Situated in central Somerset, on the beautiful River Tone, the historic county town of Taunton is perfectly located for exploring the surrounding Somerset countryside of the Somerset Levels, Quantocks, Blackdown and Brendon hills. Dating back from Saxon times, and with a current population of over 60,000 this market town is the administrative, commercial and recreational centre for the area.
In the town centre you will find the streets lined with a good selection of shops. Every Monday in Silver Street one of the largest one day markets in the Westcountry is held, attracting over 130 traders selling a mass of antiques. On Saturday in Priory Bridge Road the Taunton market is worth a visit for more modern day items as is the Old Market Shopping Centre where you will find some major retailers.
Alternatively go to Sheppy’s Cider Centre at Bradford-on-Tone where this family run business has been making Westcountry cider for over 200 years, winning numerous awards. The Willows and Wetlands Visitor centre at Stoke St Gregory comes highly recommended too – watch the willow being made into baskets and learn about the ecology and wildlife of the Levels.
For those interested in the history of Taunton, start at the castle built c. 710, where Lord George Jeffreys, after the 1685 bloody Monmouth Rebellion, conducted the treason trials or ‘Bloody Assizes’ that became notorious for their severe verdicts.
Today Taunton Castle plays home to the Somerset County Museum which displays many collections piecing together the history of the region for visitors wanting to find out about the area. Those interested in architecture should visit the elegant Bath stone Palladian mansion Hatch Court in Hatch Beauchamp, built in 1750 and with beautiful parkland and gardens.