Edward Explores: Exmoor

Edward Exmoor afternoon tea

Edward has recently returned from his latest adventure and thought some of his friends might like to read about it. This month our intrepid travelling bear has been exploring the beautiful Exmoor National Park.

Having driven down a somewhat clogged motorway, Edward was relieved to reach his accommodation, the Crown Hotel in Exford – you may read a review of this friendly establishment here. Edward was provided with a comfy bed and a good supply of biscuits. Having rested briefly he left his room to look around and was pleased to find some resident bears. These fine fellows are looking for new forever homes but were being well looked after in the interim.

Edward was eager to experience the various sights Exmoor offers. It has many rivers to walk alongside with fields and woodland for those willing to tackle the steep ascents and descents. Beyond these paths and trails is moorland, which roll out into the distance to provide stunning views on clear days. Sheep, horses and some rather scary looking horned cattle graze this area freely. Edward enjoyed admiring the colourful flowers growing from the heather.

After each long day’s walking up and down hills repeatedly, sustenance was required. Edward ate at The Crown and also the nearby White Horse Inn in Exford. Dinner at this latter establishment proved rather too dramatic when an elderly driver bashed his car into the bay window where Edward’s table was positioned. Thankfully nobody was hurt and damage minimal. The small car hit the brickwork below the window. It was worrying to consider that, had it been a larger, more modern vehicle, the glass may have been stoved in!

Despite this event, food was relished. The White Horse provided tasty fare, although The Crown was deemed superior in preparation and presentation.

Over the five days he was there, Edward visited many interesting places. On the cliffs above the seaside town of Lynmouth was a fascinating, natural phenomena known as the Valley of the Rocks. A herd of wild goats live here. Edward also climbed to the highest point in Exmoor – Dunkery Beacon – although encountered annoyingly persistent flies on this excursion.

As pictured at the start of this post, afternoon tea was taken at Watersmeet. Here Edward met some friendly dogs and bold birds. The Crown Hotel welcomes dogs and there were several of these in the bar each evening. Edward likes dogs so long as they don’t start thinking he is their plaything.

Although sad he was left to read in bed when his bearers walked from the hotel to Tarr Steps, Edward understood that the forecast rain could play havoc with joints and fur. He spent this day reading about the forthcoming Dark Skies Festival. It sounds a most interesting event.

Edward Exmoor tarr steps

After his enjoyable trip away, Edward was excited to return home. This is because it was now his birthday weekend and celebrations had been planned. The eldest of his young bearers made him tasty brownies and cookies. Her partner arrived bearing a variety of cakes from his place of work. Champagne was opened and imbibed before the whole family headed out for a birthday meal at the local pub.

All in all this was a very good week with much to see and good food to enjoy. Edward is already planning his next adventure, but that is for another story.

Edward Exmoor birthday cake

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Hotel Review: The Crown at Exford

Exmoor - Crown Hotel

Although husband and I have enjoyed several city breaks over the decades we have been together, by far our favourite holiday is one where we can go for long walks each day in beautiful countryside. Exmoor is a destination we return to again and again. As we hadn’t been for a few years – for reasons anyone can guess – this was our choice when we were looking for an August break.

The Crown in Exford is a family run hotel that sits on a junction at the heart of the village. A small park is across the road. The River Exe runs to its left. From Exford there are footpaths and bridleways leading to many other pretty villages. These follow riverbanks, cross woodland, fields, and climb up onto the surrounding moorland. Exmoor is hilly but any effort expended will be rewarded with stunning views. These include a stretch of coastline with Wales visible across the Bristol Channel.

Exmoor - moorland viewWe had asked for a larger room with a king sized bed and were allocated one looking out to the front of the hotel. The ensuite had a large bath that was much appreciated after each long day’s walking. The hospitality tray was well stocked with essentials, including biscuits. We were told on arrival that housekeeping would only be provided on request. This suited us well as we feel no need to have fresh towels each day and take care not to make too much mess in the clean and carefully prepared room anyway. When we ran low on teabags and milk this was quickly replenished.

Exmoor - hotel bedroom bed  Exmoor - hotel bedroom seats

An important aspect of our holidays is the food. We do like to eat well when away. The Crown offers what it describes as casual dining. Although the atmosphere in the various eating areas was relaxed and convivial, the dishes prepared were impressively fine – freshly prepared, beautifully presented and cooked to perfection.

Exmoor - tasty fish dinner  Exmoor - pudding in lounge

On the first evening we chose to eat at a table in the hotel vestibule. On subsequent evenings we ate in the public bar. This attracts many locals for drinks and chat, providing a lively atmosphere and a window into life in this beautiful but remote location.

Exmoor - drinks outside pub

Exmoor - superfood salad  Exmoor - pudding in pub

Breakfasts were served in what had previously been the residents’ restaurant. These were made to order and served plated. A good range of options were available, including: fruit juice, tea or coffee, fresh fruit, cereals, porridge, various egg dishes, toast, a full English fry up. I was particularly taken by what was described as a superfood breakfast – smoked salmon or bacon, avocado and poached egg served on sour dough and sprinkled with seeds. This was both delicious and filling without being too heavy.

Exmoor - hotel breakfast room  Exmoor - superfood breakfast

Adjacent to the breakfast room was a small gift shop stocking an interesting range of locally sourced products. This complemented the various artworks and sculptures that adorned walls and window ledges around the hotel – with price tags for those who might consider purchasing.

Exmoor - hotel gift shop  Exmoor - hotel animal sculptures

Although we were lucky with the weather and were able to be out and about each day, had the weather been less pleasant we could have relaxed in the hotel lounge. Games and reading material were provided here. For colder days, a log burner would keep the area cosy.

Exmoor - hotel lounge

When relaxing in our room we were often distracted by the sound of horses being ridden through the village. Drivers of tractors and 4x4s would pause to talk to those sitting at the bar’s outside tables. Exford is obviously a friendly place where residents know each other and take an interest. As visitors we were welcomed, provided with efficient and friendly service, and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.