Explore

Weave your way from the Yarn Market, along the High Street to admire the Nunnery on Church Street. Open the wrought iron gate to the pretty Dunster Village Gardens to walk through to the Church, Dovecote and Tithe Barn. Wind your way back through the graveyard to West Street’s eclectic mix of homes and businesses up to the working Water Mill, chocolate box cottages on Park Street and cross Gallox Bridge.

For a longer stroll with views far and wide, head to Bat’s Castle, the Tall Tree Trail or Conygar Tower. Architecture, countryside, coastline – it’s all here wrapped in English history.

Bat’s Castle

Did we say Dunster Castle dates back to Roman times? There were people living on Gallox Hill long before then, in the Iron Age Hill Fort called Bats Castle. Its panoramic vista makes it the ideal location for a fort when the only way to spot invading marauders approaching was by eye. The site was identified relatively recently in 1983, when schoolboys accidentally came across coins dating from 102BC to AD350. Although all that remains of the fort and settlement are earthworks, ramblers will enjoy jaw-dropping views across the county out to Wales and the rare opportunity to stand in the footprints of ancient Britons.

Open: Any reasonable time during daylight hours

Butter Cross Community Orchard

Round the corner from the Buttercross is the Buttercross Community Orchard. Established in 2010 it has over 60 trees, including 20 varieties of apple trees and 3 Dunster Plum trees – yes we have our very own variety! 
Best seen during the spring blossom, it is also well worth a stroll in this quietly beautiful part of the village with fantastic views of Conygar Tower and the Bristol Channel. There is a large picnic area so why not have a snack and stay longer. 
Look out for Wassailing Day on ‘The Old Twelvey’ actually the 17th January, when the trees are blessed and evil spirits are scared away, and Apple Day in October when the fruits are pressed.

Conygar Tower

With its prominent position on a hill overlooking the village, this 18 metre three-storey red sandstone tower is a folly commissioned by Henry Luttrell and built in 1775. Its height was a deliberate design feature by architect Richard Phelps so it could be seen by its owners at Dunster Castle. The name ‘Conygar’ points to Dunster’s medieval past when rabbit meat and fur were highly valued luxury items. Rabbits were bred in enclosures, with viewing towers for keepers to protect the animals inside their manmade warren. By combining two medieval words – ‘coney’ for rabbit and ‘garth’ for garden, you get ‘conygar’. Walkers are rewarded with a panoramic view.

Open: Any reasonable time during daylight hours

Dovecote

The Romans introduced dovecots to Britain, and the Normans were big advocates, so finding one in Dunster with its history dating back to the Romans is perhaps no surprise. Doves and pigeons were a delicacy across Europe and the Middle East, prized not just for their meat but for eggs, dung, and feathers too. Our Dovecote was built in the late 16th century by the wealthy Dunster Priory. At 5.8m high and wide, and with walls 1.2m thick, it is a substantial construction housing 540 nests. There are two wooden feeding platforms and a revolving ladder allowing the pigeon keeper to reach the nests.

Open: Any reasonable time during daylight hours

Dunster Beach

There’s space and fresh air aplenty at the dog friendly Dunster Beach, which seems to go on for miles. With its pebble and sand beach, the Bristol Channel provides the waves. Look straight ahead for views across to Wales. Lucky visitors will see and hear the steam train puffing past on its way to and from Blue Anchor Bay. The pretty pastel beach huts are the perfect backdrop to this traditional English seaside scene. History buffs will love the surviving World War II pillboxes on the road to the beach, and further up the beach itself. There’s often a stall selling 99 ice creams and other treats.

Pay and Display: Drivers can park right up to the beach.

Dunster Butter Cross

As an important market village, traders came to Dunster to buy and sell butter as well as wool and other produce, and this cross marked the butter sellers meeting place. The whole monument, which is Grade II* listed, is estimated to have been erected in the centre of the village in the late 14th or early 15th Century. It was moved to its current position in the late 18th or early 19th Century. It is best reached on foot. Walkers are advised to be careful on the surprisingly busy road.

Open: Any reasonable time during daylight hours

Dunster Castle and Watermill

Perched high on a wooded hill, a castle has existed here since Saxon times. The estate land was granted to the French de Mohun family by William the Conqueror as a thank you for service following his victory at Battle of Hastings. Entering through the huge medieval gatehouse, peer into the ‘Oubliette’. The crypt was used by billeted soldiers during the English Civil War. There’s a 17th century cobbled stable, working 18th century watermill and Victorian kitchens, servants’ quarters and library. The grounds are magnificent. Tour the lawn green, Mediterranean-inspired Terrace, Dream Garden and the kids’ log play area. Check for seasonal events such as Easter hunts and battle re-enactments.

Winter opening:
1st January – 3rd March 11am – 4pm

Summer opening:
4 March – 30 October 10am – 5pm

Parking: Free for NT members.

Dunster Museum and Doll Collection

Discover the story of this fascinating village. Travel through time from its foundation 3,000 years ago to the present accompanied by local finds and artefacts including Roman pottery and medieval tiles. Learn about the Time Team’s discoveries on their ‘Dig Village’ project.

The unique doll collection, the largest outside the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, was started by Mrs Mollie Hardwick in her Dunster cottage in 1957. Today there are thousands of dolls spanning different eras, cultures and makers. There are Artist and Fashion Dolls, a unique collection of 20 “Sasha” Dolls in 1913 period dress and Bristol Red Cross Dolls. You’re bound to find memories of your childhood!

Open: April to October 11am to 3pm (most days)

Dunster Station on the West Somerset Steam Railway

Dunster train station was built in 1874. The line was closed in 1971, then acquired by a group of railway enthusiasts to be operated as a heritage line from 1976. Situated on Dunster Marsh, the station, goods shed and yard are a 20-minute walk from the village. The West Somerset Railway has changed its timetable due to COVID-19. Please see their website for more information if you wish to book a trip on the steam trains. Information correct as at August 2021.

Exmoor National Park Centre, Dunster

Step inside the Exmoor National Park Centre at Dunster for inspiration and information to make the most of your visit to Dunster and Exmoor National Park. Knowledgeable ‘Exmoor Experts’ are on hand to give you bespoke advice and ideas to point you in the direction of the best walks, places to visit and things to do and see. Be inspired with a selection of films in our multimedia theatre and discover more of Exmoor with our inspiring interpretation and interactive exhibits.

Maps, guide books, publications, local produce and souvenirs for sale. You can also hire a telescope to experience Exmoor’s dark night skies. A range of National Park publications, including the Exmoor Visitor newspaper and National Park Pocket Guides, are available free of charge.

Entry is free. Open 7 days a week 10am – 5pm from late March to end of October, with limited weekend opening during the winter, check website for full details.

Exmoor National Park Centre,
Dunster Steep, Dunster,
Somerset, TA24 6SE.
Tel: 01643 821835

Exmoor Village Walks

Our knowledgeable and friendly guide Jackie leads two groups of visitors around the village every Tuesday, one in the morning and one after lunch. If you’d like to hear more about all the major sites – plus some lesser known spots – and stories of local families too, then this is the walking tour for you. Bring your camera for some amazing views of the castle, coastline and Exmoor countryside! Lasting 1.5 to 2 hours, the walk is suitable to all abilities, is great for children and dogs on a lead can join in too! With cobbles and some uneven ground, groups walk in all weathers, so please dress accordingly. Booking is essential as Jackie’s entertaining excursions are very popular.

For more information, and to book, please contact Jackie on 07789 767710 or by email: exmoorvillagewalks@gmail.com £10 for adults, £5 for children. Family ticket for two adults and up to four children £27.50. Children five and under are free. Dogs on a lead welcome. 

Gallox Bridge

This is a medieval ‘packhorse’ bridge, designed so horses and donkeys laden with goods bags could cross rivers. This one is on the important trade route into the market in Dunster village, the centre of the Exmoor wool business. Alongside the bridge there’s an ancient ford which was used as a cart crossing. The picturesque bridge itself is one of the most photographed in Exmoor as it snakes and winds across the flowing River Avill. The name comes from the gallows on a hill outside the village. Thieves could be hanged here by the lords of Dunster Castle who oversaw law and order in their own lands in medieval times.

Open: Any reasonable time during daylight hours

Park Street Cottages

There are many beautiful cottages in Dunster, perhaps the most photographed of which is Rose Cottage. It is one of a charming group of thatched cottages leading down to the children’s playground, River Avill and Gallox Bridge at the end of Park Street. All these properties are residential homes, so we ask that you respect the owners’ privacy if you walk past. These pretty homes are 17th Century, built in traditional ‘render and rubble’ construction, colour-washed in pink and cream, and topped by thatch. Many have beautiful English country style gardens. Like most of the properties in the medieval village, these homes are protected with a Grade II listing.

Please be respectful when visiting this residential area of the village.

The Parish and Priory Church of St George

Dating from 1097, discover over 1000 years of the village’s history here, from the ancient altars to marble monuments to the de Mohun and Luttrell families, to the medieval wooden chests. Of particular note is the Church’s 16th century font featuring images of the five wounds of Christ. The Church was built to be shared by parishioners and the monks of Dunster Priory. However, over time worshipping together proved impossible and a huge rood screen was erected. The longest in England, don’t miss its intricate carvings. Finally, if you are lucky, you’ll hear the distinctive and charming carillon from the bells of the church clock as you explore Dunster.

Open to the public but please be respectful of worshippers.

Call ahead for opening hours: 01643 821812

The Tall Tree Trail

Exmoor’s soil and climate are ideal for timber, and thus we have an abundance of trees and forests. Here on the Tall Tree Trail, marvel at the Douglas Fir that tops over 61 metres. It’s not alone – the trees nearby are almost as high. As with much in Dunster, the arboretum that is home to this trail was planted by the Luttrell family in the 1870s, an era of global plant hunters and explorers. This wide and flat trail is suitable for wheelchairs and those with small children. It’s perfect as a trip in its own right or combined with a walk to Bats Castle.

Open: Any reasonable time during daylight hours

The Yarn Market

The iconic octagonal building at the top of the High Street was once the hub of the thriving wool trade in Exmoor. Since the 12th century, Dunster had been the main trading port for the area, located at the intersection of the coast, sea and land. By the time it was built in 1609, sellers were no longer trading wool under its gabled roof but ‘Dunster cloth’ from local mills. The building survived the 1642 Civil War despite being hit by a cannon ball. You can still see the hole today! It’s a great vantage point to enjoy the bustling High Street and the beautiful view to Dunster Castle.

Open: Any reasonable time during daylight hours

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