Minehead Town Guide
...a bustling town offering seaside attractions and countryside walks
Minehead is a lively town offering both seaside attractions and excitement as well as being a good place to stay whilst visiting and investigating the lovely surrounding countryside and enjoying long walks.
It is thought the name derives from the Celtic ‘Mynydd’ for mountain, possibly due to the original building of Higher Town on the slopes of North Hill. The town was damaged in 1265 by invading Welsh who were eventually repelled by troops based at the nearby Dunster Castle.
By 1380 a small port had established itself and when in 1420 Lady Margaret Luttrell, the local landowner, released funds for development, the port grew with trade to Ireland, Wales and France. As the port grew, Herring fishing also became an important trade with places as far afield as the West Indies. Daniel Defoe referred to it in 1716 as the ‘best port and safest harbour’.
As larger ports grew Mineheads trade and visitors declined until the coming of the railways in 1874.
Minehead sits on the Bristol Channel coast and is on the edge of the Exmoor National Park which makes it an ideal location for exploring the local area and beautiful surrounding countryside. It is one end of the South West Coast Path which stretches some 630 miles to Poole Harbour in Dorset. Dominated by North Hill, from which the Mendip and Quantock Hills can be seen, the town was originally made up of 3 areas, Higher Town, Quay Town and Lower/Middle Town.
Higher Town is on the slopes of North Hill up to the lovely St Michaels Church, a 15thcentury church whose tower was for years used as a beacon for passing ships due to its prominence on the hillside, which looks out over the town and a wander up Church steps between the old thatched cottages is a must for any visitor.
Quay Town sits neatly at the bottom of the hill by the harbour from where the Waverley Paddlesteamer, the last sea going paddle steamer in the world, still makes regular trips. There are a number of old fishermans cottages here and the old lifeboat house although Minehead Pier has long since gone having been taken down during World War 2 as it obscured the line of fire out into the channel.
Lower or Middle Town is now where the main street and shops are. Virtually all of this area was destroyed by the Great Fire of Minehead in 1791 and most of it can be dated from that time, although the original almshouses built by Robert Quirke in 1630 after he made a vow to God for his safe return during a storm at sea, still survive. It offers an array of shops to browse and buy a holiday memento, restaurants and cafes to re-fuel after exploration, pubs for the thirsty and the delightful Blenheim Gardens in which relax and unwind.
During a storm and widespread flooding in 1990 much of Minehead Beach was washed away. The sea defences were enhanced sometime later and new sand was imported to build a new beach which now stretches for about a mile from the Quay to Warren Point.
Things to see and do
Hobby Horse: There is a May Day tradition in which a local wears a brightly decorated horse outfit – known as the Hobby Horse - and is accompanied around the town by drums and accordions. The origins are not known exactly but it is said it comes from the hobby horse chasing off marauding Danes in the 9thcentury.
West Somerset Railway: Opposite the beach at the town end is Minehead station, one end of the West Somerset Railway, the longest preserved steam railway in Britain which was saved from extinction in the Beeching cuts of 1971. It now runs services to and from Bishops Lydeard over a 20 mile track and is a must for all visitors to take a trip and stop off at some of the 10 lovingly restored and presented stations along the route.
For more details please contact The Railway Station, Minehead, Somerset TA24 5BG 01643 704996
Horse Riding and Pony trekking: Take a ride through the wonderful surrounding countryside from one of these local stables:
Huntscott House Stables, Huntscott, Wootton Courtenay, Minehead, TA24 8RR 01643 841272
Open all seasons - For the more experienced rider
Knowle Riding Centre, Timberscombe, Minehead, TA24 6TZ 01643 841342
Open all year - All abilities welcome
Periton Park Riding Stables, Middlecombe, Minehead, TA24 8SW 01643 705970
Open all year - All abilities & ages catered for
Golf: Unwind with a round at Minehead’s golf course:
For details of visitors green fees and availability please contact:
Minehead & West Somerset Golf Club, Warren Road, Minehead TA24 5SJ 01643 702057
Holnicote Point to Point: Both the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, and Minehead Harriers and West Somerset hold point to point events here during May. Visit the point to point page for further details.
Annual RNLI Blue Anchor to Minehead raft race: Come and watch the excitement of the annual raft race held in August which covers a 5 mile course and attracts teams from across Britain. There is the main event which starts from Blue Anchor for the more serious teams and the fancy dress race which starts from the Minehead end. It is one of the largest of its kind in Britain and it all finishes with a firework display on Minehead Harbour. Further details from www.mineheadlifeboat.org.uk
Cruises from Minehead Harbour: Take a leisurely cruise on the steamship Balmoral or the paddlesteamer Waverley along the coast and visit Ilfracombe and the island of Lundy or take an evening cruise along the Bristol Channel. Further details from Minehead visitor centre 01643 702624.
South West Coastal Path: This trail is 630 miles long starting in Minehead and finishing in Poole Harbour in Dorset. Further details can be found by contacting:
South West Coast Path Team, c/o Devon County Council, Matford Lane Offices, County Hall, Exeter, Devon EX4 2QW 01392 383560
West Somerset Coast Path: As an alternative why not try the West Somerset Coast Path which links up the River Parrett trail with the Somerset end of the South West Coast Path. It is 20 miles long and passes through an area of outstanding natural beauty in the Quantock Hills.
Country Walks: See the West Somerset walks page for further details and suggestions.
Regal Theatre: The Regal is run by volunteers and puts on performances throughout the year. Why not see if there is a show running during your visit.
For further information please contact the Box Office: 01643 706430
Address: 10-16 The Avenue, Minehead, Somerset TA24 5AY
Butlins Holiday Resort: Minehead is home to one of 3 remaining Butlins Holiday Worlds, the others being Bognor Regis and Skegness, which offers various excellent entertainment for a day visitor and turns the town into a buzzing hive of activity with their large numbers of visitors. There is no need to book unless you are in a group of 20 or more and the Resort is open for day visitors from 9.30am to 6pm, with last admission at 4pm.
For further details on opening please call 0845 070 4795 or email MineheadDayVisits@bourne-leisure.co.uk
Local places of interest
Minehead is on the edge of Exmoor National Park and is an ideal base for investigating all the sites that offers. Also close by are Blue Anchor Bay, Watchet Harbour and Dunster with its magnificent castle.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015