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8 Best Walks In The Blackdown Hills

The walks in the Blackdown Hills offer a captivating journey through the heart of southwestern England’s natural beauty. Nestled on the Somerset-Devon border, this enchanting landscape is adorned with rolling hills, serene woodlands, and picturesque villages.

Embarking on walks in the Blackdown Hills allows you to explore a mosaic of trails that wind through diverse terrains, revealing panoramic vistas, and historical landmarks.

Walks In The Blackdown Hills

It’s known for its picturesque landscapes, rolling hills, woodlands, and charming villages. If you’re planning to take a walk in the Blackdown Hills then these are the main ones to do.

If you want more information on this part of England and the Blackdown Hills walks then I highly recommend getting this book:

East Devon & The Jurassic Coast: Local, Characterful Guides to Britain’s Special Places (Bradt Guides)

Otterhead Lakes

Otterhead Lakes is a beautiful area located within the Blackdown Hills in Somerset, England. It is known for its two picturesque lakes, which were originally reservoirs but are now surrounded by peaceful woodlands and provide a serene setting for nature lovers and walkers.

Here’s what you can expect when visiting Otterhead Lakes:

  1. Lakeside Walk: The main attraction here is the circular walk around the two lakes. The walk is relatively easy and suitable for all ages. It takes you through a mix of woodlands and open spaces, offering tranquil views of the lakes and the surrounding landscape.
  2. Wildlife Watching: Otterhead Lakes is a haven for wildlife. You might spot various bird species, including swans, ducks, and other waterfowl. Additionally, if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of some elusive otters, after which the lakes are named.
  3. Flora and Fauna: The woodlands around the lakes are home to a diverse range of plant life, from ancient oaks to bluebells and other wildflowers, depending on the season. Keep an eye out for signs of wildlife activity along the way.
  4. Historical Ruins: As you explore the area, you’ll come across the remains of a historic manor house that once stood here. The ruins add an air of mystery and history to the landscape.
  5. Tranquil Atmosphere: One of the main draws of Otterhead Lakes is the peaceful atmosphere. The quiet surroundings make it an ideal spot for relaxation, reflection, and getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
  6. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic spots where you can enjoy a packed lunch while taking in the natural beauty around you. Just be sure to follow leave-no-trace principles and clean up after yourself.
  7. Photography Opportunities: The lakes and their surroundings provide numerous photo opportunities, whether you’re interested in capturing the reflections on the water, the changing colours of the seasons, or the local wildlife.

Remember to respect the natural environment by staying on designated paths, following any posted rules or guidelines, and being mindful of any wildlife you encounter.

The lakes are accessible via public footpaths, and there is typically no entry fee to visit this area. It’s recommended to check for any updates or changes in access before you go, as conditions might change over time.

Wellington Monument

The Wellington Monument is a prominent landmark in the area and the walk around there is one of the best walks in the Blackdown Hills.

It is a historic structure with significant cultural and historical importance.

Here’s what you should know about the Wellington Monument:

  1. History: The Wellington Monument was erected in honour of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who was a celebrated military figure known for his role in the Napoleonic Wars, most notably the Battle of Waterloo. The monument was built to commemorate his achievements and his status as a national hero.
  2. Design: The monument is an impressive granite obelisk that stands approximately 53 meters (175 feet) tall. It is visible from various points in the surrounding area and offers panoramic views of the Blackdown Hills and beyond.
  3. Location: The Wellington Monument is situated on the Blackdown Ridge, providing an elevated vantage point. Its strategic placement makes it a popular spot for visitors interested in taking in the breathtaking landscapes of the Blackdown Hills and the surrounding countryside.
  4. Walks and Hikes: The monument can be reached via various walking paths and hiking trails. It’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The journey to the monument can be part of the experience, as you’ll traverse picturesque landscapes and woodlands.
  5. Views: Once you reach the top of the Wellington Monument, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views. On a clear day, you can see for miles, making it a fantastic spot for photography and simply enjoying the beauty of the area.
  6. Historical Significance: The monument not only pays tribute to the Duke of Wellington but also serves as a reminder of the region’s history and connection to significant events. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past while being surrounded by the natural beauty of the landscape.

Hemyock Castle and Culmstock Beacon

This walk combines history with beautiful scenery. You can explore the ruins of Hemyock Castle and then climb up to Culmstock Beacon for breathtaking views and one of the best walks in the Blackdown Hills.

Hemyock Castle.

  1. Hemyock Castle
    • History: Hemyock Castle is a historic ruin that dates back to the Norman period. It was originally built as a motte-and-bailey castle in the 12th century and served as a stronghold for centuries.
    • Location: The castle is situated in the village of Hemyock in the Culm Valley. While the castle itself is in ruins, its remains still convey a sense of its historical significance.
    • Exploration: Visitors can explore the castle grounds, where you’ll find remnants of the original structures, including earthworks and the castle mound. The site provides an opportunity to learn about the history of the region and the castle’s role in the past.
    • Walking: There are walking routes that lead to the castle, and it’s often included as part of a larger trail or circular walk in the Blackdown Hills.
  2. Culmstock Beacon:
    • Location: Culmstock Beacon is located near the village of Culmstock in Devon. It’s a prominent hilltop that offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
    • Hiking and Views: The beacon itself is a natural hilltop with a trig point. It’s a popular spot for hikers and walkers, offering rewarding views of the Blackdown Hills and beyond. On a clear day, you can see far-reaching landscapes.
    • Culm Valley: Culmstock Beacon is located within the Culm Valley, which is known for its scenic beauty and rural charm. The beacon provides an excellent vantage point to appreciate the valley’s landscapes.
    • Access: Access to Culmstock Beacon is often through designated footpaths or trails. It’s a place to enjoy a peaceful walk and connect with nature.

Culmstock Beacon.

Dunkeswell Abbey and Luppitt

This walk takes you through charming villages and countryside, passing by Dunkeswell Abbey, which has historical significance. It’s a great way to experience the rural beauty of the area.

Ruins of Dunkeswell Abbey.

  1. Dunkeswell Abbey:
    • History: Dunkeswell Abbey was a Cistercian monastery founded in the 13th century. It played a significant role in the religious and cultural history of the region until its dissolution during the Reformation in the 16th century.
    • Location: The ruins of Dunkeswell Abbey are located near the village of Dunkeswell. The site includes the remains of the abbey church, chapter house, and other structures.
    • Exploration: Visitors can explore the abbey ruins, which provide insights into the architecture and layout of a medieval monastery. Interpretive panels or guided tours might offer more information about the history of the abbey and the daily lives of its inhabitants.
    • Surroundings: The abbey is surrounded by picturesque countryside, making it a peaceful place to reflect and appreciate both the historical and natural aspects of the area.
  2. Luppitt:
    • Village: Luppitt is a charming village located within the Blackdown Hills. It’s known for its rural character and traditional architecture.
    • St Mary’s Church: One of the highlights of Luppitt is St. Mary’s Church. The church is known for its medieval wall paintings, including a famous “Doom” painting depicting the Last Judgment. It’s a unique historical and artistic feature.
    • Walking and Exploring: Luppitt is situated in a picturesque setting, and it’s often a starting or stopping point for walks and hikes in the surrounding countryside. The village itself can be explored on foot, offering a glimpse into traditional rural life.
    • Local Character: Luppitt’s small community and tranquil atmosphere make it a lovely place to experience the peaceful side of the Blackdown Hills.

St. Mary’s church.

Both Dunkeswell Abbey and Luppitt offer historical and cultural insights, as well as opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of the region and is one of the best walks in the Blackdown Hills for history lovers.

Thurlbear Wood and Fivehead

This walk combines woodland trails with open fields and meadows. Thurlbear Wood is a designated nature reserve with a variety of flora and fauna to observe.

  1. Thurlbear Wood:
    • Nature Reserve: Thurlbear Wood is a designated nature reserve known for its diverse flora and fauna. It’s managed by the Somerset Wildlife Trust and offers a range of habitats, including ancient woodland, grasslands, and wetlands.
    • Walking Trails: The nature reserve features well-maintained walking trails that allow visitors to explore the woodlands and enjoy the natural beauty. There might be different trail options suited to different preferences and fitness levels.
    • Wildlife: Thurlbear Wood is home to a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and mammals. Depending on the season, you might spot bluebells in spring, colourful wildflowers in summer, and fungi in the autumn.
    • Conservation: The nature reserve is not only a place for recreation but also serves as a conservation area, contributing to the preservation of local ecosystems and biodiversity.
  2. Fivehead:
    • Village: Fivehead is a picturesque village situated in the heart of the Somerset countryside. It’s known for its historic cottages, village green, and tranquil atmosphere.
    • Village Green: The village green is a central gathering point and often features a traditional maypole. It’s a charming spot to relax and take in the rural surroundings.
    • St. Martin’s Church: Fivehead is home to St. Martin’s Church, a historic church with architectural features worth exploring. Churches like this often carry a sense of local history and culture.
    • Exploring the Countryside: Fivehead is surrounded by scenic countryside, making it a great starting point for walks or drives to discover the beauty of the area.

Culm Valley Way

If you’re looking for a longer walk, the Culm Valley Way is a 14-mile trail that follows the course of the River Culm. It offers diverse landscapes and the opportunity to spot wildlife along the way which makes it one of the best walks in the Blackdown Hills.

Route and Highlights:

  • Distance: The Culm Valley Way is approximately 14 miles (22.5 kilometres) long, making it a moderately challenging walk suitable for a day hike.
  • Starting and Ending Points: The trail typically starts in the village of Willand and ends in the town of Cullompton, both located in Devon.
  • Scenic Landscapes: The trail takes you through a mix of landscapes, including woodlands, meadows, and fields. You’ll also pass by the tranquil River Culm, which adds to the natural beauty of the journey.
  • Historical Villages: Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to explore or pass through several charming villages, each with its own unique character. These might include Willand, Uffculme, Hemyock, and Cullompton.
  • Culm Valley Railway Line: The trail follows parts of the old Culm Valley Railway line, which was operational until the 1960s. This railway line was originally built to connect rural communities and transport goods.
  • Wildlife and Nature: The Culm Valley Way offers a chance to spot various species of birds, insects, and other wildlife. Depending on the time of year, you might also come across wildflowers and other flora.
  • Historical Sites: The trail might pass near or through historical sites, such as churches, manor houses, and other landmarks that contribute to the region’s heritage.

Planning and Tips:

  • Maps and Directions: Before embarking on the Culm Valley Way, it’s a good idea to obtain detailed trail maps or guides to help you navigate the route. These resources might provide information about points of interest, elevation changes, and rest stops.
  • Appropriate Gear: Wear comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing, and sturdy footwear, and bring essentials like water, snacks, a map or GPS device, and a first aid kit.
  • Trail Conditions: Check for any updates on trail conditions, especially if you’re hiking during inclement weather or after heavy rainfall.
  • Transportation: Depending on whether you plan to complete the entire trail or just a section, consider transportation options for both the starting and ending points.

The Culm Valley Way offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the Devon countryside and is one of the best walks in the Blackdown Hills.

Combe Wood and Beacon Hill

A circular walk that takes you through Combe Wood and up to Beacon Hill, offering views of the surrounding hills and valleys.

  1. Combe Wood:
    • Location: Combe Wood is situated within the Blackdown Hills and is known for its ancient woodlands, diverse flora and fauna, and peaceful atmosphere.
    • Woodland Walks: Combe Wood offers walking trails that meander through ancient trees, providing a tranquil escape into nature. The woodlands are particularly enchanting during the spring when bluebells and other wildflowers bloom.
    • Wildlife: The woodlands are home to a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and mammals. Keep an eye out for signs of these creatures as you explore the trails.
    • Nature Experience: Walking through Combe Wood can provide a chance to connect with nature, unwind, and enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings.
  2. Beacon Hill:
    • Location: Beacon Hill is a prominent hill located in the Blackdown Hills and offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
    • Hiking and Views: Beacon Hill is a popular spot for hikers and those seeking scenic viewpoints. The summit provides stunning vistas of the rolling hills and valleys that characterize the Blackdown Hills.
    • Accessible Summit: Beacon Hill’s summit can often be reached via well-maintained paths or trails, making it accessible for a range of fitness levels.
    • Photography: The hill’s elevated position makes it a great location for photography, especially during sunrise or sunset when the light enhances the natural beauty of the landscape.

Upottery Airfield Memorial Walk

This walk takes you around the former Upottery Airfield, which was a base for American troops during World War II. The memorial walk provides historical insights along with countryside views and is one of the best walks in the Blackdown Hills for history.

Ruins of Upottery Airfield.

History and Significance:

  • Upottery Airfield: During World War II, Upottery Airfield was a vital base for the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). It played a crucial role in the preparation and execution of D-Day operations and later missions. The airfield was used by troop carrier groups to transport paratroopers and supplies.

Memorial Walk:

  • Route: The Upottery Airfield Memorial Walk is a circular walking trail that guides visitors through the former airfield site and surrounding countryside. The trail allows you to explore historical sites, memorials, and points of interest related to the airfield’s wartime activities.
  • Points of Interest: The walk typically includes markers, information panels, and memorials that provide insights into the history of the airfield, the units stationed there, and their contributions to the war effort.
  • Memorials: The walk often leads to memorials honouring the soldiers and airmen who served at Upottery Airfield, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice. These memorials offer a chance for reflection and remembrance.

Walks in the Blackdown Hills Advice

When you go for your walks in the Blackdown Hills remember to check local maps, weather conditions, and any specific guidelines for each trail before setting out.

If you want more information on this part of England and the Blackdown Hills walks then I highly recommend getting this book:

East Devon & The Jurassic Coast: Local, Characterful Guides to Britain’s Special Places (Bradt Guides)

Another good one is:

Somerset: Local Guides to Britain’s Special Places Bradt Guides

The Blackdown Hills walks have a network of public footpaths and bridleways, making it accessible for walkers and hikers of various skill levels.

Don’t forget to bring appropriate footwear, water, snacks, and a camera to capture the stunning scenery.

For more travel in this part of the world take a look at my guide for the best things to do in Cornwall.

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