The perfect way to kick-start your New Year is an exhilarating walk through the Exmoor landscape that inspired the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) to produce some of his best known works, including his epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
From the Dunkery Gate car park follow the footpath next to the cattle grid signposted to Blagdon Wood. Pass through a wooden gate, continue across a field and exit through another wooden gate before immediately going through a small wooden gate on your left. Follow the narrow path as it cuts into the hillside before passing through another wooden gate and entering a large field. Walk down the field, pass through yet another gate at the bottom of the field and descend into a woodland area known as Mansley Combe; to your left you’ll hear the sound of the River Avil.
Continue along the path as it leads deep into the lush woodland valley; follow the yellow footpath paint marks on the trees. Cross over two small streams that traverse the path before ascending through the woods and joining the Coleridge Way (waymarked with a quill symbol) on the edge of Blagdon Wood.
Turn left and follow sign to Wheddon Cross. After a few metres take the footpath on your left towards Dunkery Beacon. Follow the narrow path as it zigzags downhill, following a stream on your left.
1. ONE AND A HALF MILES
At a junction of paths turn left and follow the quill symbol to Dunkery Gate. Continue through a wooden gate before crossing over a tributary that runs into the River Avil on your right. At another junction of paths turn right and cross the river, following the quill symbol to Spangate. Ascend steeply up a farm track and just before the track bends sharply to the left, take the narrow path on your left, once again signposted with a quill symbol; this time follow the blue bridleway paint marks on the trees.
Follow the narrow path up a sharp incline, pass through a wooden gate and continue to climb through a field of heather, fern and gorse bushes. Near the top of the hill follow the quill symbol to your right into an area of heathland. Follow a grassy track along the lower edge of the field; at a farm gate veer left until you reach a crossroads marked with a wooden signpost. Leave the Coleridge Way and follow signs to Dunkery up a farm track through the heathland until you reach a minor road.
2. THREE MILES
Turn right and follow the road past a lay-by on your right before turning left onto the Macmillan Way West, a stone track that gradually climbs up Dunkery Hill to the highest point in Exmoor, the National Trust-owned Dunkery Beacon (519m/1,702ft). The panoramic views from the cairn are absolutely spectacular – on a clear day you can see both the Bristol and English Channel coasts, the Severn Bridges, the Brecon Beacons, Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Cleeve Hill in Gloucestershire. After soaking in the landscape and pondering over your New Year’s resolutions, return to Dunkery Gate car park via a track that descends down Dunkery Hill south of the cairn.
Waymarked woodland paths and heathland footpaths. There are a number of streams and tributaries to cross in the first section of
the walk, therefore some of the paths are prone to being muddy and slippery in wet weather.
HOW TO GET THERE
Leave the M5 at junction 27, following the A361 to Tiverton before joining the A396 north towards Dulverton. Continue along the A396 until you reach Wheddon Cross, before following signs along the B3224 to Dunkery Beacon. A free car park is situated at Dunkery Gate.
By public transport:
The nearest mainline train station is Tiverton Parkway (29 miles). FirstGroup buses run service number 398 (Mon-Sat) from Tiverton bus station that passes through Wheddon Cross, 2.6 miles from the start point.
The Rest and be Thankful Inn, Wheddon Cross, Minehead, TA24 7DR
Tel: 01643 841222
Mon-Sun, 10am-3pm and 6pm-midnight.
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL9.
Grid ref: SS 896 406
Exmoor National Park Authority, Exmoor House, Dulverton TA22 9HL
Tel: 01398 323665
The Coleridge Way