Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

St Ivel House, Hemyock, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 3SJ

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Blackdown Hills Culmstock Beacon (c) Diana Elliott
  • Blackdown Hills Culmstock Beacon (c) Diana Elliott
  • Blackdown Hills
  • Blackdown Hills
  • Blackdown Hills

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The Blackdown Hills is an unspoilt rural landscape of great beauty with an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna to discover.

The Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the Devon and Somerset border, is a real hidden gem. Unspoilt by mass tourism, it is a beautiful landscape of steep valleys, forest and farmland, laced with rivers and streams. The area offers excellent cycling, walking and riding and there is plenty of history to interest visitors, from the Iron Age to World War Two. The hills are dotted with pretty villages, where a warm welcome and good food are always on offer.

To the north the land rises steeply in a dramatic wooded scarp, while to the south it forms a plateau, deeply dissected by valleys. On top of the plateau lie open windswept spaces, while in the valleys picturesque chertstone, cob, and thatched buildings cluster in villages and hamlets, surrounded by a patchwork of small enclosed fields, and accessed down narrow winding lanes with tall hedgerows.

It is wonderful countryside for walking, riding and cycling, particularly as it is home to many wildflower species including orchids, violets, and primroses, and a number of less common mammals and birds such as dormice, otters, and nightjars. The flower rich grassland is ablaze with butterflies in summer, while the autumn colour of the woodlands is an amazing sight.

Another favourite Blackdown Hills AONB beauty spot is Iron Age Hembury Fort surrounded by great earthwork ramparts. Hembury's massive beeches with gnarled twisting roots preside over well worn tracks leading to the summit, which in late spring is carpeted with a sea of bluebells.

If you are particularly interested in heritage then visiting one of the many historical landmarks within the Blackdown Hills AONB is a must with two Iron Age hill forts; Dumpden Hill and Castle Neroche, Culmstock Beacon which is Elizabethan and a woollen mill built in 1799, Coldharbour Mill. Blackdown Hills is also home to two airfield heritage centres; Dunkeswell and Upottery, a medieval castle, Hemyock Castle, Wolford Chapel and the Wellington Monument.

The Blackdown Hills is also famed for its community of high quality food producers, and tracking some of these down to sample their delicious produce is another Blackdown delight.

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