Rebecca Evans for the Daily Mail
It is the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness, and England is at its finest.
And where better to enjoy Britain’s majestic autumnal beauty than Exmoor National Park?
Atmospheric: Exmoor is a wonderful place for a stroll as the year edges towards winter
One of the country’s most unspoiled and picturesque swathes of countryside, Exmoor unravels as 267 square miles of dramatic cliffs, undulating moorland dotted with wild ponies, tranquil beaches and pretty harbour villages straddling the counties of Devon and Somerset.
Keen to take advantage of the beauty of the turning season, I headed there with my husband Adrian and cocker spaniel puppy Bess for a weekend of walking, more walking and cosy fireside dinners.
Homely haven: Rebecca stayed at Exmoor’s welcoming Stag’s Head Farm
Just a three-hour drive from London, Exmoor is ideal for a mini-break – but I wish I had been able to stay for far longer.
For my base, I picked the dog-friendly Stag’s Head Farm bed-and-breakfast in the hamlet of Dulverton, in the heart of the national park.
This recently refurbished Grade II-listed building was the perfect choice. The rooms were exquisitely decorated, and the seven acres of grounds attached to the house were a joy to explore.
Paws for thought: Rebecca and Bess enjoy the Exmoor scenery during their autumnal walking weekend
Owners Ray and Claire Harris could not have been more accommodating and helpful, providing me with maps and advice for the best walks.
After a full English breakfast, we set off for our first day of walking.
Ray suggested that I start at the nearby Wimbleball Lake for a seven-mile route along the River Haddeo and through its bordering woods.
Each day Claire makes sumptuous cakes or biscuits that are left in your room and, in addition, she also makes packed-lunches.
All the colours of autumn: Exmoor turns to gold and brown as the year’s end nears
Taking advantage of this, we embarked upon what turned out to be a peaceful and highly rewarding day of hiking – in which the only other living creatures we encountered were pheasants.
As it is a popular destination for game shooting, pheasants are plentiful across Exmoor – much to the chagrin of little Bess who had to be restrained from succumbing to the temptation of chasing them.
Part of this walk was across the park’s famous moors, which are the home of the Exmoor pony – truly wonderful animals to see in the wild.
As we stopped for lunch, I felt blissfully happy that I was sitting beside a babbling river, enjoying a packed lunch of home-cooked ham sandwiches and Claire’s lemon cake, while watching Bess delightedly splash around in the water.
Beasts of the moor: Rebecca encountered red deer during her weekend in the national park
For dinner that evening, we headed out to the beautiful 12th century thatched Royal Oak Inn in the nearby village of Winsford.
As we had Bess in tow, we had dinner in the candle-lit bar rather than restaurant. The atmosphere was cosy and homely, and just what we needed after our day’s exercise.
Sitting by the log fire, I enjoyed local lamb and a very good pinot noir before heading back for a much needed sleep.
The next day we visited the pretty coastal towns of Lynton and Lymouth before setting off for another lengthy walk, which took us down the meandering River Lyn.
Benches and bridges: There are plenty of places to pause for a rest – and few other people – on an Exmoor walk
The highlight here was the spectacular waterfall at Watersmeet, which is set in 2,000 acres of ancient woodlands. One of Britain’s deepest river gorges, it is also the site of a National Trust café – an idyllic spot to enjoy a delicious cream tea.
Although the walk involved more encounters – actual people! – than the first day, I preferred the scenery, particularly the spectacular sea views along the cliff-top path.
In the evening, we headed out to the Tarr Steps, a magnificent medieval bridge made of low-slung stepping stones that forges across the River Barle. Here, we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner in the Tarr Farm restaurant.
Coastal concerns: Rebecca and Bess’s wanderings involved plenty of splendid seafront scenery
The next day, I was met by Daphne Brace, who runs safari trips across Exmoor in her Land Rover.
This is a great way to explore and take in the beauty of this wonderful part of England.
As a farmer’s daughter, Daphne has a good relationship with most of the landowners, meaning we were able to traverse fields and streams not open to the general public on our hunt to spot elusive red deer – which we were lucky enough to see.
I cannot wait to return to Exmoor.