Wild and Exotic Exmoor and West Country riding holiday sample itinerary
Wild and Exotic first organised a riding holiday on ride across Exmoor in the summer of 2002, and have continued to arrange riding holidays through his unspoilt and historic landscape whenever they have been requested. Guests are accompanied an experienced local guide who also supplies reliable quality horses. The days are spent exploring the glorious Exmoor landscape on horseback, with lunches taken at pubs, in farmhouses or as a picnic. The evenings are spent at pubs such as the Royal Oak at Withypool, the White Horse at Exford and the Royal Oak at Winsford with your luggage transported between lodgings by our staff whilst you are riding. All itineraries are tailor made to suit your requirements, and we can also include spring and autumn hunting with any of the many hunts that call Exmoor home. The best time of year for our Exmoor rides is from May – September inclusive.
Day 1: In the case of overseas visitors, you will be collected from your London hotel or Heathrow airport and driven southwest through Berkshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to Ashwick Manor Hotel, located in the picturesque Barle valley within the boundaries of the Exmoor National Park in Somerset. UK visitors will arrive at Ashwick Manor under their own arrangements. We will stop for either a pub or picnic lunch enroute. Ashwick offers old world hospitality and the chance to unwind in elegant and secluded grounds.
Day 2: After breakfast we will the meet the horses that you will be riding during your stay on Exmoor before setting off for the day’s ride. We will follow the River Barle upstream through its winding and scenic valley where the fast flowing waters cascade dramatically over boulders and rocks on their way downstream. We cross the river by the ancient Tarr Steps and make our way to Hawkridge before re-crossing the River Barle and heading out over the open moorland of Winsford Hill, a heath-covered common where three Bronze Age Wambarrows mark the highest point, with good views to Dunkery, Dartmoor and the Blackdown Hills. This is a likely place to see the purebred Exmoor ponies of the well-known Anchor herd. At Spire Cross there is a standing stone inscribed ‘Caratacus Nepus’, which means a relative of Caratacus, possibly the British leader who resisted the Roman invasion. The ride finishes as we reach the Royal Oak Pub in Winsford Village sometime this afternoon.
Day 3: After breakfast we ride out of Winsford and follow the river Exe upstream to its headwaters and then ride over Kitmoor Heath to Dunkery Beacon, at 1705 feet, the highest point on Exmoor. It was on this hill that beacons were lit in the sixteenth century to warn the country of the invading Spanish Armada in the English Channel to the south, and celebratory bonfires are still lit today on special occasions. The views from this vantage point are superb, and we can look out across the Atlantic to the distant Bristol Channel, as well as enjoy a sweeping vista of Exmoor to the west, and the outline of Dartmoor to the south. We will ride on to Cloutsham Farm, a former hunting lodge owned by the Acland family, and designed in the ornate rustic style popular on estates in the late eighteenth century. We will break for a light lunch at his delightful property. It was on the balcony of this farmhouse that the hunting artist, Lionel Edwards, painted many of his wonderful works. After lunch we will drop down through the ancient sessile woodlands of the National Trust’s Horner Wood before climbing out of this steep and beautiful valley to continue over open moorland past Nutscale Reservoir and back into the sheltered village of Exford and the White Horse Pub. Exford is famous for being home to the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, as well as the hunting centre of Exmoor.
Day 4: Today we ride north into the heart of Exmoor forest, a vast treeless wilderness that comprised the ancient hunting domain of the kings of England. We will ride across open country to the headwaters of Weir Water, and then westwards over Chalk Water and on to the Deer Park. This woodland was planted for hunting purposes by Nicholas Snowe of Oare, the Master of the Exmoor foxhounds, who still draw this covert today, and are often referred to as the “Stars of the West”. We will stop close by to enjoy a picnic lunch. Our ride then leads up Badgeworthy water, and its tributary Hoccombe Water with its deserted medieval settlement. This area of Exmoor is famed as home of the legendary Doones, a family of seventeenth-century outlaws immortalised by R.D. Blackmore’s famous novel, Lorna Doone. On our return to Exford for the evening we recross the infant River Exe where it flows through a dramatic valley at Warrens Farm.
Day 5: Today we will attend a meet of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, who will be hunting in the area. We will follow the hunt’s progress by landrover, however anyone wishing to hunt mounted on that day will be able to do by arrangement. We will decide as the day progresses how long we wish to follow. Alternatives include a visit to the nearby coast at Porlock. We return to the White Horse in Exford for our final night at this pub.
Day 6: Today we begin our ride at Brendon Two Gates and ride out across the nearby Chains, a notoriously wild and boggy moorland ridge with its highest point at Chains Barrow – 1,599ft. A path leads along the southern edge of the ridge between Exe Head and Pinkworthy Pond, which dams the headwaters of the River Barle. The pond was created for landowner John Knight around 1830 but its purpose is unknown. Here is Exmoor’s most extensive area of blanket bog; typical plants include deer sedge, cotton grasses, cross-leaved heath, bog asphodel, sundew and heath spotted orchid. This is also an area where we are likely to see the some of the wild red deer that comprise Exmoor’s famous herd that is managed to such good effect by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. We follow the course of the River Barle downstream, crossing at Cornham Ford, close by the Exmoor foxhound kennels, and continue to the moorland village of Simonsbath, enjoying a picnic lunch along the way. As we follow the course of the River Barle we pass many well known Exmoor landmarks; the Eliza mines, Picked Stones, Sherdon Rocks and medieval Landacre Bridge, to name a few. Our final destination of Withypool lies a mile or so beyond Landacre Bridge, and we will spend the night at the cosy Royal Oak Inn.
Day 7: We leave Withypool on the final leg of our ride back to Ashwick House. We ride over Withypool Hill with its commanding views of the Barle Valley, and over Halscombe Allotments to cross the Danesbrook at Willingford Bridge. For lunch today we will drop off the moor and visit the delightful pub in Molland village. Afterwards we continue down the course of the Danesbrook to where it meets the waters of the River Barle at Castle Bridge, and then climb out of the steep valley through Ashwick woods to the Ashwick House Hotel. In the evening we will have dinner with the Yandle family, in their family farmhouse at Exebridge. The house is decorated with many fascinating pieces of hunting memorabilia and wonderful sporting paintings, and no visit to Exmoor can be considered complete without sampling the Yandle’s famous West Country hospitality.
Day 8: After breakfast we leave Exmoor for the drive back to Heathrow or your point of departure.
All our Exmoor rides are bespoke, please contact us for price, which will depend on the number of people in your group. The organisers reserve the right to alter or modify itineraries should circumstances necessitate changes. Itineraries are normally inclusive of all food, accommodation, transfers, but not drinks and liquid refreshments in the evenings; guests will be responsible for settling these expenses with pubs direct at the end of their stay.
Neither Wild and Exotic nor the operators or suppliers can accept any responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or unforeseen circumstances such as changes, disruptions or delays to airline flights for whatever reason. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which is available on this website under the general info tab.
United Kingdom general information and map
Try not to miss: The sunny south west of England where you can gallop for miles on end across open moorland following a pack of hounds across either Dartmoor or Exmoor. The shooting is also spectacular in north Devon and the county is home to a number of wonderful trout, salmon and sea trout rivers. Travelling north through the West Country, the Home Counties and the Midlands to the wild and beautiful landscape of the Welsh borders, there is prolific and varied shooting to suit all tastes and budgets. Wild and Exotic can arrange big driven partridge and pheasant days or much smaller rough shooting opportunities where the bag may be a fraction of the size but the rewards equally great. The Peak District, Pennines and North Yorkshire Moors offer the opportunity to shoot that most emblematic and celebrated of all game birds, the wild red grouse. We can arrange a small and comparatively inexpensive day pursuing grouse over pointers, or obtain a place for you or your entire party of 8 guns on a driven moor where the expectations are to shoot significant bags of grouse.
A uniquely sporting paradise awaits the visitor to Scotland; a land of beautiful glens, rugged mountains and superb salmon rivers, not forgetting an unspoilt and spectacular coastline where if you know where to look, the beaches rival those of the Caribbean. The highlands of Scotland are home to wild red deer, and a day in pursuit of elusive stags or hinds in the company of an experienced stalker remains one of the most challenging and rewarding of all fieldsports. Although we publish no details of individual Scottish estates on this website, Wild and Exotic enjoys very close connections with many of the best, and has a profound understanding of what they offer, including the realistic opportunity of achieving the iconic McNab – a stag, a salmon and a brace of grouse on the same day – which our Managing Director achieved at his first attempt on our recommended highland estate.
Why UK: Without doubt, the United Kingdom is the spiritual home of all fieldsports and to enjoy day’s hunting, shooting or fishing here is to gain a privileged insight of where it all began. Sir Isaac Walton’s Treatise on Angling spawned a sport that is now enjoyed all over the world targeting a list of species so numerous and diverse that the great writer would surely turn in his grave. Shooting game birds also started in the seventeenth century on these islands with sporting dogs and muzzle loaders, and it could be claimed that every scent hound in the world includes English foxhound, harrier or beagle blood that can be traced as far back as the early eighteen hundreds. The British landscape has evolved over the centuries in tandem with hunting, shooting and fishing, and to this day remains a uniquely perfect landscape in which to enjoy a wide ranging and diverse selection of field sports.
“Many thanks for organising a fantastic weekend. The guns had a great time, and were very appreciative of everyone on the day, in particular Julian and Rosie, who both looked after us extremely well. The pub was perfect – very accommodating staff, very good food, with a wonderfully authentic pub décor inside (reminding us that we were nowhere near the blandness of so many of London’s gastro-pubs!).”
“Just a brief note to thank you yet again for an utterly fantastic weekend, the hotel was outstanding – excellent food, brilliant service and everything on time The birds just seem to get even better and the boys loved it for the fourth year running, making it an outstanding weekend, it really does just get better and better.”
“Once again thanks for a super two days shooting grouse over pointers; we are definitely on for next year if you will have us!”