A bustling market town that dates back centuries, Taunton has a rich and vivid cultural scene – from cricket museums (yes, that’s really a thing) to cider farms, carnivals and literary festivals, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
Culture in Taunton
It would be rude not to start with Sheppy’s Cider, Farm, Shop and Museum. With cider the regional drink (hic!), Sheppy’s is a family-run business that’s now into its sixth generation of fermenting apples and has a range of different tastes. The museum is a simple affair, but it does have exhibits that demonstrate how cider was traditionally made and an informative video that takes guests through the current process from apple picking to cider swilling. And, of course, you get to try their range of ciders including their organic, vintage and regional varieties.
Dating back to 1115, the Augustinian Taunton Priory houses the Somerset Cricket Museum, a small but action-packed space dedicated to cricket facts, memorabilia and historical artefacts. Celebrating the careers of famous Somerset and ex-England players including Sir Ian Botham and Marcus Trescothick, there’s also a dedicated space for England’s women’s cricket team who have their headquarters in the County Ground.
For a deeper understanding of Taunton and its place in history, head for the Museum of Somerset. The building itself is an integral part of the town’s history as it’s housed in the 12th century castle. Taking you from prehistoric times up to the modern day, the museum uses interactive displays, informative videos and some well-preserved artefacts to tell the story including a huge haul of Roman coins and a set of plesiosaur dinosaur bones.
Seven miles out of Taunton, the Wellington Museum recounts the rich history of Wellington and the Duke of Wellington. Among the exhibits is a 300-year-old war chest – sadly empty for any would-be pirates – and a range of displays explaining the town’s part in the Civil War and the industrial revolution. Plus, you’ll discover that Wellington is famous for hosting not one but two World Championships – truly odd, but it turns out they’d crown the best ploughers and snuff takers in the world, although presumably not at the same time.
Rounding out the history lesson is Bishops Lydeard Mill, a restored mill that features over 30 displays, a transport museum, a replica farmyard that recreates some impressive sights and sounds (and smells, unfortunately!) and even a working grain mill where children and adults can mill their own corn. Entry is £6 for adults and £2 for children.
Sheppy's Cider Museum
The Museum of Somerset
Taunton Flower Show
Channelling the energy from nearby Glastonbury, the West Country Carnival is a riot of sound, colour and food that tours around key towns and cities in the area. With roots dating back to 1605 and the Gunpowder plot, the carnival is led by a procession of floats and carts, some of which cost thousands of pounds to make. There are several different routes that wind their way around the West Country, with most of the carnivals taking place in October or November – remember to have some change handy to throw into the collecting buckets as all the money raised goes to charity.
Now into its fourth year, the Taunton Live Arts Festival takes place every July and celebrates the rich and diverse cultures in the town, with everything from poetry, dance, music, theatre and sculpture represented during the eight-day-long festival. Knitting fans will love the festival’s ‘Yarnbombing’ concept where woollen creations are hung and strewn along local landmark including cosy bench covers and lamp post hats.
Blessed with above-average warm temperatures and rainfall, this West Country town is a green-fingered hub with the Taunton Flower Show showcasing the best flora in the region. Taking place at the start of August, the annual event brings together keen gardeners, local producers and growers and includes several highly contested competitions. Tickets start from £9 including access to the craft village, trader stands, designer gardens and the main events arena.
Or you could take a leaf out the Taunton Literary Festival’s book and get engrossed in their book readings, Q&A sessions and meet-and-greets. Big-name authors like Ranulph Fiennes, Douglas Hurd and David Mitchell have all appeared in previous years. Running since 2010 and held every November, the festival brings together all aspects of literature with writers, comedians, politicians and artists invited down to share their writing process.