The area around Taunton, Taunton Vale, is dotted with cider farms and ringed by the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Brendan and Quantock Hills to the west. Taunton Racecourse is just outside the town centre and has a full programme of horse racing fixtures throughout the year. For a family day out or just a leisurely way to explore West Somerset take a trip on the historic West Somerset Railway from Bishops Lydeard Station to Minehead stopping off at a whole host of Somerset villages on the way.
The Taunton Deane area is renowned for its cider farms. At one time each farm would have its own particular recipe but those making cider have reduced over the years. You can still buy cider made in the Taunton area. You'll often see roadside signs advertising locally made cider and some farms offer tours and tastings. Sheppy's Cider is one of the most well known just outside Taunton at Bradford-on-Tone. It's been a family business since 1917 and you can visit the farm and orchards to see how it's made. Either pre-book a tour or just turn up for a look around. There is also a licensed tearoom and farm shop selling ciders and apple juices or you can buy it online. Sheppy's is open all year round.
Taunton Racecourse is just outside the town, across the M5, two miles south of Taunton Centre. It is the youngest National Hunt racecourse in Britain. There is a full programme of race meetings throughout the year. You can also hold special events, weddings, parties and functions or conferences and seminars at the course.
The West Somerset Railway is an original broad gauge line on the Great Western Railway from Bishops Lydeard Station, the southern terminus near Taunton, to Minehead. The railway route runs between the Quantock Hills, Exmoor and the Brendon Hills. Historic steam locomotives, coaches and wagons are used to travel this picturesque route offering a fun day out for families and steam engine enthusiasts alike. Throughout the year the railway runs special events such as Santa Specials, dining train journeys, steam fairs, murder mystery trains and jazz and swing trips. There's also the Brunel Buffet car at Minehead station. You can organise special functions of your own such as weddings and parties or you can book groups on the to the regular services. For the real steam engine and railway enthusiasts, West Somerset Railway organise one and two day courses. You can stoke the coal engine or drive a locomotive. Courses are designed for different levels of experience as well as a taster session.
South of Taunton are the Blackdown Hills - the backdrop to the Taunton Racecourse. This is a range of heather and woodland clad hills that stretch across the border into Devon. One of the most noticeable monuments in the Somerset part of the Blackdown Hills is the Wellington monument that pokes out above the tree line above Wellington. It was built to commemorate the Duke of Wellington's victory at Waterloo in 1815. There are some pleasant walks through the woodlands up on to the common to the monument. A variety of leaflets for walks within the Blackdown Hills are available from Tourist Information Centres.