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|This remarkable region also includes the dramatic Quantock Hills – the first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the United Kingdom – and the nearby Brendon Hills.
It was this unique landscape that spawned R.D. Blackmore's darkly sinister tale of Lorna Doone.
Man-made attractions include historic castles such as Dunster and monastic relics like 12th century Cleeve Abbey while family-oriented delights come in the shape of the West Somerset steam railway and the Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur theme park.
The region of West Somerset and Exmoor offers the visitor a host of distinct
The Park's vast expanse of high moorland was unwittingly created by Stone Age settlers who cleared much of the original forest to introduce primitive agriculture.
The Park is replete with ancient standing stones and burial chambers, not to mention old forts and mine workings that belonged to the Roman period; these include forts south of Exmoor and smaller ones on the coast at Old Burrow and Martinhoe.
The Romans mined and processed iron here long before Exmoor folk built a formidable woolen industry in medieval times.
In the 15th century much of the remaining forest was cut down by wealthy landholders determined to establish powerful new estates.
The last slice of forest around Simonsbath was sold to a Midlands industrialist, John Knight, by the Crown in the early 19th century. The Quantock Hills have a softer, rolling appearance, though there are still wooded valleys and delightful villages clinging to their slopes.
The Romantic poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth lived here for a time and Coleridge's old cottage at Nether Stowey is now run by the National Trust. Wordsworth lived just a few miles away at Alfoxton House, near Holford. It was during this period in the 1870s that Coleridge penned his famous works Kubla Khan and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
The 36-mile Coleridge Way runs from Nether Stowey to Porlock, passing from the Quantocks and the Brendon Hills through Exmoor National Park.
The great poet is said to have completed a similar journey on foot in a single day in 1976.
The highest point in the picturesque Brendon Hills is Lyne Hill at 1,338ft (422m). The area was once an important centre for mineral and ironstone extraction but today is better known for Wimbleball Lake, near Brompton Regis, a popular beauty spot where kingfishers go a-fishing.
A ride on the West Somerset Railway, which runs for 20 miles between Bishop's
Lydeard and the seaside resort of Minehead, is a genuine treat. It has no less
than 10 restored stations together with old signal boxes, engine sheds, museums,
steam and diesel locomotives and historic rolling stock.
The Lynton and Lynmouth funicular cliff railway is much shorter. It simply carries folk from the sea-level resort of Lynmouth to the cliff top village of Lynton, using most of the original equipment built at its inception in the late 19th century.
The finest 'house' here is Cothay Manor, near Wellington – an atmospheric medieval manor that has been painstakingly restored together with its 12- acre garden accessed via an avenue of yew trees.
No trip to this part of Britain would be complete without a visit to West Somerset's largest Norman castle, Dunster, which was donated to the National Trust in the 1970's by Colonel Sir Walter Luttrell.
His family had lived there for 600 years.
This beautiful edifice dominates an otherwise modest village and is home to the National Plant Collection of strawberry trees as well as Britain's oldest lemon tree.
Equally enthralling is the Cistercian Cleeve Abbey that boasts some of the finest, best-preserved domestic living quarters still surviving. Founded in the 12th century by William de Roumare, it was initially known as Vallis Florida or 'Flowering Valley'.