A small village on the edge of Exmoor national park, I have visited Porlock more times than I can remember. The location of the village makes it the perfect base for a short holiday or break in West Somerset. Even since I have visited this place, it remains relatively untouched by the commercial world, and even particularly touristy-type shops.
Being attractive to tourists, and especially walkers, Porlock has a friendly, almost comfortable atmosphere, with villagers and visitors mixing well. Even in the summer, when the highstreet can get quite busy with tourist trade, the whole village remains a very scenic place, with many traditional buildings and thatched cottages, all well looked after, with picturesque country gardens. Looking up the highstreet towards the church gives a particularly dramatic backdrop to village, with the valley rising towards Hawkcombe n the background.
The local pubs are a perfect example of the warm, welcoming experience many tourists seem to get in the village. The Ship Inn, located near the bottom of Porlock Hill is worth a special mention here. An ancient 13th century building with plenty of character inside, serving a selection of ales, along with friendly locals around the bar. The attached restaurant also serves very nice meals for a reasonable price. The Lorna Doone restaurant is also worth a look, despite appearing a little dark from the outside, the standard of food was again very decent. Of course, being in the West Country, Porlock has more than its fair share of tea rooms, offering cream teas and fresh cakes during the daytime. The Overstream Hotel in the centre of the village (opposite the church) also has a tea garden outside front, which is open during the summer.
There are numerous hotels and B&Bs in and around the village, offering the visitor a wide ranging choice between value and luxury. Porlock also offers plenty of self-catered accommodation in cottages of varying sizes, and Sparkhayes campsite is located along a lane just off the high street. If you are just passing through Porlock, the tourist information centre displays a good range of the accommodation available, along with maps, guides and leaflets for various other nearby attractions. The staff are always friendly and extremely helpful.
Although Porlock may have limited appeal for some families, there are various events and activites held throughout the year, and if the children are bored, there is a large recreation ground just a few minutes walk up Parsons Street from the centre of the Village. This offers a playground, a vast expanse of grass, with goalposts, with tennis/basket ball courts and a bowling green located at the far end.
The main appeal of Porlock though, is its central location to nearby towns and villages. For day trips involving less walking, Minehead is a short drive/bus ride away, as are the tourist towns of Lynton and Lynmouth, linked by the historic cliff railway. Be aware, however that to get to the latter will involve a drive up Porlock hill with its 1 in 4 gradient and hairpin bends, it can be an interesting experience for the first time! Alternatively, there is an open-top tourist bus which takes the same route, which is nice to enjoy the views, although it can get busy when the weather is good.
Most of the shops, cafes and pubs are located along the small highstreet. Make no mistake, this is not a tourist hotspot offering entertainment and shopping facilities at a level of nearby towns such as Minehead. As far as food and convenience stores go, there is only a Onestop and Costcutter-type store present here. It is only since the Onestop store opened, there has been an ATM available in the village. Unfortunately the bakery was closed earlier this year, which was a loss to the village. Away from the subject of food, there are a couple of shops aimed primarily at tourists, selling souvineers, postcards and the like, along with a Post Office, which is attached to a shop selling outdoor clothing and equipment. There is also a gallery selling prints by local artists.
The focus of the outdoor store gets me back to the real selling point of this village; the excellent surroundings it is set within. For countryside walkers, the options are endless, and nearly every walk brings a different experience. Despite this, there are plenty of footpaths which do not put off the less enthusiastic walker!
There are plenty of coastal walks offering spectacular open scenery, including those following the Southwest coastal path. Walks from Minehead to Porlock along the coast and also Valley of Rocks at nearby Lynton are prime examples of this experience. There is plenty of local wildlife, it is common to see herds of Exmoor Ponies roaming around the footpaths up on the moors, and mountain goats at Valley of Rocks. You may even spot the occasional deer if you're particularly lucky.
There are also numerous woodland walks locally, and along the sea, towards Porlock Weir. Down in Lynton, the footpath to Watersmeet is in a particuarly attractive setting.
Overall it has to be said Porlock is a great place to stay, particularly for a small break. Although it may be more suited to those who enjoy a walking holiday, the nearby towns also offer some alternative to this, but many will find it nice to return to this relaxed and beautiful setting at the end of the day. For families with young children, it may be more appropriate for a day visit rather than the location for a holiday, however.
Accommodation on Exmoor cannot be found in more delightful surroundings than Porlock and Porlock Vale. Nestling at the foot of Porlock Hill at the western end of the Vale, Porlock is bounded to the north by its shingle ridge with breathtaking views over the Bristol Channel and to the south, by the rolling hills of the Exmoor National Park.