Blessed with some impressive buildings boasting architecture from centuries ago, bountiful nature reserves and parks and some great sporting facilities, there’s lots to get stuck into in Taunton.
Attractions in Taunton
Castles that tell some incredible tales, a pair of stunning churches that have stood since medieval times and well-preserved workhouses from the Jacobean era, Taunton is packed full of historic buildings.
Any historic tour should kick off at Taunton Castle. Set in the heart of the town, the Grade I listed monument was founded in 1107, though other parts of the building were added during the 13th and 16th centuries. With walls up to four metres thick in places, the castle was a very sturdy repellant to any attacks, and is now home to the Museum of Somerset and the Somerset Military Museum.
St. Mary Magdalene is another incredibly old building in town. The church was formally completed in 1508, but parts of the structure date back further to 1308. Another Grade I listed building, it boasts stained glass windows dating back to medieval times and has a 50-metre-high tower that contains 13 chiming bells. Inside the church, you’ll find one of the UK’s most-prized organs, dating back to the 19th century.‘Old Father Willis,’ named after its creator, is a stunning thousand-pipe organ that sees action every Sunday for the regular church service.
Cricket fans will know the Church of St. James from Somerset home games as the 14th century church backs onto the ground. A Grade II listed building, it contains 15th century stained glass and is a well-loved church with regular events and services.
Architecture and history buffs will enjoy taking a look at Gray’s Almshouses, a row of terraced houses that date back to 1635, making them one of the oldest brick buildings in the county. A Grade I listed building, they’re currently used as flats and sheltered accommodation, but the bricks and styling tell a rich history of workhouse living.
One of the best-maintained gardens in the county, Vivary Park is packed full of activities – hop on board the train, try your hand at mini golf, feed the ducks, serve and volley on the tennis courts or just take a leisurely stroll around the carefully manicured gardens and flower beds. There’s also a very well-equipped adventure playground for kids and a set of high ropes for them to monkey around on, with the ice cream van a permanent fixture nearby in summer.
A narrow stretch of land nudged between the main shopping area, the castle and the River Tone, Goodland Garden hosts regular fetes and events and is a wonderful place for a selfie with the river and church spire in the background. The Shed café is a popular spot for lunches and coffees and offers a lovely view back across the garden.
If you’re itching to do some twitching, take the 10-mile drive from our Taunton Ruishton hotel to West Sedgemoor Nature Reserve where you’ll be able to observe dozens of bird species in their native habitat. Part of the largest wet meadow system in England, the area is home to thousands of birds including teals, mallards, golden plovers, snipe and lapwings. Guided walks are recommended to really get to grips with the ecosystem, and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the water voles and otters.
The site of Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman settlements, Cambria Farm is a fascinating step back into time with ruins dating back to the 4th century AD. The site also contains a Roman field network and cemetery, and has provided researchers with several valuable finds including flint tools, Iron Age brooches and Roman coins.
We’ve also included Hestercombe Gardens, which you can read about in full depth on its dedicated page.
St Mary Magdalene Church
If you’re having a leisurely stroll around Taunton and you suddenly see a cricket ball emerging from the sky, you needn’t fear that the cricket apocalypse is near – it’s just a well-struck six from the town-centre County Ground. Home to Somerset Cricket Club and the England Women’s Cricket Team, the Country Ground is one of the UK’s most picturesque stadiums with the River Tone on one boundary and St David’s church spire poking its way over the other stand. The season runs from April until September, with one-day, Twenty20 and four-day games held there, while England have held several international matches there in recent times. There’s plenty of on-site parking at the club on match days and also some large bike racks, while the ground is a mile from our Taunton Central North hotel and a short walk from the train station.
An integral part of the National Hunt race season, Taunton Racecourse hosts meets through the winter running from autumn to spring, with 15 meetings each season. Two miles south of Taunton, the track is a one-mile oval track with fences and ditches with the main clubhouse overlooking the action. And it’s there that you’ll find the hospitality suites, boxes, restaurants and bars meaning you can watch the horses strut their stuff in considerable style. The course also doubles up as a multifaceted event space having hosted car rallies, caravan meets, weddings, concerts and more. There is plenty of on-site parking if you’re driving to the ground and the Greyhound Inn is a well-equipped pub serving a good range of beers and pub grub.
It may be the smallest ground of the lot, but Taunton Town Football Club makes up for it with atmosphere on match day. Home to Taunton Town FC, the stadium has hosted games since 1953 and has a capacity of 2,500. The ground has four covered stands and floodlights, and is noted for its food and drink outlets. The team play their football in the seventh tier of English football in the Evo-Stik League South, and have some silverware to their name having won the FA Vase in 2001, with a strong FA Cup run in 2016/17 when they made it to the first round.