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Butterfly Trail
(Average user rating: 4 unrated 3.5/5)

Trail details

Grade of Trail:

  • Moderate

Trail Waymarking:


Length of trail:

3 miles

Trail description

The Butterfly Trail is a circular walk, which, in places gives you stunning views across the forest, Exeter and over the Teign valley.

Haldon Hill


The beginning of the trail winds its way through the forest on a wide, easy access trail.



It is not long before you emerge into the open and are treated to a spectacular view that takes in the Exe Estuary, Exeter and the Belvedere Tower (also known locally as Lawrence Castle).

View towards Belvedere tower from the play trail. Haldon Forest Park, Peninsula FD



The Haldon Belvedere was built in 1788, at the height of the Romantic Period of the Georgian age and is a much loved iconic landmark sitting high in the hills of Haldon Forest.



The trail leads you back into the forest where you will discover a natural tunnel that has formed from the rhododendron growing there.

A long descent takes you down into the forest towards the butterfly area, and as the name suggests this area is managed especially for butterflies!

The butterfly reserve beneath the powerlines, on the Butterfly Walk. Haldon Forest Park, Exeter. Peninsula FD

Throughout the year Forestry Commission staff, in conjunction with Butterfly Conservation, monitors and manages the area to provide ideal conditions for the many butterfly species recorded here.

Bracken is allowed to dominate some of the open areas as, here on Haldon, this provides the perfect conditions for one of Britain's rarest butterflies, the pearl bordered fritillary.



Thanks to the management carried out here this butterfly has established a good strong population making it an important site for this drastically declining species.

Over 30 species of butterfly have been recorded within this small area.

From here you begin the climb back up the hill towards the car park. It is  fairly steep so make use of the bench half way up, to rest and enjoy the view over the Teign Valley.

Download our free walking map for the Butterfly Trail

What do other visitors say?

5 Stars 5 Stars

I walked this trail with my 6yr old son and our border collie. It was very peaceful. We saw a few butterflies as well. A lovely walk.

Lyn, 2/Jun/2017
1 Star 1 Star

Trail desperately needs distance markers so you kbow how far it is back to the car park.

Anonymous, 22/Dec/2016
5 Stars 5 Stars

Our 4 year old ran around the whole walk, great views, took just under two hours to complete. Plenty of spots to stop for a picnic or take in the views. The final ascent took it out of the wife I found it best to run and hide from her

The three bears, 11/Sep/2016
More user comments

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What's Here?

  • Play area
  • Arboreta
  • Features 200 species of conifers and broadleaves - many interesting species.
  • Camping
  • The Covert Caravan Club Site is located adjacent to High Ash. Set in Forestry Commission woodland, this is a quiet, secluded site ideal for caravanners, motor caravanners and trailer tenters. Please telephone 01842 878356 for more information.
  • Horse riding
  • The Forestry Commission has a Open Access policy for horse riding. As a consequence there are very few way-marked trails in the forest. O.S.Explorer map 229 shows areas owned by the Forestry Commission and open to the public to ride. Deboxing areas can be found at the east end of the Harling Drove (FR23) and north of the railway line at Santon Downham. The areas north of the railway line are best suited to horse riding as this is away from the concentration of visitors using High Lodge and the cycling trails. Please observe all signs especially those relating to 'Forest Operation'.
  • Picnic
  • You are welcome to picnic here but please do not BBQ.
  • Walking
  • The 5 mile Orange walk (short cut available) can also be accessed from Santon Downham. It has interpretation around the walk on some of the fascinating history and wildlife of the area. A map of the walk around St Helens and Santon Downham is available from Forest Office (office hours only), or you could dowload a copy before you visit.
  • Visitor centre
  • The
  • Wildlife
  • A good site for wildlife watching.
More about what's here


OS Grid ref: SX884849

Get directions


Haldon Forest Park
Ranger's Office
0300 067 5826

Useful sites

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England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.