The Quantock Hills

The Quantock Hills were Britain’s first officially declared Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in 1956.

A land of ancient oaks, red deer and stunning views they might be, but the Quantock Hills must be one of the Westcountry’s most unsung locations. Whether you are a keen rambler, forager, mountain biker, photographer or simply a lover of wild places, the Quantocks are a wonderful destination. They are also right on our doorstep, making this magical place an obvious choice for a visit.

Whether you want a relaxing day away from it all or any one of several outdoor activities, you can find it here. But to start you off, here is our rough guide to the Quantock Hills, complete with some fascinating facts and ideal places to visit.

Walking

On foot, the Quantocks are a great diversion. Breaking the flatness of the Levels, the Quantock Hills add a dramatic splendour and some cracking views to Somerset walks. Various routes are available, from a short excursion to a more arduous adventure. Suffice to say, walkers of all abilities have something to enjoy. Ordnance Survey map 81 is a handy resource, but you’ll also find some great walks at Quantocks Online.

Of all the great views you can get, Wills Neck (OS Grid reference: ST165352) is the loftiest of the lot, giving a commanding view across woodlands and coast alike. Look out for the Trig Point, a pale stone structure at the top. Pick a clear day and you can see right across to Exmoor and into Dorset.

Cycling and Mountain Biking

A bike ride is a great way to experience the rolling beauty of the area. In the Quantock Hills, mountain biking or the use of all terrain bikes are very popular, whether you bring your own or hire locally. With plenty of slopes and terrain to handle, rides can be as challenging as you like, making this a good destination for all levels of riders. South West Cycle Adventure also have a handy route map.

Historic Places to Visit

The history of the Quantock Hills is rich, if a little unsung, with plenty of mystery and various sites to visit for heritage fans. Coleridge Cottage, run by the National Trust, is among the best known. It was here that the great romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge stayed and composed many of his great works, inspired by the epic scenery and deep solitude. Wordsworth was also a visitor and we can imagine the two authors of “Lyrical Ballads” sharing a Somerset cider (possibly) and talking poetry as they looked across the wide open spaces.

Of course, long before the Romantic Poets showed up, there were folks living off the land for many centuries. Among these were the Wealas tribe, who did their best to repel the Roman invaders, but perhaps inevitably took a beating. The locals can’t have been best pleased at the time, but from later discoveries we can see that life was pretty good for many; hordes of coins, mosaics and the remains of Roman villas have been discovered.

Animals and Wildlife

Once upon a time humans fashioned hand axes and kept dogs to hunt animals such as wild boars and deer across the Quantocks. The brown bears and wolves that once stalked the area might be long gone, but even in today’s Somerset the area provides a haven for many species of animals and plants. The ubiquitous ponies, sheep and red deer are commonplace, along with heady summer blooms of gorse and heather. Less common species can also be tracked down with a little ground work however, with summer sightings including rare butterflies as well as Peregrine Falcons and pied flycatchers, making this an interesting site for bird watching near Bridgwater.