Best walks in Exmoor National Park

From dramatic coastal footpaths to gentle river walks, there are myriad hikes to be enjoyed in Exmoor National Park – here is our guide to some of the best walking routes

Wild Heather flowers on Exmoor in North Devon, UK

Exmoor National Park is situated on the north coast of Devon and Somerset. The area was designated as a national park in 1954 and, today, its 267 square miles offer outdoor enthusiasts numerous opportunities for exploration.

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A network of footpaths mesh the park, rambling over moorland and farmland, dropping through ancient woodland and navigating spectacular clifftops. It’s a wild landscape, home to a vast range of flora and fauna, including red deer, otters, butterflies and bats.

Hiker on the headland in Valley of the Rocks on South West coast path near Lynmouth
Valley of Rocks, Exmoor National Park ©Getty

Visitors to the area can find refuge in one of the many pretty villages or small towns than span Exmoor – from the coastal settlements of Linton, Lynmouth, Pollock and Combe Martin, to the inland communities of Dulverton, Exford and Simonsbath.

We’ve gathered some our our favourite walking routes inside the national park. Click on the links to find out more about the routes, including a path description and map.

Tarr Steps, Somerset

Photo of Tarr Steps a Clapper bridge across the River Barle in the Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England.
Marvel at the ancient stone architecture of Tarr Steps in Exmoor National Park ©Getty

Tarr Steps is one of Exmoor’s true hidden treasures and a firm favourite with visitors – once you’ve discovered it you’ll find yourself drawn back time and time. This gentle seven-mile ramble meanders alongside the river before looping through Withypool and climbing for gorgeous views over Exmoor. Map and Route.

Valley of Rocks, Devon

the coast of the valley of the rocks lynton devon with sea fog against the cliffs
Cloud drifts around the Valley of Rocks on the Exmoor coast ©Getty

On a quiet day, there’s a lost world feel to North Devon’s enigmatic Valley of Rocks, despite the serpentine ribbon of road that curls through the vale in the place where a river once ran. Exult in towering sea cliffs where feral goats clamber skilfully between Devonian crags on this short circular walk around the rocky coastal valley. Map and route.

East Lyn River, Devon

Watersmeet Falls, where the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water converge, Devon England UK
The impressive Watersmeet waterfalls are a welcome site halfway up the valley ©Getty

Rising high above Exmoor, the East Lyn River flows through the East Lyn Valley in Devon to the picturesque village of Lynmouth. This beautiful six-mile walk begins at Lynmouth in the Exmoor National Park and follows the East Lyn River upstream to Rockford before heading back to the coast. Map and route.

Porlock Bay, Somerset

After a Storm, huge chunks of driftwood cover the bay
After a Storm, huge chunks of driftwood cover the bay ©Jake Graham Photography

The coastline between the tiny harbour at Porlock Weir and rugged Hurlstone Point comprises wildlife-rich salt and freshwater marshland, dramatic storm beaches and gnarled cliffs. Discover the bay with a nine-mile circular walk, ending with a relaxing drink the among books, sofas and firelight at Porlock Weir’s quirky Millers at the Anchor inn. Map and route.

Dunster, Somerset

Christmas illuminations– every winter, the village of Dunster and its 11th-century castle remembers its medieval past, lighting up its streets and houses with lanterns and candlelight
Christmas illuminations– every winter, the village of Dunster and its 11th-century castle remembers its medieval past, lighting up its streets and houses with lanterns and candlelight ©Alamy

High on a hill in north-east Exmoor, medieval Dunster Castle glows above lantern-lit houses, music-filled streets and bustling gift shops. It’s a magical scene best enjoyed after a winter walk. Map and route.

Horner Valley, Somerset

Wood warbler, Phylloscopus sibilatrix, single bird on branch, Warwickshire, May 2014
Spot wood warblers and a host of other wildlife in Horner Wood ©Getty

The Horner Valley and its surroundings, including the Vale of Porlock and Exmoor’s highest point Dunkery Beacon, lies within the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate, once owned by the Acland family. nestles by Horner Water, ideally situated for excursions on horseback or foot. This wonderful four-mile bridle trail explores Exmoor’s ancient oak woodlands – the perfect walk for wildlife-spotting. Map and route.

Elwill Bay, Devon

Close-up of gorse flowers backlit against the setting sun captured on RSPB Snape Warren nature reserve, Suffolk, England on a winter's day.
Gorse blooms in summer on the Devon cliffs above Elwill Bay ©Getty

Begin in a verdant inland valley before striking out on to the South West Coast Path with beautiful views across Elwill Bay on this eight-mile coast walk. Map and route.

Badgworthy Water and Doone Country, Somerset

Begin the walk at the arched Malmsmead Bridge
Begin the walk at the arched Malmsmead Bridge ©Getty

Explore Doone Country, one of Exmoor’s most beautiful river valleys and the backdrop to the R.D Blackmore’s tale of romance and murder, Lorna Doone. This seven-mile route takes you along the banks of Badgworthy Water, past Hoccombe and Lank Combe, both possible locations for the fictional home of Blackmore’s band of Scottish outlaws. Map and Route.

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Main image ©Getty