Dunster and Bat’s Castle

After a cracking day’s walking yesterday I sat down with the map to plan my route for today.  On recent visits to this site I have squeezed in a walk to include a stop at Dunster for a Cornish Pasty.  I don’t usually buy pasties or pies whilst out walking, but the Lunchbox cafe close to the Dunster Exmoor National Park Centre serves great pasties.

There are numerous ways to walk to Dunster from the site and I have done many but I tried to find a new route.  Eventually I spotted a couple of paths I couldn’t recall walking and I now have the route roughly sorted.  I say roughly sorted because I rarely keep to a set route.  If I see something interesting, or if the mood takes me, I deviate from a plotted circuit.

Today’s route is not the most direct to Dunster, but adding a couple of miles is no problem especially if it means exploring a new path in Dunster Woods.  So on leaving the site I turn left and walk uphill along the pavement besides the A39, Hopcott Road.  At the Hopcott I turn left to follow the narrow tarmac lane as it heads steadily uphill passing Higher Hopcott and reaching woodland.

I ignore footpaths leading off from the road until I reach an information board for Dunster Woods.  Now I take the path to the left of the information board and keep straight on to pass another parking area.  The path sweeps to the left and starts to descend into Long Combe.

I have walked around the top of Long Combe but never followed the path leading steadily down into the combe.  It is a cracking spot to walk.  Early in the descent I ignore two paths to the left.  It is another cracking day and the sun is shining through the trees as I head towards a junction of paths.

At the junction I turn right to descend steeply towards the stream running through the combe.  The path joins another running through the bottom of the combe and I turn left and then after a couple of hundred yards take a footpath on the right going uphill and passing the entrance to the Youth Hostel.  Very quickly I reach a way-marker showing the route of a bridleway to Alcombe Common.  I take this path into woodland.

The path leads through the trees and shrub to pass the grounds of the Youth Hostel and then reaches a junction of paths where I follow the way-marked route towards Dunster.

This clear path was apparently the medieval route between Dunster and Alcombe, it goes in a south easterly direction and crosses a couple of other paths to reach a third crossing of paths.  Here I go left on a path through a gate heading towards Dunster.  I like walking tracks that have been used for centuries, it is amazing to imagine the people that have trodden this path in earlier times and the lives they led.

The path follows the fence line of a field.  As I look back towards Minehead I can see mist rolling in from the sea.

After going through another gate the path descends through woodland to join a track which soon passes St Leonard’s Well. This medieval Holy Well is now housed in a 16th century well house.   It is thought to have supplied water to a Benedictine priory that was located a bit further down this lane and was dissolved in 1539.

I now follow this lane downhill towards Dunster with views of the Quantock Hills in the distance.

On reaching a junction with a minor road I turn left and then within a few yards turn right at the Butter Cross.  This trading post dates from the late 14th century and once stood in the High Street in Dunster.  It was the centre for a market that traded local produce.  It was originally taller and although the exact date of moving to this site is not known it is thought to have been in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s. 

I follow the path, passing a community orchard.  These local community initiatives are great ideas, not only growing produce, but also providing a community hub, thereby, tackling the issues related to social isolation.

At a minor road I continue straight on and follow this lane into Dunster arriving in the centre of the village close to the Yarn Market.  My route is to the right, but I turn left and walk the short distance to pick up a pasty at the Lunchbox Cafe by the Exmoor Visitors Centre.  In recent years this has been a regular stop on our walks through Dunster and Crosby makes it abundantly clear that he fully intends sharing my pasty!

We now head through the village to pass the octagonal Yarn Market Cross. This was originally built around 1609 by the Lutterall family, who were major landowners in the area, including Dunster Castle.  As the name suggests the Yarn Market was predominantly used for trading cloth and wool. At the time Dunster was a major centre in the wool trade.

Keeping by the road I continue through the village to pass St George’s Church and reach The Foresters Arms where I turn left into Park Street and follow this lane to reach the Gallox Bridge.  This grade 1 listed medieval packhorse bridge crosses the River Avill, at one time this was the main route into Dunster from the south. Its name derived from its proximity to the village gallows, which stood on nearby Gallox Hill.

After crossing the bridge I follow a path which heads steadily uphill in a south westerly direction.  At a fork in the path I keep left, the path keeps going uphill now in a more southerly direction to reach a gate which I go through and follow a track up to Gallox Hill.

After going over the hill the path descends to a junction of tracks, here I go straight on to ascend the hill to the Iron Age Hillfort of Bat’s Castle.  The ramparts of this hill fort are well preserved.

I am now on the route of the Macmillan Way West and I follow this over the hill towards Withycombe Hill Gate.

On reaching the tall deer proof gate I turn left to join a track, Park Lane, lined with beech trees.

As I descend towards Carhampton along Park Lane I am walking into the mist and the temperature drops significantly.

I stay with the lane as it bends to the right to head into the village of Carhampton where I turn left down the High Street to reach the A39. Here I turn right and cross the road at the traffic lights and then opposite the Butchers Arms I take a track on the left which passes the church.

Continuing down the lane I turn right at a footpath sign to walk along a field edge path. 

I stay on the footpath across a stream.  On the far side of the stream I cross fields towards the West Somerset Railway line.

I ago over a stile and then cross the railway line heeding the sign to “Stop, Look and Listen”.

On the far side of railway I join the coast path and turn left.  This path soon becomes tarmac as it heads towards Dunster Beach.

After going through a large car parking area at Dunster Beach I keep on the coast path passing chalets.

This route is part of the West Somerset Coast Path, a twenty-five mile route from Steart to Minehead.

After passing the chalets the path continues with Minehead Golf Course to the left and the beach to the right.  Once again the tide is out and there is a huge expanse of sand.

The path is easy to follow going beside the golf course to reach the car park next to the club house.

I now join the promenade and walk into Minehead.  The earlier mist has cleared and there are stunning cloud formations.

From here I wander through the residential streets of Minehead to return to the caravan site.  

You can view this 12.5 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here

To follow my walk, you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL9 – Exmoor

7th February 2023

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2023)

All information on this site is provided free of charge and in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of damage, loss or injury which might result from it.  To the best of my knowledge the routes are entirely on public rights of way or within areas that are open for public access.
Walking can be hazardous and is done entirely at your own risk.  It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.

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