To further add to your journey on the West Somerset Railway there are a number of possible places to visit or things to do that will enhance your day out.
A one way journey over the whole 20 mile length of the West Somerset Railway takes 75 to 80 minutes and groups and coach parties are welcome whether they wish to make a single journey, a round trip, travel the whole length of the route or part way.
If you are based in Minehead or the Greater Exmoor Area then the obvious destination is the County town of Somerset, Taunton. Taunton is not an ancient town, dating only to middle Saxon times but it has a rich and varied history which is reflected in the County Museum in the town centre. It is a major shopping centre and also offers a range of places to eat and drink
Close to Taunton there is Hestercombe Gardens. This is a restored formal gardens site around Hestercombe House and offers 50 acres to explore complete with water features such a lakes and cascades, tea rooms and shops. You can also appreciate the views of the Quantock Hills from another viewpoint apart from our train windows. We have an established working arrangement with Hestercombe so if you wish us to talk to them about a package for you please ring.
Beyond Taunton is the area known as the Somerset Wetlands or Sedgemoor. This the part of the county which supposedly gives it its name, commemorating the "Summer folk” who came down from the surrounding hills in the drier months of the year to graze their livestock on the Moor. Several hundred years of work has gone into drainage work but areas still flood in wet weather (and some are flooded deliberately as a control measure). This individual landscape harbours a distinctive range of wildlife. Much of the history of the people, the wildlife, crafts and industry of the Levels can be studied at the Willow and Wetlands Centre which also offers walking opportunities out into the surrounding countryside.
If you are arriving from the M5 corridor and starting out from Bishops Lydeard (where there is free coach parking) a journey over the whole length of the line will bring you to Minehead where the beach is directly across the road from the station and a left turn takes you into the town centre of this typical small British seaside town. The Old Town stands on North Hill above the modern centre and a walk along the promenade takes you to the harbour. A right turn brings you to Butlins.
For those looking for a quieter destination a possibility is to have your coach set you down at Bishops Lydeard and then drive on to meet you at Dunster Station. (As we have a legal top speed of 25 m.p.h. the driver will have no difficulty doing this while you enjoy your pink knuckle ride through the Somerset countryside. From the station it will be around five minutes on the coach to this medieval village with its Castle. Again we have a working relationship with the Castle so speak to us if you would like a combined package. We can also work with a local 3 Star Hotel, the Yarn Market, who will open their restaurant especially at lunchtime for your group so that you can enjoy a relaxing meal before exploring the village. Both packages, with Castle and Hotel, need some admin work on our part and at least a month’s lead-in to set-up.
The village of Washford offers a pair of destinations. Cleeve Abbey had its Abbey Church robbed out after its dissolution but the out-buildings are beautifully preserved and are in care of English Heritage. From the Abbey it is a 15 minute walk to the traditional Cider Farm at Torre. There you can see the art of cider making and try the product but treat it with respect. An old Somerset term for a cider hangover is "Being hammered”. Coach access to Washford station is difficult so you would do better to have your coach meet you at Watchet or Williton stations. There is coach parking opposite the Abbey entrance gate.
Watchet station stands in the middle of the ancient harbour town which in the Saxon era was important enough to attract the attentions of raiding parties of Vikings from the Bristol Channel islands. Merchant shipping ended in the 1990’s and the harbour is now a marina. The town itself is one of narrow streets with small shops and places to eat and drink. There is a Boat Museum in the former Railway goods shed and a Town Museum which traces the land and maritime history of the town.
Between Washford and Watchet its is possible to enjoy an hour-long walk along the track bed of the old West Somerset Mineral Railway which closed in the early 20th Century. The walk is between the WSR line and the Washford stream.
If you enjoy antique programmes on television (the Museum has featured in one), browsing shops or fairs, or reading the magazines this will reward your group, tracing as it does the amazing variety of uses for which this forerunner of the plastics revolution was put. Again, speak to us and we will talk to the Museum in turn. It also has a tea room and there are a number of places to eat and drink in the village (plus a small antique centre).
The two most remote stations on the line are Crowcombe Heathfield and Stogumber. Crowcombe Heathfield has attracted a number of film companies in the past. The best known title to feature a sequence there is the Beatles’ first big screen release "A Hard Day’s Night”:- the brief clip of Ringo riding a bicycle along the platform. Stogumber is cut out of a hillside and is some distance from the village it serves.
However this remoteness and the attractive scenery of the Quantock Hills in which they stand make them very attractive starting and finishing points for walking groups.