Five days to the weekend: Dunster
Alice Murray discovers the beauty of the medieval village of Dunster in Somerset.
Dunster is a medieval market village on the edge of the Exmoor National Park, just three miles from Minehead in West Somerset. The historic village offers beautiful surroundings to explore.
The National Trust’s Dunster Castle towers above the village and is worth a day trip. It has immaculate subtropical terraced gardens that display spectacular panoramic views of the Bristol Channel coastline. Home to the Luttrell family for over 600 years, the castles interior beautifully presents the original charm of the family lifestyle.
With a short walk down into the valley below the castle walls, through the woodland, you can visit the magical 18th Century Dunster Working Watermill on the River Avrill. You will pass the romantic Lovers Bridge with is twin arches and lovers seat.
Conygar Tower overlooks the village and stands opposite the castle. There are pleasant walks around the woodland at its foot. The tower was built by Henry Luttrell as a folly with no evidence of it ever having floors or a roof.
Dunster was recorded in the Doomsday book as ‘Torre’ meaning ‘the rocky hill’ and with over 200 listed buildings the village remains unspoilt. The centre point of the village is the Yarn Market, a timber 17th century market hall. Here you can spot a cannon ball hole in one of the beams from the Civil War. Visit St Georges Church that has the longest Rood screen in England and has been featured in the BBC programme English Churches.
The West Somerset Steam Railway is a great way to explore the surrounding areas. The line starts at Minehead and goes through to Dunster and villages located between the coastline and the Quantock Hills. The castle is a 20-minute walk from the station but railway tickets gain a 20% discount off of the admission price of the castle. Or if visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday you can catch the Dunster Castle Express steam train from Bishops Lydeard (April – November) with a free coach connection to the castle gates. National Trust members also get discounted train fares.
Where to stay?
Spears Cross Hotel is in a great central location in the village and has a fantastic breakfast with locally sourced ingredients. The building is 15th century with decoration in keeping with that feel. The rooms start at £89 per night including breakfast, complimentary tea and cake as well as off road parking.
Millstream Cottage B&B is another option with its lovely garden and cosy feel. It is situated looking up the high street with the Yarn Market and Castle in view. There is a fresh feel to the rooms with lovely period features. Double rooms start at £74 per night including an Exmoor breakfast.
Where to eat?
Hathaways restaurant offers reasonably priced Mediterranean food and an interesting wine list. It attracts both visitors and locals so you may need to book.
Reeves Restaurant is situated on the quaint high street and is a great place to treat yourself to outstanding quality food. With a garden to enjoy on sunny days and cosy tables inside, the atmosphere and friendly staff make this place a hit.
You can picnic at the castle with a Dunster Castle Express Picnic. It includes freshly made sandwiches, cakes, pork pies, crisps and fruit with vegetarian and gluten free options. It is priced at £15 for two people and they ask for seven days notice to prepare your special lunch.
Tell us a secret….
If you fancy a little treat pop into The Chocolate House on the high street and nibble some delicious handmade chocolates or have some hot chocolate and cakes in the café.
If you are feeling ambitious why not hire electric bikes from The Yarn Market Hotel in Dunster. You can take in much more of Exmoor in this economical and environmentally friendly way. When the resistance hits the battery kicks in and you are away, even up steep hills. They are incredibly fun even for a novice cyclist. Visit Exmoor Unplugged for more information on how the scheme works.
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