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Unleash Adventure: 5 Free Outdoor Activities on Exmoor

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Image credit: Shaun Davey / Exmoor Commons

Exmoor is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, and best of all, the majority of activities won’t cost you a penny. Whether you’re a walker, cyclist, wildlife watcher, stargazer or wild swimmer, you’ll be in your element and entirely at home with all Exmoor has to offer. Stay tuned as we reveal the best free outdoor activities on Exmoor for all to enjoy.

Exmoor walking & hiking

Exmoor welcomes hikers and walkers of all abilities with open arms. Our diverse landscapes include open moorlands, ancient woodlands and an unspoilt coastline, making it one of the most picturesque places to walk in the UK.

Explore the dramatic seascape of the Bristol Channel at Heddon’s Mouth and Valley of the Rocks for a coastal adventure, where stunning views and unique rock formations await. If tranquillity by the water beckons, follow the meandering paths along the rivers Exe and Barle, delighting in the picturesque waterways of Exmoor. Or, to immerse yourself in the great outdoors, head to Horner Wood, a nature reserve home to a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Of course, exploring Exmoor’s vast moorland is an absolute must at any time of year, and one of the best places for walking is Dunkery. Take an easy footpath for just over half a mile from Dunkery Gate car park straight to Dunkery Beacon – the highest point on Exmoor, or embark on an 8-mile circular walk from Wheddon Cross.

Pack a picnic or visit one of the many tea rooms, cafes, and pubs in our local Exmoor villages, catering to the needs of both walkers and their furry companions!

Staying at Orchard Escapes Exmoor? The South West Coast Path is practically on your doorstep, along with numerous footpaths, bridleways and woodland – you needn’t drive anywhere if you don’t want to. One of our favourite places to walk is out to Hurlstone Point. This walk takes you through woodland, coast, and quaint villages. In the spring and summer, you can stop off at Kitnors Tea Garden halfway to relax and refuel. Bliss!

Best cycling routes in Exmoor National Park

Bring your bike and explore the cycling routes in Exmoor National Park. While it’s pretty hilly, Exmoor still has cycling routes to suit all abilities, from leisurely to challenging, on-road and off-road.

Explore peaceful roads winding through the beautiful countryside and pretty Exmoor villages. We have bridleways galore, and we highly recommend visiting the Exmoor Adventures website for route info and mountain bike/e-bike hire. Another free resource for cyclists is Komoot, where you can select the type of cycling route you want and view Exmoor cycling routes for various skill levels.

Wildlife watching in Exmoor National Park

Are you wondering which wild animals you’ll find on the moors of west Somerset and north Devon? Exmoor is rich in wildlife, so don’t forget to pack your binoculars and keep an eye out for Red Deer, Exmoor Ponies, a variety of bird species…and maybe even the Exmoor Beast!

Where to spot Exmoor Ponies

Small, yet hardy, Exmoor Ponies are thought to be the oldest pony breed in Britain, yet with only around 3,500 left in the world (around 350 still roaming free on Exmoor), they are listed on the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s Category 2 Endangered List. You are never far from a herd of Exmoor ponies on the moor, and some of the best places to spot them roaming free include Porlock Hill, Winsford Hill, Dunkery Gate and Molland.

While keeping a sensible distance from Exmoor Ponies roaming free is best, you can meet them up close at the Exmoor Pony Centre. Re-opening in spring 2024, entry to Exmoor Pony Centre is free, but donations are welcome to help them continue caring for the ponies and fund their incredible work to promote and protect this endangered breed.

Where to see Red Deer on Exmoor

Along with ponies, Exmoor is also famous for its Red Deer. Some of the best places on Exmoor to spot these majestic animals include Horner (just a 6-minute drive from Orchard Escapes Exmoor), Cloutsham, Simonsbath and Draydon Rails near Dulverton.

Exmoor stargazing

Did you know Exmoor was the first Dark Sky Reserve in Europe and is one of the best places for stargazing in the UK? Stargazing is a free activity you can enjoy on the moor and the perfect way to spend a romantic evening in our luxury wood-fired hot tubs at Orchard Escape Exmoor.

Other popular places for stargazing on Exmoor include Holdstone Down, County Gate, Webbers Post, Haddon Hill and Wimbleball Lake.

Exmoor wild swimming spots

Exmoor is abundant with rivers, brooks, hidden coves, beaches and bays perfect for wild swimming – a free activity for the most adventurous (and brave) visitors. Whether you’re after a quick, refreshing plunge or a relaxing cool down on a hot summer’s day, wild swimming opportunities are all over the moor.

Some of the best places for wild swimming on Exmoor are the plunge pools near Cow Castle (between Withypool & Simonsbath on the Two Moors Way), Landacre Bridge and Tarr Steps (popular for family paddles on a sunny day) and Woody Bay (between Lynton and Ilfracombe), which is ideal for secluded swims. However, this one is more tricky to get to.

Porlock Weir, just a 10-minute drive from Orchard Escapes Exmoor, is a lovely spot for sea swimming. The bathing water at this picturesque port has a rating of ‘excellent,’ but you do need to be aware of strong currents in Porlock Bay.

Just outside of Exmoor, at St Audries Bay in West Quantoxhead, you’ll find an impressive natural waterfall. Only accessible on foot at low tide, it’s a real hidden gem, and well worth a visit for an invigorating outdoor shower!

If you’re thinking of wild swimming on Exmoor, we highly recommend following the Outdoor Swimming Society’s guidance.

Can you wild camp for free on Exmoor?

As stated by Exmoor National Park Authority, ‘there is no bylaw under which people have assumed a right to wild camp on Exmoor.’ If you wish to wild camp or park a motorhome anywhere on Exmoor, you must seek permission from the landowner (no matter how remote the location.)

The best way to experience the wild outdoors and enjoy a tranquil off-grid retreat is to book a stay in our luxury glamping accommodation, which comprises 2 Shepherds Huts and our spacious Orchard Yurt. Prices start from just £260 for a 2-night stay and £300 respectively.

Freedom awaits – Book your Exmoor escape

Enjoy these free outdoor activities, and more on your Exmoor escape. If you’re staying with us, feel free to ask us for our recommendations – we’re always happy to share our local knowledge and help you make the most of your time on the moor.