From cosy cottage stays and epic road trips through Exmoor National Park, to meals in charming pubs and coastal walks, these are the best things to do in Porlock, Somerset.
Move over Clovelly, Padstow and Port Isaac, it’s time to share another stunning holiday destination in the southwest of England! We’ve just spent a long weekend in the picturesque village of Porlock, close to Minehead in West Somerset.
The village may be small, but it offers a lot! There’s a 13th century church, meandering high street filled with independent shops, galleries and eateries, several pubs and dramatic countryside all around. You’ve also got the rugged beauty of Exmoor National Park on the doorstep. Plus, just hop in the car and in 10 minutes you’ll be on the coast, with access to the South West Coast Path.
We booked a cute cottage for our trip via Classic Cottages. This website is a treasure trove of beautiful accommodation options! Meadowbank, our choice for the weekend, looked like it would make the most spectacular base for exploring the region. I’ll share more about our stay shortly.
If you’re planning a trip to this picturesque and underrated part of England, I’ve got plenty of tips for you. It’s worth noting that I visited in winter. There are plenty of seasonal things you could add into a warmer trip, such as getting out in the water, summer festivals, visiting Greencombe Gardens… the list goes on!
Thankfully, our winter weekend away coincided with a couple of perfect crisp days with bright blue skies, and one overcast day. No rain though, which meant we could really enjoy the great outdoors.
From days out in Exmoor National Park, to the best places to eat and famous landmarks, it’s time to share a few of my top things to do in Porlock and the surrounding areas.
12 Amazing Things To Do In Porlock, Somerset
Shop at Porlock’s eclectic mix of stores
Porlock is a very tiny village with a population under 1500, yet it actually has a surprising amount on its main street. You’ll find two art galleries, two small convenience stores, a chocolate shop, butchers, cheese shop, outdoor shop, antiques store and a women’s boutique. And that’s not even all of it!
Food-wise you’ve got choices of homemade pies at Piggy In The Middle, three pubs, tea rooms and a couple of restaurants. It doesn’t sound like such a small village now, does it?!
While I doubt you’d spend hours shopping in Porlock, there’s plenty to keep you busy for an hour or two. Be sure to check opening hours before you visit, as some places only open a few days a week.
Visit the art galleries in Porlock
One of the top things to do in Porlock? Check out the art! Porlock is home to two small art galleries: Melody Art Gallery and Churchgate Gallery. I loved perusing the artworks in both. Churchgate Gallery had an eclectic mix of prints, canvases, sculptures and jewellery. The artists featured were all from the region, and there were a few paintings of familiar views.
At Melody Art Gallery you can see colourful paintings by artist Melody Hawtin and photographer David Hawtin. They’re passionate about sharing the natural beauty of Exmoor National Park through their work.
If you’re into the arts scene, I’d also recommend taking a short drive to Porlock Bay to visit The Harbour Gallery and Café. Here you’ll see the work of local artists and craftspeople, all of whom have been inspired by the beautiful West Country landscape. There’s usually a big mix of mediums, including paintings, ceramics, jewellery and crafts. You can peruse the works then settle down for a coffee!
Walk from Porlock to Porlock Weir
One of the most popular things to do in Porlock, is the walk from the village to Porlock Weir. Wrapped up in winter coats and scarves, we followed a looped route to the water and back. You can do an easy loop that takes you out of the village through ancient woodland, then emerges near the Bristol Channel. For the return, you can head along the pebble beach and take a right turn along Porlock Marshes.
Throughout the walk you’ll have spectacular views over Bossington Beach and up towards the dramatic cliffs of Hurlestone Point.
Do you want to know one of the best things about this walk… apart from those gorgeous views, of course? The fact there’s a lovely pub in Porlock Weir for your midway point!
We sat down to a tasty lunch at The Ship Inn (often referred to as The Bottom Ship, as there’s The Top Ship in Porlock village!) This charming thatched pub serves a classic menu of dishes, generous portions and some great local beers and ciders on tap. Top marks from us for the fish finger sandwich!
As we walked through the door, a few locals welcomed us and started telling us about a local event happening that day. From that moment on, it felt like we were part of the Porlock family. The pub had such a warm atmosphere.
If you want to follow this walk, I’d recommend checking out the detailed guide to the Porlock to Porlock Weir walk on the Great British Bucket List.
Enjoy a road trip through Exmoor National Park
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Porlock, you simply have to go on a road trip through Exmoor National Park. At just under 700 square kilometres, Exmoor is actually one of the smallest national parks in the UK. Yet, as you drive along epic cliff roads, through undulating moorland and rugged woodland, with rivers, waterfalls and streams all around, it feels anything but small.
The owners of our Classic Cottage, Meadowbank, recommended a driving route up Porlock Hill towards Exford. It was utterly spectacular. We only made it around half way up the hill before stopping for photos… and then drove a little further for more!
From up there you could see the vast expanse of landscapes – the moors, coast, hills, valleys, cliffs, farmland and beaches. Even with the winter colour pallete it was magnificent!
If you’re looking for a drive that’s a little further afield, I’d recommend a trip to the Valley of the Rocks near Lynton. We visited last year when we stayed in North Devon. With its jagged cliff edges, epic coastal views and interesting rock formations, it’s one of the highlights of Exmoor National Park.
If you’re looking for any fun activities, such as mountain biking, rock climbing or kayaking during your stay in Porlock, check out Exmoor Adventures.
Start Walking The South West Coast Path
Did you know that the South West Coast Path starts right near Porlock, in the town of Minehead? At 630-miles, this is officially the UK’s longest national walking trail. The first section is 35 miles long and runs from Minehead to Combe Martin.
As you walk this route, you’ll get to see Exmoor’s amazing coastline, with massive cliffs, secret beaches and an abundance of wildlife and birds. Keep your eyes peeled for goats, red deer, wild Exmoor ponies, skylarks, willow warblers and yellowhammers.
Just a little word of warning, this section of the SWCP is particularly steep and is often referenced as one of the more challenging parts of the route.
Visit some of Exmoor’s prettiest villages
Porlock is very charming, but there are several other beautiful villages to visit during a trip to Exmoor National Park. A couple of my favourites from this trip were Exford and Winsford.
Exford, located right on the river Exe, has a quaint village centre with a green, a few shops and dog-friendly pubs. I’d love to return on a warmer day to sit outside by the water at The Exmoor White Horse Inn. This 16th century pub has rows of booths right by the river. It looked like such a pretty spot!
Winsford is often regarded as one of the prettiest villages in Exmoor National Park. In a valley with stunning countryside all around, thatched cottages, an old cobbled ford, ancient stone bridges and a cosy pub, I’d definitely recommend visiting. We enjoyed an amazing Sunday roast at The Royal Oak Exmoor in the village. More on that coming up!
We also set off on a walk from the centre of Winsford to ‘The Punchbowl’. The views back towards the village were incredible, as we walked through the steep-sided valley. It was the ideal way to work off a hearty lunch!
Visit Dunster Castle
A short drive from Porlock is this spectacular fortress. It was owned by the Luttrell family for more than 600 years, but was done up in the 1870s to resemble a Victorian country house. There’s plenty to see inside, including old paintings, rare wall hangings, an amazing 17th century carved staircase and ornate decorations.
The gardens are also lovely, with a variety of Mediterranean and subtropical plants. In Dunster village, you’ll also be able to see the local watermill.
Dunster Castle is a National Trust property, so ticket prices are quite high, but you can wander the grounds for free.
Tuck into an amazing Sunday roast in a country pub
When I was researching the options for the best Sunday roast near Porlock, there were plenty of appealing options. Unfortunately, The Exmoor Forest Inn in Simonsbath was closed when we were visiting, but this pub looked excellent. It’s even recommended by the Michelin Guide.
We decided to book a table at The Royal Oak Exmoor, a charming thatched country pub in the picturesque village of Winsford. The present pub dates back to the 16th century and inside it’s very cosy, with log fires, nooks to sit in and very friendly landlords.
We chose well! The Sunday roast was excellent. We both ordered the roast lamb, which was packed full of flavour. The portions were generous, with a loaded plate of roast potatoes, a variety of vegetables, cauliflower cheese and a Yorkshire pudding. There was a lively atmosphere in the pub too; a medley of adult chatter, cute dogs snuffling around, crackling log fires, and our little bubba Cooper cooing away in his high chair!
Explore Minehead’s independent shopping and food scene
When I spotted Minehead was our nearest big town, all I could think of was Butlins! I assumed the town wouldn’t be anything special, but after stopping for a bite to eat and a little shopping trip, I was won over! The high street is dotted with shops and eateries, plenty that are independently run or small chains.
With our 10-month-old in tow, I was amazed when we stumbled across Poppins. This store sells pre-loved children’s clothes and toys. It was an absolute treasure trove of items that showed few signs of wear. The prices were low too, ranging from 20p for a vest to £2.50 for jackets. We picked up 12 items for £12 – that’s Cooper’s spring/summer wardrobe sorted!
We also had a great lunch at Zhiangs 35a, a casual eatery serving Asian street food dishes. The menu is small, but everything sounded utterly delicious. Choosing between Malaysian curries and Indonesian rice dishes was hard! In the end we both had the nasi goreng, which was absolutely packed full of spices, lemongrass and curry leaves, topped with succulent fried chicken, prawns and a fried egg. It’s a great place for a quick lunch or to pick up a take away to eat by the beach.
Take part in the Minehead Parkrun
If you’re partial to a little morning run, I’d recommend the Minehead Parkrun. This free, community event takes place every Saturday at 9am. The 5km route goes along the promenade in the town. You can go as fast or slow as you like and it’s open to people of all ages. It’s a great way to dust off the cobwebs in the morning!
Go stargazing in Exmoor National Park
Did you know Exmoor was designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2011? There’s so little light pollution in the national park, that on a clear night it’s possible to see the most unbelievable starry skies.
We didn’t get the chance to go stargazing on this trip, but it’s something I’d love to do on a future holiday to the region. I read that you can even hire telescopes or book an experienced astronomer to tell you more about what you’re seeing.
If you’re wondering where to head for the best night skies in Exmoor, Simonsbath and Bossington Hill are particularly special on a clear night. As well as thousands of twinkly stars, you may also be able to see the Milky Way with your naked eye. How amazing is that?
If you time your visit to Porlock for October or November, you might even be able to attend the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival. There are always lots of inspiring events for anyone interested in what’s going on above us.
Stay in a beautiful cottage in Porlock
If you’re planning a holiday in this region, I’ve got the perfect accommodation for you! We stayed in Meadowbank, a gorgeous 4-bedroom house in Somerset available via Classic Cottages. This house is in a gorgeous position on one side of the valley, with sweeping views over the recreation ground and village, all the way to the sea.
Inside, it had everything we needed for a comfortable break. There are four smart bedrooms, (1 twin and 3 doubles), each with quirky and colourful décor. Downstairs you’ll find a large open plan kitchen with dining table and log burner. The cosy lounge has three sofas, a cute little reading nook, and breath-taking sea views.
If you’re visiting in the summer months, there’s a large outdoor dining area around the front, a BBQ and a garden leading onto the recreation ground. It’s also just a 5-minute walk to the main street in Porlock, so you’ll be close to the pubs, restaurants and shops.
It’s the kind of cottage that would be ideal for a large family or a group of friends. I’d love to plan a return trip this summer! If you want to read a full review, have a read of this one on An Adventurous World’s blog.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the best things to do in Porlock. Have a great trip, whatever you end up doing! If you’re looking for other things to do in the southwest of England, check out these guides:
- The Perfect Bristol Day Trip Itinerary: Attractions, Food and Sightseeing
- 7 Beautiful Places To Visit In Cornwall For Couples
- 13 Amazing Places To Visit In Devon This Year
- 8 Unique Things To Do In Cornwall
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