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Quantock Hills

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The Quantock Hills, situated in the county of Somerset in southern England, were the first place in the country to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956. The area is characterised by maritime heathland and hosts outstanding scenery and important habitats. Located west of Bridgwater, the hills cover an area 12 miles by 4 miles and include green woodland, farmland and valleys alongside small hamlets and villages.

Quantock Hills

The Quantock Hills are classic walking country with many desirable routes across the heathland, such as the Coleridge Way, a 36-mile trail that begins in Nether Stowey and crosses through the Hills to Porlock on the north Devon coast. The route was named after the writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived in Nether Stowey in the late 18th century. The Quantock Greenway footpath follows two loops and covers 37 miles of varied and scenic landscapes. Also running through the area is the Macmillan Way West route. Part of the Hills has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and wildlife is abundant. Amphibians, reptiles, birds such as the nightjar and pied flycatcher and mammals like the red deer all call the Hills their home.

Other activities in the region include cycling and horse riding. Those looking for a more gentle way of exploring the countryside can ride the West Somerset Railway, which travels 23 miles along the edge of the Quantock Hills from Bishops Lydeard to Watchet and on to Minehead.

Evidence of previous residents is rife throughout the Hills and take the shape of Bronze Age round barrows or burial chambers (a good one to visit is Thorncombe Barrow) and Iron Age hill forts like those at Dowsborough and Ruborough. Later invasions by the Romans have left their mark on the landscape at places like Dunster Castle and Stowey Castle at Nether Stowey.

The region is rich in cultural references and legacies. Coleridge's activity in the area is likely the most well known. Coleridge Cottage in Nether Stowey is where the poet wrote some of his most famous works, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. The cottage is now managed by the UK's National Trust and is open to the public. Other notable figures who spent time in the area are William Wordsworth, who lived at Alfoxton House in Holford in the late 18th century, and Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who honeymooned in Holford as well.

Other places of interest in the area are Quantock Lodge, a 19th-century mansion in the village of Aley that is built of a greenish-grey stone called cockercombe tuff, and the 13th-century Church of St Mary in Kingston St Mary.

The area is easily accessed by the M5 motorway and a short drive from the south west hubs of Bristol or Exeter. Accommodation in the forms of bed and breakfasts, self-catering cottages, hotels, or camping and caravanning are all easy to find, and there are a number of options close to the Coleridge Way for those wishing to walk their way through the Hills. 

 


 


 


 

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