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Minehead is the best centre in the area as a start for exploring Exmoor and the many quintessential English villages. With beautiful scenery, amazing views and a slow pace of life it has coast, moorland and woodlands within it. It is in the Exmoor National Park with many parts also under the National Trust so it retains both beauty, character and history and is a haven for wildlife.. It is backed by hills and moorland with many beautiful paths, stunning views and magnificent sunsets. It is based on three mediaeval towns that have long operated as one and the large, ancient church from the 'upper town' looks over the bay towards Bristol.
It has regular bus services to and from the county town of Taunton as well as a number of bus services to outlying villages www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk leaves from the bus station and calls at the railway station so is a connection for both. It takes about 20mins longer than
The beach is largely sand and gently sloping, suitable for children. Buckets, spades, ice cream all available on the promenade with places to eat or takeaway. Equipment for 'crabbing' is available on the harbour. There is crazy golf at one of the cafes. There are several recreation grounds throughout the town and a small grassy play area behind the harbour.This area has the 2nd largest tidal reach in the world and the tide goes a long way out twice a day. If you want to swim or do any activities involving the sea you may wish to check your dates with the tides to ensure your plans are sucessful.
Beach Safety - It is not wise to walk out to the sea at this time as it comes in fast and the sea bed can be soft clay at this distance. Likewise if walking the beach away from the bay you can be cut off. Swimming, while safe with shallow slope in the bay, from behind the harbour or from the sand dunes on the way out of Minehead bay can be dangerous.
The 16C harbour with quite a history as a military and trading port, it overlooks the bay with a café, a pub and a tiny chapel with a unique history, (St Peters on the Quay) and the only one on licensed premises. Behind it is the lifeboat house where you can walk around the boats and the history of the area is described in photos on the walls. It is launched for practise on Sunday morning. There is a fishing shop, fishing trips and a yacht club. There are endless walks along the coast, by well trodden paths in combes and on the hills. Wonderful views from these. It is also near here that the South West Coast Path starts.
There are some lovely walks with views from the harbour end, Quay West, up onto the hill. You can amble as far as you like and just turn in the direction of the town and take the next path down.
North Hill sits behind Minehead and is where the old town is. It is worth a walk or drive up there to see the lovely church, walk through the woods with views down to the sea or go along the road that runs along the top through moorland You may see wild Exmoor ponies during the day or deer in the evening . There are many birds to be spotted and during June you can hear Nightjars. There are the ruins from the WW2 camp and tank tracks, many walks with views down the coast in both directions and at the far end a car park that overlooks Porlock bay and a beautiful spot to watch the spectacular sunsets over the moors or take one of the many walks
Things to do.
Steam Railway runs from Minehead sea front to Bishops Lydeard There are shops, stalls and a café on the station and refreshments on the train. It is possible to stop off at one station if you wish to explore, then board the train again. There are numerous special events here throughout the year from Thomas the Tank Engine to the Real Ale Festival. www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk
Exmoor Buses - an open top bus running regular services in the summer crossing the moors to Lynmouth, a unique way to enjoy the wonderful views of coast & hills on Exmoor. Another goes through and around the villages and across another part of the moors just below Dunkery Beacon with views of the coast as they go down Porlock Hill, the steepest in England. Wrap up warm, even on a nice day, if you are going on top!
There is also a bus of the older type and very comfortable going to Porlock & Porlock Weir. www.quantockmotorservices.co.uk
BlueMotors – a vintage bus which does day trips in an old fashioned way www.thebluemotors.co.uk
or if you want to explore another part of the West Country Ridlers coaches leave from Minehead doing day trips http://www.ridlers.co.uk/daysout.html
Steam Ship trips - from an hour down the coast or full day to Lundy Island, can be taken from the harbour on days scheduled when the tide is right. Both the Waverley, the last ever paddle steamer in the world, and the Balmoral operate at different times. They have a souvenir shop and bar that also sells snacks on board. Sometimes there is a jazz band or similar on special trips. They make a wonderful sight coming into the small harbour, on a late summer night they are charmingly lit. www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk
Blenheim Gardens Just off the promenade are a large park, with a café, putting and a bandstand where regular concerts from brass bands to pop are held.
A long wide tree lined avenue runs from the sea front through the town.
The Regal Theatre is a small theatre in the town, currently being restored, offering regular shows throughout the year.
There are so many places to eat or drink in the town of all types, serving food freshly cooked on the premises is the norm here including the cakes and scones.
The Hobby Horse - At the beginning of May the brightly coloured Hobby Horse, accompanied by 'gullivers' and musicians dances around the town in an ancient ritual. It chases the children that follow it, and it is said that if a young woman is caught by its tail she will have twins. You may be stopped by it, even in your car for a donation to charity. http://www.minehead-online.co.uk/hobb...
The RNLI Raft Race Towards the August Bank holiday (date can vary to suit the tide) there is a race from nearby Blue Anchor to Minehead harbour of homemade rafts. This began as a local affair and has now become a national event with some huge rafts, some comic ones and fancy dress. There are stalls along the seafront, live music and a running commentary. As the race ends the barbcues & party start. As night falls a large & impressive firework display is set off on the harbour to be viewed from the beach. There is no charge for this event. It is organised by volunteers through the year. All the support boats are voluntary. and a bucket collection is made throughout the day with the money going to support the local lifeboat.
Other events include:- Red Arrows Day, Half Marathon, Beacon to Beach Run, Steam Engine Fair & Thomas the Tank Engine Week, Lifeboat special days with launching, rescues etc.
The Visitors Information Centre is sited in the town centre on the right hand side as you go up the Avenue from the beach.
Many events take place in Minehead, not always on a regular basis eg Cycle races, Rally Car races, Britain's Strongest Man, Motor bike conventions, Running competitions etc. Please search on the sites you are interested in to see what is being held when. They do not always appear on the Minehead sites.
There are a number of Safari companies (search Exmoor Safari) doing day trips into parts of the moor not visited by public transport or that you are unlikely to find driving. They know where the Red Deer are and other secret places.
Local clubs – various dancing groups, fishing from land or boat, canoeing & rowing club, yacht club, golf, clay pigeon shooting, bowls club, ramblers, natural history, cycling, running, tennis. Football club, cricket club
A huge range of physical activities for the adventurous
Walking - This is a superb area for walking from short, moderate or all day marches in a wide variety of beautiful scenery. Far too many to mention here. Many villages have tea rooms. It is possible to walk without a guide almost anywhere but books of walks, ranger guided walks are all available locally. An amble along the river sides with a cream tea at the end is a tradition.
Walks – from open top bus, http://www.visit-exmoor.co.uk/site/th...
Walks West Somerset coast path www.westcountrywalks.com there is a part one & two
The South West Coast Path starts on the sea front on the oldest part www.southwestcoastpath.com
long walk in parts with links to towns associated with the romantic poets www.coleridgeway.co.uk can be done in sections
South West Coast Path Challenge – great fun covers all Somerset this one www.visitsomerset.co.uk
There are a number of walks for charity if you want to combine your holiday with helping someone
Cycling - 2 Bicycle hire shops on outskirts of town, Cycle club welcomes visitors, mountain biking
Horse Riding – There are a number of stables with horses for hire, from beginners to the experienced. Search 'Riding Exmoor'. Golden Horseshoe Endurance ride. Ride an Exmoor Pony at the Mousie Moorland Trust
Places to visit within a few miles in the surrounding area.
Dunster Village & Castle (see separate article) castle/re-enactments, upstairs downstairs & ghost tours Selworthy Village – Thatched village, walks & teas
Allerford - bridge, museum & mill wood carving. www.allerfordmuseum.org.uk
Porlock Village and Weir, Doverhay museum www.doverymanormuseum.org.uk
Selworthy thatched cottages on a village green with a tea room/garden Periwinkle Tea Room http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaura...
Bossington with a walk to the shingle ridge & bay or hillside views with an excellent Tea room/garden http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaura...
Lynton & Lynmouth – beach, boat trips, cliff railway www.cliffrailwaylynton.co.uk
Exmoor Pony Centre - www.moorlandmousietrust.org.uk A chance to meet or ride this unique, ancient breed of pony that lives on the moor
Doone Valley - Countryside walk in soft moorland valley relating to the novel Lorna Doone
Dunkery Beacon highest point on Exmoor. Part of the series of beacons used to warn of the Armada invasion, occasionally lit around the country in succession at special times. Watchet – town & marina, fossil hunting www.visit-watchet.co.uk
Arlington Court – Historic house, gardens & coach museum & coach trips around the grounds. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-arlingtoncourt
Killerton historic house www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-killerton
Horner Woods & tea gardens and walks, riding Ifracombe coastal boat trips, the tunnels bathing beach and marine museum www.visitilfracombe.co.uk
Combe Martin wildlife & dinosaur park & beach with rock pools www.devonthemepark.co.uk
Tropiquaria wildlife & adventure playground www.tropiquaria.co.uk
Torre Cider Farm www.torrecider.com
Exmoor Zoo www.exmoorzoo.co.uk
Tarr Steps – pre history clapper bridge & shallow river in a beautiful woodland setting in the heart of the moor.
Coleridge Cottage and/or walk 3-4 day or in parts Many sites visited by the poets are in the Minehead area.
Watersmeet – long or short walk along the river to beautiful tea rooms set beside it in the woods
There are buses running to some places though you may have to walk a way from the bus stopTravellers from abroad
People from other countries find their way to this, the smallest of Britains National Parks and it is great to meet them and exchange news. If you are driving in any part of Somerset, especially this area, please be aware that the roads are small and narrow with steep hills and sharp bends. There may be wildlife or farm animals on the roads and it is your duty to drive carefully where this may be the case.
There are three camping/caravan sites, one on the edge of town tucked under the hills another on the hill, sheltered by hedges with access to coastal woodland and the moors and one on the edge of town.
The roads are mostly narrow and winding so you should be confident with the caravan and check your route is suitable.
YHA is set in a beautiful wooded combe, it is up a very narrow road and lane, in the woods.
Mobility problems or Disabled
A number of hotels, self catering and guest houses can cater for people with mobility difficulties. Many cafés and bars are accessible too. It is a friendly and helpful area, if you have any problems with access ask the staff,
There is a hotel specifically designed for people with disabilities and their families, on the sea front, which also serves meals and teas either in a conservatory overlooking the bay or in the lovely garden with the same views.
Type 'hotels for disabled minehead somerset' into your search engine for a full range of accommodation.
The whole promenade area, including the town is on a level. There is a walk through woodland on the top of the hill made wheel chair friendly. Another similar is on the moors at Webbers post on the moor both starting from a car parking area.
There is a hospital and casualty unit, GP's surgeries and 4 chemists.
The whole area is very dog friendly and some hotels and SC cottages cater for your pooch, but there are some precautions to take as, although it is a wonderful area for them it is also a farming area.
Many cafes have outside seating, water bowls are often placed outside businesses during the summer months. Dogs are not allowed on the main beach between May & October but are allowed from the area by the Golf Club (far end of promenade with car park) and the whole coast from there. Also at the other end of the promenade behind the harbour is a large flat grassy walk beside the sea. The hills and combes have endless walking. Remember there are farmers fields around here too. There are two vets & 2 pet shops in the town.
*At this particular point and in town & parks it is legally required for you to remove your dogs 'business' immediately and it is enforced by on the spot fines. Bins are provided.
**If walking on the hills or moors please keep you dog under control as sheep, cattle and ponies roam free and can't always be seen. A farmer is entitled to shoot a dog that is worrying his sheep.
*If walking after heavy rain take care not to let them near fast flowing rivers, or a path that drops steeply keep them on a lead even though it is awkward walking.
Do not let them run off at low tide as when it turns it runs in fast and they can be stranded
Be aware that there is a tick season in the area from April to June.
Old fashioned beach holiday with sand castles, sea & pools. Crabbing on the harbour. 4 playgrounds Steam Railway. Lifeboat (launched for practise every Sunday), putting & crazy golf, trips on double decker, castle with events, nearby - cliff railway, riding stables, small boat trips along the coast, visit Exmoor ponies at the Mousie Moorland Trust, Tarr Steps & Horner water playing in river. Tropiquaria, Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park
www.nationaltrust.org.uk Itineraries, rainy day activities times
Be aware that inflatables in the sea should be tethered and playing in the rivers should not involve damaging the river bed or banks.
When to go
Quietest with good weather May-June Sept
Busiest at school holidays Easter, Bank Holidays, July – end August
These months are popular so if going last minute ensure you have somewhere to stay before arriving.
January – Wassailing, a unique West Country tradition at Carhampton where songs are sung in an orchard to encourage a good crop of cider apples, cider punch is drunk and guns fired to scare evil spirits. A singsong in the pub after.
February - Snowdrop Valley A river valley near Wheddon Cross where the snowdrops grow down the sides and across the floor of the valley. There is a park & ride scheme from the village carpark or you can walk down though you do need to be fit and suitably shod if you do this.
March – Wild primroses, Steam Gala, Seige & Surrender at Dunster Castle starts
April – Wild bluebell woods, the best around Watersmeet nr Lynmouth.Car Rally
May – Hobby Horse, Minehead, Walking Festival
June – Night Jars & Glow worms in surrounding hills, Archery Week
July – Heather covered moors Dunster Country Fair
August – Dunster Country Show, RNLI Raft Race
September – Carnivals start, Doone Run,
October – Food Festival, Exmoor Stagger, Music Festival (classical)
November – Dunster Bonfire & Fireworks in Castle Grounds for charity, Minehead Fireworks
December – Dunster by Candlelight, Dulverton by Starlight, Santas come by train and sea
Low tide in Minehead bay shows the sea bed.