Exmoor for history lovers
There is plenty for history lovers to do around Exmoor – these are just a few of our favourites. Planning a visit? Follow us on Facebook to find out about upcoming local events.
Dunster castle, watermill and grounds
A real romp through all the most interesting and gory ages of English history, the castle is a treat. The present building is a combination of medieval and Victorian construction. There are unique leather wall hangings, an amazing carved staircase and ghostly stories in the basement. If you’re interested in how Victorian staff lived and worked in a house of this scale pay the extra for the Attics and Basements tour (free if you’re a National Trust member). We recommend you do the walk that takes you round the mill and over the famous and picturesque Packhorse Bridge – it’s what chocolate boxes were invented for.
The church and Priory Garden, Dunster
The church in Dunster has some fascinating features, including one of the longest rood screens in Europe, two interesting tombs and a copy of one of Handel’s manuscripts. Off the busy main road in Dunster, the Priory Garden has the ‘wow’ factor and Simon Jenkins calls it the “most lovely church garden in England”. And if you like gardens, don’t miss the dahlias in the castle grounds.
The Yarn Market
The imposing Yarn Market at Dunster was a meeting place for farmers and merchants in the middle ages for striking bargains, selling and buying wool. If you look very closely, you can see the hole made by a cannon ball in the English Civil War.
Featuring three museums, Watchet is a must for historical types:
- The Market House Museum – the fascinating history of the locality
- The Boat Museum all about the maritime history of Watchet
- The Bakelite Museum housed in Grade II listed Orchard Millhouse, just up the road in Williton. It boasts the largest collection of vintage plastics in Britain
It also has some very good pubs and fish and chip shops along the harbour. And a great junk shop!
For nature lovers and free spirits
Lynton and Lynmouth – a walkers’ paradise
Take the heritage bus – number 39 – from Minehead to Lynton and Lynmouth, places much loved by the Victorians and you can see why. Situated on the high sea cliffs of North Devon within the Exmoor National Park, the area is noted for its beauty and unspoilt landscape. It’s a good place to get onto the inner moor and catch glimpses of the stately red deer and the wild ponies.
Lynmouth is the harbour at the base of a large cliff, with putting, boat trips, shops and tearooms. You can hop on the impressive water-powered Cliff Railway to be hauled up the cliff to Lynton for fabulous views towards Lynmouth Bay and the South Wales coast as well as quaint streets and cottages below. Don’t miss the famous Watersmeet Gorge (NT) and the dramatic rock formations and famous herd of wild goats in the Valley of the Rocks. Lynton and Lynmouth lie on the South West Coastal Path and, with many other long distance paths starting nearby, it’s a walker’s paradise.
There are views, and there’s Brendon Hills. A huge panorama awaits you at the top of Exmoor, the sea and beautiful farmland where every animal looks like a tiny plastic toy. Drive and walk – there’s no set route but head down the A39 and turn right at the sign for Roadwater…
For National Trust members
In addition to Dunster castle, The Holnicote Estate is huge and encompasses some beautiful scenery including Selworthy Village with thatched cottages and lovely church, Dunkery and Horner Wood (great for wildlife spotting), Dunkery Beacon with stunning views over Dartmoor and Exmoor, Bossington Beach and Marsh with lots of water-loving birds and Bossington Hill for views.
Coleridge’s Georgian cottage at Nether Stowey has lots of activities, including costumed actors re-enacting key events in his life. Wordsworth and Coleridge were both familiar with this area, and visited and loved Porlock; Coleridge was interrupted by “a person from Porlock” whilst writing Kubla Khan, a bit of a lame excuse for not finishing it.
Knightshayes Court in Bolham near Tiverton, Devon EX16 7RQ is a Victorian country house designed by William Burges with richly decorated interiors. The garden and plant collection are the outstanding feature complete with lily pools, floral borders, amusing topiary and a restored and working walled kitchen garden. Tours of the plant nursery are offered. For more information, Tel: 01884 254665.
You’ll be spoilt for choice for places to eat and drink in the local area.
Try and get to the West Somerset Farmers Market held every Friday in Minehead Parade from 9.00am to 3.00pm for farm products, fruit and vegetables with a huge selection of fish, cheese and meat.