Dunster Forest consists of a mixture of native trees: oak, beech, pine and cedar. Scattered among these are Douglas firs, including a 60m (197ft) tall specimen, the tallest tree in England.
Set off from Dunster High Street and walk towards the castle, which rises dramatically over the village. Look out for the Old Yarn Market, which once formed the focal point of Exmoor’s wool and cloth trade, and the row of antique shops and tea rooms that make this medieval village so delightful.
Continue along Castle Hill and uphill towards the castle grounds. Turn right and walk past National Trust buildings and toilets. Turn left on to West Street, past the Chapel House Tearooms and Stag’s Head Inn.
After 120m turn left down Mill Lane, alongside a leat and past cottages. Turn right down a track, signed Gallox Bridge, then turn left at a car park and follow the lane across a 15th-century packhorse bridge over the River Avill.
Continue straight ahead towards woodland until you reach a Dunster Forest sign. Continue ahead and right, uphill through and into the forest, signed Dunster Woodland. As the path levels off, look out for an incredible ancient tree clinging to the embankment on your left, its gnarled roots covered in lichen and mosses.
Turn right at a junction of paths to an amazing viewpoint, overlooking Dunkery Beacon. Turn back and continue ahead at the junction of paths. Turn left and double back on yourself, uphill. At an unused stile bear right, and follow the path uphill until you come out into the open. Carry on ahead on a grassy path, as views open up over south Wales, the Bristol Channel and Dunster.
Go through a wooden gate and into Bat’s Castle, the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, dating back to 100-400BC and possibly once the hone of a warrior chief, his people and livestock. If you look carefully, you should be able to make out two stone ramparts and two ditches, now covered in vegetation.
Carry straight on through fern and bilbury shrub. The path soon narrows and starts to descend towards trees, then turns into a broad grassy path. Keep going into the forest until you come to a crossroads of paths. Go straight ahead through a gate, signed Withycoombe, then turn immediately left, signed Carhampton. Keep beside an ancient beech hedge that has now grown into full trees, covered in moss and providing a fantastic habitat for wildlife.
Continue downhill beside a stone wall, as fine views open up over Dunster. When you come to a junction of paths, turn left through a gate towards Dunster. Walk through the next field, through a gap between trees and continue on the path as the castle rises to the right.
Continue downhill and you’ll find yourself back at the Dunster Forest sign. Turn right, cross the bridge and retrace your steps back into the village.
Well worn woodland and moorland paths, steep in places.
How to get there
Heading south on the M5, leave the motorway at J23 and continue on the A39 through Bridgwater and towards Minehead. Turn left 3 miles before Minehead on the A396 to Dunster.
By public transport:
Buses run from Tiverton or Taunton to Minehead via Dunster. The Taunton bus (28) links up with Taunton train station. West Somerset Railway runs a steam train between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead.
High Street, Dunster
Cobblestones Restaurant High Street, Dunster
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL9.
Grid ref: SS 991 438
Dunster, Nr Minehead
Open daily (Castle closed Thur).
Adults £7.80, children £4.20, family £20.50.
Park only £4.30, children £2.20, family £10.60.
Exmoor National Park