...an ancient port with a long and interesting history
A place of trade and commerce for over a thousand years, Watchet is now an active marina with plenty of attractions and the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world. Set on the coastline of the Bristol Channel and surrounded by the Quantock Hills, Brendon Hills and Exmoor National Park, Watchet is a magnificent base for short or long stays and offers an abundance of activities and events for all tastes.
Early records show the port at Watchet being plundered by invading Danes. The use was mainly small local boats for many centuries however during the English Civil War it was the place where troops for the siege of Dunster Castle were to arrive by boat. A new pier was built in the 18thcentury following severe damage caused to the original primitive one and this enhanced the use of the port for trade in wool and kelp. In the 19thcentury iron ore was mined in the Brendon hills and with the coming of the railway, where 2 lines terminated at the harbour, trade increased substantially.
The closure of the railways has led to the harbour being redeveloped into a pleasant and smart marina for pleasure boats.
Watchet is now a delightful marina and beautiful town with old buildings and narrow streets that remind the visitor of the history. A visit to the 2 museums, the Market House museum and the Watchet Boat museum, will take you through the history of the town and the types of boats used including the unusual flatner boat.
Watchet also has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world at 6 meters which makes fossil hunting around the rocky beach at low tide very enjoyable and often rewarding. It is said that Samuel Taylor Coleridge on his walks through the local countryside wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as a result of visiting the harbour. As a tribute to this a statue of the Ancient Mariner has been erected in the harbour.
The 15thcentury church of St Decumen is said to be in memory of St Decumen who travelled to Watchet on a raft from Wales with only a cow as a companion. The rood screen and wagon roof are worth viewing.
Things to see and do
Market House Museum – a trace back through the history of Watchet, the Mineral Railway and also the paper industry which was important to the area.
Watchett Boat Musem – A very interesting look at the local flatner boat and its associated items including nets, ropes and knots with activities to keep the children amused.
Holy Cross Chapel – dating from the 12thcentury although rebuilt in the 19thcentury it has links back to knights who were involved in the murder of Thomas a Becket.
Fossil hunting – with the extreme tidal range there are many fossils and spectacular fault lines to investigate.
Sea fishing – Scooby Doo Too and Seafirefishing offer sea fishing trips from the marina.
West Somerset Railway – the longest privately owned steam railway stops at Watchet on its journey from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard. Catch a train and enjoy the scenery and a trip down memory lane.
Local places of interest
Minehead – a lively seaside town with many attractions and a superb beach is only a few miles to the west
Dunster and Dunster Castle – the beautiful village with all its historic buildings and the majestic castle is within a short drive
Exmoor National Park – with its amazing scenery, wildlife and abundance of tracks and routes along which to meander, cycle or take a horse ride.
Cleeve Abbey – visit many parts of the original Cistercian abbey from 800 years ago. A must for budding historians and an interesting day out for the family too.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015