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Dunster Yarn Market (a covered market for the sale of local cloth, built in 1609) and Dunster Castle, Exmoor

Exmoor National Park is a national park situated on the Bristol Channel coast of Devon and Somerset in South West England. The park is 693 km² (267 mile²) of hilly open moorland. Exmoor is one of the first British National Parks, designated in 1954, and is named after its main river, the River Exe.



Uncultivated heath and moorland cover about a quarter of Exmoor landscape. Some moors are covered by a variety of grasses and sedges, while others are dominated by heather. The moors are supported by wet, acid soil above a mixture of rock types including sandstone, slate, shale and limestone, mostly laid in Devonian. The highest point on Exmoor is Dunkery Beacon, at 519 m (1704 ft), also the highest point in Somerset. The Chains and surrounding high ground is the source for many rivers, which flow through steep wooded valleys called combes.

Although Exmoor is usually associated with moorland, there are also cultivated areas including the Brendon Hills, which lie in the east of the national park. There are also 84 km² of woodland, comprising a mixture of broad-leaved (oak, ash and hazel) and connifer trees. Horner Woodlands and Tarr Steps woodlands are prime examples. These woodlands are home to hundreds of lichens, mosses and ferns.

The park was featured on the TV programme Seven Natural Wonders twice as one of the wonders of the South West, and the West Country.


Exmoor boasts 55 km (34 miles) of coastline to the north, which is some of the highest coastline on the British mainland. The highest cliff is Great Hangman, at 244 m (800 ft). The dramatic scenery of rocky headlands, ravines, waterfalls and towering cliffs gained the Exmoor coast recognition as a Heritage Coast in 1991.

Exmoor is unique for its coastal woodlands, including 16 km (10 miles) of cliff between Porlock and Countisbury where the trees spread right down to the beach in places. The South West Coast Path, the longest National Trail in England and Wales, starts along the Exmoor coast.

Small harbours can be found at Lynmouth, Porlock Weir and Combe Martin. Once important for coastal trade, their primary use now is for pleasure sailing and fishing.


There is often as much as 2000 mm (80 inches) of rainfall per year on the higher ground, thanks to clouds formed by warm damp air from the Atlantic Ocean. The high ground forms the catchment area for numerous rivers and streams. There are about 483 km (300 miles) of named rivers on Exmoor.

Rivers in Exmoor include the Exe, Avill, Barle, Bray, Heddon, East Lyn and West Lyn.


Sheep have grazed on the moors for more than 3000 years, shaping much of the Exmoor landscape by feeding on moorland grasses and heather. Traditional breeds include Exmoor Horn, Cheviot and Whiteface Dartmoor and Greyface Dartmoor sheep. Devon red cattle are also farmed in the area.

Exmoor ponies can be seen roaming freely on the moors, as can a few red deer. It is rumoured that they share their habitat with the Beast of Exmoor, blamed for animal deaths on the moors.

The moorland habitat is also home to hundreds of species of birds and insects, meaning several areas have been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Places of interest

  • Lynmouth, where the East and West Lyn rivers meet, found fame following the 1952 flooding disaster. The cliff railway which connects to neighbouring Lynton is a popular attraction.

External links

National parks of England and Wales:
Current Parks:

Brecon Beacons | The Broads | Dartmoor | Exmoor | Lake District | New Forest | North York Moors | Northumberland | Peak District | Pembrokeshire Coast | Snowdonia | Yorkshire Dales

Proposed Park:

South Downs


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