Bridgwater to Bridport
A glorious tour along the hills and valleys of cider country
Follow the route – Bridgwater to Bridport
> Leave Bridgwater on an unclassified road to Enmore. Continue to Bishops Lydeard then turn left on to the A358 to Taunton.
As you drop steeply down from the Quantock Hills, a stunning view of the Vale of Taunton Deane opens up, with the Blackdown Hills in the distance. Taunton lies in the heart of this rich vale. The largest town between Bristol and Exeter, it has one of the biggest livestock markets in the southwest. In the Great Hall of Taunton Castle, the infamous Judge Jeffreys sent more than 500 rebels to their deaths at his ‘Bloody Assize’. A walk down Hammet Street gives the best view of the Perpendicular tower of 15th-century St Mary’s Church. The town is a mecca for cricket lovers, and next to the County Ground is Somerset’s Cricket Museum, in the 13th-century Priory Barn.
Places to stay in Taunton
> Leave Taunton on the B3170 heading south. Shortly after crossing the M5, turn left for Staple Fitzpaine. Continue on unclassified roads towards Buckland St Mary and the A303. Turn left on to the A303, then right on to the B3168 to Ilminster.
Dabinetts, Brownsnouts, Kingston Blacks and Red Streaks are all local varieties of apples. Somerset is real cider country, and near Ilminster, at Dowlish Wake, are Perry’s Cider Mills, where this powerful apple brew has been made for centuries. Visitors can wander through the farm to see how it is done and afterwards sample some ‘scrumpy’ for themselves.
Ilminster has a lovely little shopping centre, built in the local hamstone (a golden limestone). Of particular note are the pillared market house and the 15th-century minster Church of St Mary. Herne Hill is a local beauty spot and vantage point to the southwest of the town. One of the earliest National Trust properties, Barrington Court, lies to the north – an intriguing model estate with Tudor manor house and gardens.
Places to stay in Ilminster
> From Ilminster go south on an unclassified road, turning left on to the A358 for Chard.
This handsome market town astride the busy A30 claims to be the birthplace of flight. To find out why, visit the Chard Museum in High Street. Besides flight, you can find out more about blacksmiths, early funerals, historic costumes and even artificial limbs – they were invented here.
AA-Rosette dining in the area
> Leave Chard on the A30 for Crewkerne (8miles/13km).
Crewkerne is an ancient market town whose wealth was founded on minting coins, and in later centuries on flax-weaving and sail-making. It was here that HMS Victory’s sails were made, and more recently the sails for several contenders for the Americas Cup yacht race. Captain Hardy, Nelson’s flag captain on the Victory, was a pupil at the old grammar school.
Places to stay in the area
> From Crewkerne on the A356, signposted Dorchester/Bridport, turn right on to the A3066 for Beaminster.
‘The forgotten county’ and ‘the hidden valley’ are two of the epithets ascribed to the scenery around Beaminster. This town, in the Brit Valley, is virtually unspoiled. Three fires in 200 years rendered the town ‘the pityfullest spectacle that Man can behold’ but the mellow honey-coloured hamstone houses testify to the healing power of time. Most streets offer a view of the fine pinnacled tower of the golden church, built in 1503. The Tudor manor house at Parnham, near Beaminster, which was home to John Makepeace’s furniture workshops, is now closed to the public.
Places to stay near Beaminster
> Continue south on the A3066 to Bridport.
In olden times, the term ‘Bridport dagger’ used to strike fear into the heart of many a criminal, for that was the nickname for the hangman’s noose. Ropes and nets have been made here for a thousand years now, and this is still Europe’s biggest netmaking centre. The unusual width of the streets allowed for rope-walks, where the flax strands were laid out to be twisted into shape. In South Street, look out for St Mary’s Church with its hamstone tower and 13th-century knight’s tomb.