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The Coleridge Way Walking Holiday

The Coleridge Way Footpath sign used along the trail in Somerset UK

Villages and overnight stops on The Coleridge Way Trail

Nether Stowey

Nether Stowey at the start of The Coleridge Way is a delightful medieval town that grew up around textiles and pottery hosting a weekly market and fair for the outlying villages.  Today a lot of its significant buildings remain and the pretty thatched and paint washed houses still hold a timeless appeal that have resulted in the town becoming a protected Conservation Area. The area around the central clock tower was the location for the markets and behind this was the Gaol and village stocks. Today the old schoolhouse is now a library with a small museum and the streets are still well worth wandering with The Church of St Mary and its 15th-century tower and the cottages in Castle Street dating back to the 11th Century (look out for the colourful statue of Jane Seymour  (King Henry 8ths wife) and her faithful dog which watches over you from a garden alcove as you depart on The Coleridge Way.

Today the village serves Coleridge Way walkers well with two pubs and a tea shop to choose from along with a small handful of shops. Most walkers stay in one of village B&B's. Of course the big interest in the village is Coleridge himself and you have the Ancient Mariners Inn serving meals and local beers right opposite Coleridges Cottage and the start of The Coleridge Way.

Coleridge’s Cottage (17th Century) was the poet's base while he lived here (in this "miserable cottage", as Sara Coleridge called it) where he worked on Kubla Khan, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the Lyrical Ballards. Run by the National Trust you can visit the cottage before starting the walk and get fully briefed on the birth of the Romantic Movement which flowed from the kitchen, parlour and wild flower and orchard gardens at this spot - everything having been restored to how it would have been in Coleridge’s day including displays that house some of the Poets original correspondence, his inkwells and even locks from his hair ! Well worth building into your itinerary, this tiny location was in fact the winner of the Visit England award for the best visitor attraction in 2014!

West Quantoxhead

West Quantoxhead The Coleridge WayAlso known as St Audries locally due to the large estate, deer park and manor house here named "St Auderies Park".  For those on short walking days West Quantoxhead provides a quiet overnight option part way through the Quantock section of The Coleridge Way. A tiny hamlet with only a few houses, it sits on a ridge with sweeping views from forestry at the lip of the Quantocks across the wide planes to Minehead and Exmoor in one direction and over the coast at Watchet as far as Wales in the other.

It’s a glorious very English vista with the tall church of St Ethel Dreda holding position below the ridge way surround by green pasture and woodland. An impressive place to explore on an evening stroll with its English Oak roof and gargoyles. This replaced the former medieval church which was entirely rebuilt in 1856 though the shaft of a cross from the original building in the churchyard along with the Norman font and a stone coffin are still here. Evening meals are provided here at The Windmill Inn which also has rooms though there is a fine B&B option close by for those who prefer this.

Bicknoller

Bicknoller (meaning Bica’s Alder Tree) sits in the shadow of the Quantocks right on The Coleridge Way route and it offers a sheltered and unspoilt overnight in what is probably the Quantocks' prettiest village. It has a huddle of thatched cottages set in little lanes around its lovely Church of St George. The latter is just off The Coleridge Way route and well worth a look, framed as it is by the heather and gorse covered Quantocks behind its 12th Century Tower decorated with a variety of gargoyles, angels and rather spooky animal heads, known as Hunky Punks in Somerset. In the grounds you will find a huge ancient yew tree (used for making bows and arrows, said to be over 1,000 years old) and the old village stocks sit underneath this.

If you stay you will be joining a vibrant rural hamlet who run their own excellent village shop and when not doing this can be found in the much loved 16thCentury Bicknoller Inn. A classic Somerset Thatched Inn known affectionately here as “The Bick” this place has stone floored bars with wood burners or open fires, a restaurant serving excellent food  and you can even pass the evening  in time honoured fashion in the adjoining Skittle Alley or on a warm summers night head to the outdoor Boules Piste. For those who prefer a lonely wander before dinner and the chance to spot some deer you can head to the ancient Iron Age earthworks of Turks Castle and Trendle Ring which are just outside the village on the lower Quantock slopes or if the legs are not up to it just sit in the cobbled courtyard area and gaze up at the hills over your cider.

Williton

Nestled in the centre of the wide plane between the Quantock and the Brendon Hills and on a ridge overlooking the coast is the small town of Williton which provides a good range of facilities for the Coleridge Way Walker. Around 1 mile off the Coleridge Way the village is accessed using the Macmillian Way trail via the gentle wooded valley of the Donniford Steam with its old mill house and pastoral field systems.

At one time administered by the Knights Templar, Williton has always been an important stop over for travellers due to its location,  sitting at the junction of routes from Taunton and Bridgwater to what was the Royal Hunting Estate on Exmoor. In times past your fellow travellers would have been the full Kings Party of Royal Hunters, dogs, falcons and keepers. By the 17th Century it was the pivot for the Toll Roads and coaching routes from London. Its church of St Peter dates back to the 13th Century and is well worth looking around.

Today with a population of around 3500 its one of the largest places on the Coleridge Way route and as such the town itself has a good range of facilities for walkers with a supermarket, several pubs and shops and accommodation options ranging from simple B&B’s to more lavish Country Houses as well as a thatched Inn - the popular Masons Arms. There are also several options for evening meals in the local Inns as well as the Bengali Spice Indian restaurant if you want a bit of variety.

Williton can make a good option for taking a day out and further exploring as it sits right on the restored West Somerset Steam Railway line and you can take a nostalgic visit back to the days of steam visiting the fully restored station buildings and signal box on the east side of the town. If you take a rest day here then a superb option is to catch the steam train to explore the medieval town of Dunster with its huge castle and old Yarn Market.

Closer, only a couple of miles and also accessible by steam or bus is the 12th Century remains of the Cisterian Abbey at Cleeve. An impressive grade one listed monument maintained by English Heritage this is said to be the finest example of monastic cloister buildings in the UK – look out for the Angel Roof in the monks refectory and unique wall paintings in the painted chambers. Well worth making the effort to reach and if you like to keep off the main tourist trails this is something those rushing through to Exmoor by car never get to see.

An easy 2 miles to the coast (or another steam train ride) gets you to the ancient harbour town of Watchet south of here where you will find the iconic statue of Coleridges Ancient Mariner complete with “that” Albatross glaring over the little harbour he departed from in The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner. There is a good museum here, fossil hunting on the beach, unusual independent shops and some good eating options all easily accessible from Williton in a lively and unique ancient port.

Finally whilst it may only appeal to those of a certain age, one of the countries most bizzare museums lives at Williton - The Bakelite Musuem being a homage to nostalgia for all things…well Bakelite – the precursor to plastic from the early 20th Century - not just the art deco radios and TV’s piled high here but real oddities like the Bakelite Caravan and even a Bakelite Coffin! It’s a surreal visit for those who take it on !

Monksilver

A classic Somerset village set on the edge of the picturesque valley between the Quantock Hills and the Brendon Hills, Monksilver sits at the entrance to Exmoor National Park. A former centre for Cloth production and Clock Makers today the total population is less than a hundred people. The village was recorded as far back as the Domesday Book, its name a corruption of the Latin for Monk's Woodland reflecting its position beneath the shadow of the steep forested slopes of Bird Hill the first of the Brendon Hills.

In the centre of the village just off the Coleridge Way and designated as a Grade I listed building is the fascinating square towered church of All Saints. Dating back to the 12th century its listed in the Doomsday Book and is famous for hosting the marriage of Sir Francis Drake and his second wife Elizabeth Sydenham. Spot the great yew tree in the churchyard planted in 1770 by the local blacksmith. Inside below the 13th Century wagon vault roof are a Jacobean screen and pulpit.

Hub of the village today is the revamped Notley Arms Inn, a traditional country inn dating back to the 19th Century, providing a peaceful overnight stop for Coleridge Way walkers with its huge open fireplaces, locally sourced food and a fine beer garden by the bubbling stream in which you can try a range of real ales and local ciders. Peaceful, relaxing and as far off the tourist trail as you can get!

Stogumber

This village of around 600 people is a real gem and our favourite on The Coleridge Way Walk. The name is a corruption of Stoke meaning Dairy Farm and the Gunner family.  It’s a mile or so off the route but sitting in a vale between the Quantocks and Brendon’s it’s been well hidden from the world and is truly unspoilt. Accessed from the Coleridge Way via an ancient sunken track, you then drop off the ridge into its array of colourful thatched cottages that stretch up the village hill to the focal point at the welcoming White Horse Inn. The village still has its own tiny shop and the impressive St Mary's Church with its rather ghostly triangle of grass where many of the village were buried together in a common grave during a plague. Elsewhere as you wander through the village you are surrounded by unusual colour-washed and thatched properties, former mills and shops,  a row of alms houses that date to around 1760 and a restored Tithe Barn. Stogumber was famous for its ale, made with the help of a mineral spring in the village and advertised as 'good for the clergy and others with weak lungs.'  The White Horse houses walkers along with another B&B in the village and the popular bar still serves up wholesome food and ale to this day for those arriving off the Coleridge Way.

Roadwater

Roadwater is a sheltered and pleasant place for the night, sitting in one of the Brendon’s deep wooded valleys at the junction of streams. Its a quiet overnight spot with walker friendly rooms at the pub The Valiant Soldier and despite its remote location Roadwater is quite a thriving place with a very good village shop and an active Community Hall.

Roadwater prospered during the 18th Century when several mills set up along the Washford River, one of which survives at Manor Mills. The boom time came during the 19thCentury when the West Somerset Mineral Railway was built through the valley to carry out iron ore from the higher Brendon Hills above at Raleigh Cross Mine out to the coast at Watchet. You can still see signs of the railway in the village, the old station still exists now a private house and some of the old goods sheds still stand, although the tracks were lost when they were requisitioned by the War Office in the First World War for use in the war effort! Getting the ore out of the hills was a real feat of engineering and part of the line was so steep that one section was cable operated from a winding house.  It may have disappeared now but the echoes of the past are still here however with the active Mineral Line Club based at the village hall.

Leaving the village on the Coleridge Way watch out for the disguised World War 2 pillbox made to look like a garden summer house where underneath its pitched roof cover you can still see the gun slits, although one would suspect that if the enemy had got as far as this remote and peaceful hamlet then the war would have been pretty much over!

Wheddon Cross

The Moorland village of Wheddon Cross and its adjoining sister hamlet of Cutcombe (Cuda’s Valley) occupies a spot on the Coleridge Way that has been a travellers resting point for centuries. This is officially the highest village in Exmoor National Park at nearly 1000 ft and you are very aware of the looming horizon that is Dunkery Beacon and Exmoor’s highest point which looks down on you wherever you are in the village whilst below runs the deeply wooded Avill Valley. It's this landscape that is said to have provided the line from  "All things bright and beautiful" that runs  "The purple headed mountain, the river running by"

Its location owes much to the turnpike that was built here in the 1820’s on a high level route for travellers and those driving livestock between Dunster and Taunton and a cattle market still operates to this day. In fact the church here suggests a much older history and actually dates back to the Norman Conquest and is listed in the Doomsday Book (1086). Today the village has a different feel to those on the rest of the walk, much more an isolated moorland crossroads, open and spacious as opposed to the usual tightly packed hidden valley hamlets.  It provides several excellent options for the weary Coleridge Way walker with one large coaching inn and two guest houses one of which can also provide evening meals and cream teas if booked in advance (though we doubt you will need the moorland hairdresser at this point). The village has an excellent shop with and ATM and Post Office.

A sleepy place and one to rest in before the climb onto Exmoor though if you are here in the early Spring you will find the nearby Avill Valley (which the Coleridge Way travels through) hosts thousands of visitors who come to see its famous Snowdrop Valley when hidden wooded riverbanks just below the moor come alive with literally carpets of the white snowdrop.

Porlock

The original end of the Coleridge Way before the 2015 extension to Lynmouth,  Porlock provides the largest habitation on the route before Lynmouth  and the most enticing winning the award in 2009 with good reason as the most beautiful village in Somerset.  Surrounded on three sides by Exmoor National Park the village occupies a sheltered position looking out over the marshes to a big blue Bristol Channel and as such really does feel like the trailend.

Long a favourite for walkers the village has plenty of B&B’s, tea shops and atmospheric Inn’s, such as The Ship on Porlock Hill which dates back to the 12th Century. Wandering around you will also find a host of local crafts, art galleries, the occasional walking equipment outlet and plenty of unusual independent shops, selling everything from second hand books to Somerset cheese. Its also home to Miles tea and coffee blenders and roasters where you can finish the walk by trying out its range of blends.  A rather strung out village with a never ending mix of everything from old thatch cottages, to Georgian, Edwardian and even rather Gothic style properties you will arrive on one of the narrow medieval back paths that all seem to lead to the Church of St Dubricius. The pleasant church is well worth a look with its unique squat steeple in a magnificent setting framed under the backdrop of the Exmoor foothills.

Its not just Coleridge that is in evidence here from the Literary world, you are now in the land of Lorna Doone, this being R D Blackmore’s location for his tale of the moorland clans of Exmoor and those staying here can walk or ride into the remote Doone Valley to find out more.  If you are staying overnight take a short wander after dark, the village and its surroundings have just been made one of Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserves in recognition of its lack of light pollution and excellent night skies.

For those short on time by far the best option is to wander the mile or so down to the sea at Porlock Weir a timeless little harbour with a 12th Century Inn on the coast below the village. You can return via the salt marshes created when the high shingle embankment was breached by the sea in the 1990s, the area alive with little egrets, spoonbills, hen and marsh harriers. At low tide you can also find the remains of a submerged prehistoric forest on the shoreline.

Porlock with all its facilities is well worth an extra night and The South West Coast Path which joins you here is superbly dramatic in either direction. West you can walk to the gorges of Lynmouth  (“Little Switzerland” to the Poets) via tiny Culbone church said the smallest church in England and only accessible on foot. Go east and you can head back, over the impressive hogs back cliffs at the point the moor falls into the sea, to reach Minehead. There is a walkers bus service in season allowing you to walk either way and easily catch the bus back for a second night in Porlock or of course we can arrange accommodation in the next location as usual.   

If its a rest day you need however then this is a great place for one with everything you need to rest up and recuperate in a stunning village at the foot of the hills.  If you still have energy, you can visit the remains of the hill fort at Bury Castle,  visit Greencombe Gardens or Dovery Manor Museum, a medieval manor house housing a museum of local history. You could of course get another day on Exmoor but this time let someone else take the strain by using one of the riding and pony trekking options close by.

Optional Extra Day Coast Walking from Porlock

One other option to get a bit of coastal variety to your walk is to take one of the regular buses to Minehead which take around 15 minutes and then walk back to Porlock for a second night to enjoy the first 9 miles of The South West Coast Path, a superb introduction to the trail and the coastline. CLICK HERE to read about the walking and ask us to build this into your itinerary.

Porlock Weir

Porlock Weir, The Coleridge WayPorlock Weir is a quite magical place, a tiny 15th Century harbour just off the Coleridge Way at one end of Porlock Bay, cloaked inland by steep, imposing dark forest. It sits at the end of a flat, five mile section of shingle ridge and saltmarsh - the Porlock Levels, a haven for wildlife and for birdwatchers. To the west, the hamlet marks the start of a wild and uncomprimising section of coast path and coastal forest that stretches all the way to Lynmouth with no facilities for the next 12 miles.  The name comes from the long lost practice of driving rows of wooden poles (or weirs) into the mud to trap migrating salmon at high tide.

So Porlock Weir has a kind of outpost feel to it, yet the harbour itself has a beautifully open and spacious aspect, looking out over the wide waters to Wales ahead, whilst its scattering of historic buildings and fishing boats give it an untouched air. Its location is of key significance throughout history. There has been a port here for over 1000 years and indeed the Danish were landing here as far back as 86AD. The harbour's heyday was during the Industrial Revolution when coal was landed from Wales and pit props for the mines were sent back in return, cut from the forests behind the village.

A small flotilla of yachts and boats seem to be always at berth here waiting for the next tide and the tidal harbour sits surrounded by a rough granite quay with huge impressive sealock gates. Facilites despite its size are very good for the overnight walker with one smart hotel overlooking the Quay, a small thatched inn providing B&B and a "restaurant" with rooms all three offering a choice of evening meals. Little rows of iconic and charming Grade II listed fishing cottages date back to the 17th Century and past seafairing traditions, known locally as Turkey Island and Gibralter Cottages.  At dusk the place is at its best with only a few residents and overnight visitors left and a walk along the shingle ridge in the sunset is a great end to the day and if the tide is right out you can spot the stumps of a petrified prehistoric forest left in the shifting mud and sands.

It really is just very restful here with only a pub, harbour office and a couple of restaurants, there is a tiny boatyard museum and the Harbour Gallery and Cafe a fine establishment which showcases work from local artists and craftspeople.

Enjoy !

Brendon

The first village you reach having crossed the border into Devon on the Coleridge Way, Brendon is set in a pleasing position along the banks of the rushing River Lyn at the point it leaves the moors to enter Gorge Country.

History tells us of the Brendon Valley being a wild and lawless place (hence the Lorna Doone links) and Brendon 300 years ago was little more than a rather rugged outpost as high up the valley as most people would venture. Today having followed the trails of woodsmoke from the ridge descend the steep hillsides to drop into Brendon where you will find it actually holds a rather tranquil spot strung along a narrow strip of green river pastures below the high moors around it.

The Staghunters Inn is the centre of a village that today only holds around 150 residents –The Inn is certainly authentic Exmoor and the relics of the areas hunting culture hang on the walls,  yet it’s a friendly place famous for its regular live folk nights it comes alive once a year as the location for the Exmoor Folk Festival. The Guardian newspaper places it in its top 10 pubs in North Devon and Exmoor and those staying here will enjoy a night with the locals eating local meat and game washed down with Exmoor Ale. There is little else in the village but then this is part of its charm – you can still see find the old high arched medieval packhorse bridge that crosses the river here but the parish Church is actually around 750 feet above the hamlet and quite a feat of engineering, constructed in 1738 from stones from the former church at nearby Cheriton which were moved over the valley here - worth the climb if you want to build up an appetite before that game pie!

Lynmouth

                    “We will go on a roam to Linton and Linmouth, which if thou camest in May will be in all their pride of woods and waterfalls, not to speak of the august cliffs, and the green ocean, and the Vast Valley of Stones all of which live disdainful of the seasons or accept new honours only from the winter's snow."

-  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lynmouth, The Coleridge WaySo Lynmouth marks the end of the Coleridge Way route – but for many its just the start of the next adventure as this town is a walkers hub for Exmoor sitting at the junction of The Two Moors Way, the South West Coast Path and the Tarka Trail long distance walking routes. Its signficance and its popularity with walkers is reflected in the town being awared its Walkers are Welcome Award who refer to it as the 'Walking Capital of Exmoor' and its got a superb range of facilities and walking routes so is well worth an extra night at the end of your walk. 

You can view loads of information on how to spend your time here including details on over 40 Lynmouth based walking routes on the Walkers are Welcome Lynmouth website at www.lyntonwalks.co.uk

Lynmouth is where Gorge Country meets the sea and its stunning vistas have been enjoyed by travellers for centuries. A  town christened “Little Switzerland” by early 19th Century visitors who were prevented from taking their European 'Grand Tours' due to the Napoleonic Wars. Lynmouth reminded them of their beloved Alps and the likes of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blackmore and Shelly (who spent his honeymoon here in 1812) gave Lynmouth its status amongst the Romantic Poets and their followers. For the artist Thomas Gainsborough the deep wooded gorges, bays and rocky outcrops made Lynmouth “The most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can boast” and its true that there are stunning, dramatic and varied views whichever way you walk out of the town. A strong Victorian and historical feel remains around the place with its promenades, tiny stone harbour and the ingenious cliff railway - ride on this piece of history to visit the upper leafy and lofty part of the town which peers out over the ocean at Lynton.

Valley of the Rocks near Lynmouth, The Coleridge WayAt the end of its 51 miles the Coleridge Way has a short official extension from the harbour at Lynmouth to the nearby Valley of the Rocks – a magnificent spot with its herds of wild goats, towering cliffs and the restored 19th Century Poets Shelter which sits at the head of the dry valley overlooking this coastal drama. It's a fitting end to the Coleridge Way to quietly wander to this before your evening meal and look west to watch the sun set whilst reflecting on your long journey here from Nether Stowey.

Lynton sits high above Lynmouth on the steep valley ridge overlooking the sea and the two sections are linked by a snaking wooded cliff side footpath for the fit or that ingenious Cliff railway for the less able ! Built for £8000 in 1890 the railway is operated with a cunning counterbalance using water piped up the cliffs from the West Lyn River – it may be a simple feet of engineering but its proved far more reliable than the mainline railways at any rate!

There are excellent facilities for walkers with a good range of accommodation from basic B&B's through to hotels and luxury inns and you can choose between staying down in the harbour at Lynmouth or high up in the lofty heights of Lynton. There are plenty of restaurants and inns providing food along with art and craft shops and for onward travel take bus links to the train line at Barnstaple and during the summer season back along the South West Coast Path route to Minehead where you can switch to depart by steam railway for Taunton.

Rest Days in Lynmouth

Aside from the Poets Shelter and Valley of the Rocks there is plenty to do in Lynmouth with an extra day.

At the foot of the Cliff Railway is the excellent National Park Visitor Centre in the old Pavilion which is well worth visiting as it's a mine of information on the area and its history with changing displays as well as the Pavilion Dining Rooms Cafe directly overlooking the tiny stone harbour and beach.

The Lyn and Exmoor Museum can be found in the towns oldest surviving cottage whilst in the Memorial hall you will find a moving and permanent display on Lynmouth's devastating natural disaster. Overnight in August 1952 after huge rainfall on the moors the three gorges combined into a deadly torrent of ninety million tonnes of water that crashed into the lower town destroying over 100 buildings, sweeping cars and bridges out to sea. Thirty four locals lost their lives that night and 420 people were made homeless. The exhibition includes a scale model of the village before it was destroyed along with many poignant personal accounts, photos, as well as material on the recent theory following a BBC investigation that it may have been the result of cloud-seeding experiments by the RAF that were going on over southern Britain a few days earlier.

Head to the harbour for a boat trip to see the stunning cliffs and hog back peaks from the water or take a stroll back inland on river walks, past thundering waterfalls on alternative routes, including the Two Moors Way over the Combes back to the National Trust's woodland tea rooms at Watersmeet

Extra Walking Day Options

Lynton The Coleridge WayFor a longer walk a crafty plan is to let us transfer you up onto the high moor at Simonsbath  - a moorland village around 10 miles away and you can then return on a glorious descent from the heights of Exe Head all the way back down to sea level, passing through every stage of the Moor from the heather uplands to the deep gorges on one glorious downhill romp! On route you will pass the source of the mighty River Exe, the ancient Hoar Oak Tree and the snaking ridge top Cleaves Trail above the thundering East Lyn Gorge. Its the best day on the whole week long Two Moors Way walk which is why we think its a 'sneaky option' to add on to the Coleridge Way as its easy to fit this one in with an extra day at Lynmouth – just ask and we can tell you more! CLICK HERE to read about the walking day.

If you want to see the best of the coastline before departing then you have immediate access onto The South West Coast Path here and you can have a transfer to the beach-side village of Combe Martin to walk over the highest point on the whole 630 mile trail at Great Hangman. This imposing humpback is topped with a lonely cairn at 318m (1043ft) and the reward if you climb over it is the best view over Exmoor and the Bristol Channel yet.  We can transfer you out to the pretty village of Combe Martin to walk back to Lynmouth (around 13 miles if you want a full day's walk) OR drop you halfway at the famous Hunters Inn which sits at the head of v-shaped Heddons Valley, a steep sided glacial forested gorge that sits around 6 miles out of Lynmouth. Both routes will take in the Valley of the Rocks as you re-enter Lynmouth - click here to read about the walking day to Combe Martin and Heddons Valley.

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