With its small, sleepy towns, golden beaches, sunny weather and friendly locals, the south-west of England has been a popular destination for weekend breaks and quick getaways for the past few centuries. Because of its quiet and rural nature in comparison to more urbanised parts of the country, it’s especially popular with older members of the population.
In the south-west, your grandparents or older parents can get a better chance to relax and enjoy things at their own pace and in their own time.
Taunton in particular has made its living recently by catering to these older guests, offering a number of attractions and sites for them to enjoy. So should your grandparents ever be in the Taunton area, give them a few helpful pointers by recommending these unmissable attractions.
Take a ride on the West Somerset Railway
The age of steam trains has been highly romanticised, and many older generations retain fond memories of sitting on the banks of hills and watching them trundle by, trailed by a long tail of steam. Although most trains run on electricity now, several steam engines continue to run for nostalgic purposes as tourist attractions.
The West Somerset Railway is one such example, doubling as a steam train service and museum. As well as containing several preserved models of steam engine from the height of the steam age, it also offers rides through the idyllic Somerset countryside. A perfect opportunity to take a step back to a simpler time.
Walk the ramparts of Taunton Castle
With the oldest parts constructed as early as 710 during the reign of King Ine of Wessex, Taunton Castle was built by the Normans during the reign of King Henry I. Since then, it has watched over Taunton for nearly a thousand years, and is now open to the public as an historical attraction.
As it was a Parliamentarian fortification, Taunton Castle was spared the destruction levied against other fortifications after the Civil War, and so is remarkably well preserved. Regular tours are held to take guests around the walls and main buildings of the Castle, and events are held regularly throughout the year.
Much of the castle is free to walk around in, but be aware that some parts may be inaccessible by any means other than the stairs. Not all areas may be paved.
Recover the past at the Museum of Somerset
Taunton Castle also holds the site for the Museum of Somerset, which has been in operation for a century. Housed within the main Hall and Keep, it hosts a collection gathered over the years by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. It contains pieces and artefacts from all stages of Somersets history, from prehistoric fossils and Roman coin to medieval armour, plus uniforms and equipment from Somerset Light Infantry regiment.
The museum and the castle grounds are both free to enter, and a single disabled parking space is available if needed. Disabled guests may also be dropped off directly outside the museum. Access is provided throughout most of the structure, with ramps and lifts available. There is plenty of space between the displays, and automatic doors can be found in some areas. A wheelchair is also available if requested.
Special tours of the castle and the exhibits are offered at various times during the day and the week. Check out the website for further details.
Enjoy the serenity of Hestercombe House and Gardens
Covering over 50 acres, the historic estate of Hestercombe House and its surrounding gardens is nearly as old as Taunton itself. The earliest charters for the area date back to the 7th century, and the oldest part still standing is a stone archway dated to around 1280.
After passing hands between several families over the centuries, which brought with it numerous renovations, the house briefly served as the headquarters for the local fire department before being acquired by the Hestercombe Gardens Trust from the local council. The House and its grounds are now open to the public, where they can enjoy its extensive gardens, on-site café, and second-hand book shop.
Because it was built in an age where such concerns were not common, there are sections of Hestercombe House that are inaccessible if stairs cannot be used. However, where alternative routes can be found, they’ve been marked on the house’s guides. Level access is available for the entirety of the ground floor, which is where the restaurant and bookshop can be found.
The Gardens are, naturally, much more accessible except for certain areas. In those spots, short flights of stairs or steps may be found. Benches can be found throughout the grounds, providing plenty of spots to stop and rest.
Not all surfaces are flat, with many gravel paths, uneven flag stones, and stone steps. During wet weather these can become slippery, so make sure that sensible footwear is worn. The website also recommends bringing a walking stick, if needed.
Sample the products of Sheppy’s Cider
The award-winning Sheppy Cider is brewed locally in Taunton, and guests are free to visit the facilities and surrounding orchards. An on-site restaurant can also be found, where of course Sheppey Cider is available to buy alongside a cooked meal.
Tours around the facilities are offered throughout the year, although certain dates may be excluded due to special events. Guests are shown the orchards, press house, and rural life museum. Naturally, each tour is also concluded with a chance to sample freshly made cider that the facility produces. Special seasonal events are also offered.
Admission requires a fee, which varies depending on which tour is booked. Tables at the restaurant can also be reserved if visiting at a busy time of year.
Disabled parking bays are provided outside the site, and all parts of the facility are accessible to wheelchairs. Be advised that the upstairs seating of the restaurant can only be reached by the stairs, however plenty is offered on the ground floor. During tours, staff are always happy to assist where needed.
Are you looking for home care in Taunton? At SuperCarers we match people in need of support with home carers in their local area. Whether you need care at home for a few hours a day, or are looking for a live-in carer in Taunton, we can help you find a compassionate care professional to support you. Give us a call on 020 8629 1030 to find out more.
You may also be interested in our article about the best restaurants in Taunton for a lunch with your family.