Last updated: 3rd Mar 2014
The Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has long been a source of inspiration due to the wonderful views afforded from the hills and the mosaic of habitats that clothe them. The Quantock villages are everything you could imagine from traditional Somerset villages with thatched cottages and historic buildings in every one.
The best way to explore the Quantocks is to take some of the many public rights of way that criss cross the hills or the circular walks that you can find on the Quantock Hills AONB website. Mountain biking and horse riding are also popular and there is a network of bridleways within the Quantocks. If wildlife is your particular interest there are several nature reserves worth a visit and Somerset Wildlife Trust has a visitor centre at Fyne Court with lots of information to help you explore.
The Quantock Hills are a nineteen mile ridge of hills spreading from the Vale of Taunton up to the Bristol Channel coast in West Somerset. It was the first area to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956 and has always been a popular destination for the views across the West Somerset countryside and coast.
The Quantock sandstone ridge is covered in a variety of habitats including heather moorland, ancient oak woodland, parkland and traditional farmland. Dotted throughout the Quantocks Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are picturesque traditional villages steeped in history and famous for inspiring poets.
To explore the Quantocks there are several circular walks suggested around Nether Stowey, Ramscombe Forest Walk, Cothelstone Hill and Kilve on the coast with its fantastic Jurassic geology. The is also the Quantock Greenway which takes you on a tour through the Quantock landscape in the southern half of the AONB. Download leaflets from the Quantock Hills AONB website.
Wordsworth claimed that Coleridge was inspired to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on a walk through the Quantocks with his sister and Wordsworth in the spring of 1798. 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. Unusual homages paid include Iron Maiden's song of the same name!
Coleridge also wrote Christabel and Kubla Khan here, or started to. A man from Porlock is said to have interrupted Coleridge when he was writing Kubla Khan meaning that he forgot his dream on which it was based and the poem remained unfinished! The Coleridge Way pays homage to Coleridge and is a long distance walking route through the Quantocks. It starts from Coleridge Cottage in Nether Stowey. The 36 mile long distance walking trail which includes places that Coleridge is known to have wandered during his time in Nether Stowey drawing inspiration from the landscapes around him. You can do the whole route or break it up into manageable pieces.
The Quantocks are dotted with traditional villages which evoke bags of old world charm. Some have been haunts of poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge who lived in Nether Stowey with his wife, Holford where Wordsworth stayed during his friendship with Coleridge and Aisholt where poet and playwright Sir Henry Newbolt frequently stayed.
The villages have some fantastic names such as West and East Quantoxhead, Over Stowey or Combe Florey. Check the Quantock Online weblink right for more information on things to do and see in individual villages. Wherever you stay in the Quantocks you'll find the villages a pleasure to visit with thatched cottages, medieval barns, traditional pubs and tearooms.
The Quantock Hills are national important for the range of wildlife that survives on them including heathland, bog, ancient upland oak woodland, red deer and a whole host of woodland birds. Somerset Wildlife Trust manage three reserves in the Quantocks: Holford Kelting, Aisholt Wood and Fyne Court. The AONB Service also manage the semi-natural habitats on the Quantocks for their wildlife value as well as recreation.