Explore 1600 Years of History at Dunster Castle
Dunster Castle with it’s working watermill and fabulous gardens is a rare treat for the whole family, and provides something a little bit different for a day out near Lakeside. Less than an hour’s drive away, the Castle – open from the 5th March – has a long and fascinating history.
It was originally a fort on top of the Tor back in the 5th Century, before the first Castle was built from timber in the 11th Century. Over the years, it grew and was expanded upon until the end of the 14th Century, when the Luttrell family bought it, and it remained within their family for 600 years.
Visiting today, you can get a real feel for the lengthy and impressive history surrounding Dunster Castle. It’s medieval gatehouse still remains, as does the tower – albeit being somewhat ruined now. (There have been some tough battles fought at the grounds).
Atop the beautiful wooded hill, there are exquisite views of the Bristol Channel, the Quantock Hills and the moors of Exmoor. As you look around at these sights, you will understand why this dramatic location was fortified in the Anglo-Saxon era. It’s quite the vantage point. As you head down the South Terrace there is a touch of the Mediterranean with a garden filled with fragrant Hyacinths and a wooded pathway leading to the River Avill and its diverse range of wildlife.
Onsite, there is a functioning watermill which operates throughout the year and on Wednesday 9th March visitors will be able to catch it in all it’s full, working glory. The Mill is open between 10am and 5pm and entry is free. Later in March, on Friday 25th from 10am to 6pm, is the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail. Follow the garden trail and solve the clues to claim your Egghead prize. (Entry fee for the trail is £2.00 per person). On Saturday 26th March, there is an archery and pistol-shooting event happening between 11am and 4:30pm. For just £4.00, you can get either eight arrows or 10 pistol shots – although you may of course want to try your hand at both!
Even without any scheduled events, the immense beauty of Dunster Castle and its grounds, coupled with the intense history of the place is well worth the visit.
Finally, along with the Castle, gardens and special events there is a lovely little shop selling locally made gifts. You could also visit Dunster Village nearby for more shops and places to grab a bite to eat. Parking is available just 300 yards away from the Castle, and costs £2.50 for a day (free for members with a car sticker on display). There are also toilet facilities on-site.
If you’re planning a visit, you can call ahead (at least a week in advance please) and order a picnic from one of the five menus available – all of which include vegetarian and gluten-free options. The fee for visiting the whole property is £10.30 for adults, £5.15 for children, and £25.70 for a family pass, however if there is only one adult in your family group, the fee is £16.50. If you wish participate in Gift Aid, a slight extra charge of 10% on the fees is added – this allows the National Trust to then reclaim tax on the entry fee – and invest more into the visitor experience.
If you only wish to visit the gardens, admission is £7.20 for an adult, £3.60 for a child, £18.00 for a family (£11.30 for a family with one adult). Group rates are available for visits to the entire property, and a garden visit on its own, plus if you have a valid West Somerset Railway ticket, there is a discount available when your ticket is produced upon purchasing.
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