Somerset Towns and Villages
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One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of the west side of the County must be the marvellous West Somerset Railway – the longest heritage railway in England. You can ride from just outside Taunton all the way to Minehead passing immaculately maintained stations, signal boxes, a castle and a harbour. The countryside is sumptuous and it is easy to see how it inspired some of this Country’s greatest poets.
It was while Coleridge was living at Nether Stowey that he and his friends Dorothy and William Wordsworth took frequent walks in the Quantock Hills and along the coast. These led them to examine the natural world and their place in it. The result formed the foundations of the Romantic movement in this country and no wonder! Today you can follow in their footsteps by taking the Coleridge Way from the National Trust owned Coleridge Cottage to Lynmouth on the other side of the Somerset border.
Protected by law as the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to be designated back in 1956, the Quantock Hills are famous for their heathland, oak woods and Jurassic Coast. Look out for thatched cottages, wild ponies, panoramic views and whortleberries. They lead onto Exmoor National Park, a unique landscape shaped by people and nature over thousands of years.
As befits a County Town, Taunton is steeped in history and has much to entertain our visitors, from the superb Somerset Museum in the remnants of the castle to the Cricket Ground and Racecourse. A centre for Arts and Culture, it has shops, cafes, restaurants, riverside walks and a weekly Farmers’ Market.Rooted between the majestic Quantock Hills, Somerset Levels and the woodland-cloaked Blackdowns, Taunton’s lively nature plays host to major sports centre Somerset County Cricket Club. It’s also a growing business hub, serviced by a vibrant hospitality culture.
A rich legacy as a port and commercial centre is joined by Europe’s largest illuminated carnival, which lights up the streets every November.
The village of Cannington, on the edge of the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, can trace its past as a popular settlement back as far as 1500 years. It retains its sense of community as expressed in the name of one of its five pubs - The Friendly Spirit Inn. The pub is named after the ghost of a nun from the nearby Priory said to haunt its upstairs rooms.
This large and attractive village extends below the south western limit of the Quantock Hills. With the proximity to Taunton, Bishops Lydeard has expanded rapidly, with modern estates and a welcome bypass. The village retains it's mature heart with church, school, library, health centre, pubs and shops.
Wheddon Cross grew around the cross roads when the Minehead to Bampton turnpike was built in the 1820's. The settlement is the highest on Exmoor and the highest point on Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon, which is 1704 feet above sea level
Situated at the foot of the Brendon Hills at the gateway to Exmoor, 'Wivey' is a thriving local centre surrounded by attractive countryside that is never far away.
Before it became a town, North Petherton was the largest village in England. It was an important settlement as far back as Saxon times and archaeologists have found plenty to interest them on the site of the current church, St Mary The Virgin, which has one of the tallest, most elaborate towers in the region.
Lying at the northern end of the Quantocks, Kilve is a picturesque village consisting of 3 settlements.
This delightful village of picturesque thatched cottages is part of the National Trust's huge Holnicote Estate, which takes in over 12,000 acres of Exmoor coast and countryside.
There are delights at every turn in Dunster, whether it be the castle on the hill with its magnificent stables or the packhorse bridge and working watermill. It is hardly surprising that in one of the most intact medieval villages in Britain there is so much to explore and hidden gems around every corner such as the Prior’s Dovecote, Tithe Barn and a church containing the longest Rood screen in the country. Set amid lush rolling fields that slope towards the sea, Dunster boasts picture-perfect houses, beaches, an ancient hilltop castle, and a quintessentially Somerset high street.