Stephanie Boon hiking on the South West Coast Smiling at the camera.

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Tarr Steps, one of Exmoor Naitonal Park's beauty spots, ideal for photography

Exmoor: 3 Short Walks For Fantastic Photography

 

Pinterest collage pin: 3 Short Walks For Photography, Exmoor National Park, UK. With 3 images: Tarr Steps; flower garden in Dunster and a view from Dunkery Beacon.

A walk in Exmoor National Park rewards you with awe inspiring views across the moors, sumptuous green woodland, sparkling rivers and unspoiled medieval villages that feel ‘lost in time’.

Far reaching views from Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor National Park

Far reaching views from Dunkery Beacon

Exmoor will absolutely take your breath away!

Exmoor National Park nestles against the rugged north coast of Devon and Somerset in the South West of England and stretches inland across dramatic valleys and open moorland.

I love it at all times of year, but you can’t beat the heather covered moors on a summer’s day or the broad leaved woodlands in autumn, which are perfect for photography.

Mist rolling in across Winsford Hill. A view from the trig point. Exmoor National Park/

Mist rolling in across the moor

A Photography Trip With My Son

My son is due to start uni in September, so we wanted to spend a few days together before the mayhem begins. We chose Exmoor because it’s a fairly easy drive from home (less travelling means more time for fun) and holds a lot of good memories of childhood camping trips.

Valley of the Rocks Exmoor, UK

The Valley of Rocks – photography opportunities abound on Exmoor

The one ‘problem’ for me is that

My son doesn’t usually walk much farther than the fridge!

And, as you know, walking and hiking is my life! His idea was a photography trip, which meant finding opportunities to photograph the misty moors and local wildlife without having to walk too far. A handful of places sprang to mind, and these 3 short walks fit the bill perfectly.

But first, for a long weekend you’ll need somewhere to pitch up and we stayed at Westermill Farm.

Where We Camped

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OS Maps 1:25,000 OL9 Exmoor

Westermill Farm is a gem of a campsite hidden away right in the middle of the moor (you can also book into one of their self-catering cottages). It’s about 2 miles outside Exford and offers 3 camping fields beside the River Exe with simple, well-kept modern facilities and a small farm shop. I love it for its peaceful atmosphere, idyllic location, simplicity and deep, dark skies. Which is why I’ve been coming back on and off for over 30 years (that’s before my son was even born, eek!).

Westermill Farm Campsite, Exford, Exmoor. Image shows a green field with one tent and someone sat at a picnic table on a lush lawn, surrounded by green trees.

Camping at Westermill Farm, Exford

It makes a great base to explore from, but public transport from Exford is infrequent/non-existent at certain times of year. So a car or a bike will make life easier (unless of course you’re with someone that enjoys longer distance walking too!).

Walk 1: Tarr Steps, 2 Miles

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OS Maps 1:25,000 OL9 Exmoor

Tarr Steps is perfect for photographing birds, where you can spot dippers flying low over the fast flowing River Barle (we saw 2).

Dippers are an ‘amber conservation status’ bird, which means their numbers are in decline in the UK.

As well as the bird life, there’s the picturesque river walk and the well photographed medieval clapper bridge to enjoy.

Tarr steps stone clapper bridge over the river Barle, Exmoor National Park

Tarr Steps, a medieval clapper bridge crossing over the River Barle

We followed the signposted 2 mile circular walk that heads out across Tarr Steps, along the river to another (modern) bridge and back along the other side of the river. It’s a straightforward, fairly level walk on an obvious track (although the walk from the car park down to Tarr Steps is pretty steep).

The River Barle, with a rock in the river in the foreground and large trees on the other side of the river bank. Near Tarr Steps, Exmoor National Park

The River Barle near Tarr Steps is the perfect place to watch (and photograph!) dippers

There’s a vibrant pub/hotel at Tarr Steps, which is in the perfect spot for refreshment after your (not so) hard walk!

Visit Tarr Farm Inn for details.

Walk 2: Watersmeet, 5 Miles

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OS Maps 1:25,000 OL9 Exmoor

My GPX file is free to download on the OS Maps website and comes with all my waypoints added.

This circular walk heads inland from Lynmouth on the coast (where there are plenty of car parks) alongside the sparkling East Lyn river, through one of the deepest valleys in the country. The return leg wends its way across the top of the valley with far reaching views out to sea.

It’s a walk full of variety including shaded oak woods, a fast flowing rocky river and waterfall, as well as open countryside and the coastal town of Lynmouth. There’s even the chance of a pit stop at the National Trust cafe at Watersmeet (I recommend the cream teas!).

Mossy wall in verdant woodland near Watersmeet, Exmoor National Park.

A green tunnel near Watersmeet

As well as landscape photography there’s lots of wildlife photography to be had, including fritillary butterflies and the possibility of Atlantic Salmon returning to spawn.

Common blue butterfly photographed at Watersmeet, Exmoor, Copyright Kim Gentle-Boon, 2019 (Cornwall UK)

One of my son’s butterfly photos from above Watersmeet

Download my GPS file for this walk.

Walk 3: Dunkery Beacon

Walk To The Highest Point On Exmoor In Less Than A Mile

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OS Maps 1:25,000 OL9 Exmoor

Dunkery Beacon offers spectacular views for very little effort, just make sure you head out on a really clear day!

You’ll find a National Trust car park at Dunkery Gate, which is down a narrow lane signposted from Wheddon Cross on the A396.

You can see far across the Bristol Channel to the hills of Wales, and inland across the moor to Dartmoor and the stunning, rolling landscape of Somerset. And there are plenty of wide, easy to follow (signposted) tracks up to the top of the Beacon.

View across the Bristol Chanel to Wales from the top of Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor National PArk

Far reaching views out across the Bristol Chanel to Wales

You can take an out and back stroll from the car park, which is about a mile, or join several tracks together for a longer circular walk. Why not take a picnic as well as your camera? (You might even catch a glimpse of a shoot or a hunt going on, as we did, if you enjoy a spectacle.)

For those who want to stretch their legs, you can walk to Dunkery from Westermill Farm Campsite in Exford, which is about 5 miles (and back again of course!)

3 More Places We Love For Photography

The Valley Of Rocks

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OS Maps 1:25,000 OL9 Exmoor

The Valley Of Rocks is a must see, vertiginous walk along the dramatic sea cliffs of north Devon. An absolutely stunning section of the South West Coast Path long distance hike.

Stephanie on the South West Coast Path, Valley of Rocks, 2019. Photograph copyright Kim Gentle-Boon, 2019 (Cornwall, UK)

Valley of the Rocks on the Exmoor coast (photograph by my son)

Dunster

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OS Maps 1:25,000 OL9 Exmoor

Dunster  is a quintessential, unspoiled medieval town, overlooked by Dunster Castle, which is perfect for picture post-card shots.

There’s also a fabulous walk up through woodland to the Iron Age hill fort at Bats Castle (SS 98804 42115), where you can enjoy panoramic views while you search for rare butterflies (I was also lucky to have a close encounter with a stag some years ago – I didn’t have a camera though!)

Old Dunster cottage and flower garden

Dunster – the picture postcard town

Cream coloured thatched cottage in Dunster, Exmoor National PArk

Thatched cottages are everywhere you look!

Withypool

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OS Maps 1:25,000 OL9 Exmoor

Withypool has everything the photographer could want within easy walking distance of the village.

There are walks along the River Barle, tracks onto the open moor that join the Two Moors Way, plus old cottages and an Inn in the village centre (as well as vintage petrol pumps!). During the tourist season there’s also a lovely cafe serving lunches, cakes, tea and coffee (opposite the post office shown below).

The old post office at Withypool with and old fashioned shell petrol pump, red telephone box and red post box in the post office wall

For those that prefer longer walks you’ll be pleased to know it’s only a few miles from the campsite at Exford! (You can also walk to Tarr Steps from the top of the village).

Exmoor Dark Skies Festival

Exmoor National Park is special for lots of reasons, but one reason in particular makes it a great destination for star-gazing. This is because Exmoor is one of the darkest places in the country, so dark in fact that it’s an International Dark Sky Reserve.

Once you’ve experienced this ‘dark sky’ for yourself you’ll appreciate the paradoxical name, because nothing could be brighter than a sky full of twinkling stars! So, if you’ve a hankering to photograph the Milky Way, Exmoor is the place to go.

One of the best times to visit is during the annual  Dark Skies Festival, which is on from the 14th of October to the 3rd of November this year (2019). There are plenty of guided evening walks on offer, whether you fancy star-gazing (including photography workshops) or looking for nocturnal wild life.

Longer Walks And Hikes On Exmoor

Heather clad moorland, swathes of purple heather in the foreground with two solitary trees in the middle distance. 2 Moors Way, Withypool, Exmoor National Park.

Tracks on the 2 Moors Way long distance coast to coast trail above Withypool

Hikers can choose from a number of long distance walks across Exmoor, including

  • The Two Moors Way – Devon’s Coast to Coast (102 miles), which begins in Ivybridge (near Plymouth) and crosses both Dartmoor and Exmoor to finish on the coast at Lynmouth
  • The Coleridge Way (51 miles) follows in the footsteps of the Romantic poets
  • and a section of the 630 mile South West Coast Path. The Exmoor section starts from Minehead at the very beginning of the trail to Ilfracombe on the western edge (40 miles) – and I can highly recommend it!

One thing’s for sure, whatever your reason for visiting Exmoor, whether it’s photography walks or long hikes, you won’t be disappointed with the incredible landscape!

Looking for more inspiration? Check out my Guide to Hiking In The UK for more inspiration and the Hiking Resources page for the links you’ll need to plan a long distance hike in the UK. Enjoy!

Happy Hiking!

Stephie

Pin Me!

I’d be thrilled if you’d pin this to your hiking and walking boards – it’s lovely to share good things, and Exmoor National Park is definitely a good thing!

Pinterest collage pin: 3 Short Walks For Photography, Exmoor National Park, UK. With 3 images: Tarr Steps; flower garden in Dunster and a view from Dunkery Beacon.

 

 

 

 

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