This New Year we decided to forget sitting at home and watching the telly (cursing those who woke our son at midnight with fireworks) and chose to take a weekend trip to Exmoor to enjoy the countryside, the peace and quiet and to see the wonderful sights and landmarks it has to offer. We picked a country cottage surrounded by woodlands and fields which was within driving distance of all the places we had researched before leaving. As we also took our dog we had to ensure that our chosen destinations were suitable for her as well as our three-year-old son. Luckily, Exmoor turned out to be the most dog-friendly place I have ever visited. The cottage allowed pets, there are plenty of suitable walks, we were handed a ‘doggy menu’ in a tea room, free treats were provided on the bar in the pub and Dunster Castle allow dogs on their grounds.
Having already enjoyed coastal and woodland walks over the weekend we decided to visit the oldy worldy village of Dunster on our final day. With quaint shops, stone buildings and colourfully painted homes it was a beautiful sight to drive into. The castle, which is part of The National Trust, was built during the Norman times and is located on a wooded hill within Dunster. It was converted to a country home during the 19th Century by the Luttrell family who went on to live there for 600 years. With medieval features, stunning gardens, educational information, a lovely river walk, a water mill for producing flour, tea rooms and large grounds to explore, you can really make a day of your visit.
We began our trip with a stroll along the river and through some of the many gardens.
On the wander up the river we came across the water mill which is still used today in the production of flour. Inside we could see how it all worked and had access up to the viewing platform.
Walking back through the mill I noticed a member of staff bagging up the newly made flour which was then available to purchase in the shop. Just a stone’s throw up the lane we came across the tea room. Unfortunately, the dog wasn’t allowed inside and during the warmer months sitting outside wouldn’t be an issue but on such a cold day it was a little uncomfortable sitting in a marquee waiting for our lunch. The homemade Cornish pasties quickly warmed us up though!
Back up at the main part of the castle Jake was overwhelmed by the fact that he was seeing a ‘real life’ castle for the first time and couldn’t wait to get in! There were several medieval rooms, collectively called The Crypt, open which included the scullery, the dungeon and exhibition rooms. All are a bit eerie and the flooring is uneven so you will need to watch how you go. Jake was a little scared in here until he saw the viewing monitor for the castles bats which intrigued him and took his mind off the fact it was a bit dark and dingy.
The steps led up to another level of the grounds which meant stunning views all around.
We wandered around more gardens, a pet cemetery (yes, even with little headstones!) and the water reservoir which was once used to store spring water.
I would recommend wearing comfortable shoes if you are planning on visiting because there are a lot of steps!
I would love to go back and be able to take a tour of the interior of the castle, I was dying to discover what was behind those huge doors.
I was amazed at how much there was to see and we all really enjoyed our time visiting Dunster. If you are wondering about visiting with a baby I can highly recommend the changing facilities here as all were clearly marked as having them in both the men’s and ladies and were very clean and modern. I would, however, opt to take a carrier rather than a buggy though as the terrain does vary and there are a lot of steps. If you take a dog you need to remember that you will need to clean up after them, keep them under control and that you will not be able to enter the castle with them. You can find out about disabled access here.
This is a National Trust site so if you are a member you will be able to get in for free. We paid £8 per adult entry fee and Jake was free. The car park was £2.50 for the day. For more details on their tours, prices and what the castle has to offer you can visit the website here.
We had a lovely trip to Exmoor and a weekend just isn’t quite enough to take it all in. I will definitely return for a week next time.
Emma writes her blog over on Emma Reed. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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