Dunster village in Exmoor National Park sits at the foot of its castle. Historic Dunster Castle stands atop a tor, and is a National Trust tourist attraction overlooking the medieval village centre. Dunster’s Yarn Market is another village monument – a Grade I listed octagonal shaped building with on-site working water mill, on-site tea rooms and beautiful gardens as well as a mill shop selling local produce. Dunster is also the location for one of the Exmoor National Park Visitor Centres. Beautiful Dunster Forest is home to fallow deer. It’s a perfect place for walking and cycling, with open clearings and trails.
It’s set in the grounds of the Dunster Estate, with the landmark Gallox Bridge and the impressive Cleeve Abbey. Barle Valley Safari Tours are available around the Dunster Estate and are perfect for photographers, and the Exmoor Llamas offer the chance to go llama trekking through beautiful grounds.Dunster has Walkers are Welcome status, and its surroundings are some of the most beautiful in the country. It’s also home to the Dunster Dolls Museum with a collection of over 700 dolls on display. Browse Dunster accommodation online and book your perfect place to stay.
Dunster Castle towers over the village from the hill above. In the past it was used by Saxons as a fortress to ward off Celtic and Viking raiders. The Normans occupied it for 300 years and the oldest feature that remains today is the thirteenth century gateway with its original iron-bound gates. The fourteenth century saw the ownership change to the Luttrells who ended up owning Dunster itself. You can walk round the castle and see it in its country house splendour with its antique furniture and family heirlooms. The King Charles Bedroom is said to be the most haunted room in the Castle and there’s a mysterious secret passage leading off it that you can explore! You can also take guided tours around parts of the castle that aren’t usually open to the public but you need to book these in advance.Outside Mediterranean-style terraces exhibit an enormous collection of plants from all over the world. There are several walks and trails taking you round the gardens and parkland. The gardens are also home to the National Collection of Arbutus – the Strawberry Tree – and you can take the Arbutus Walk to view them. The fruits are best seen in October-November.
Dunster Events and Festivals
Dunster is the focal point for Exmoor themed events throughout the year. The origin of the Minehead Hobby Horse Festival has been lost in history although it’s thought to have started as warding off evil Vikings or is a commemoration of the wreck of a vessel at Minehead, or a phantom ship which entered the harbour without Captain or crew. Either way the tradition can be traced back to at least 1792 when it was recorded in Dunster Castle’s ledger. The tradition continues today and on 1 May Minehead is woken by the beating of a drum. The Hobby Horse dances its way around Minehead and on up to Dunster Castle. As it makes its way back to Minehead it collects donations. The culmination of the festival is the "booty" on 3 May where tight fisted spectators can expect to be laid down in front of the horse and has to escape before the horse turns his tail on them!
Dunster by Candlelight is an annual winter festival that usually takes place on the first Friday and Saturday in December. The village is lit by candlelight only. A costumed procession weaves through the village lighting it by candle and lantern. All proceeds go to charity and many of Dunster’s shops are also open for Christmas shopping. Parking is restricted during the evenings of the festival; park and ride services are available. Farmers markets are also popular throughout the year particularly the Festive Farmers Market held in December in the Castle grounds selling local Somerset produce.