Dunster Castle is about a 45 minute drive from the Yurts. We took our family there for a day out during the Easter holidays.
It’s a pretty spectacular place.
There’s been a castle on the site for over 1000 years, which started as a Saxon stronghold, and developed into a huge Victorian country house.
The building we see today was remodelled by Anthony Salvin between 1868-1872 for the Luttrell family, who lived here for 600 years. There’s more detailed information about the Castle and it’s history on the National Trust website
Anyway onto our visit:
There’s a scenic route from us over the Quantock Hills, or a slightly slower “main road” route around the outskirts of Taunton and out to Dunster.
We opted for the main road route, it’s a bit easier driving than the lanes over the hills – but don’t let that put you off, as the scenery on the Quantocks is wonderful – it’s just we know it fairly well so went for the main route! 🙂
There’s a large car park at the foot of the castle so parking shouldn’t be a problem – it’s a pay and display – all day parking is £3.50.
For our family of five it cost £30.40 (Easter 2017). We’re two adults and three children, 6, 4, and 18 months. Under 5’s go free.
The ticket we bought included entrance to the castle, but you can get a cheaper ticket with just entrance to the gardens.
It’s a steep walk up to the castle from the car park so a bit of a workout if you’ve got a pushchair. But with that you get some amazing views out to the North Somerset coast.
One of the first parts we stopped to look at was the Crypt.
A great starting point for young children to capture their imagination! The Crypt is recently opened to the public and sits underneath the old kitchens – I guess it was used for storing food and other items, and is a very dark and spooky space!
The new exhibition highlights the ghostly tales of Dunster Castle – there are hundreds of ghost stories surrounding the castle, with the grey lady and a soldier being the two main ones that I have heard about.
It also has a room dedicated to the resident bats at the Castle, with a live nature cam showing the roosting mammals – they have around 50 rare Lesser Horseshoe Bats that live here during the summer months.
The boys loved looking for the ghostly apparitions and listening to the ghost stories to the backdrop of dripping water and echoing atmosphere.
We then continued up to the South Terrace where there’s a little coffee shop, and on into the main entrance of the Castle.
You have to leave pushchairs in the entrance – there’s lots of staircases to navigate inside.
Downstairs there are some impressive rooms to stroll around, including the drawing room, the dining room and one of the kitchens of the house. You really get a feel for the opulence of the Victorian era, and what a busy and bustling place this must have been in its hey day.
Up the huge staircase to the morning room. The boys were very happy playing with the toy castle in the morning room, and in fact didn’t really want to leave that!
Through a couple of stunning bedrooms, you really get a feel for what living there could have been like.
The National Trust include a childrens leaflet with things to find throughout the Castle
There are several options for food on site.
There are plenty of lovely spots for a picnic if you wanted to bring your own lunch, and there’s a small coffee shop with light refreshments up at the castle as well as a tea room at the nearby Watermill.
They’re all marked on the map you’ll be given with your ticket.
We ate at a small tea room that backed onto the car park because the kids were getting a bit too tired and hungry to walk to the watermill tea room. It was nicer than that sentence made it sound!
A charming place set within a garden backing onto the castle grounds, we had a lovely peaceful lunch sitting outside under the shade of the umbrella and admiring the spring plants in the garden. Sandwiches for adults were about £6, and children £3.
If you fancy exploring there are also a range of shops and cafes in the nearby village. There’s more information about Dunster Village here.
Really recommended for a day out. We couldn’t stay long because Mark (as usual!) had to get back to farming duties.
You could easily spend most of the day exploring the castle and grounds. Have a bite to eat and a wander around the village, and perhaps stop off at the beach on the way back to the Yurts.
If you fancy coming to stay with us check our availability here.