Dunkery Beacon & Great Rowbarrows

Dunkery Beacon

This is a fairly easy walk to Dunkery Beacon, the summit of Dunkery Hill, the highest point in the Exmoor National Park and the highest point in South England outside of Dartmoor. The walk starts from a fairly lofty position and takes advantage of a wide and well laid bridleway to reach the summit. The walk can be modified to start from Dunkery Bridge instead where there are a few more parking spaces on busy days. The roof of Exmoor is a great place to be at dusk or dawn, especially as the ascent and descent from the summit to the start and finish is so straight forward. The walk continues beyond Dunkery along the wide moorland ridge to Great Rowbarrows then back along a lower route. The views to be had are fantastic with views far and wide and the Bristol Channel to the north giving views all the way to Wales. Red Deer, Exmoor Ponies, Skylarks, Buzzards and many more wildlife spotting opportunities only add to a great walk. Also adding interest along the route are burial mounds dating back to the Bronze Age and stone cairns even older. It is also possible to do this walk using an off road mobility scooter when the terrain is not too sodden.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the small parking layby at grid reference SS903419 on the minor road that crosses Dunkery Hill. There are not too many spaces here, so if it is full head down hill to Dunkery Bridge and park there instead. Another clear footpath takes a direct route from there or you can just ascend the road.
  2. To get to this minor road from Porlock head east out of Porlock on the A39 then turn right down a minor road at Red Post to West Luccombe and then Horner. A kilometre after Horner at a cross roads tun right sign posted to Dunkery Beacon and Webber's Post. The road climbs past Webber's Post lookout then eventually crosses high over Dunkery Hill. The layby is near the start of the descent.
  3. To get to this minor road from Minehead head west along the A39 from Minehead. You will eventually round a very sharp left bend at Allerford. A kilometre down the road and after a few more bends look out for the above road to West Luccombe and Horner on your left then follow the same directions from there above.
  4. If approaching from the south or west then navigate your way to the small village of Luckwell Bridge. If approaching from the south or east then navigate yourself to the small village of Wheddon Cross. Head along the B3224 that links the two villages and half way along there is a road junction of four roads. One heads diagonally north east off the B3224 and another heads diagonally north west from the B3224. Take the north west road which is clearly sign posted to Dunkery Bridge and Dunkery Beacon. Pass over Dunkery Bridge after a few kilometres then climb the road for just over another kilometre to reach the above layby.
  5. To start the walk you are looking for a wide track with a metal anti vehicle gate. The track leaves the minor road in a south westerly direction at grid reference S903420.
  6. The track is really easy going and takes a very easy ascent route to the obvious summit beacon. Always be on the lookout for Red Deer crossing the heather moorland here. On your ascent on a sunny day you will most probably be joined by the magical sound of moorland birds such as Grouse, Skylark and Pipits.
  7. After the easy walk of less than one and a half kilometres you will reach the impressive large stone built cairn at the summit. There is also a smaller stone pillar on the summit and the large stone cairn holds a National Trust memorial plaque.
  8. The views from the summit are fantastic. To the south you will see the wide flat looking hills of Dartmoor. To the north over the Bristol Channel, Wales and the high mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park. To the east and west and close by the stunning countryside of the Exmoor National Park. Woodlands, Forest, Valleys, Beaches, Hills, Moorland, Sea Cliffs and everything else that makes Exmoor such a magical place.
  9. From the summit of Dunkery Beacon head west along an obvious path that sticks to the higher part of the wide moorland ridge in the direction of Dunkery's neighbour Great Rowbarrows.
  10. The track crosses the col between the two hills then ascends slowly to Little Rowbarrows, before dog legging around the cairns to reach the highest point on Great Rowbarrows.
  11. From Great Rowbarrows continue on the path slowly descending in a north west direction. The path passes a weather station rain gauge then eventually reaches the tarmac road at Lang Combe Head.
  12. At Lang Combe Head turn left and ascend the road in a south westerly direction for just under a kilometre. Here you will see a bridleway heading left away from the road in a south east then easterly direction. Head along this bridleway, eventually skirting a hedgerow on its right hand side.
  13. Follow this bridleway heading east until you reach a junction of paths where the hedgerow starts to fall away to the right. Here if you started from Dunkery Bridge you can turn right on an easy descent to Dunkery Bridge.
  14. If however you started from the layby on Dunkery Hill then carry straight on in the same easterly direction towards Dunkery Bacon again. The views you are enjoying now were behind you on the early leg of the walk.
  15. After enjoying the views once again from Dunkery Beacon head east off the summit along the easy bridleway track you ascended earlier, back to the start of the walk.
  16. On your way home be sure to visit the lookout at Webber's Post, two kilometres north along the road from the laybys. My Dad reckons this is one of his favourite views in Exmoor and I don't doubt him as he is the local expert. Porlock is a beautiful village on the way home where you can enjoy the quaint Exmoor atmosphere and drink tea and eat Devonshire cream teas and scones.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL9 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 181 Map Click to buy Pathfinder Guides Exmoor Click to buy Pathfinder Guides North Devon

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.