Dunster is in the Exmoor National Park and comprises a street of architecturally interesting buildings overlooked by the castle and surrounded by wooded and moorland hills. The smaller roads lead to the Mill, Gallox Bridge, Deer Park or Buttercross, St. Leonard's Well or Dovecote and Tithe Barn, where The Old Priory and Church are situated.
Walking leads to the moorland and incomparable beauty of Exmoor. Its designated footpaths and bridleways start within 100 yards of the house. To reach the coast one can pass by Dunster Station on the West Somerset railway line, skirt Minehead golf-links or go past Dunster beach chalets, where a walk of about half an hour will take you to the start of the south west coastal path.
In addition there are three long distance footpaths:
• The south west coast path starts at Minehead and finishes at Poole, Dorset. Total distance of 630 miles.
• The two-moors way is a 119 mile walk, linking Exmoor and Dartmoor national parks.
• The Coleridge way, linking Exmoor and the Quantock hills.
Exmoor has been called "the horseman's paradise". Within 15 minutes car drive from Dunster there are several excellent riding stables offering riding instruction or trekking for all levels of ability. For those with their own horses there are livery stables nearby and hirelings available for hunting.
There are the lakes at Wimbleball and Clatworthy and Nutscale reservoir for angling and the rivers Exe and Barle for fly-fishing. Several nearby ports offer sea-fishing boat trips.
There are some of the best shoots in England close by. Also clay-pigeon shooting.
Most of the nearby beaches are pebbles with the high cliffs, for which Exmoor is renowned. However, about one hours drive away are the long stretches of sandy beaches and surf of Croyde, Saunton sands and Woolacombe. Surfers and sail-boarders will love them too.
One of the longest private lines in Britain still running steam trains is The West Somerset Railway, running from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard. Dunster station is the second on the line.
Exmoor contains a remarkably wide diversity of landscape and, indeed, climate. This supports a rich variety of species for the naturalist to observe. Grabbist Hill, just above Dunster, is one of several sites being managed to encourage certain species, in this instance the heath fritillary butterfly. It is, of course, the natural habitat of the wild Exmoor pony, herds of which can be seen in about half a dozen locations. Exmoor and the nearby Quantock hills support the largest herds of wild red deer remaining in England, although these can be elusive to find. However there are several Safari Landrover trips one can take with local experts.
Duster's Bats castle, an iron age hill fort and the Norman motte and bailey castle, site of the present castle are the nearest of several fascinating sites on Exmoor.
This area of the south-west is remarkably well stocked with both historic houses and gardens open to the public. There are National Trust properties at Dunster, Nether Stowey, Arlington, Killerton and Knightshayes, all within one hour's drive. Lytes Cary, Barrington Court, Montacute are a little further. Bristol is about one hour away and Bath about two. There are many interesting houses open to the public and still in private ownership.
Apart from the National Trust gardens there are some great gardens, such as Hestercombe and Marwood and many others, such as Cothay Manor, Greenaleigh, Heddon hall, Elwothy etc. which are as diverse and as interesting as their owners. RHS Rosemoor is about an hour away.
Anyone familiar with Simon Jenkins' 100 best churches, will be aware of the diversity of churches in Somerset. Dunster, itself has a large and beautiful parish and priory church. Porlock Weir is the starting point for the 45 minute walk to Culbone church - one of the smallest extant and reached only on foot. There is the church at Parracombe, with its Georgian interior, the first to be rescued by Ruskin; the little church at Rodhuish without electricity and not forgetting Oare, the scene of the marriage of Blackmore's Lorna Doone. These are just a sample. The wonderful Cleeve Abbey is nearby and Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury, also.
Dunster has a variety of pubs and restaurants, serving meals ranging from simple bar food to imaginative modern cuisine. If you are happy to drive, there are some very good pubs and restaurants close by, however those wishing to dance the night away might be disappointed! Both Bath and Bristol have excellent theatres and often Minehead and Taunton stage enjoyable entertainments.
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