Mini-break: Excellent Exmoor
Get away from it all in charming Exmoor, with its natural wonders, beautiful villages and beaches
For some reason, the Somerset coast and Exmoor don’t get the headlines Devon or Cornwall enjoy. But while undeserved, it means the region doesn’t have the hordes of visitors its neighbours do, which makes it even more special.
This beautiful part of England is stunning. With its National Park, pretty villages, dramatic moorland and charming beaches, it’s great for anyone looking for a weekend away somewhere you feel like you can really breathe; whether you want to hike to the top of the hills, or just relax.
We visited pre-pandemic, when our children were smaller and found plenty to do for little kids, although you could do much more walking and outdoor pursuits with bigger ones, which is what this area is all about.
We based ourselves in the historic village of Luccombe, in the National Park. It’s part of the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate and is as pretty a village as you will find anywhere in the country, with its Instagram-worthy lime-washed cottages.
We stayed in Luccombe Cottage, tucked in the gorgeous gardens of the village’s former rectory. It is owned by friends of ours and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough for its peaceful position and absolutely spotless amenities. No sticky crockery here, this is exactly the kind of cottage you dream about when booking a mini-break. It’s probably why they have a high rate of repeat visitors, who once they’ve found it, come back year after year. It’s a two-bed cottage with super-well-fitted modern kitchen and comfortable bedrooms. Next door is also a one-bed cottage.
There are many beautiful hikes to be had around the villages and on Exmoor. Or if you just want an amble, head to the nearby village of Porlock with its pretty shops. A little further is Porlock Weir, with marvellous fish and chips and oysters, plus hotels, a café and art gallery. We loved this beautiful spot and its pebbly beach. You can do everything from paddle-boarding to kayaking and coasteering: we didn’t do any of them, of course, as harried parents of little kids, but one of my children did fall in a pond, if that counts.
If you want a traditional English seaside resort, Minehead is not far away, with its wide sandy beach, shops and Butlin’s. We took the kids down on a sunny afternoon for some classic bucket and spade action.
Other highlights included a visit to the National Trust’s Dunster Castle, with its subtropical garden, fabulous view and what I’m told are 1000 years of history inside, which we didn’t see because my toddler set off the alarms. Are we seeing a pattern here? We were only in this region for a few days (to the relief of our friends) before heading further south, but when we return, we’ll go for longer and explore wider. It’s absolutely wonderful.
Where is it: Luccombe is in the Exmoor National Park, in Somerset.
How to get there: It’s about three and half hours drive from London, on the M4/M5.
Where to stay: We absolutely adored Luccombe Cottage, tucked away in this gorgeous village. Visit thebestofexmoor.co.uk.
For more information: Visit visitsomerset.co.uk
The British Travel List is the sister newsletter to The Royal List. It is a weekly guide to my favourite places to visit and stay around the country. I am an experienced travel and lifestyle journalist and am passionate about British travel. For more of my work, visit kerryparnell.com