Dunkery Beacon

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For the steamship, see SS Dunkery Beacon.
Dunkery Beacon
Dunkery Beacon.jpg
Dunkery Beacon seen on the ascent up the western slopes
Elevation 1,705 ft (520 m)
Prominence 414 m (1,358 ft)
Parent peak High Willhays
Listing Marilyn, County Top
Dunkery Beacon is located in Exmoor
Dunkery Beacon
Dunkery Beacon
Exmoor, England
OS grid SS891415
Coordinates 51°09′43″N 3°35′14″W / 51.16197°N 3.58736°W / 51.16197; -3.58736Coordinates: 51°09′43″N 3°35′14″W / 51.16197°N 3.58736°W / 51.16197; -3.58736
Topo map OS Landranger 181

Dunkery Beacon is the summit of Dunkery Hill, and the highest point on Exmoor and in Somerset, England.[1] It is also the highest point in southern England outside Dartmoor.

The site is part of the North Exmoor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is part of the Dunkery & Horner Woods National Nature Reserve[2] and is a candidate for Special Area of Conservation, Section 3 Moor and Heath and Common Land status.[3]

The beacon and surrounding mounds have been designated as an Ancient monument.[4] They have been added to the Heritage at Risk register because of their vulnerability to vandalism.[5]


Dunkery is composed of Devonian sedimentary rock, as can be seen in the red soil.[3]

There are several Bronze Age burial mounds at or near the summit. Two of the largest are Joaney How and Robin How, which have been damaged over many years, although plans have been made to restore and protect them.[3]

Dunkery Beacon was given to the National Trust in 1935 by Sir Thomas Acland, Colonel Wiggin and Allan Hughes along with the rest of the Holnicote Estate an event commemorated by the summit memorial cairn.


At 1,705 feet (520 m) Dunkery Beacon is the highest geographical point in Somerset,[1] although the tip of the Mendip TV Mast is higher above sea level at 1,915 feet (584 m). Based on the formula 'distance of hill from its nearest higher neighbour in km squared, multiplied by its height in metres', Dunkery is ranked 23rd in the UK in terms of dominance, and is a Marilyn. The nearest higher hill is Yes Tor 37 miles (60 km) away.

It lies just 4 miles (6.4 km) from the Bristol Channel at Porlock. The shortest route of ascent goes from the car park at Dunkery Gate, and is just 0.75 miles (1.2 km) long. There are extensive views from the summit, including both the Bristol and English Channel coasts, the Brecon Beacons including Pen Y Fan, Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, the Severn Bridges and Cleeve Hill 86 miles (138 km) away in Gloucestershire.


The hill is blanketed in heather, which gives it a deep purple colour during the summer. Ling and bell heather, gorse, sessile oak, ash, rowan, hazel, bracken, mosses, liverworts, lichens and ferns all grow here or in surrounding woodland, as well as some unique whitebeam species. Exmoor ponies, red deer, pied flycatchers, wood warblers, lesser spotted woodpeckers, redstarts, dippers, snipe, skylarks and kestrels are some of the fauna to be found here and in nearby Horner Woods. Horner Woods are also the home to 14 of the 16 UK bat species, which include barbastelle and Bechstein's bats.

In the media[edit]

In Lorna Doone, John Fry calls it the "haighest place of Hexmoor".



  1. ^ a b "Moor Facts". Exmoor National Park. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  2. ^ "Dunkery & Horner Woods NNR". Special Sites. Natural England. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  3. ^ a b c "Planning Committee". Exmoor National Park. 2004-07-08. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  4. ^ "Dunkery Beacon and adjacent mounds". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "Dunkery Beacon and adjacent mounds, Cutcombe, West Somerset – Exmoor (NP)". Heritage at Risk. English Heritage. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 

External links[edit]