Have you been to the Quantocks yet? The UK’s best kept secret
The Quantock Hills
Have you been to the Quantocks yet? Before this year, I hadn’t. I’d barely heard of the Quantocks, and now I can’t stay away! It’s a place for great walks, good pubs, and amazing scenery. The Quantock hills are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and I can understand why. Easily accessible from Bristol, Bath, Exeter, or London for a weekend break, but offering wilderness, space, tranquillity, and fantastic views.
With the wave of stay-cationers hitting the South West this summer, it can be hard to find space but the Quantocks can offer both adventure and tranquillity.
Get your walking boots ready.
I’ve found 3 family walks that we really enjoyed. I’ve written a rough guide of where we walked, but the Quantocks are one massive walkers paradise so these are by no means the only walks nor necessarily the best ones! The place names I’ve used are all marked on the map. Dead Woman’s Ditch is easier for younger kids, and the other two were a good challenge for my 5 & 7 year olds. For older kids and teenagers, you can easily extend these loops and explore the Quantocks even more.
Grab an OS map (140) or use the OS app to navigate the footpaths as it’s easy to get lost!
Dead Woman’s Ditch
Ancient woods and a gory history
With a name like ‘Dead Woman’s Ditch’, you just know you have to visit this place! Legend has it that the ditch was named after the body of Jane Shorney was found here – brutally murdered by her evil husband. Though the facts behind the story are a little dubious, the rumours certainly add to the mysterious atmosphere of this deep, dark, moss-covered, ancient forest.
There’s a car park alongside Dead Woman’s Ditch and you can do an easy and enjoyable 2 mile walk from here.
The walk takes you through ancient, gnarled trees and out onto open moorland with amazing views across Bristol Estuary. We visited on a misty, winter day and loved the slightly spooky atmosphere of the place.
From the car park, walk along the ditch where you can discuss the gory history of the place (there’s an information board in the car park to brush up on the legend of Dead Woman’s Ditch). From there, head West and venture out onto the moor towards Crowcombe Park Gate with some of the best views of the Quantocks. It’s possible to catch a glimpse of Dunkery Beacon in Exmoor from here… though we couldn’t because of the fog!
Head north towards Wilmot’s Pool, where wild ponies often gather, before finally heading east again back to the car park.
It’s a really lovely walk and, of course, you could add extensions if you have more time.
Beautiful beeches and hilltop views
Roughly 5 miles
The boys and I did this walk on a hot summer’s day and we absolutely loved it. There were old beech trees to climb, Cairns to conquer, and streams for a paddle. Take a packed lunch and plenty of water and make a day of it.
We parked in Bicknoller and started by visiting the 1,000 year old Yew Tree in the church yard. It’s so old that it has to be held up with supports but you can walk inside the tree and the medieval village stocks are kept underneath it (for naughty children….)
We walked along the road until we joined the footpath at Quantock Moor Farm and started the climb up through Long Combe. It was quite a hike up but absolutely beautiful. The ancient beech-lined pathway is shaded and great for exploring. You can climb the trees or run up the bank to see fungi and plenty of bugs. Buzzards call overhead and you can catch glimpses of the amazing view behind you. There are free-roaming sheep and wild ponies so be careful with dogs.
At the top of the tree line we continued up to Thorncombe Barrow – an ancient burial ring which turned out to be a good picnic spot. The views were unbelievable!
We then continued on along the top of the moor towards the sea, with more beautiful views and amazing colours from the heather and gorse. We passed Bicknoller Post and headed up to find the Cairn marking the top of Beacon Hill. Heading down to Staple Plantation car park, we then winded down through the beautiful woods, along a stream to Weacombe, and then back to Bicknoller.
This is a really beautiful walk.
The best views in the South West and a pint to finish
Having eaten a large lunch at The Rising Sun, West Bagborough, we were in need of a good walk. Fortunately there’s a footpath that passes straight up past the pub and onto the hills. It’s a bit of a climb up an ancient beech-lined trackway but the views from the top are totally worth it.
We headed along the Macmillan Way West which is a great vantage point for viewing the whole of the Quantock Hills. From the Cairn we headed down Wills Neck with the most impressive wind blowing us back up the hill – the wind explained the mass of miniature hardy trees trying to grow there. Peering over the edge of ‘the neck’, we could see the beautiful Triscombe quarry lake. We then headed back along the track to The Rising Sun for a pint.