, then there are high ropes to scale, archery practice and bike trails (southwestlakes.co.uk/activities).

Photo of Tarr Steps a Clapper bridge across the River Barle in the Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England.

There’s also plenty on offer for those who enjoy thrills of the tranquil kind. A 20-minute walk over Bessom Bridge is Hurscombe Nature Reserve, where foragers will find the wild strawberries and raspberries that are native to the area. Ruggs Bay, within the reserve, is an ideal place for some birding; keep an eye out for common waterbirds such as mallards and Canada geese. It’s also a great spot to see cattle egrets. 

Under the stars

The full 14.5km lap of Wimbleball is a must for those who have a day to spare. I prefer an anticlockwise loop, starting with a breathtaking view over the dam and the secluded woodland of the Upton Arm stretch of the lake. Once negotiated, you break out into the open again and can rest on one of the many benches along the shoreline from where you can live vicariously through the thrill-seekers dotting the water. The newly renamed café at Wimbleball, Coffee Couture, offers some truly decadent treats to reward those who’ve made it the whole way around. 

Wimbleball Lake kayaking
Wimbleball Lake kayaking ©Getty
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The good times don’t stop at dusk either – Wimbleball is an International Dark Sky Reserve. If you’re camping, and even better if you’re in a Stargazer tent with a ceiling window (southwestlakes.co.uk/camping/wimbleball-lake), hire a telescope and search the night sky for shooting stars.