The perfectly picturesque village of Dunster is a must on the list for any visitor to Exmoor. Winding cobbled streets between higgledy-piggledy thatched cottages, cute shops, tea rooms, cafes and galleries all provide plenty of entertainment. There is also the grand Castle and working watermill, impressive church and beautiful gardens. Take a break from the bustling streets to explore wonderful walks into the surrounding hills. This little village is steeped in history – it is in fact probably one of the largest and most intact medieval villages in England.
I used to live in Dunster and never grew tired of this beautiful spot. As a bit of a guide for anyone visiting, I have put some information together below to get you started…
Our Top Things to do in Dunster
- Wander the cobbled high street
- Visit the castle and watermill
- Enjoy a cream tea in Cobblestones
- Play ‘Pooh Sticks’ over Gallox Bridge
- Dine in style in Reeves restaurant
- Explore the boutique, homely local shops
History of Dunster
Hill forts just above Dunster date back to the Iron age, so we know the area has been occupied for thousands of years. The village more specifically developed around the Castle, present in the doomsday book of 1086, built not long before this time for Willam de Mohun, a Norman warrior. By the 13th century, Dunster would have a been a bustling place, a hub most specifically for the trading of wool – villages would have made a living through spinning and weaving, also cleaning and thickening the wool, after which it would have been dyed and woven. The Yarn Market was built at beginning of the 17th century, where a bell hung, rung to signal that trading was commencing.
The Benedictine Dunster Priory was established in around 1100, of which The Priory Church of St George, dovecote and tithe barn remain today, in the center of the village.
From 1376, the Castle changed ownership to that of the Luttrell family, passing the generations for the next 600 years. Two mills adjacent to the Castle, also in the Doomsday book were combined in 1620 to form the mill as known today. Up until the 17th century, the small harbour at the mouth of the River Avill could be used by sea-going ships although little now remains of the river estuary.
Dunster Yarn Market
The Highstreet is proudly home to this little monument of Dunster’s ancient past – this small octagonal structure built around a central pier would have provided people shelter from the rain for hundreds of years. There is information on the inner walls to help bring your imagination back to the days of old.
Dunster Cafes and Tea Rooms
Cobblestones is a great little spot for lunch, with a lovely garden, on the High Street. Tessa’s Tea Shop (The Olde House) serve homemade soda bread and a have a wide selection of gluten free choices. There’s also Castle Coffee House (garden and patio, pet-friendly) and the lovely Locks Tea Room.
Follow the narrow, single-lane section of the village through to West Street where there are a few more options if you’re still peckish. The Tea Room at Chapel House on West Street does very good food for lunch served by great hosts.
Dunster Pubs and Restaurants
Reeves restaurant combines a soft, warm ambience with excellent food – winner of Somerset’s Best Chef award 2015. The Luttrell Arms sits directly opposite the Yarn Market, they have a bar and more formal dining area, The Stags Head is a traditional 15th-century inn on West Street, serving good pub food. Hathaways restaurant is a lovely spot for a candlelit dinner, or head a little further to The Foresters for good local ales.
Walks around Dunster
Follow Dunster through the village center away from Minehead, keep left and you will find your way towards Gallox’s bridge. Over and beyond this brings you to an expanse of paths and space for walking and exploring through the Crown Estate. Keep left to find yourself in the Deer Park, where you can climb to the top of the hill for stunning views across the Castle and sea beyond.
Dunster Castle and Watermill
Well worth a visit, the historic castle and working watermill. For more on the Castle and Watermill see my other post here.
Follow the road out of Dunster towards the sea and you will cross under the A39 into Dunster Marsh. Dunster Beach lies beyond this. A large expanse of sand and shingle, the beach looks out over the Bristol channel to the Welsh shoreline. In around 30 minutes you can walk along the beach to Minehead – pass Minehead Golf Course on your left.
Dunster by Candlelight
Every year, the village hosts an enchanting event in December to help everyone get in the Christmas spirit. For two evenings (coming up in 2017 – December Friday the 1st, 5pm-9pm and Saturday the 2nd, 4pm-9pm) the village is lit by lanterns and candlelight, with various entertainment laid on. The various little shops make for great Christmas presents for all the family.
Self Catering Accommodation in Dunster
If you are looking for somewhere to stay right in the heart of Dunster, these cottages below are within easy walks to the center of the village. Click here for a full list of holiday cottages in or near Dunster.