Exmoor and Dartmoor: Battle of the South West Moors
Framing Devon, two enigmatic refuges of forgotten times lie undisturbed, shrouded in mist and folklore – Exmoor and Dartmoor. Dominated by lush expanses of hills and moorland, rich in heritage and tradition, these national parks are famed for a diversity of wildlife, flora and fauna as unique as the landscape. Such wondrous lands continually allure hikers, inspire writers and captivate artists. With less than 50 miles of separation, let the battle of the South West moors commence…
In the northern corner… Exmoor! Straddling Devon and Somerset, this expanse invokes images of invigorating coastlines, a contrast of dizzying cliffs and sheltered sandy coves lining traditional port towns. Discover Kilve Beach in Minehead, once used by smugglers to stash barrels of rum – still littered with the remains of fossils and ammonites from the Jurassic era. Fill your lungs with sea air along the 630 mile South West Coastal Path, yours eyes with the stimulating scenery and your belly with the sumptuous crumpets and cream teas.
Follow the river inland where Exmoor’s rolling hills cut with woodlands and farmlands are home to vibrant wildlife as well as the much loved ponies. Exmoor’s iconic red deer date back to prehistoric times. These notoriously timid beasts, idolised for their striking crown of antlers and visual prowess, make strong subject matter for many ambitious photographers.
In the southern corner…. Dartmoor! Poised in the rugged heart of Devon with its historic caves, mysterious tors and unconquered bogs – its untameable landscape radiates a mystical atmosphere. Unsurprisingly Dartmoor has inspired books such as The Hound of the Baskervilles and features as the backdrop to Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse. These 954 square kilometres homes over 50% of Britain’s globally threatened species. An array of rare birds and wildlife adorn their surroundings, with scattered flashes of the vibrant Blue Ground
Beetle and the flittering of the Greater Horseshoe Bat. Wild animals and even wilder writers come flocking to Dartmoor, joined in their numbers by wanderers and adventurers. The Dartmoor ponies are infamous… roaming their lands in herds and catching many a visitor’s attention for photo opportunities. With peaty rivers running through green shaded woodland, Dartmoor boasts idyllic locations for wild swimming. Venture out to Wellsfoot Island, a hidden wooded haven with soft sand and clear waters, nestled in the root of the park. For those with a more dare-devilish nature, gorge scrabbling has scaled in popularity – battle your way up waterfalls and ravines guided by the helping hands of one of the available tour companies.
Transport is equally varied, from horseback tours to traditional steam trains. This is your chance to escape from the city and get lost in another world. The battle is over, the verdict is in… there’s no outright winner… both moors are amazing and should be visited. All that remains is to prepare and anticipate this Moorland adventure of challenges and conquests.
By Charlotte Biszewski