Watchet is small harbour town on the Somerset Coast fifteen miles north of Taunton. It lies at the mouth of the River Washford and overlooks Bridgwater Bay. The Quantock Hills rise to the southeast of the town and Exmoor National Park is not far to the west. Watchet is steeped in history and literary connections particularly with the poet Coleridge and his most famous poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. The coast is varied and interesting around the harbour town, with strange looking rocks which hold fossils of prehistoric animals. When the tide is out you’ll see the bands of limestone that have been eroded by the sea into wave patterns on the sea bed. The cliffs around the bay have yielded an interesting array of fossils. Watchet is a welcoming seaside town with plenty to keep you occupied. The narrow streets appear to have changed very little and it still has the feel of a traditional fishing community. Pubs, cafes and restaurants provide a good choice of eateries.
History & Heritage Trail
Watchet can trace its history back to Celtic times and the legend of Saint Decumen. St Decumen’s Church sits on the site of a pre-Christian church above Watchet where a spring of fresh water dedicated to the Saint still runs. Literary links include Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Daniel Defoe is said to have been fascinated by the fossils and geology of the bay at Watchet. Explore the area via the Watchet Heritage Trail which includes a tour of the harbour and the oldest part of the town where past industries included cloth manufacture, foundries, saw mills and paper mills.
Watchet’s Market House Museum is housed in the terracotta building near the esplanade. Displays detail the town’s history and the museum hosts a variety of events and talks throughout the year. Watchet Museum is open daily from Easter weekend to the end of October. Watchet Boat Museum tells the story of Flatners – a traditional double ended boat used widely in Somerset. There are examples of the boat, artefacts, photographs and charts. The museum is housed in the Old Goods Shed built in 1862 next to the railway.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Wordsworth claimed that Coleridge was inspired to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on a walk through the Quantocks with himself and his sister in the spring of 1798. Other claims are that he was inspired while visiting Watchet or that Watchet Harbour is the port from which the Ancient Mariner set sail. Either way there is a strong connection between Coleridge, Watchet and the Quantock Hills in Somerset. In 2003 a sculpture of the Ancient Mariner with the albatross hung around his neck was unveiled beside Watchet Harbour as a tribute to the poet. Coleridge lived in Nether Stowey (about 10 miles east of Watchet) on the western side of the Quantocks for some time.
The National Trust now own the cottage he lived in and run it as a small museum displaying some of his personal mementoes. It was here that the Rime of the Ancient Mariner was written. You can also pick up The Coleridge Way from the cottage. This is a 36 mile long distance walking trail across the Quantock and Brendon Hills, Exmoor and ending in Porlock. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is one of Coleridge’s longest poems and mixes the supernatural with the trials of deep sea voyage. Along with Coleridge’s other poems published in "Lyrical Ballads" in 1798 it is regarded the beginnings of British Romantic literature and a shift to modern poetry. It is a fantastic poem on epic proportions and is loved the world over.
Watchet Somerset Carnivals
Watchet has its own carnival usually held on the last Sunday in July. The event features a music festival weekend and a carnival procession. Watchet Carnival Club also run a Christmas Illumination Competition so you’ll find many streets and houses ablaze with lights that help to create a festive atmosphere.