Did I just hear you say where? What, you’ve never heard of the Quantocks? Don’t worry, many haven’t as I soon discovered when confronted with bemused faces at the mention of my weekend getaway.
Located one hour south from Bristol and one hour north from Exeter, they form the western border of Somerset. On a clear day from the top of the hills you can see across the Bristol Channel as far as the Gower Peninsula in Wales.
The Quantocks romantic breathtaking landscape offers rolling moorlands, deep wooded valleys and magnificient moorlands with rare grazing Exmoor ponies as well as an epic Jurassic coastline. No surprise it was named England’s first recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1956. Poets Coleridge and Wordsworth penned some of their greatest works about the magic of these hills.
You can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life to a world of wilderness, serenity and friendly villages with the most glorious countryside pubs. Best thing of all they’re less well known than their nearby neighbour Exmoor, but that’s a bonus!
Here’s how to make the most of your time in one of England’s true hidden gems:
Enjoy a Walking Trail
Grab your walking boots and explore the unspoilt ancient and beautiful hills of Quantock by foot. It really is one of the best ways to savor the medley of landscapes. There are some fantastic walking trails long and short, perfect for all kinds of fitness levels.
Take the route along the picturesque heathland of Lydeard Hill and walk to highest point of the Quantocks, Wills Neck. The winding path through woodland over Beacon Hill starting from Staple Plain, will take you past some amazing coastal views.
If forested landscapes are more your thing, follow in the footsteps of Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth. Amble through the sessile oak woods at Holford Combe and it’s easy to see where they got their inspiration.
The Great Wood is perfect for families with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore along the two mile red walk with some impressively soaring Douglas firs. With lots of bridleways and forest roads it’s easy to explore on a bike or on horseback. It also has designated picnic and BBQ spots, so the ideal place to spend the day.
Go Fossil Hunting
Many fossil hunters head straight down to the Jurassic coast in Dorset, missing out on a treasure trove of fossils in West Somerset’s smaller bays.
The stretch of coast from Kilve and East Quantoxhead is great for hunting reptile remains, ammonites, belemnites and unusual shells. Grand limestone cliffs join the slate and shingle beach for some impressive panoramas.
Best time to visit is during falling tide after the vigorous waves stir up the sand uncovering fresh fossil material. There are plenty of rock pools to explore which will also keep the kids entertained.
Kilve beach is surrounded by beautiful cliffs formed around 200 million years ago from oil rich shale. The different layers of rock are clearly visible offering a wonderfully unique backdrop.
Explore on Horseback
The Quantocks are a haven for horse-riders. Miles of unspoilt countryside can offer an incredible riding experience, ending with an exhilarating gallop along the beach. Sounds idyllic, right?
You can ride through ancient forests and bluebell woods, made extra special if you encounter the wild Quantock ponies.
For those less experienced or without a horse, there are plenty of riding schools in the area. We did a short 30 minutes hack with the Quantock School of Riding along country lanes. It’s the perfect length for first time riders and children, cost £25 per person.
Savour some Local Produce
In the Quantocks you’re never too far away from a foodie delight. Somerset is known for its amazing local produce available in the farm shops and delicatessens dotted around.
There are also some rather quaint local pubs, like the Blue Ball in Triscombe and the Rising Sun Inn in West Bagborough. Well worth a visit for a hearty, tasty meal.
And Relax in a quantock cottage
City dwellers often dream of the idyllic life in the country. Surrounded by the most beautiful and peaceful landscapes. There are a number of properties in the Quantocks which can deliver this lifestyle if only for a few days.
Tilbury Farm, is nestled within 45 acres of farmland offering breathtaking views over the Blackdown Hills and the Quantock Hills.
We stayed in a cosy shepherd’s hut with our own private hillside meadow, a wooden deck, chairs, firepit and hot tub to enjoy the evenings.
The inside was even more delightful. A cosy enclave with a double bed and another bed which disappeared into the wall by day, revealing a dining area. The ensuite bathroom came complete with toiletries. There’s also a wood-burner for cooler evenings and a compact kitchenette, complete with butler sink and SMEG oven. The attention to detail with no expense spared made it a perfect hideaway in the hills.
Have you been to the Quantocks? Or have I convinced you to visit? Let me know in the comments box below.
Here’s an Ordnance Survey walking guidebook for your adventures:
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