Birds, Butterflies & Wildflowers of Exmoor
Visit some of Exmoor’s best wildlife hotspots with a naturalist guide
Code: SLWWSPrint page
Hills & moorland
Join us to explore the varied habitats and landscapes in and around the Exmoor National Park in search of the variety of birds, butterflies and wildflowers that can be found there. During the course of each day we may walk up to 6 miles (9.5km) with plenty of stops to watch the birds and butterflies and enjoy the lovely wildflowers. Suitable for any level of experience, with no prior knowledge required.
- Leisurely walks with regular informative stops to watch birds, butterflies and wildflowers
- Our expert leader will guide you round the best sites
- Small, sociable groups of up to 15 guests
- A relaxed and informative way of enjoying the great outdoors
- High quality Full Board en-suite accommodation and excellent food in our Country House
- Guidance from a knowledgeable HF Holidays’ leader, to ensure you get the most from your holiday
- All essential transport on a comfortable, good-quality mini-coach or other mode of transport, e.g. boat
- Entrance fees to venues included as part of your holiday’s itinerary
As a historic National Trust property, Holnicote House is full of charm and character. Located on the extensive Holnicote Estate, at the foot of Exmoor, it is well suited to a relaxing holiday.
Holnicote House has 32 newly refurbished bedrooms. Some are located in the main house, with others in the thatched cottages, called Butlers and Guns, in the grounds.
These rooms are all ensuite and furnished to a good standard. They include:
These rooms are slightly larger and/or have a better view. They include:
Only an extra £15 per person per night
These rooms truly are the best in the house for extra luxury during your stay. They include:
Only an extra £20 per person per night
Choose Your Room: Our new “Choose Your Room” service is available at our UK country houses, providing the option to choose and confirm a specific room for an extra £30 per room. Supplements to upgrade to 'Better' or 'Best' rooms still apply. The choice of room number must be of the same room type as originally booked and is subject to availability.
At the house
|All holidays at our Country Houses are full board accommodation including evening meal on arrival to breakfast on the day of your departure. All of our Country Houses have a well-stocked bar serving local beers, wine and spirits.
√ Start your day with our extensive breakfast.
All of our bars are stocked with locally sourced drinks so you can really soak up your surroundings.
- Fire procedure is displayed in each room and explained to guests on arrival. Guests requiring assistance at an evacuation are identified at this time and door hanger cards are issued
- Mobile phone reception is generally good from the main building
- Assistance dogs accompanying visually or hearing impaired guests are welcome; dogs must be kept on a lead or harness at all times
- Information can be provided in large print
- Staff have received disability awareness training
- Special diets can be catered for. Specialist food can be obtained with prior notice
- Fridge for medication can be supplied
You can check in to your room from 2.30pm onwards (better & best rooms from 1pm). Please join us for afternoon tea. This is the first occasion when everyone in the country house meets together – an opportunity to meet your leader and fellow guests, and find out more about your holiday.
On our Natural World holidays we spend most of the day outdoors, exploring by mini-coach or on foot, walking up to 6 miles (9.5km) each day, with plenty of stops to see birds, wildflowers and wildlife.
Ponies, raptors and woodland gems
We'll begin this morning by exploring the moorland around Dunkery Beacon (at 519 metres it’s the highest point on Exmoor), where we should see the famous ponies, moor and bog plants and maybe whinchat. We'll then try a spot of raptor watching, and after our tasty picnic lunch stroll through the ancient oak wood of Horner where we'll listen for redstart, pied flycatcher and other woodland specialists and enjoy the rich variety of ferns.
Freshwater, woodland & heath
After our hearty breakfast we walk along the River Barle, from Withypool to the famous pre-historic bridge at Tarr Steps. Otters are often seen along this stretch of river. The woodland around Tarr Steps is internationally significant for its liverworts, mosses, and lichens. Later on we’ll visit Haddon Hill to search for heath fritillary, one of the specialities of Exmoor. Finally, we’ll explore the area around Wimbleball Lake, where there are a variety of trails and a hide to view the lake’s birds.
Our Discovery Points help you make the most out of your free day. There’s plenty of maps and a selection of the best local walking routes, as well as weather forecasts and public transport options – plus details about other places to visit.
Dippers, seabirds and goats
Let’s head out to Watersmeet and walk down the beautiful East Lyn River to Lynmouth. Along the river we should see birds such as dipper and grey wagtail. From here we’ll take the famous cliff railway up to Lynton and take an easy stroll to the dramatic Valley of the Rocks, spotting seabirds en-route. Here we’ll see wild goats. Peregrine falcons are often seen around the cliffs, so let’s hope our luck holds!
Selworthy, Horner Wood & the Quantock Hills
In the morning we’ll explore the heathland area above Selworthy to look for birds such as Dartford warblers and tree pipits. This afternoon we’ll visit the west side of Horner Wood, where we'll see a variety of woodland butterflies and birds. After dinner we’ll travel to the Quantock Hills where we hope to hear (and maybe see) Nightjars.
Somerset Levels and Moors
We spend our day at Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath nature reserves on the Somerset Levels. The botanically rich habitats include fen, reed bed and wildflower meadows. Here amongst the more common birds can be seen scarcer species such as great white egret, bittern, garganey, hobby and marsh harrier. A wide variety of dragonflies may also be seen – a perfect day to round off this lovely holiday!
Depart after a leisurely breakfast.
Sometimes things happen beyond our control – the weather, traffic jams or changes at the places we visit. If we need to adjust your holiday programme, for whatever reason, your leader will help smooth the way.
What to bring
- Outdoor clothing appropriate to the season, including waterproofs
- Strong, comfortable footwear with a good tread is essential
- A telescope (if you have one) and binoculars (essential)
- Camera (optional)
- Thermos flask (optional)
- Recommended field guide (optional) - RSPB Pocket guide to British Birds by Simon Harrap
During your stay at Holnicote House you may enjoy visiting the following places of interest, either in your free time, or on your journey to and from Selworthy:
Less than a mile from Holnicote House is Selworthy village. At first glance the thatched cottages seem typical of many ancient settlements in this area. However, Selworthy is not as old as it looks, having been rebuilt in 1828 by Sir Thomas Acland. Sir Thomas was a philanthropist and designed the 'model' village himself to provide housing for the aged and infirm of the estate. He used traditional designs and materials to create a deliberately old-fashioned village.
West Somerset Railway
Travel on Britain’s longest steam railway from Minehead to Bishops Lydyard. Now lovingly restored by volunteers, the line recreates a classic Great Western Railway branch line with steam trains operating daily from April to October. Minehead station is 10 minutes' drive from Selworthy, or can be reached on the number 300 bus. www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk
An historic castle transformed into a comfortable stately home for the Luttrell family. Some highlights include the 'modern' 1950s kitchen and the snooker room. Dunster Castle sits in extensive gardens, complete with its working watermill. The adjacent town of Dunster is full of character and also well worth a visit. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunster-castle
Lynton & Lynmouth
The quaint Victorian town of Lynton sits high on a hill, overlooking the coast and Lynmouth harbour. The two settlements are connected by the historic cliff railway. The short walk from Lynton to the Valley of Rocks is highly recommended.
The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and his wife Sara lived in the village of Nether Stowey, about 45 minutes' drive from Selworthy, from 1796 to 1799. In 1909 it was acquired by the National Trust, and later restored and opened to the public. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coleridge-cottage
Hestercombe Gardens, around an hour's drive away near Taunton, were constructed in three periods - a landscape garden from the 1750s, a Victorian terrace and shrubbery from the 1870s, and Edwardian gardens of 1904-1908 designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. www.hestercombe.com
Arlington Court, about an hour's drive away near Barnstaple is a fine Regency house set in an extensive estate. The grounds include a formal Victorian garden whilst the stables house the National Trust’s carriage collection of over fifty horse-drawn vehicles. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/arlington-court
Travel to Holnicote House
Our address is: Holnicote House, Selworthy, Minehead, Somerset TA24 8TJ
The nearest railway station is at Taunton. For train times and route planning by train visit www.nationalrail.co.uk or phone 03457 48 49 50.
The 29 mile journey from Taunton railway station takes approximately 50 minutes. Pre-booked taxis cost approx £56 per taxi. Details of our current recommended taxi company and rates will be sent to you with your booking. The taxi company will arrange shared taxis wherever possible. The return taxi journey can be arranged on your behalf by the Holnicote House Manager.
The number 28 bus operates between Taunton station and Minehead. At Minehead change for the number 10 bus that will take you to the Selworthy turn (which is at the end of Holnicote House drive). A 2 minute walk along the drive will bring you to the house. Alternatively pre-book a taxi from Minehead; the 4½ mile journey will cost you approx £10 from our recommended taxi provider. For bus times see www.traveline.info
From Bridgewater take the A39 though the southern outskirts of Minehead towards Porlock. Holnicote House is on the left about 4½ miles out of Minehead, and about ¾ mile after the signpost to Luccombe (do not follow the signs to Selworthy). After the Selworthy Village sign look out for our sign 500 yards further on, on the left. Free car parking is available in the grounds.
Travelling from Overseas
For most guests, travelling to London Heathrow airport is the most convenient option.
From Heathrow first take the train to London Paddington station. From here there are direct trains to Taunton. Its a relatively straightforward journey - allow 2½ hours. See www.nationalrail.co.uk for train times.
Bristol Airport may also be convenient for some guests. Take the train to Taunton
From Taunton you can travel on to Selworthy by bus or taxi (see above).
Jonathan is a professional conservationist and currently works for the RSPB. He honed his birding skills on the moors, dales and reservoirs of the Peak District, with regular stays at Spurn Bird Observatory during his teenage years. During this period Jonathan gained a detailed knowledge of the songs and calls of British birds which has stood him in good stead when undertaking bird surveys and leading guided walks. He has extensive experience and understanding of the ecology and conservation of lowland heathland. In his 'spare time', Jonathan is a voluntary warden at Pulborough Brooks and undertakes surveys for the BTO.
Jonathan was so enthusiastic and loved his subject, you were inspired to know more.
Dates & Prices
We're sorry, there are no dates available for this holiday at the moment. Please check out our other tours and breaks or call our team on 0345 470 8558 to be notified of new dates as soon as they become available.
Prices are per person
- Non-member associate fee: £10 per person