An Affordable Weekend Escape from City Life - London to Taunton
It’s been a difficult year for all, and with the prospect of international travel still off the cards for 2021, why not travel a little closer to home? Somerset, jewel of England and home to many a famous creative, is the perfect place to start. Samuel Taylor Coleridge reportedly wrote the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner at Watchet Harbour, Arthur C Clarke was born on Blenheim Road in Minehead and went on to grow up in Bishops Lydeard, whilst famous chefs Gary Rhodes and Phil Vickery were previously head chefs at The Castle Hotel in Taunton.
Taunton, County Town of Somerset, has a lot to offer those looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Serving as a starting point for various excursions into much more rural parts of Somerset, the town itself is also bursting with heritage, culture and charming public parks for you to while away the hours as you relish the distance between yourself and hectic city shopping centres and attractions. Somerset has something to offer everyone, from jaw-dropping scenery to important historical events which changed the course of history for the entire country. Use this itinerary to get a taste of the best of the town, and its neighbours!
There are many options for accommodation in Taunton, but by far the most exciting and endearing is The Castle Hotel, situated in the heart of the town centre and looking out over the previous outer bailey of Taunton Castle. The hotel itself has never been a part of the defensive complex, built in the 18th century and crenelated to fit in with the surrounding buildings. The Castle Hotel offers excellent, home cooked food and exquisite accommodation, which with our special offer will give a real taste of luxury to your three-day venture from London. The hotel is but a two-minute walk from Taunton’s main bus station, and is close to various restaurants and attractions.
The Castle has kindly allowed our customers a 10% discount on Bed and Breakfast, when using code “BERRYS10” via their website, which is valid between 24th May – 20th September 2021.
Day One - Arrival
Arrive at Station Road for 9pm on Friday evening.
From your drop-off point on Station Road, the Castle Hotel is just a ten to fifteen-minute walk down the main street of Taunton Town Centre, which will take you over the Victorian Tone Bridge, crossing the River Tone as it creeps through the town before joining with the Parrett and entering the Bristol Channel at Bridgwater Bay. If you have too much luggage to walk, or are not inclined to carry it, consider calling a taxi to collect you from Station Road and take you the roughly half-mile distance to the Castle Hotel. There are, at time of writing, no bus services running through the town at this time – however, this could change as Covid restrictions are reduced.
Where to Eat Late in Taunton
Taunton is positively teeming with fine dining experiences, ranging through all of the different cuisines. After checking into your accommodation, your closest eatery is the very well reviewed Brazz Restaurant, attached to the Castle Hotel. Call in advance to secure yourself a table, and to let them know that you'll be arriving shortly after 9pm!
Day Two – Visit the Gateway to Exmoor on England’s longest heritage railway
Awake and enjoy breakfast at the Castle Hotel, where fresh bread is baked daily, and a working kitchen garden provides many of the menu's ingredients.
To access West Somerset Railway, you must make a short journey via bus to Bishops Lydeard Train Station. These buses run hourly from Taunton Bus Station, which is a two minute walk through Castle Green from the hotel entrance. The journey will take approximately thirty minutes. The bus you need to catch is the number 28.
At Bishops Lydeard Train Station, either present your online ticket, or purchase a ticket from the ticket office for a return journey to Minehead. Different timetables operate throughout the year, depending on season and Covid restrictions - be sure to get the ticket which allows you the most time to explore Minehead! Enjoy the scenery as you travel through West Somerset, taking special note of the coastal route through Doniford, where views across to Wales are spectacular, and the final stretch past Dunster, spotting the National Trust-owned Dunster Castle looming out from the hills of Exmoor. The trip to Minehead takes around one and a half hours, and there is a buffet train which provides food and drink for the journey.
If you haven't eaten on the train, once alighted at Minehead there are several fish and chip shops along the sea front immediately accessible from Minehead Train Station. Dana's, a little further down, offer a selection of traditional seaside cuisine, along with some more unusual treats such as the Northern delicacy of battered Mars Bars! If the weather is unfriendly, take a trip down to the historic harbour (about fifteen minutes from the station on foot) and grab yourself a traditional pub lunch at The Old Ship Aground, looking out over the harbour from the foot of picturesque North Hill.
Attractions in and around Minehead Town Centre include Blenheim Gardens (a gorgeous park situated in the centre of town), the Regal Theatre (check showtimes before your visit to ensure you have time to catch the train back to Taunton), several quirky bars and pubs with extensive beer gardens, and a selection of independent shops and cafes. Don't miss out on a browse through Exmoor Food and Crafts, a brilliant store selling a variety of locally made and sourced produce from the Exmoor area. If you're feeling energetic, a walk up North Hill will reward you with remarkable views across the Bristol Channel and possibly a sighting of an Exmoor pony or stag, proud natives to the area.
Return to the station in good time to catch your train back to Taunton, taking note of all the villages that you pass through for future visits and explorations. Watchet has a wonderful marina and is becoming something of an arts and culture centre for West Somerset, whilst Dunster offers one of the best preserved medieval village experiences in the country.
On arrival back in Taunton, you may be inclined to explore the town a little, or head straight to one of the many restaurants that line the town centre's streets. Bill's, Zizzi, Bare Grills, The Mango Tree and many more offer a full range of cuisines, but for a really unique eating experience, head to The Tropical Hut. Here you can dine in traditional Phillipino Military style, without cutlery and with your food served directly onto the banana leaf-wrapped table surface!
If you're looking for evening entertainment, check showtimes at The Brewhouse Theatre, which houses a small cinema and art gallery alongside its excellent theatre productions.
Day Three – Visit the Museum of Somerset and explore Taunton
After your breakfast at the hotel, take the very short walk across Castle Green to enter the inner bailey of Taunton Castle, and visit The Museum of Somerset. The museum operates on donations, with some charged temporary exhibitions - be sure to donate generously to The South West Heritage Trust, who care for several museums in the area, including the Glastonbury Rural Life Museum, and the Bridgwater Brick and Tile Museum.
The museum hosts a cafe on site for lunchtime refreshments, and has extensive galleries exhibiting the history of the county from prehistoric times up to the modern day. Don't miss out on the Alms House in the courtyard, dating to the time of Taunton Priory, and a brief explore through the ruined Castle Keep (the grounds of which are used by the Castle Hotel for functions and kitchen gardens).
You can certainly fill an entire day at the Museum of Somerset, especially when taking in the Somerset Military Museum and Castle House which are attached to the main building. However, if you'd prefer to explore more of the county town itself, after lunch take a venture into the centre. Vivary Park, once home to the Priory's fish farm, is now a tranquil park complete with a children's play area, a high ropes adventure centre, and a golf course. If you're lucky, you might catch one of Taunton's excellent musicians as they busk in the park!
Choose again from the vast selection of eateries for your final evening in town - if the weather is good, a meal from locally-sourced Augustus Restaurant, situated close to the Riverside, will allow you to enjoy the famously beautiful sunsets on offer in this corner of Somerset. Tauntonians have a special word to describe the quality of the light as it hits the town at sundown - "dimpsey". You are unlikely to hear it spoken outside of the town, and it refers to the thick, orange glow of sunset as it reflects off the yellow sandstone that many of the town's buildings are constructed from! If you'd rather something more casual, a visit to The Plough Inn for one of their delicious Sunday roasts is certainly recommended - you won't miss their free-standing pub sign in the street outside, a rare sight in modern Britain.
Day Four - Departure
Check out of the hotel promptly and be sure to arrive at the pick-up point for your return coach in good time, utilising one of Taunton's many taxi services in order to ensure timely arrival. There are bus routes operating at this time, but ensure that you give as much time as possible for arrival. The number 28 is the best option here, but there are smaller town services too.
We hope you enjoyed these ideas for your stay in The West Country. If you want to bring this guide to life, Berrys Coaches is a convenient, affordable way to visit this beautiful area of England. With our London Superfast service, you can be in the West Country in no time at all. Why wait? Book now.
While the timings offer a rough guide, the time you spend at each activity will vary from group to group. You are ultimately responsible for getting back to the coach on time, so do make sure you give enough time for any potential travel delays. Passengers should be at the pickup location at least 15 minutes prior to the pre-booked departure time. Unfortunately, the coach is not able to wait if you are running late.