Quantock Hills AONB, Exmoor National Park

Quantock Hills AONB, Exmoor National Park
  • Another stunning Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but this time to the east of Exmoor National Park
  • Walk to the highest point Wills Neck with great views back to the eastern section of Exmoor National Park
  • Experience The Drove Road. Amazing in autumn
  • Visit Coleridge Cottage (National Trust) in Nether Stowey and follow a section of the Coleridge Way
  • Enjoy local food and drink in one of the many local pubs such as The Blue Ball inn below Wills Neck
  • Drop down to Bishop's Lydeard and take the West Somerset Railway to Dunster, Minehead and Exmoor National Park
  • Main photo: signage for the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

 

Where is the Quantock Hills AONB in relation to Exmoor National Park?

The Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is located just east of Exmoor between the eastern border of the National Park and the M5. Taunton is south of the Quantocks.

 

Directions to the Quantock Hills AONB from Exmoor National Park

Follow the A39 east of Minehead and Dunster. You'll come to Williton. Either continue on the A39 to enter and cross the northern section of the AONB that meets the coast or take the A358 south east that skirts the western flank of the Quantock Hills.

 

Parking at the Quantock Hills AONB

You'll find car parks in the villages fringing the Quantocks (see below). There are also plenty of parking areas in the hills. It's best to refer to Ordnance Survey mapping for detail as there are lots of car parking areas.

 

Why visit or holiday in the Quantock Hills AONB?

To help you choose the Quantocks AONB, we've listed some of the local attractions below.

 

Villages and towns in and near the Quantock Hills AONB

Nether Stowey. Major Quantocks settlement on the eastern side of the AONB by the A39. Where you'll find Coleridge Cottage (National Trust).

Holford. North west of Nether Stowey on the A39. Great place from which to walk. William Wordsworth once lived here.

Kilve. Close to the West Somerset coast and the Bristol Channel. On the A39. Note that the coast here is within the Blue Anchor to Lilstock Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which is known for its fossils (see below).

East and West Quantoxhead. Two villages close to the coast by the A39. Again, the coast here is within the Blue Anchor to Lilstock Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Watchet. Harbour town located between the Quantocks and Exmoor National Park.

Crowcombe. Village on the western side of the Quantock Hills by the A358 below the AONB's highest ground.

Triscombe. Below Will's Neck.

Bishop's Lydeard. Village south west of the Quantock Hills AONB. Start/end of the West Somerset Railway.

Kingston St Mary. On the southern border of the Quantocks.

Taunton. County town of Somerset located south of the Quantock Hills by the M5. Major gateway town to the AONB.

 

Major visitor attractions in and near the Quantock Hills AONB

West Somerset Railway. Runs from the east border of Exmoor at Minehead and then Dunster to Bishops Lydeard below the Quantock Hills. Super family attraction.

National Trust properties. Coleridge Cottage, Fyne Court and Dunster Castle. See below.

English Heritage properties. Cleeve Abbey. See below.

Hestercombe Gardens. See below.

Museum of Somerset. Superb Westcountry museum. Highly recommended. Also a great rainy day activity.

 

Highest point in the Quantock Hills AONB

Will's Neck. At 1,261 feet above sea level, Will's Neck is the highest point on the Quantock Hills.

 

Beaches in and near the Quantock Hills AONB

Lilstock Beach. Pebble beach.

Kilve Beach. Rock beach.

East Quantoxhead Beach. Rock, pebble and sand beach.

St Audrie's Bay Beach. Big low tide rock, pebble and sand beach.

Doniford Beach. Rock and sand beach.

Helwell Bay Beach. Rock and sand beach to the east of Watchet Harbour.

Watchet West Street Beach. Rock and sand beach to the west of Watchet Harbour. Look out for the small, rectangular Victorian tidal pool!

The beaches at Watchet and east of Watchet are known for their fossils. They are part of the Blue Anchor to Lilstock Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

 

Blue Anchor to Lilstock Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

This stretch of coastline is a bit like the famous Dorset and East Devon Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site more commonly known as the Jurassic Coast. Great place to find fossils!

'Description and reasons for notification. An outstanding series of sections through the Lover Lias, spanning the Hettangian and Lover Pliensbachian Stages. This sequence and the good Rhaetian succession beneath are repeatedly affected by faulting, making many sections available in comparison to the same interval on the Glamorgan and Dorset casts. In a British context the Watchet coast is the thickest succession for this interval. This makes it of international significance, for Britain's Lias sequences are arguably the best in N.W. Europe. In addition it has been proposed that this coast be accepted as the standard for the base of the Hettangian Stage, and thus by definition the Jurassic as a whole. An internationally important stratigraphic locality.'  (Source: Natural England)

 

Pubs/restaurants in and near the Quantock Hills AONB

Hood Arms in Kilve.

Clavelshay Barn between North Petherton and Kingston St Mary.

Carew Arms in Crowcombe.

The Blue Ball Inn in Triscombe.

The Ancient Mariner in Nether Stowey.

The Farmers Arms in Combe Florey.

 

The National Trust and the Quantock Hills AONB

Coleridge Cottage. The Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived in this cottage for three years at the end of the eighteenth century. 

Fyne Court. Beautiful woodland area and visitor centre by Broomfield in the southern section of the Quantocks. Note that the country house burnt down in 1894.

Dunster Castle. One of Exmoor's most popular visitor attractions, Dunster Castle dominates the village. Essential visiting.

 

English Heritage and the Quantock Hills AONB

Cleeve Abbey. According to English Heritage, the abbey has 'the most impressively complete and unaltered set of monastic cloister buildings in England'. Highlights include a floor covered with 13th-century heraldic tiles and an extraordinary painted chamber although the latter was closed on our visit and you could only experience the paintings through viewing windows.

Daws Castle. Dates from the time of King Alfred. Located at Watchet which is just east of Dunster and the border of Exmoor National Park.

Dunster Yarn Market & Butter Cross and Gallox Bridge. 17th-century octagonal market hall and butter cross at which cloth and butter were traded. Wander over to Gallox Bridge to see where packhorses transported fleeces to market.

 

The prehistory and history of the Quantock Hills AONB

'Stand anywhere on the open heath of the Quantock Hills and you will never be far from a Bronze Age barrow or cairn. There are over 100 of these monuments on the hills, marking burial places of people who used the land 4000 years ago.' (Source: English Heritage Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty 'Recording and Understanding The Historic Landscape of the Quantock Hills' pdf available online)

Discover Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman enclosures, a Roman villa, medieval manors and a tank driving range!

Visit Cleeve Abbey, Daws Castle, Dunster Yarn Market & Butter Cross and Gallox Bridge.

If prehistory and history are of interest, spend a day at the superb Museum of Somerset in Taunton. The museum is housed within the 12th-century walls of Taunton's historic castle.

 

Wildlife and the Quantock Hills AONB

Look out for red deer and Quantock ponies on the high ground.

Go rock pooling on the coast in the Blue Anchor to Lilstock Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

 

Gardens in and near the Quantock Hills AONB

Hestercombe Gardens. Located just beyond the southern boundary of the AONB between the Quantock Hills and Taunton.

 

Walking in the Quantock Hills AONB

Arguably the best way to explore the AONB is on foot. Follow sections of some of the long distance walking routes that cross the Quantocks to experience its different characteristics.

The Macmillan Way West is great for walking the high ridge on the western side of the Quantocks. This ridge includes the highest point Will's Neck.

The Coleridge Way fringes the high ground and passes across the bottom of many of the Quantocks' famous combes.

The West Somerset Coast Path runs along the coastline.

 

Cycling in the Quantock Hills AONB

The Quantocks are know for their mountain bike routes. We'd recommend using a specialist mountain biking website such as iBikeRide to discover more.

'You are probably talking over 100km's of MTB trails in total. Saying that we are talking about an area that is only 19km by 7km. So it's well packed in. The terrain holds well in wet conditions (though do be prepared as the grassier tracks and the bottoms of the Combes get muddy in the winter). The Quantocks is basically a long ridge with a descent of around 250 metres so it is a lot of up and down. You get swooping hills, woodland, exposed heathland as well as steep gnarly descents.' (Source: iBikeRide)

 

Horse riding in the Quantock Hills AONB

Try Quantock Trekking. 'Your first stop for horse riding in the beautiful Quantock Hills. Quantock Trekking is a well established centre for horse trekking and riding holidays in the picturesque village of West Bagborough in the heart of the Quantock Hills, Somerset.' (Source: Quantock Trekking website)