Ilminster is one of a selection of attractive historic market towns in South Somerset and was a coach stop on the London to Exeter route. In the seventeenth century it was the fourth largest town in Somerset due to its successful cloth trade. The main street contains a good selection of restaurants, cafes and shops. The Meeting House is now an art gallery and concert hall and has a varied events programme and changing art exhibitions.
Ilminster is also on the Somerset Carnivals circuit which is not to missed in Autumn. There are plenty of countryside walks around the town including Herne Hill and the route of the old Chard Canal. Market Square is the focal point of the town centre with its colonnaded market cross and the Market House whose roof is supported by open column work. Here The George Pub was the first hotel that Queen Victoria stayed. In 1819 Princess Victoria was travelling to meet her parents in Sidmouth in Devon when she stayed here on the way down.
The Minster in Ilminster is the fifteenth century perpendicular towered church which is said to have inspired the design of Wells Cathedral. The former Unitarian Church is now the The Meeting House Arts Centre which contains galleries showcasing local and national artists. Exhibitions change monthly and there is a varied events programme including music and dance.
Ilminster is on the circuit for the Somerset Carnivals. These are usually held between September and November. It's well worth timing your visit to coincide with one of the carnivals that are held at a whole host of towns throughout the county. The Somerset Carnival tradition dates back to the 1600s when many places in Somerset commemorated the Gunpowder Plot. Street entertainment, fireworks and special events throughout the town add to the fun and carnival atmosphere.
Between Ilminster and Chard is the Old Chard Canal. This fell out of use only twenty five years after it was finished. Since it fell into disuse it has become a haven for wildlife in the ponds, woodland and scrub along the former canal route. It is now managed by Somerset Wildlife Trust and has open access. The canal is easily reach from the town centre on foot or by bicycle. Herne Hill, to the south west of the town, can be explored via a two mile nature trail. If you're visiting in Spring take a walk through the woodlands and see the bluebells that cover the slopes. Dormice and badgers are known to live here too.
Perry's Cider Mills are based to the west of Ilminster in Dowlish Wake. The cider here is made in the sixteenth century thatched barn using traditional varieties of apples. You can visit the cider farm and see how it's made as well as their Rural Museum where you can see some of the old farm machinery, tools and barrels in which the cider is matured. Naturally enough there's a farm shop for you to stock up on cider and apple related products.