Exmoor's most magical butterfly walk

Walking trail

Take a walk through a deep woodland coastal combe and high cliff paths with views across to Wales, on the look-out for one of the UK’s rarest jewels of a butterfly: the high brown fritillary. You’ll really test your butterfly identification skills as there are two similarly patterned fritillaries. Whether you see all three or not, you’ll enjoy superb scenery in one of the most beautiful valleys in Exmoor.

Dark green fritillary male on thistle Heddon Valley


Map route for Exmoor's most magical valley, butterfly walk


National Trust car park, grid ref SS656480


Set out from the car park, passing the Hunters Inn. Cross the bridge and pass an orchard and white cottages. Take the steep lane up towards Trentishoe.


There's a colony of high brown fritillaries and many dark greens at Trentishoe Combe (the steep bracken slope beyond the oak trees). Look for them on bramble and thistle flowers. There are also many birds to see on your walk - keep your eyes peeled for woodpeckers, nuthatches and migrant birds like pied flycatcher and wood warbler, whose song is unmistakable (imagine a spinning coin on a hard surface).

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Where the bracken ends, turn right on to the level footpath which runs above the bracken slope. If you spot a fritillary here, chances are its the dark green variety as high browns do not venture so high. You may also see small coppers, wall browns and graylings.

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Follow the path which skirts field boundaries to the coast.

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This is one of the finest stretches of the South West Coast Path and you'll see plenty of seabirds gliding below. Walk east along the cliff top to Peter's Rock take care here as it is a very steep cliff face.

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Take the path to the right, which leads back through bracken and into high brown territory.


Either walk along the west side of the river through woodland (better for butterflies), or cross at the bridge, turn right and head along the east side through water meadows (route marked here). Enjoy the butterflies on the huge buddleias before stopping at the Hunters Inn for lunch.


National Trust car park, grid ref SS656480

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Exmoor's most magical butterfly walk


Two steep slopes; an easier route on level ground runs north from the car park, along the river to the sea. Ticks are abundant - wear long trousers tucked into socks, and check yourself thoroughly. Take care along the cliff path  theres a 550ft (170m) drop to the sea. Dogs welcome along paths and woods.

Exmoor's most magical butterfly walk

Contact us

Exmoor's most magical butterfly walk

How to get here

Parracombe, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 4PY
By train

Barnstaple, 15 miles (24.1km)

By road

A361 towards Barnstaple then A399. Follow signs to Trentishoe and the Hunters Inn. National Trust car park opposite shop.

By foot

This walk follows the South West Coast path between points 5 and 6.

By bus

TW Coached 309 and 310, Barnstaple to Lynton, alight just north of Parracombe then 2 miles (3.2km).

By bicycle

Regional route 51 Ilfracombe to Minehead

Exmoor's most magical butterfly walk

Facilities and access

  • Dogs welcome