Ter­rific Taun­ton

What is it that makes Taun­ton unique? Here’s 10 of our favourite high­lights

Somerset Life - - TAUNTON 10 -

In­de­pen­dent shops: Taun­ton has a blos­som­ing in­de­pen­dent re­tail scene, from hair and beauty sa­lons, to craft shops, fash­ion stores and an ar­ray of cafés and restau­rants. Two hotspot ar­eas for in­die shops are the River­side and Bath Place, tucked away and well worth ex­plor­ing. The town is lucky to have top name chefs like Liam Fin­negan at the Cas­tle Ho­tel and Richard Guest at Au­gus­tus (which has just opened a sec­ond seafood restau­rant at the River­side). You can pick up a leaflet and map list­ing all the in­de­pen­dent shops in the Taun­ton Vis­i­tor Cen­tre.

The Mu­seum of Som­er­set: It’s worth seek­ing out this place even if it’s just to ad­mire the out­side! The mu­seum is housed in a beau­ti­ful old stone build­ing, the 12th cen­tury cas­tle off Cas­tle Green, but in­side it’s a thriv­ing, mod­ern at­trac­tion. Hav­ing un­der­gone a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment, themed gal­leries cover the his­tory of the county from pre­his­toric times. Don’t leave with­out see­ing the gi­ant’s shoes worn by a 2.2m tall gen­tle­man called Joseph Sewell – and make sure you stop for cake and cof­fee at its Cas­tle Café. Green spa­ces: Taun­ton is lucky enough to be sur­rounded by beau­ti­ful coun­try­side, from the Som­er­set Lev­els to the Quan­tocks and Black­down Hills. But it also has en­vi­able cen­tral green spa­ces like Lon­grun Meadow, Good­land Gar­den and Vi­vary Park, which is also the site for Taun­ton Flower Show; founded in 1831, it’s the long­est run­ning flower show in the coun­try. The Vi­vary Cen­tre in the heart of the park has high ropes, climb­ing walls and – for those who want to keep feet on the ground – golf. Ap­peal­ing to the young at heart, it’s great for all ages.

Hester­combe Gar­dens: A re­stored gar­den cov­er­ing 50 acres, with Ed­war­dian, Vic­to­rian and Georgian fea­tures. Once you’ve ex­plored the grounds you can en­joy a well-de­served lunch in the Sta­bles Café, then take a wan­der around the art gallery which has a se­ries of ex­hi­bi­tions through­out the year.

Cider: Ev­ery­one who comes to Som­er­set wants the cider ex­pe­ri­ence and Sheppy’s House of Cider is the place to go. As well as tours and a fas­ci­nat­ing mu­seum, which re­veal all you need to know about Som­er­set cider, there’s a farm shop sell­ing home-grown beef along with qual­ity meats, breads and cheeses, and a stylish café and bar area. There’s also the old Taun­ton Cider Com­pany a once ma­jor pro­ducer which was re­vived by a group of en­thu­si­asts in 2016.

Wil­low: Along with cider, one of Som­er­set’s most fa­mous prod­ucts is wil­low. The county’s wet­lands pro­vide the per­fect con­di­tions for grow­ing the ma­te­rial which has been used

for cen­turies to make bas­kets. Just out­side the town at Stoke St Gre­gory you’ll find Coates English Wil­low Vis­i­tor Cen­tre where you can learn all about the craft and its his­tory, as well as go on wildlife walks, buy wil­low items from the shop and en­joy re­fresh­ments at the Lemon Tree Cof­fee House.

The Brew­house: Once threat­ened with clo­sure, the Brew­house the­atre was saved by the peo­ple of Taun­ton who fa­mously held a can­dlelit vigil out­side the build­ing to show sup­port for keep­ing this val­ued arts cen­tre alive. It now has a packed pro­gramme of events, from mu­sic to per­for­mance and cinema.

West Som­er­set Rail­way; Just 20 min­utes from the town cen­tre at Bish­ops Ly­deard is the West Som­er­set Rail­way. Run­ning train trips to Mine­head, this scenic, beau­ti­ful and var­ied line is the long­est her­itage rail­way in Eng­land. There’s a host of spe­cial events and days out, par­tic­u­larly in the run up to Christ­mas when Santa takes to the rails.

Sport: Dress up and join in the fun of a day at the races. Taun­ton Race­course is in a beau­ti­ful set­ting and hosts over 15 na­tional hunt fix­tures each sea­son. The words ‘cricket’ and ‘Taun­ton’ are syn­ony­mous, which is why ev­ery­one has to spend at least one day at the cel­e­brated cricket ground. Next year will see the ICC Cricket World Cup re­turn to Eng­land and Wales for the first time in 20 years with Taun­ton at the heart of the ac­tion.

Com­ing up!: In Novem­ber there’s be the Taun­ton Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val. Or­gan­ised by Bren­don Books in Bath

Place, vis­it­ing speak­ers in­clude Dan Cruick­shank, Vic­to­ria Glendin­ning and Jenni Mur­ray

ABOVE: Sheppy’s cider farm shop

BE­LOW: Taun­ton Cas­tle

ABOVE:Brazz brasserie, Taun­ton

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