A GUIDE TO SOMERSET
Looking for the best walks or cycle trails in North Somerset? Fancy an adventure across the Quantocks, the Blackdown Hills, or Exmoor? Maybe you’d like to explore our peaceful villages, or some of the bustling rural towns?
The Carew Arm’s Guide to Somerset gives you the inside scoop. A single source of local knowledge to help you plan your visit.
Along the way, we will cover walks and trails, with something fascinating to discover at every turn. Immerse yourself in Somerset’s diverse history. Relax, enjoy the beauty and breathe in the purest, freshest air in the country.
From our home in the wonderful historic village of Crowcombe, we offer all the detail you need for the perfect trip. In the west is the charming market town of Barnstaple. South west is our county town of Taunton, home to the Somerset County Cricket Ground. East takes us across the Somerset Levels to mythical Glastonbury. North, we visit the delightful cathedral city of Wells, Cheddar Gorge and the spectacular Wookey Hole.
There really is something for all the family and we look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful part of the world. We know you’ll love it.
Around Watchet – Much More To Offer Than Just A Safe Harbour
Watchet and the surrounding area really does have something for everyone, indoors and out. The only thing you might have trouble with is fitting it all in the same day! Still, it’s just down the road from the Carew Arms, you can always go again.
The delightful small town of Watchet sits on the coast just six miles from The Carew Arms – depending on the route you take, there are a couple of interesting diversions along the way.
Take the main A358 towards Williton and Watchet but turn through Bicknoller until you come to Staple Plain. Here you’ll find an easy, dog-friendly walk that takes about an hour. You’ll climb gently up Beacon Hill from where you get fabulous views across the hills, moorland and the Bristol Channel. Look to your left and you’ll see Watchet not far along the coast.
Orchard Mill. Here you’ll find the famous Bakelite Museum. Bakelite was the fore runner of plastic, and you’ll be amazed what it was used for. This is possibly the world’s largest collection, well worth a visit.
If stately homes are your thing, then Orchard Wyndham is a hidden gem. Advance booking is essential as each tour is personally guided.
It’s time to head towards Watchet again, but we won’t get there just yet. At Washford Cross, where the A358 meets the main Minehead to Bridgewater road, you’ll find Tropiquaria. Once a BBC transmitting station, this unusual 1930s building is now home to a fascinating small zoo and aquarium.
Watchet – An Inspired Idea
So finally, to Watchet itself, a safe harbour for fishermen for centuries, and now a popular marina too. You can take sea fishing trips from here (booking required).
Walking down the Esplanade, alongside boats and yachts of all shapes and sizes, you’ll come across an impressive bronze statue of an old sailor clutching an albatross. This is “The Ancient Mariner,” here because Samuel Taylor Coleridge was inspired to write the famous poem after walking to Watchet from his home at nearby Nether Stowey.
A little further along, culture continues in the shape of “Contains Art”. Three former shipping containers have been converted into a small gallery and four studios. You can often see artists working and there are events throughout the year.
So Much To See…
For a small town, Watchet has a surprising amount to offer. Not far from “Contains Art” is the local boat museum, packed with artefacts relating to vessels used along this coast.
Then there’s Watchet Station on the historic West Somerset Railway. You can catch a train from here to Crowcombe Heathfield, just a mile or so from our pub (timetable permitting). Fun Fact: Our wooden benches and tables in our front bar we’re given to us in the 1960’s from the station.
In the centre of town is Watchet Museum, a treasure trove of local history. Of course, there are tempting shops, plus numerous places to rest your legs and have a cup of tea – or something stronger.
Something for the kids: Pop into Doniford Farm Park. Entry to the farm and animal enclosures is free. However, they do ask for donations. There’s indoor play area with bouncy castles (small charge to use them) so the weather can’t spoil your fun! The large tearoom also has a collection of toys so you can relax and enjoy some homemade food.
The delightful town of Glastonbury lies almost due east of Crowcombe, an easy hour’s drive along the A39 that runs practically from our doorstep, right into Glastonbury centre.
If you’ve never visited before, it’s a good idea to set aside any preconceptions. Glastonbury Festival grabs all the headlines, but Worthy Farm is actually at Pilton village, 7 miles away. For one long weekend every year it has tremendous impact, but for the remainder of the year Glastonbury is a very different, much quieter, and all together charming place to visit. There’s an enormous amount to see…
Whatever else you do in Glastonbury, you really ought to climb the Tor. For the Celts it was the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Faeries. Others say it’s the Isle of Avalon, home to King Arthur and The Round Table. Christians built the now ruined St Michael’s Chapel. It takes about half an hour, and it’s pretty steep, but the views from the top are spectacular. When you’re up on the summit it’s easy to see why this is a place of myth and legend.
In Search of Gog and Magog
If you fancy an interesting cross-country walk, go in search of the old oaks. They’re better known as Gog and Magog – two ancient trees that have stood for around 2,000 years. Unfortunately Gog went up in flames on April 27th and has been visibly damaged, but it’s still standing!
The trail starts at the foot of the Tor (there are maps available online, or at the Glastonbury Town Hall). The walk is not difficult, but we’d recommend decent shoes or boots as you’ll be leaving the paved walkways and crossing fields. You can also ramble through Norwood Park and along Stone Down Lane, where the hedgerows are at least 100 years old.
The Abbey and The Somerset Rural Life Museum
The whole area is steeped in history, and Glastonbury Abbey is another fine example. It’s believed to have been founded in around AD43 when the Romans conquered Britain. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have visited.
It was extended by a Saxon king, and later an Abbot who went on to be Archbishop of Canterbury. It was enlarged by the Norman conquerors, suffered terrible fire damage at the end of the 10th century, and was almost destroyed by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Today it’s not just a place of tremendous beauty, but also of entertainment and education.
Learning about the region’s history continues at the Somerset Rural Life Museum, which houses a fascinating insight into the way people lived and worked across the centuries. You’ll find it in the superb 14th Century tithe barn that once belonged to the Abbey.
Chalice Well and The White Spring
There’s nothing quite like the peace and tranquility of an English garden, whether in the sculpted formality of a stately home or the natural charm you’ll find at the Chalice Well.
A visit at any time of the year will be rewarded with the quiet serenity that stems from a life-giving watercourse that has flowed continuously for thousands of years. On some evenings – particularly around equinoxes, solstices and other holidays – there are poetry readings, or music, so it’s worth checking beforehand.
The White Spring is yet another Glastonbury treasure – one that has been a place of pilgrimage for millennia. After the open feel of the Chalice Well, this is quite a contrast. The candle-lit interior is a cool, meditative space with acoustics that attract occasional guitar or drum players. Many bring water bottles to fill, to take away the restorative waters the White Spring provides.
The Avalon Marshes
There’s so much to discover in Glastonbury it’s easy to overlook the surrounding area, but if you like walking or cycling there’s plenty more to explore. Trails and cycle ways criss-cross the marshes and Shapwck Heath, just a few miles to the west, is home to a fabulous nature reserve.
But that’s just one of the highlights. We haven’t mentioned all the delightful shops in the town of Glastonbury or, when you’re in need of a brief rest, the tempting cafes, pubs and restaurants.
It’s a lot to fit into one day, but back at the Carew Arms you can relax in comfy surroundings, get a refreshing drink, and discuss your adventures over a delicious dinner.